5 ways writers can support each other online

With NaNoWriMo looming, I feel like I’m caught up in an electric buzz of collective excitement with my writing communities on social media. Writers on the internet are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever encountered. Maybe it’s because writers are also readers, or maybe it’s because other writers are rarely the competition due to the nature of how our work is consumed, but the encouragement and love I feel from my writer friends is mindblowing, always.

If you’re wondering how you can get more involved in writing communities online and offer encouragement to your fellow creators, especially writers who are publishing independently, I’ve put together a collection of ideas from my own experience for you to try. Enjoy!

Make genuine connections

Social media and blogs are great for discovering other writers. If you see a post you like, don’t just read it and move on. Visit the person’s profile or site, follow them, comment on their posts and get to know them. I don’t mean mass follow everyone who posts in a particular tag or has ‘writer’ listed as their occupation. I mean actually reach out, communicate and let people know you enjoy what they’re doing. If someone is posting about their new project, share in their excitement. If they’re having stressful times, a few words of encouragement can make all the difference. Treat other writers the way you’d like to be treated and get ready to make new friends!

Share what you love

Whether you’re mentioning someone in a #FollowFriday post on Twitter or reblogging their poetry on Tumblr, sharing someone’s work or a link to their profile or website can introduce them to a whole new audience – yours! Telling a friend about the amazing book you’re reading and sending them a link to where they can download or buy it is fantastic too. It’s a lovely feeling when someone likes what you do enough to introduce people they know to your work.

Take part in tags and games

Every week, I look forward to #SatLines and #SlapDashSat on Twitter. Not only are these great opportunities to share a little bit of what I’m working on, they’re also fun ways to discover other writers. You don’t even have to wait for a particular day or game to jump into tags though. Using (and browsing) #amwriting and #writerslife on Twitter will instantly connect you with other writers, any day of the week. If you’re involved with a big project like NaNoWriMo, check the relevant tags. I’ve met so many writers through #NaNoWriMo, #NaNoPrep and #CampNaNoWriMo, and it’s lovely to know that while I’m spending hours putting words to screen, lots of other writers are doing exactly the same thing and we can give each other a much needed boost!

Read and react

Few things warm my heart like someone saying, “I loved your book”. Actually, even just having someone get in touch to say they’ve downloaded my book and are going to read it feels pretty epic. Blog comments, and even Likes, are awesome. Basically, do things to remind other writers that they aren’t just shouting into the void. Let them know you’re reading and appreciating their work. Writing can be an isolated activity a lot of the time, as you know, and hearing from the people who read your words is important, especially if you know they can relate to your experience. On that note, if you’ve read something that genuinely shifted your perspective, touched your heart, made your day better or inspired you in some way, TELL THE WRITER! As a writer yourself, you know how feedback like that can carry you through times of self doubt.

Pay for what you read

At the moment, I give everything I write away for free but people who want to pay, and can afford to, can support me on Patreon, send a payment through PayPal (like buying a book after they’ve read it) or even buy me a virtual coffee. I’m still very much at the beginning of my actually-doing-the-writing-thing journey so knowing that people are willing to put money behind what I do feels incredible (and also helps me to pay for things that I need, which is good). I support other writers and artists on Patreon, and when writers I know publish an ebook, I buy it. I generally can’t afford to buy physical books, but independently published ebooks are so much more affordable and I’m grateful to be in a place where I can spend even a little bit of money supporting other creators. For a long time, I couldn’t afford to do this. Now that I can, it’s important to me that I do. Being on the receiving end of financial support for your creative endeavours is pretty damn good. Being on the giving end of that is equally wonderful.

I hope these ideas help you to make the most of your online life as writer and contribute to your community. There are so many of us out here, waiting to meet you

 


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Talking on social media about nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups

I originally posted this on my personal Facebook profile earlier today, but the more I think about it, the more I feel it applies to social media in general. I’m not sharing this here to talk you into agreeing with me or to invite you to tell me why you don’t. I’m sharing it in the hope that perhaps it might encourage people to consider things from a perspective other than their own, just as other people’s blogs, posts and articles encourage me to do.

Content warning for mentions of hate groups, violence and my usual delightful turn of phrase.

