The Subjectivity of Space: A Trans Geographer’s Opinion on Bathroom Politics by Anonymous

Recently, I watched a TEDx talk by Panti Bliss (AKA Rory O’Neill) that I deeply related to (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIhsv18lrqY). Panti talked about the difficulties that gay people faced in public and that a simple gesture such as holding hands with a partner outside of his home was something that he was unable to do without fear and second guessing himself. Accessing public space is not a given for him or other LGBTQ people… it’s a constant risk assessment. For Panti, it invoked feelings of (rational) fear, jealously, and anger at being denied a basic part of being human.

I relate to Panti because I also find a human right dangerous for myself to exercise.

For most people, using a bathroom comes as second nature. Little conscious thought goes into picking one beyond reputation for cleanliness and convenience. This was my experience, at least, until I came to terms with the fact that I am a trans woman. After that revelation, bathrooms and an array of other public spaces took on entirely other connotations for myself.

A space is not simply defined by its physical nature. It is also a product of time, zeitgeist, personal experience, and identity. Panti’s TEDx talk highlights this perfectly: for sexual minorities public spaces have vastly different connotations and levels of danger/exclusion. This is true for racial minorities (as well as other minorities) too. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, has helped bring to light that people of color do not enjoy the same freedom of movement as other groups. Areas must be avoided, clothing altered, and culture masked every day in order to navigate through the public sphere. A “transgression” can result in harassment or death. This situation has not been ameliorated by the election of Donald Trump. On the contrary, Trump’s election led to a spike in hate crimes directed towards religious, ethnic, and sexual minorities. White nationalism and alternative conservatism have also been empowered by his stances. This has been clearly illustrated by the evil manifested in Charlottesville.

Institutional endorsement of discrimination condones bigoted acts by private individuals while destroying the self worth of those marginalized. It sends a powerful message, that should not be underestimated, by helping normalize hate and ignorance. Recently, transgender bathroom and employment rights have come under fire again by Texan politicians and the Trump administration… putting trans persons in both the limelight of social discourse and cross-hairs. As an American trans woman, I hope to give both academic and personal insights into why this issue is so vital.

If you were to ask me if I access a female assigned bathroom… I used to respond with “it’s complicated.” Although I currently study in Europe (which is not universally progressive), the American debate of trans rights has affected me deeply and continues to impact how I perceive this space. Facets of American culture (Exhibit A:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIvCh3EQv1Q) and political attack ads (Exhibit B: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYpko86x6GU ) have caused me to view myself as an intruder or deviant. I was faced with constant fear that I will be branded a sex offender or screamed at. There is a sad irony to this. On a personal level, because I volunteer for sexual violence recovery organizations and value consent in every part of my life. On an institutional level, because Trinity College Dublin and my colleagues have been very supporting. Nevertheless, bathrooms remain a source of fear and discomfort for me:

Will someone call the police or security on me?

Will I be physically harmed?

Will I cause another person to feel uncomfortable?

Do I appear female enough to enter this bathroom?

So how does this fear manifest physically? How do I access public spaces? If I am presenting as a female, I used to and still plan my day around bathroom access and safety. I’ve made note of facilities and establishments with unisex and single occupant bathrooms available. I would avoid most forms of nightlife, side-streets, and loitering (if I linger for too long at one location I face unwanted solicitation for prostitution). When I do participate in nightlife, the range of places that I can safely access is limited. Even within this narrow window, I would always be cautious of my makeup and clothing holding up unless it’s a LGBTQ establishment. As a result, I would waste hours of productivity, my mental health was impacted, and businesses that deserve my money are avoided. I would often isolate myself at home rather than confront the stresses of… just being me. Imagine just walking home and a man pulling over with his car asking you how much your “services” are?

I am still new to being an open trans woman, and as time passes I find myself becoming more confident and open. In the preceding text, I used the past tense because I am evolving. One of my turning points was when I discussed my journey with a friend from South Africa. As a man of colour, he could also relate to me about issues of accessing space in the shadow of apartheid and being treated differently as a student in Europe. He also left me with a piece of advice: “Be militant.”

Social injustices and destructive social norms are not broken down by complacency… these barriers are sundered by resisting, ignoring, and actively taking the offensive against them. The boundaries in my life, those I self-impose and find imposed on myself, are breaking down because I am actively re-evaluating how I view them. Rather than view them as obstacles, I have come to see them as opportunities to challenge the status quo and make the future easier for trans people that come after me. I am sorry if using a female assigned bathroom makes some people feel uncomfortable, but how inane is it for me to use a men’s bathroom when I have on a dress, half a pound of makeup, and a two foot long wig?

Although life as a trans person is stressful at times, it is who I am… and coming to terms with my inner self has brought me great joy. There is no going back. I am who I am, and there is no changing the truth… the nature of things. I am a human being. I shall be.

