On Dialogue; Bloc and Trans Punks


I don’t really want to be writing this post but feel I have to. Without retreading well-worn ground, MTAT and myself as an individual are very concerned about the incident, statements and subsequent fall-out pertaining the misgendering of a trans person in relation to bathroom usage at Bloc a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve been reluctant to post anything online in an “official” capacity, although must admit that I did share Chris’s (Bloc venue manager) statement on my FB page. The discussions which followed were illuminating and reinforced my feeling that there must be an open and honest dialogue about things, to use this as an opportunity for learning, less we descend into binary tribalism.

I have been in discussion with friends from the trans community, the PR staff and in-house promoters at Bloc, fellow promoters in the DIY punk scene and many others with a vested emotional interest. I believe that the only way we can move forward in a positive fashion is through dialogue, discourse and showing respect. I have spoken with Bloc and have been assured that there will be a staff training day run by the Scottish Transgender Alliance on September 29th. They are also keen to organise a meeting with the trans punks, promoters and those affected by the situation. I am grateful to all involved for their willingness to discuss the situation.

On a personal level, I’d suggest that we could all benefit from being a little more reflective and mindful of how our behaviour, acts and words can impact others.

In the interest of transparency, this is the email I sent to Bloc (with names removed);

  • I just wanted to get in touch to discuss the issues that have been raised since the unfortunate bathroom incident at Bloc last weekend. I have spoken at length with *in-house promoter* and various friends and allies within the trans community and feel that it would be inappropriate of me not to voice the concerns I’ve been feeling. MTAT have always been allies of the trans community and of Bloc. Not for one second do I believe that Bloc harbours a transphobic ideology, however, I do feel that the statement issued by *Bloc* was somewhat ill-judged, especially given the current social climate. Now, while I absolutely do feel there is merit in some of the ideas expressed within said statement (the idea of the “regressive left”, “the mob”, etc), I don’t believe that this was the time or place to express these ideas. Had the statement ended after the apology and details pertaining how Bloc was going to use the experience to further develop learning, then I don’t think there would have been nearly the fallout there has been. However, the emotive rant which constituted the lion’s share of the statement was unnecessarily divisive and really didn’t contribute positively to an already messy situation. My concerns are not merely passive; MTAT is involved in two upcoming shows at Bloc, the Scottish Indie Sampler launch night next month and the pre-Book Yer Ane Fest show on Thursday 1st December. I feel that we have a responsibility to both the trans community and Bloc to engage with this issue, rather than adopt the ostrich approach. I feel it is always better to engage in discourse so as to create greater understanding and dialogue than it is to fall into the binaries of “us vs them” or “good guys and bad guys”. MTAT has no intention of boycotting Bloc or withdrawing, but I do feel that it would be an abdication of responsibility if we were to leave these issues completely unaddressed. *In-house promoter* assured me that Bloc will be meeting with representatives from the Scottish Transgender Alliance later this month and I’d be very keen to know how that meeting pans out. Being a “big picture thinker”, I think there is a middle way here. I don’t think anyone has come out of this situation well, from “the mob” to Bloc, but we must be mindful of the fact that violence against transgender people, especially in regards to bathroom usage, is a very real life issue and should not be dismissed as simply an error. I just wanted to clue you in to my thinking as it is inevitable that questions will be asked when MTAT appears on the posters for the launch show and I have to act to protect the best interests of MTAT, just as Bloc do. As such, I shall be writing a statement outlining our position that echoes what I’ve said here.I believe that with open minds and hearts we can all engage in progressive discourse and use this as a learning experience for the betterment of all. Apologies for the long, somewhat rambling email, but I thought it prudent to clue you in on my thought process, so not to come flying out of left-field and add fuel to an already burning inferno of online noise.

    Thanks a lot, Derrick Johnston (MTAT)

As it stands, this is all a fluid situation, for which providing a running commentary has little benefit. However, I feel as though my hand has been forced as the launch night for the Scottish Indie Sampler has been announced and that is something that we are part of. I have been in contact with those involved and the announcement was made without my prior knowledge, despite my reservations. As such, I feel it important that I post something pro-actively, as opposed to adding to the dissonance of emotionally reactive “management”. Once a final decision has been made, we shall update our position.

Hopefully, through reasoned discourse, we can create a little more unity.