Leave A Light On – A Brexit Day Ramble

(Featured image description: A candle burning.)

Content warnings for: mention of abusive UK government policies, mentions of, including a list, of various forms of bigotry (no detail), colonialism, fascism

Hi all,

Today the UK will officially leave the EU. I’ve had a lot of feelings over it all – mainly bitterness most recently which led to my writer’s block. I’m gonna elaborate on my thoughts a bit more – firstly because of self-care but also to hopefully illustrate those outside the UK just how dire the situation is.

There were many reasons why – and I try not to get political in my blog outside of my main topics – but I’d like to elaborate now that the time is right.

Confirmation of many forms of internalised bigotry

Brexit from the start is a far-right project being pushed by bigots and vulture capitalists hoping to asset strip a ruined UK. This only became more obvious over time as the racists came out of the woodwork and the country became more toxic. The most obvious targets for this are anybody deemed seen as foreign but this especially applies to:

  • People of colour (points at Windrush)
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Women
  • LGBTQ+ people
  • Trans people (points at UK mainstream media and GIC waiting times)
  • Disabled people (points at UN report of Tory austerity)
  • Autistic people (points at ATU crisis)
  • Jewish people
  • Muslims
  • Anyone else who supports globalism and progressive politicxs

For the world, this brought to the centre what many had long believed – that the UK is a deeply bigoted country that won’t come to terms with this reality. This especially applies to racism and the UK’s history as a colonial power which also isn’t taught in schools here. However other systematic biases like sexism and ableism are also ignored.

Many British people are also implicitly xenophobic having closed their minds off to other cultures and backgrounds – even on their own continent. This clearly shows how fewer people in the UK take advantage of the many freedoms globalisation has to offer when they can get access to it.

It is also equally baffling to outsiders because they can see things clearly where British people can’t. It’s similar to American gun culture where the world sees the lack of gun control in the USA as a problem and many Americans themselves do not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with people from around the world about Brexit with them making comments implying confusion at what we’ve voted for. Brexit destroys the positive image the UK once had and overall this is a very good thing. Because now it means British people can start cleaning up their act which leads me to…

Most people were not informed enough

This is by far the biggest source of frustration for me. You’d think after four years people would have woke up and realised that the Brexit they were promised is all lies, but no far from it. Many people refuse to accept they are misinformed and in my experience has led to a lot of ad hominem attacks and a lot of stress.

Thing is, I’m not even mad at more informed people who voted Leave in 2016 by default because there are valid criticisms of the EU (such as it’s racist immigration policy towards refugees as well as how they handled Greece’s financial woes). There are legit reasons to want to leave the EU not based on lies and anybody claiming the EU is perfect is lying.

Hence I can forgive those who voted Leave in 2016 and even endorsed it up till 2018. However, I find it difficult to comprehend why people continue to endorse them even now. This showed in 2019 the election win by the now fascist Conservative party having been massively endorsed across the country including former Labour seats. The various domestic issues blamed on the EU by the Tories/media were not caused by them but by the various failures of right-wing governments over the last 40 years but especially those in power since 2010.

I’d go as far as to argue that the 2016 referendum should never have happened because the average person didn’t know enough about the EU and all other relevant fields to have a credible opinion. An uninformed electorate is dangerous because they are easy to manipulate and that is exactly what happened.

People like to think they know more about something than they actually do. Only when they are actually sat down and forced to engage with said info do they begin to understand. This isn’t their fault that this hadn’t happened to them when they were in school but it is their responsibility to do so now. Thing is few people realised this back then including myself – and if I did I’d advocate the same thing then.

The faults of the left

I do think the other parties share some of the blame though – specifically for not forming a temporary alliance that could have helped salvage seats, stop Brexit democratically (or enable a more humane one) and implement electoral reform. However, I also feel the left should have adopted a more simplistic message that the average person can understand easily, rote learn and then pass onto the others. This is the same tactic the right does and it clearly works. The only difference the left has to do is base this in truth. And by truth, I mean to simplify the messages we’ve been trying to communicate for years.