I am writing this post not to invoke pity. I am an empowered and successful person… I do not need pity. I am writing this text to illustrate the difficulties that trans people face every day. We already face a high suicide and murder rate… on top of a myriad of other social issues. What will taking away our employment and bathroom rights do beyond compounding these issues and forcing us into the closet? Nothing beyond furthering the political careers of demagogues that have little substance to offer their constituents. As I have discussed in my personal experience, even if this political posturing is not acted on, the mere discussion of and discourse around it is harmful and inspires those that would do us harm. The public space is already needlessly dangerous and stressful for us. Bathroom bills will take trans lives… they will not prevent sexual deviance (there are no cases of transgender people using their identities to commit sexual crimes).

Space is subjective, but the indomitable will of trans people is not. Trans people will tip “the transgender tipping point” in their favour. We are willing to fight, sacrifice, and lay down our lives for our right to be normalized. Are the politicians and those who advocates against us willing to do the same? Are they willing to be remembered for being on the wrong side of history (something that must eventually acknowledge)? I think not, and for that I wish them luck… because they are outmatched by trans people and their allies… and without righteousness on their side.

The Six Dangers that Brexit Poses to Renewables by Alex O‘Cinneide

With the UK set to vote this month on whether to remain in the EU, Alex O‘Cinneide warns that a ‘no’ vote could be catastrophic for the renewables sector both in the country and further afield:

We’ve already heard from Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd that Brexit would cost an extra £500 million ($700 million) in energy bills for UK consumers, but surprisingly little has been said about what the impact would be on the UK’s renewables sector and the pressure to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector.

Perhaps we have heard very little of what an independent UK would look like in these terms because so many eurosceptics are also climate change deniers (think Lord Lawson, Owen Patterson).

The impacts, however, could be catastrophic and everyone else should certainly be worried about what the impacts of Brexit might be on the renewables industry across Europe.

Here are six ways in which Brexit would shake up the renewables sector:

1) The UK regresses on its renewables targets:

While the UK has committed to some carbon reduction targets through the Climate Change Act in 1998, many of the international targets such as those agree at Paris last December are set at the European level, meaning that the flagship renewables targets for 2020 and 2030 would no longer be binding if the UK left.

While the UK is unlikely to completely abandon the targets (it was, after all, instrumental in pushing for them) we could certainly imagine an under-pressure UK government taking the opportunity slip further on its renewables policy.

Even if the UK recommitted to meeting its current targets, the damage to investor confidence would mean untold wasted opportunities in the intervening period.

2) The UK loses €7 billion ($7.8 billion) in funding for energy projects:

One thing we can be relatively sure of is that the UK would lose its funding from the European Investment Bank, which is a critical funder of capital intensive projects in the UK.

In 2014 the EIB invested €7 billion into the UK, of which half were energy projects.

Projects already funded by the EU would be placed into dramatic uncertainty as they try to work out whether their funds can be redirected, or prepaid, or (failing emergency UK government support) they go bust.

These projects include some of the most crucial infrastructural investments to the UK, supporting the general grid infrastructure as well as the all-important development of a renewable power supply.

3) Investment in energy connectors fall, threatening our energy security:

Currently the UK relies on a wide range of infrastructure to provide energy. Gas connectors import 8% of the gas we burn and electric cables from France pick up the supply when the UK grid is under strain.

The situation is even more interlinked in Northern Ireland where the entire system is interdependent with the committedly EU nation to the south.

If the UK were to leave, these connections wouldn’t disappear but the political will to create and maintain new projects would be severely damaged and, inevitably, the future investment for them would be reduced. This development would leave the UK more isolated, and facing wider range of energy problems than it does currently.

4) The UK moves from policy maker to policy taker:

The UK has traditionally had a very strong voice in the EU policy developments, particularly around the liberalisation of the European markets. Exiting would make the UK move from being a policy maker to a policy taker.

The UK might negotiate to stay part of the bodies that co-ordinate the EU energy policy or, failing this, it might just closely follow the EU’s policies.

For instance, the UK might continue to participate in the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme to reduce emissions but it wouldn’t be have any of its current influence on how the policy is decided.

5) Coal plants are forced to stay operational for longer:

As the UK’s energy infrastructure is put under greater strain, the temptation to extend the lifetime of the UK’s coal power plants would be massive.

Currently, the plan is to close all the UK’s coal stations by 2025, but that project is based on the ability of the UK to develop the renewable and gas capacity to replace them.

Exit from the EU would create the flexibility for the UK to slip on this target though, as future governments might find tempting if projects like the troubled Hinckley Point nuclear plant fail to deliver. Indeed, we have already seen creeping attempts to do so, given the pre-existing strain on the UK grid; the government has recently offered to maintain subsidies for two of the UK’s largest coal plants.

6) European leadership on global environmental policy declines:

An EU without Britain would be a radically different political animal, and this would change the face of future European energy policy.

Would we still expect the EU to lead in pushing for renewables targets globally as it did in Paris in 2015?

Would European policy still push for liberalised markets in the same way, or would we see a drift towards sanctioning more protectionist national renewables schemes?

