How Did You Know You Were Non-Binary?

Let's Queer Things Up!

The photo features the author, Sam, looking down contemplatively. This is what a genderqueer person looks like!

I was watching an episode of Bones, oddly enough, when I first realized that I might be transgender.

No, I’m not kidding. I wish it were a more exciting story, but I have to be honest. I was just sitting on my couch, watching television, when the light bulb began to flicker.

In this particular episode, there was a distinguished anthropologist who had joined the team temporarily to help solve a case. I remember, vividly, the first moment that I saw this anthropologist on screen. They were androgynous — visibly outside the binary, sending the other characters into a complete panic as they tripped over pronouns and social conventions.

My heart raced throughout the entire episode. I don’t remember the murder, much less who the culprit was, but I do recall how captivated I felt by this character and their androgyny.

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Religious Freedom? Or Freedom To Discriminate?

David v. Goliath:

Picture: http://blog.acton.org Picture: http://blog.acton.org

Right now is a confusing and worrying time to be a member of Indiana’s LGBT community. This week has seen a rapid succession of changes to discrimination protection laws, with the state’s new religious freedom law being widely recognized for what it really is – a license to discriminate. Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the law last Thursday, and by Tuesday, Indianapolis’ main newspaper was making

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Louis Theroux’s “Transgender Kids” TV Review

Camille with Louis Theroux

Transgender issues have been covered before a fair bit on mainstream television, but there is always the fear of misrepresentation when it comes to them being interviewed by people who know pretty much nothing on the topic. Louis Theroux asks Nicki what bottom surgery is, showing that he doesn’t know much about transgender issues from the off, but of course this isn’t a bad thing, he is there to learn and his non-judgemental, open-minded approach allows him intimate access a surprisingly large range of transgender people.

What makes Louis Theroux’s documentary stand out a little from previous programmes done on the same subject matter is his exploration of fluidity in gender. While we do meet some children, such as Camille (born Sebastian), who appear dead-set on which gender they want to present as. Camille explains that she is “both a boy and a girl” right now but wants to be a girl and prefers female pronouns. We meet Camille’s therapist who explains that Camille has been consistent in her feelings about gender for 18 months, and to her this is reason enough to take her identity as a female seriously and not just pass it off as a phase. Camille’s parents are incredibly open-minded when it comes to allowing Camille to express her gender freely, they let her wear what she wants, act how she wants, and in a touching scene we see her impersonate Lady Gaga with a heart-warming enthusiasm.

However, not all children Louis interviews are as clear in which gender they identify as. Cole (sometimes known as Crystal) does not seem as set on a particular gender as someone like Camille. What is interesting about Cole’s story is that although he clearly does at times identify a lot more comfortably with a feminine role, he is a lot more fluid on which gender to be on a day to day basis. He has what his parents refer to as “Cole days” and “Crystal days”. With his mother, Cole appears more inclined to identify as “Crystal” and as such decides to wear girl’s clothes and act more feminine. However, Cole’s father is a lot less ready to allow his child to decide at this stage in his life to change gender, and so when he is with his father, Cole assumes the masculine role he was assigned at birth. The fluidity we see in Cole brings up an important argument about whether we should allow children as young as the age of five to decide to take measures to such as hormone blockers which stop the process of puberty until the child decides for sure which gender they want to present as.

Cole reveals to Louis near the end of the show that he would be content with growing up to be a man. When Louis tells Cole’s mother about this, she regretfully says that it would be much easier for him to stay presenting as male, for social and safety reasons. Cole’s mother is an admirable woman who only wants to do what makes her child happy, and seems to have dealt with his situation amazingly well, although I can sense the doubt and fear in her voice as she talks to Louis. One criticism I would say about how Louis presents this segment of the programme is his lack of acknowledging the identity of genderqueer, which it seems to me, is what seems Cole may identify most strongly with.

Young children put in very adult situations. Louis gets on the same level as kids, goes to have ice cream with Seb, showing his immaturity?

Sebs grandparents not happy with transition, demonstrates both sides of the argument. Mother is clearly very confused about how to feel and who to listen to: her father or her child. She says its “very different on a day to day basis” when you are with Seb.

Louis meets other trans kids – teenagers such as Nicki who talks about her struggles with accepting herself as a believer in God, and having others accept her at school. Her strength is courageous, as we see her tear up a bit as she describes the abuse she has to put up with at school whilst putting on her make-up. Louis later shares his own experience of growing up with her saying that for him, 14 going 15 was “probably the hardest year of my life”, a statement which seems to genuinely comfort Nicki.

