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The Art Of Politics

My pal Louise McSharry tweeted this week that she’s pulling the duvet over herself and re-emerging when the Brex-shit storm is over... and I’m tempted to join her. She, like many of us, has had enough and is ready for something else to populate our lives and feeds.

Feature - Opinion Scottee – Brexit – Art

Political fatigue has me in its grasp - I’m overwhelmed by the jargon, can’t see a route through the right-wing mess-making, apathy has set in and so burying my head feels like a sensible option in self preservation.

It isn’t for a want of trying though - I’ve been actively engaged in the process of noise-making since the referendum was announced in the UK. I’ve sat watching the eight hour live debates trying to verse myself in their intricacies, disseminated information to the community groups work with, participated in activisms, sat on panels (for all that’s worth), made work in response to misinformation and political game-playing, I’ve even tried to get the queer Brexiteers living in England to see beyond their own front garden.

Throwing in the towel isn’t a luxury think can be aff orded, however appealing it may seem. European identity, egalitarianism and democracy aside, like many, have vested interests in both UK, Ireland and Europe - not assets, wealth or capital, but family, aff ection and community - all of which can be argued could still be attained with my Irish passport, but there’s more at stake here than just freedom of movement.

I make political art work across Europe and increasingly that work is in and for Dublin, my Irish Mum and immediate family are by the sea in Essex, my extended family are in Donegal, my gaff and husband are in the UK, my fella and new found motley crew are in Dublin - my life has always been split across the Irish Sea, even more so in recent months, but Brexit has amplified the feeling of a deep ostracisation, leading me to want to leave the UK for good, maintaining my European queer identity elsewhere.

Part of this feeling is born out of not seeing any queer urgency in the UK to dream up ways we might use our queerness to transcend the bureaucracy. In fact, the queer landscape in the UK has begun to divorce itself from the idea that it has anything to do with what is currently being played out in the Houses of Parliament - as if being queer means you automatically voted, and voted Remain at that.

Perhaps saw it coming - spent the months leading up to the referendum on EU membership interviewing queer working class folk across the UK - it just so happened they were all members of English Defence League and/or UKIP. To complicate matters, most of the 100 plus people interviewed were, like me, rst or second generation migrants from the Irish diaspora and their protectionism of Englishness confused and compelled me to make a piece of work called Putting Words in Your Mouth.

The re-emergence of homo-nationalism in our communities has been unfolding for sometime and guess those of us living in the UK didn’t do enough to tackle it. Now I’m not parking the blame of Brexit with the right-wing queers (yes, that is a thing) but they say charity starts at home and think the same can be applied to a political education.

I’m also increasingly hearing queers in the UK acknowledge that the shit is hitting the fan but proclaiming in the same breath that there’s no need to panic, that it’ll all be okay, that it won’t be the armageddon/reality that some of us on the extreme left are predicting.

In their eyes, Britain will be free to trade, move, migrate, survive, back out, create its own membership and maintain its wealth because it’s ‘Great’ Britain - who’s going to stop them? This ignorance is, think, a legacy of British colonial thought - imperialism - the superiority complex embodying those who consider themselves socialists.

There’s a part of me that is willing to sit back and watch the English trash England in their fight to protect it, a painful truth to publicly admit, but I’d be lying if that hadn’t crossed my mind more than three times a week. I’m then reminded who will be aff ected by a tempestuous economy, lack of jobs, income, resources, food, and access to medicine and health care - the working classes, working class queer and trans* folk, folk like me.

Then there’s the border to consider. I’m writing this in Terminal One of Dublin Airport the day after a car bomb was set off in Derry - the cab driver on the way here said, “Is this the start of it again? Is this the start of it again?!”

Many people speak to in the UK about the backstop and the border don’t fully understand the implications of a hard border, in fact many of them, through ignorance and not political allegiance, think Belfast is the capital of Ireland.

There’s also the Irish economy to consider. The UK government have issued a report predicting a seven per cent drop in GDP in Ireland should a no-deal Brexit unravel - something that looks ever more likely. Again, who will be aff ected most by this? The middle and upper classes of Ireland? don’t think so.

So with one foot here, another foot there, confusion, anger, working class rage and a queer spirit, what can do instead of just moaning and giving out to the powers that be?

The short answer is - ‘I dunno, where do you start with something so big?’ Ireland in the last few years has proved that people-led movements can create massive change and so maybe some of the answers lie there - people banging heads and dreaming up utopias.

My gut is telling me to bring together a whole bunch of queer and trans* artists living in England, Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, to talk, think and dream up ways we might collaborate, address the elephant in the room and make our collective voices and activisms louder - so that’s what I’m doing.

Next month, 20 of us will meet in the port city of Liverpool. Who knows if it’ll work, be useful, come to anything but it’s worth a go. Because at the moment it’s all I’ve got left before too pull the covers over my head and wait for it all to be over.

This article appears in the 350 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 350 Issue of GCN