Fan Mail

In which the narrator responds to a journalist's vitriol.

To Ms Geraldine Bartleby,

Thank you so much for your lovely, insightful letter, really quite a pleasure to think that you, a perfect stranger (to myself as well as to most of the literate world) would take the time out of your busy schedule of stubbing-out menthols on kittens, to write such a thorough whatever that was. Extremely impressed by the levels of viciousness you reached, in your erm, what should we call it, your “screed”? No, too high-brow, let’s call it a “piece” (and leave it to the reader to imagine what it is a piece of).

I was particularly interested in the daring stylistic choice you made, to put my name in single quotation marks; as if ‘Lauren John Joseph’ were a similar concept to the ‘queer theory’ which the Charleston Trust have abstractly sloshed all over that previously virginal and very gender-critical historical house. Until my unfortunate arrival it was the very last bastion for gender conformity and respectable self presentation - and now what are we going to do? I suppose everyone will just HAVE to be trans now won’t they Jennifer (or whatever it is you like to call yourself). There is simply no way for a mildly ruthless woman to exist in this world as a mildly ruthless woman is there? No place for her to sing in her sweet songbird voice anymore, no platform for her to insult and malign people she has never met, besides every national newspaper and magazine. And this is my fault, for which I can only apologise.

You astutely noted that I am, "what would have once been called a transvestite”, and reading over your piece I must also note, that on account of your violently biased tone, and numberless factual errors, you are what would have once been called a “hack”. Only now we don’t use such unkind phrases do we Jill, so let’s just say I am a non-binary person and you are a not-very-good-writer. K? I normally wouldn’t go about telling people what they are, but thankfully you have explained (so very brilliantly) that the way we chose to describe ourselves, is in fact no business of our own; “pronouns are not to be dictated by the person being described,” as you said. Who exactly is handing pronouns or identities out I don’t know; maybe this what Carol Vordeman does, now that she’s done with Countdown? In which case, I’d like a they/them please Carol.

But, if you yourself are the one dishing them out, then why not assign new pronouns to everyone? Don’t give me any special treatment Julia, simply on account of my “womb envy!” (Must say I am disappointed that you didn’t get a Womb of One’s Own gag in there though - considering the Virginia Woolf angle and all). Don’t simply give me the pronoun of your choosing and pass over all the other boys and girls please, I’d be so embarrassed! And may I in fact, suggest a new pronoun for you? On the basis that most of your writing seems to be fixated on the genitals of people whom you have never met, writing about them, hyperlinking to them even, may I suggest the pronoun of “creep”? That seems fitting for someone with an unwanted obsession, a voyeurism such as your own. (And here’s a funny thing Jen, those genitals “stuffed into fishnet tights" are in fact not mine, I’m a red head).

Obviously I am heartbroken that you don’t like me, proper devvoed like, wounded to the depths of my ‘womanning’  soul. That I have never claimed to be a woman is besides the point, I’ve only ever insisted on my right to live in the identity I feel most comfortable with, but details like that don’t seem to count much do they, when there’s an axe as blunt as yours to grind? I do feel that at the very least you owe the “female impersonators” out there an apology for dragging them into all this though - they have enough on their plate with Brexit putting an extra 20% on pan stick and shape wear, Janice, have a heart!

I’m sure that whoever gives you the luncheon vouchers to write this stuff is just delighted to have an intellect as barely discernible as yours in their rolodex, but honestly, doesn’t anyone ever suggest that a few edits here and there might give your attempts at critical thinking at least the suggestion that they were written by a person who doesn’t warm up for a sesh at the old word processor by huffing turpentine? (Seriously Jess, lines like, “sexism does not just sell, it pays” betray not only a deliberately disingenuous argument, but also a very weak grasp on say, buying and selling).

There’s no actual critique of how I read Vita’s letters, because your piece is not about the event at all is it really? That’s just the frosting on the stale cake of your nasty transphobia. You just wanted an excuse to go off on one, with this business of women being silenced by the Transgender Knights Templar, even though the event was very much focused on women. You were aware that very prominent woman, Alison Bechdel was taking part - if it that is, it can be said that you have evolved to the stage of, what a unspecified psychoanalyst might conveniently be quoted as calling, “the awareness stage” - but still you tried it. (I would mention Alison’s remarks that I was, “an inspired choice” and “born to play Vita” but I’m sure I’m far too modest). You also glossed over the fact that the event was hosted by another VPW, Leena Norms, and co-starred the observably bisexual Pearl Mackie. And btw, in case you didn’t know, the artistic director of Charleston’s literary programme, who asked me to participate, is also a 100% real woman, as is the events manager who directed the scenes, and also Kathy from the curatorial team, who made sure we didn’t knick the ashtrays. Plenty of lovely ladies here Jennifer, wall to wall women if you’d like to engage! But yes, I know, yawn, details, details, and who has time for a well balanced argument when there’s old ladies to trip up outside Asda? Can’t explain why Alison B, as a gay woman who wears button down shirts, has not yet been forced to transition, but I will look into it tout suite. Wouldn’t want your whole “lesbian erasure” bit look silly would we, Jo?

I know Pearl is but a beloved actor working on both sides of the Atlantic, that Leena is but a bookstagrammer with an 120k+ following and views into the millions, that Charleston is but a national landmark and inspiration for the current Fendi couture collection, that Alison is but a world-respected best-selling author and MacArthur Genius recipient, and that none of this can really compare to the importance of your work (campaigning on issues as important as the dangers of diverse casting in ads for period pads) but we will soldier on as best we can. We hope that one day we will win your affection!

In the meantime, why not visit Charleston for yourself? There’s an Edwardian chaise lounge in the studio which is one of the few things I have encountered as threadbare as your mind - I think you two would get on like a house on fire!

Hope that’s straightened everything out for you now, hun.

Live Love Laugh!

Yours, ‘Lauren John Joseph’