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This week we’ve seen misdirected sympathy for Theresa May and LGBTQI+ Muslims leading Birmingham Pride

27 May 2019

Photography via Unmuted Birmingham / Twitter

Sympathies are being seriously misdirected this week. First, we have our Theresa May(be not) who laid down her first evidence of not being a cyborg as she shed a tear on camera as she resigned as PM. Somehow the world felt sorry for Theresa despite her inhumane treatment of women in Yarl’s Wood, the systematic breaches of people’s right to an abortion in Northern Ireland’s, not to mention the government’s grossly inadequate response to Grenfell, which she had the audacity to reference as part of her proud legacy. White women crying have always had a way of erasing the experience of people of colour.

Over 60,000 people also misdirected sympathy to Dr Keith Wolverson by signing an online petition to save his reputation after he asked a Muslim woman to remove her niqab when there was absolutely no need for her to do so. It wasn’t for necessary medical examination – the doctor was talking to the Muslim woman about her child’s health. Apparently, he wasn’t able to describe the child’s symptoms while she had her face covered. Since an investigation has been launched, Dr Keith said: “I asked a lady to remove her face veil for adequate communication, in the same way I’d ask a motorcyclist to remove a crash helmet.”

Here’s what else went down in the past week:

Over a third of BAME employees told to adopt English name at work

Most of us who don’t have a white name have experienced the rarity of having our name pronounced correctly day to day. However, being asked to actually change your name at work to an English-sounding one is a new level of racist snub that over a third of BAME employees are forced to endure, new research has shown.

Irfan Ajmal, a Muslim author who was advised by publisher to change his name to an English one, told gal-dem: “It shocked me and also I did not consider it as an option for a second. My book is written from my experiences as a British-born Muslim. It’s from my heart, so changing my name would have been an act of dishonesty to myself and to my readers.” Ajmal did not want to go into any more detail for fear of further discrimination by publishers.

Our names are the anchor of our identity, often rooted in rich cultural history and meaning. People of colour are already deeply and systematically oppressed, and on top of that, we have to change our names in order for white people to more easily pronounce them. Rather than English people forcing their mouths around a few unfamiliar syllables, Parveen is changed to Pauline, and Hargovind to Harry (in my grandfather’s case). This statistic is a disgusting one that sends a message of ostracism.

‘There is an epidemic of violence targeting transgender women of colour’ say Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ organisation that reports on violence against the trans community, has expressed its concern for trans women of colour following the death of Muhlaysia Booker. The average life expectancy of a black trans woman is 35 years old, Muhlaysia was just 23.

Speaking to gal-dem, Charlotte Clymer of Human Rights Campaign, said: “There is an epidemic of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly trans women of colour who live at the intersection of the toxic combination of transphobia, racism and misogyny.”

Last year, advocates tracked the deaths of at least 26 trans people. In 2019, there have been five known cases of deadly violence against the trans community, all of whom were black trans women, including three deaths in one week in May.

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I wrote about Muhlaysia Booker for gal dem (link in bio). I thought she’d be safe. Her beating went viral for crying out loud. But also, a confession: sometimes when I see pictures of the girls that have been killed my mind says “But she’s so pretty though.” I think it’s because I assume becoming pretty and passable should save us. My internalised misogynistic logic connects the violence I endured in early transition as the precursory conditions that existed before my truckload of privileges arrived. But that’s just my story. It’s not the same for every girl. For some, that violence never stops. I definitely have survivor’s guilt and anxiety that my life is about to be snatched away too. I don’t know how I’m doing right now. I’ve just got to sit still and calm myself. This storm feels like it’s never ending. It feels like they won’t rest until we become part of whispered mythologies in a dystopian future where everyone pretends we never existed. Are these current moments our version of the flashback scenes in ‘The Handmaids Tale’? I can’t go near that book for a long while considering what my mind is going through right now. I’m reading ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison. It’s helping. #sayhername #muhlaysiabooker #restinpower #whiterose #onesweetday

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Existing pernicious prejudices are met with political rhetoric and policies that dehumanise trans and black lives. This week, the Trump administration proposed repealing the rule that homeless shelters should admit people based on their gender self-identification, meaning trans homeless people could find it harder to access services.

His department for health and human services also proposed to change how non-discrimination protections define “sex”, meaning it would no longer include protections specifically for trans and gender non-conforming patients. Systemic and societal transphobia has become a life-threatening epidemic that needs urgent action.


LGBTQI+ Muslims led their first pride march in Birmingham. This comes after homophobic protestors have staged additional protests outside Parkfield Community and Anderton Park primary schools.

• Gillette has featured the story of Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, a transgender man, shaving for the first time following his transition in their most recent advert for their razors.

Game of Thrones star Nathalie Emmanuel has stood in solidarity with darker-skinned actresses by telling fans not to fancast her as Disney Princess Tiana, saying it should go to an “even more melanated sister”.

• Councillor Rakhia Ismail, the new mayor of Islington, becomes the UK’s first Somali-born woman mayor and is thought to be the first mayor to wear a hijab.

Photography via Islington Council Media Team

• Britain’s most senior black policeman, Chief Constable Michael Fuller, said football clubs failed their duty as employers by allowing players to be racially abused. During a talk at Hay Festival, Fuller also expressed concerns that no other black policemen had followed in his footsteps to climb the ranks in the force.

• As if the art world wasn’t already inaccessible enough for black people, students who were rewarded for excellent behaviour with a school trip to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, were left in tears after being racially profiled by museum employees, being closely followed around, shouted at, and told “no food, no drink, no watermelon”.

• The UK’s first longboard crew for women of colour, GirlDreamer, have started a crowdfund called Boarders Without Borders. Their aim is to use sport as a tool for social change and create more opportunities for women for colour.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured another five-year term after winning a landslide victory in the general elections, gaining around 300 of the 543 seats in parliament.

The Bravest Knight will be one of the first children’s animated series with an openly gay main character. Wanda Sykes and RuPaul are among those who have been voice cast for the Hulu series.

• Sadiq Khan’s policy suggestion to ban takeaway food shops within 400m of schools has been branded as “racist” by chef Anthony Warner, saying it serves to gentrify and cast off “unsightly businesses that people don’t like, like independently-owned chicken shops”, while places like McDonald’s and Burger King would be allowed to stay put.

• Self-help guru Tony Robbins was filmed repeatedly using the n-word and other racial slurs in shocking footage from the 80s.

• Brazil’s top court has voted in favour of making homophobia and transphobia crimes in the country.

Moment of the week

Issa Rae’s exciting new show A Black Lady Sketch Show, co-written with Robin Thede, will star Quinta Brunson, Gabrielle Dennis and Ashley Nicole Black. It is the first HBO show to be written by, directed by and starring black women.