From my autistic ass of a perspective, I find this frustrating to admit. Like, don’t people want to inform themselves of the facts and be lifelong learners? Autistic people love learning in-depth – this is the foundation of what doctors label our passions as “special interests.” There is a reason that our passion is belittled in this way and I’ll explain it because, alongside internalised ableism, there’s another reason too.

The fact is though most people – especially non-autistic people and the politically apathetic in general – will not learn about things in depth. They don’t want to research deeply. They don’t want to think critically. They don’t want to do any of that – if anything they like doing the bare minimum if not anything at all. Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn, he embodied this approach in how he does politics and it’s one reason why he could never get into number 10. I loved it, many others loved it especially those who agreed with him.

However British people don’t want this style of politics. They want oversimplified narratives they can rote learn. They don’t want masses of information. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable at being held to account because they like feeling comfortable with what they believe in. They see such extensive research as a sign of difference as well as being unnecessary. For the left to win, they need to pander to this to an extent. Obviously, it will not be possible to not make them uncomfortable – nor should it – but relying on good faith and the willingness to learn will not work. It never did – especially to the anti-SJWs already on the verge of becoming fascists.

The needs of minorities have been repeatedly ignored

Additionally, as marginalised people, our needs are even less likely to get met. Being out of the EU means we will be even further impacted by Brexit particularly through divergence in standards, higher costs and further human rights losses. And under a far-right government who has already gone a decade without being held accountable for killing off large proportions of the poor and minorities through their policies, this is a terrible prospect indeed. Many people who endorse Brexit won’t accept that this has been happening and disability rights groups have been saying this for years. Seeing as people won’t accept the reality that Brexit brings on everyone due to what I mentioned already, what chances do marginalised people have?

This is before factoring in how they intersect. For example, many disabled people will no longer be able to travel to the EU because it will just be too expensive as all travellers will now have to buy travel insurance before leaving the country. It is also even less likely anybody diagnosed with a disability will be able to permanently live abroad now freedom of movement will end which is something that upsets me the most as that has been a lifelong dream of mine. This is before mentioning how it makes things harder for LGBTQ+ people as most EU countries are largely LGBT friendly thus ruling out a lot of safe destinations.

The end of the Union

This is inevitable at this point because the interests of the rest of the UK have been ignored with Westminster overriding everything. In the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved administrations who have been shut out of the approval process and gone as far to vote formally showing disapproval of the exit deal. It has no legal bearing but it’s symbolic.

With a border going down in the Irish Sea it means Northern Ireland is now economically closer to the Republic of Ireland than the rest of the UK. It’s a mess and it risks flaring up past tensions the island faces especially when hard borders are put in place. That will make the case for reunification difficult to ignore. The history behind this is colonial related so again the average English person has no idea of the history here.

The SNP (Scotland’s most popular party) are also pushing hard in Scotland for another independence referendum because the circumstances have clearly changed. Scotland voted to stay in the Union in 2014 due to promises of having access to the EU. Scotland also voted to remain in 2016. Obviously, this is no longer the case hence there is the democratic case to try again. Whether this will lead to independence sooner or later is what the question is now.

The effect on me – lots and lots of self-care

As a young person, I feel that my life chances have been scuppered by bigots that won’t accept that globalism is the future and are the values that my generation and younger have grown up with. We will lose the most and it is tragic that so many simply do not know what they’ve endorsed. We want to travel and see the world and now it has become so much harder. Like many British people, I don’t have dual citizenship and I wish I did. Unless you are born into a rich, privileged family who can afford to relocate there is so much that is now lost.

I’m at the point where I’m having to exercise a lot of self-care. I can’t keep engaging with diehard Leavers for the sake of my mental health. I’m putting myself first for the most part – which means getting my life back on track so I can get out of England and hopefully the UK in the next couple of years once the Union falls apart. Marginalised people moving out of England prior to this may be the only way they will be able to escape the Tories in Westminster.

The other exception to this is through supporting and showing solidarity with those who didn’t vote for this and especially have the most to lose. I hope people understand why I am taking this approach – especially due to my current personal circumstances.