The loss of Britain’s voice in this mix would likely reduce the ambition of the EU; but more than that, it might even affect its ability to have a unified global energy policy.

The fear of further political fragmentation would reduce its ability to lean on individual members and achieve ambitious consensus.

Historical Geography: A Call to Arms

Recently, I was privileged to attend the Sowing the Seeds Workshop at the University of Cambridge. The Workshop was focused on the Economic History of Medieval Europe. While attending, I was struck by the strong level of scholarship of the presenters and panelists. It was a truly informative and inspiring experience. However, I also noticed that there was a dearth of historical geographers; something which was noted by a number of the panelists as well.

It is a  sad irony that historical geographers should have a diminished presence at such interdisciplinary events. The irony lies in that the time is very opportune for our research. Advances in GIS now allow for a plethora of statistical analyses and visualizations of historical data-sets. Additionally, vast amounts of historical documents, calendars, and archives are becoming increasingly digitized and open-source. It cannot be understated how much this increases the efficacy of historical research, but also decreases the time and costs involved with archival research. There are still large swaths of history that require not only initial investigation but also revaluation with GIS and related technologies.

Outside of research tools and data, increasing concern about climate change has also created an interest in the historical climate change. Historical geographer are well situated to analyze these past climatic phenomena. Versed in both historical documents that shed insight into past weather and climate conditions as well as aspects of physical geography, historical geographer can provide a unique lens with which to view and synthesize diverse data. By combining this data, researchers can understand how climatic change has impacted human behavior and well-being. For example, climate reconstructions have been paired with the Irish Annals to understand the interplay between climate fluctuations and conflict. Such understandings can be crucial for adapting to anthropogenic climate change.

The purpose of this post is to encourage young academics to take an interest in historical geography. If you want to pursue this discipline, you will find yourself needed. Historical geography in Ireland, in particular, offers an array of opportunities. A great deal of work still needs to be done on our understanding of how Ireland was populated, how Celtic influence came to Ireland, and the impact of English colonization on medieval Ireland (just to name a few areas). Ireland’s trees and bogs also offer up climate proxies. The tools, the data, and the heuristic opportunities are all there for you to seize.

Thank you for your time,

Christopher Casey Chevallier

Reblogged: A Spectre is Haunting Europe – Ghost Geopolitics in Russia and Ukraine

In a recent blog post in Exploring Geopolitics Dr. Padraig Caromody of TCD Geography discusses Vladimir Putin’s expansionist foreign policy in the context of the current model of global economic integration. In an insightful and stimulating post Dr. Carmody states that “a new spectre haunts Europe currently – communism’s ghost or more precisely a type of ghost geopolitics.”

Apple suspend online sales in Russia as Ruble tumbles (Source: Bidness etc.com)
Apple suspend online sales in Russia as Ruble tumbles (Source: Bidness etc.com)

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Master Class with IPCC Co-Chair

In November twelve PhD students and post-doctoral researchers from universities around Ireland were given the chance to meet personally with Dr. Chris Field, the co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group II, at the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street in Dublin’s city centre.

Chris field Masterclass 5-11-2014
Young Irish scientists meet with Dr. Field

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First Indian mission to Mars: A student’s point of view

We Earthlings have long been intrigued by the Red planet. Albeit smaller than the Earth, the fourth planet from the Sun shares a lot of common features with our home world: Mars has seasons, polar ice caps, familiar landform features, and signs that water once flowed over its surface.

Mars was always focus of interest of planetary scientists and astronomers. The race for exploring Mars began in 1960 with a failed attempt by Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). After many failures of Soviet Union and the USA, the first success came with the Mariner 4 spacecraft which flew by Mars in 1965 taking 21 images.

Until now, only three space agencies have been able to reach Mars (Roscosmos, NASA and ESA). After 54 years since the first attempts, the Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) has joined the club of nations who have reached the red plant. This is great technological feat by ISRO, and means that India have became the first nation to reach Mars orbit in its very first attempt and the first Asian nation to do so. ISRO launched its first inter-planetary mission to the planet with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit.

Trajectory Design of Mars Orbiter Mission.  (Image Credit: ISRO)
Trajectory Design of Mars Orbiter Mission. (Image Credit: ISRO)

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Heartbeat of Trinity: A Sketch of College Park

Whether seeking sanctuary away from the studies or a place for a sunny day drink, College Park has long been a haven for staff and students alike in Trinity College. While College Park reserves the status of hallowed ground in the college, what do we actually know about it?

Take a quick trip back in time to the eighteenth century. Trinity was very different place then: the river estuary came up to the edge of the University, along what is now Pearse St. While you would barely recognise the college at this time, we know that even then there was a park here as far back as 1714. This can be made out from Herman Moll’s map of Dublin.

Evolution of College Park 1714 – 1913. (Source: Historical Maps of Dublin and OSI Map Viewer)
Evolution of College Park 1714 – 1913. (Source: Historical Maps of Dublin and OSI Map Viewer)

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