Along with exploring the stories of transgender kids, Louis delves briefly into the actual surgery involved in physically transitioning. Louis asks very candid, intimate questions about what gender dysphoria actually means for different people. Even when in the surgery, talking about how to create a believable-looking phallus, Louis does not focus on the logistics of transitioning, but rather the emotional reasons as to why some people choose surgery, and why some do not.

Louis’ documentary is a great introduction into the world of transgender issues, and although some parts of the spectrum are left out, Louis explores a wide range of experiences with grace and respect, and it is certainly pleasing to see so many accepting parents who fully support their child and are not weighed down by social prejudice.

The documentary shows that there is by no means a straight-forward answer to dealing with kids who are gender non-conforming. The therapists involved in these situations seem to prefer to work on a case by case basis, which to me, for now seems like the best way to go about it. At the end of the programme, when questioned on whether there is the possibility a child may choose to transition, but then change their minds, one therapist says “there might be a possibility to change later, but they’ll be alive to change”. This thought-provoking line reminds viewers that, for a lot of children, gender dysphoria is not just a passing phase but a very real problem, which needs to be addressed and not ignored.

Where I find the time to workout

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

I’ve been asked many times “Where do you find the time to workout?” so I will share my secrets with you. First though, since I don’t want to self identify as a bad feminist, I need to do my privilege check. Being busy is automatically a privilege. Friends who’ve lived in poverty/through times of unemployment remind me that having a lot of time on your hands can be a sign that things are going pretty badly. So on to how my privilege plays out around time to workout.

  • My full time job is 35 hours a week, no overtime, I flex time so my job stays neatly within that time box.
  • I can walk my commute because I can afford a place close to my work. Commuting AND exercising at the same time!
  • My teenage sons are physically and emotionally able to care for themselves unsupervised
  • My feminist partner does all the…

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You May Not Like Feminism – But There’s an Undeniable Need For It

preeeeach

Yes, I'm an Actual Feminist

Many anti-feminists often argue with me about the need for a women’s rights movement. They tell me things like:

  • the wage gap doesn’t exist
  • women are naturally inferior beings, it’s biologically proven
  • women who are sexually assaulted are just asking for it
  • women already have the right to vote, what else do they need?
  • feminism is just there to make women hate men and make women want to be lesbians

There’s a certain amount of willful ignorance here – these anti-feminists want to blatantly ignore facts, statistics, personal claims, etc. Look at the sheer number of lawsuits in this country over sexual and domestic violence, look at the number of reported cases. Tell me there isn’t a problem there – I dare you! I really do! You know what? Forget the statistic for a moment. Go out on the street and ask a woman if she has ever felt uncomfortable around…

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The Problem With Pick-Up Artists

Where it all began.

Where it all began.

I remember being around 10 or 11 years old and my brother telling me about a new book he had just started reading. It was called “The Game”, and he told me it was a guide on how to approach people and make friends. He read a few passages, told me a bit about the author, and immediately I was intrigued. Looking back now, I think the only reason I seemed so interested in the book was to suck up to my brother, but either way I asked him more and more about the book, with which I was fascinated.

He told me “The Game”, was a system, which helped people approach strangers and be friends with them. Little did I know that really it was only men who played ‘The Game’, and it wasn’t friendship they were looking for. The first few chapters seemed innocent enough: lessons on confidence, how to speak louder, appear more friendly, even a section on how to clean yourself (just in case you smell bad). But reading on, the chapters become stranger to me. They focus more on women and less on making friends. More on how to ‘read someone’ and less on how to appear friendly. It wasn’t till later on I realized this book was less of a “how to make friends guide” and more like the Bible of Pick Up Artists (PUA).

At the time, using a system or ‘game’ to get to know someone made sense to me. If you find it hard to make friends or you want a relationship, then sure, learning how to approach people you don’t know in a non-threatening manner is always a good skill to have. But the problem with the Game is that it treats people (particularly women) just as that: a game. Pick up artistry came into the public light thanks to Neil Strauss who wrote the book my brother had showed me, and after him more and more men found themselves wanting to get in on the PUA lifestyle. Soon reddit forums started popping up about the subject, and newer, more “experienced men” started writing their own book, claiming they had the best methods on how to chat up women money could buy.