This is the start of the UK’s path to rejoining the EU

Alongside the part I mentioned earlier about the world seeing the UK’s internalised bigotry, the other thing that will lead to rejoining becoming popular would be the English at large finding out first hand what leaving the EU as of now actually means. I say English, particularly because a lot of the denial comes from the English because they voted for this. They will have to experience first hand what people were trying to warn would happen. This includes the possible implementation of chlorinated chicken, a privatised NHS and other unpopular policies.

The second thing would be the implementation of the proposed European associate citizenship scheme which would ease tensions. This means British people will have the choice as to whether to keep the rights and freedoms of the EU and not have rights taken away that they didn’t consent to.

I for one would be more willing to accept Brexit if a pathway becomes available for me to keep European citizenship rights and be able to travel and attempt to live, work and retire in 27 other countries as I do now. Additionally, young people like myself will eventually lead the charge for the UK rejoining the EU when the time is right.

I’ll stop there for today but I hope people now understand a bit more. I’m gonna go out tonight and distract myself from the sadness that is leaving, but until then please leave a light on for the UK, fellow Europeans?

Milla xx

When You’re Trans, Autistic and Homeless, Finding a Place to Live is Almost Impossible

CN for transphobia, ableism, abuse, legal discrimination, intrusive questions, executive function

Hi all,

Apologies for the inactivity on here for the last several weeks. Today I’m going to talk a bit about the issues I’ve had accessing housing – which is something I’ve had to deal with extensively over the last several months. In short, my living situation at home with my parents became toxic (mainly due to blatant transphobia, ableism and overall abuse, but that’s for another time). The major reason it took me so long to leave home were because I am hitting systematic barriers that makes it difficult for me to access any form of help. That’s not just my words. It’s the words of one of many housing support staff I’ve been in contact with. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

I’m going address them one by one:

Fear of the unknown:

One of the major things that stopped me from leaving sooner was the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of what would happen next once I leave. Where would I go and who would I stay with? How would I be able to cope on the streets if that came to pass? In a way, staying in the toxic household is better due to the routine and certainty of having a place to sleep. This is one reason autistic people find it difficult to escape abusive situations in general.

Most housing services have inaccessible contact methods:

Due to all the stress my functioning ability had decreased significantly. One way this showed is that I could no longer use the phone even to call people I had called before already. This meant I could not access emergency accommodation in my area for one as all of them had phone numbers only and email addresses are harder to find if they are publically available.

Additionally, when I did email housing services they are either slow to reply or don’t reply at all. This included a UK LGBT housing charity I referred myself to in good faith they’d get back to me but they never did. If a housing provider does not offer an accessible contact method they are from the fact excluding those with disabilities from applying to their services and condemning them to their deaths as a result.

Additionally, emergency accommodation is potentially unsafe for marginalised people because of the chances of being trapped in an even more toxic environment. This applies to the physical environment as well as potentially the people staying there. Hence not being able to verify this in advance means it’s a no-go for many people.

Women’s refuge services have transphobic policies:

Here is a bit of a sticky topic. In the UK’s Equality Act 2010, there are legitimate exceptions in the Act that let services to discriminate against minorities if it’s a “proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.” This includes potential discrimination against trans people when accessing refuges on the grounds of their gender. Or more specifically, their genitals. When i tried to get access to a women’s refuge in the summer, I visited once to sign up, but I had to disclose I’m transgender in part because the form required it – but also because I did not fully pass at the time and there was no way I could have gotten away with lying on the form.

As a result, I got barred from face to face contact with the refuge as a result due to the fact I’m pre-op (irrespective of the facts that many trans people don’t have surgery and that surgery isn’t something I could get access to for years if at all). They did offer signposting and limited telephone/email support but it upset me so much I am turned off refuges for life. They told me that this is due to their policy which ended up being based on reasons relating to biological differences and safety concerns which shows fundamental misunderstanding of trans issues at best and bad faith transphobia at worst.

Not able to rent privately:

There are a few reasons for this and many of them relate to personal circumstances which I will not elaborate on. However, I will detail some notable issues that affect people like me in general. the biggest reason is because I was trying to hold down a full-time job. I gave up on getting help to escape in the summer so I ended up banking on the money from a job to help me move however this was not possible long-term.
I did not have the energy or executive function to juggle trying to find a room as well as full-time work with a commute. It was too much for me having had to spend my lunch breaks and much of my non-working hours recovering. This meant I could not view rooms and thus could not make any progress.

Other access issues are that I could not work out what listings on the housing sites like Spare Room were legitimate plus many landowners specifically ask people to call them to enquire. This meant I had a lot of access issues even finding places to view so contacting them were largely inaccessible just like housing services. That plus the ensuring anxiety and lack of support meant processing the listings for red flags became very difficult. Same applies for finding houses that are trans friendly.

Finally, there is another legal loophole that meant many more listings weren’t accessible to me. Many of the listings were by live-in landlords and if the “small premises exception” applies they can discriminate on all minority characteristics (bar race) under the guise of a “preference.”
The conditions where this applies are the following (based on the info here):

  • The landlord or a relative of theirs will be living in another part of the same property and intend to continue living there
  • The landowner (or their relative) share part of the property with the other residents. This doesn’t include common accessways (like corridors and stairs) and common storage areas
  • The most likely shared parts will be kitchens or bathrooms; and either:
  • The property includes accommodation for at least one other household, which is separately let, but cannot accommodate more than two other separately let households; or
  • The property is not normally sufficient to provide residential accommodation for more than six people (in addition to the landowner or their relative and their household members)

Seeing as many of the listings I found fit into those categories – alongside the fact I couldn’t pass fully then – meant that I had to rule out a lot of listings. As many landowners are older, more privileged cis people and thus more likely to misunderstand, I did not feel safe putting myself into that situation which is before considering my autism-related needs. I very highly doubt I am alone in this although I can’t confirm personally.

The system for finding accommodation for housing related support:

The current system in the UK for someone who needs housing support to fill out a form via the council stating the needs people have and where they’d like to stay. Then housing providers can view applications on their systems so that if they can contact the applicant to request an interview. I haven’t been to an interview so I don’t know how that goes down, just the initial application meeting for one provider. In that meeting I was asked more about my needs as well as what steps I’ve took to undergo transitioning which includes social, legal and medical. I didn’t particularly want to give any details on the medical side – and the person I saw was very apologetic about having to ask it – but I believe that is a requirement too. Regardless, in the end that didn’t go anywhere as they didn’t have room for me either. However that was only one provider so hopefully there are more out there.

Being declared as unintentionally homeless:

The gist of this is that if I’m declared as intentionally homeless, the council would not help me and this would affect what support I’d get. It’s the same for any homeless person even though the circumstances will be different each time. My circumstances of fleeing abuse is one of a few instances where somebody leaving home when they aren’t being kicked out is not becoming intentionally homeless. It did mean that me and my parents had to meet with a council rep to have some kind of “mediation” even though I knew going in it wasn’t going to be feasible. It was annoying but I entertained the mediation idea and it paid off.

Wider political context:

There is a housing shortage in the UK and has been for some time thanks to the Conservative party. Nowhere near enough affordable social housing exists as the demand for that considerably outstrips supply. The same also applies to supported housing and other types of accommodation. Additionally, there is a lot of homes that are lying empty due to being owned by the mega rich and not occupied. Hence even if I was not marginalised I would still have some problems.

With all the above said, the only option left for me for now is to sofa surf and frankly if I didn’t have friends to help I would have been in a seriously bad place. And being autistic and trans even having friends is a privilege because social anxiety and dysphoria makes it hard for friendships to form.

In some ways, my experiences with my friends the past couple of months have somewhat restored my faith in humanity because it shows that people will step up where they can. However, it also shouldn’t be this way and that’s sad. It’s one reason I’ve written this post because it’s this kind of first hand testimony that spreads awareness of these issues so legal reform can be done. Most people are not even aware of these issues in any real detail especially if they are not involved in the disability, LGBTQ+ or housing communities. Hence I am providing some of the detail.

For me personally, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m hoping to no longer be homeless by the end of this year but I really can’t say for sure yet. Regardless, hopefully 2020 will be a happier, more prosperous year for me. Happy New Year to you all and hopefully 2020 is just as prosperous for you too.

Kind regards,
Milla xx