A lot of the advice seen circulating around PUA forums involves simple confidence building skills including how to hold eye contact with someone, how to start a conversation with a stranger and how to dress well. There are certain pieces of advice on these forums and in PUA books which help to distinguish it from regular everyday self-help books. Terms such as “target” and “alpha male” are used by PUAs on certain forums, making the whole system sound rather douche-y and bone headed. Some PUAs have made headlines for the gross sexist advice they had been giving men in their books or on their websites; in one of his books on how to pick up women, famous PUA Ken Hoinsky, aka “TofuTofu” on Reddit, gave advice which basically advocates sexual abuse:

“Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”

It has gotten to the point now where some sites such as Jezebel.com have given guides on how to spot a potential PUA and avoid them. The irony of the situation is certainly rich, but it also shows just how uncomfortable some of these “artists” are making people. Although most men looking to PUA forums are, I’m sure just shy people looking to improve their communication skills with women, I’m afraid that the men who run these sites are determined to change these sweet men into power hungry alpha males who forget that women are people, but instead choose to treat them like a game.

The danger of PUAs gaining popularity is their ability to shape men’s perceptions of women. Vulnerable men see these PUAs as the man that they wish they could be: confident, sexy and most importantly a ladies man. But if everyone was a PUA, what would women be but just a piece in their game?

My Review of Cucumber, Banana and Tofu

cucumber-banana-tofu-03-e1420805061503

What I loved most about Russell T Davis’ groundbreaking series Queer as Folk was its “no fucks are given” attitude. Its crudeness, sass and general feeling that it just didn’t care what other people thought was beyond liberating. In the first episode alone there was a scene involving a 15 year old boy being rimmed by a significantly older man. The show wasn’t apologizing, in fact, it was celebrating this boy’s sexual awakening, the colours and sounds of Manchester’s Canal Street shone through the screen in an exciting and tempting way, making the technically illegal antics of that first episode so enticing.

I was glad then, when I saw the first episode of Davis’ adaptation trio Banana, Cucumber and Tofu had not lost that fast-paced, wild and uncontrollable sexuality. The name itself was wonderfully obscene: the different foods referring to the different stages of an erection. Sex is what drives this series, and the celebration of sex in all its forms is at the forefront of the new adaptation, just as it was in Queer as Folk. Of course, sex isn’t all that its about. Davis uses the three separate series to encompass many different aspects of queer life, not just the stereotypical man on man we’ve had to see again and again in LGBT TV and cinema.

Cucumber is the father of the trio. An hour long, each episode follows the relationship of older gay couple Lance and Harry. They are old men living in a world made for the young. Their relationship breaks down for a number of reasons, but ultimately all it really comes down to is sex. As Harry puts it, he’s just looking for “one more cock”. They feel left out of the gay scene, which is catered only to the young, attractive males of Manchester, and this feeling of emptiness affects them both, ultimately leading to a dramatic breakup after a failed attempt at a threesome.

Cucumber

Cucumber is complimented by another series shown on e4 straight after called Banana. Banana is the younger, funnier sibling of Cucumber, focusing on some of the minor characters in the show. Each episode is its own story, exploring the life of a different character each time. This makes for a whole range of intriguing episodes which attempt to reach out to all corners of LGBT life (sometimes trying to fit in too much at one time). The feeling of modernity also comes through strongly in this series – technology is emphasized in many episodes, something I think is very important to include in any television series about young people. From the young boy who we see using Grindr at his parent’s dinner table, to the trans woman who’s private photos get leaked by her ex boyfriend onto Facebook. These experiences are not just relevant, but important to viewers nowadays who’s lives are being affected more and more everyday by their smartphones. Banana is fast paced and funny, although being only half an hour long, it lacks the some of the intimacy seen in Cucumber, and indeed some of its drama. What makes Cucumber so riveting is the suddenness of the tragedy that befalls one of its main characters, but without an ongoing plot, Banana feels somewhat dissatisfactory, I always feel like I want to know more of the characters in each episode, but you can only find out so much in a half an hour time slot.

Tofu is a bit of a different one. Shown exclusively on 4od, Tofu  is a series of short videos interviewing real-life people on almost any and every aspect of sex. From topics such as coming out to why some people choose never to have sex, those from all walks of life give their opinions; porn stars, actors, YouTubers and even just housewives. The series is fun and the episodes are short enough to watch without getting bored, but in my opinion, the episodes are no less informative or entertaining than many YouTube videos you can find which cover sex and relationships. Tofu is definitely the weakest of the three, but it still serves its comedic purpose online as a web series.

Overall, I was pleased to see Russell T Davis had not lost his sensual and energetic writing in his new series, and I was especially impressed to see that he had not focussed the series entirely on the young crowd in the LGBT community, which is too often pushed to the front in gay TV. Cucumber felt like a story about what happened when the Queer as Folk boys grew up, but its daring sex scenes and new pushing of boundaries shows that Davis hasn’t lost any of the appeal which made his first LGBT series so groundbreaking.