So, fucking nazis and people’s responses to their activities. I’ve been trying to think of something to say about this because I want to say something. I honestly believe it’s time that everyone said something. So this might not be the most eloquent or palatable of somethings, but it’s where I’m at, so here goes…

I’ve seen a lot of “OMG this is so shocking!” posts. And it is shocking. It’s horrible and awful and shocking. If some people don’t appear to be as shocked as you, remember that rather than it being because they don’t care, it may be because the thing that is shocking to you has already formed part of the landscape of their existence for so long that it no longer surprises them. And possibly when they’ve talked about it before, they’ve been dismissed, ignored, disbelieved or shut down. I’m not saying don’t express your shock, horror, rage or whatever. I’m just saying that when other people don’t, it might not be for the reasons you assume.

I’ve also seen a lot of images being shared, from pictures of recent white supremacist marches to depictions of violence in the not-so-distant past to photographs from wars that most people reading this weren’t alive to see. While those might be important images to share, especially if you are part of a community or a demographic that may not have a strong awareness of the things they depict, please remember that some people seeing them have witnessed or experienced those traumatic events first-hand. I’m not saying don’t share those pictures. I’m just saying please respect that not everyone can cope with looking at them for perfectly valid reasons.

I’ve seen a few people saying, “If you respond to violence with violence, you’re just as bad”. I get this on some level. Sometimes there are different ways to respond to a situation without being violent and often those are more productive and less damaging options. But when your safety and survival (or the safety and survival of someone else) are being threatened, fighting back is sometimes the only option. I’m not saying don’t try to find non-violent approaches where you can. I’m just saying that unless you have literally fought for your own survival, kept throwing punches as you lost consciousness, protected someone who couldn’t defend themselves by putting your own body between them and the person trying to hurt them, please try and understand that your hypothetical situation is someone else’s lived experience and maybe you don’t get to tell them how they should have reacted.

Also, it’s really easy to tell someone, in private, “I agree with you. I support you. I’m on your side.” That is a valuable and important thing to do. But it’s also, if not more, important to stand up and state that position openly when you have the opportunity. Yes, trust in the world in general can be damaged by strangers doing terrible things. But trust in the people close to you, which is arguably more meaningful, can be absolutely obliterated to the point of no return by their choosing to remain silent when it really matters.

And another thing. “You have to respect everyone’s opinion equally” is bullshit. If someone’s opinion is that other people are less than human because of their ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or mental or physical dis/ability, no-one has to respect that. If someone’s opinion is that other people should be denied human rights, imprisoned, or killed, because of those things, no-one has to respect that either. There is a massive difference between “I politely disagree with your views on an intellectual level” and “You should not be allowed to exist because you are different from me in harmless ways that are inherent to your identity”.

If you feel the need to play devil’s advocate, fuck off. If you feel the need to qualify anything you say with “I’m not a nazi/white supremacist/fascist/total cunt, but…”, fuck off. If you feel the need to say “It’s not that bad” simply because it hasn’t been that bad for you personally or for people you know in the place where you live (yet), fuck off.

Choosing to not take a stance on issues of politics and human rights is a privilege and a luxury that not everyone has. If you want to know “what you would do, if…”, take a look at yourself right now. Because you’re already doing it.


Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

#StandWithOrlando: Gun Control and Human Rights

They say that ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ Well I think the gun helps. If you just stood there and yelled BANG, I don’t think you’d kill too many people.

– Eddie Izzard

An act of terrorism was committed recently against the LGBT* community in Orlando, Florida. A person with a legally purchased and carried assault rifle murdered 50 people and injured a further 53 (figures correct as of 13th June 2016).

So, here’s a little bit of context which will hopefully help to explain my perspective before I go any further. I grew up with terrorism long before it was a media buzzword and long before anyone flew a plane into an American building and the world started giving a shit. The family friendly euphemism for the constant state of blowing people up and shooting people where I lived was “the troubles”. I’m honestly not sure if this was a political attempt to trivialise the situation or simply a symptom of the people of Northern Ireland getting on with life while the world literally fell down around us. Elsewhere, it was either completely ignored due to occurring on a small island, or romanticised by people who knew nothing about it beyond what they’d seen in Hollywood films. Guns were not available in shops. The vast majority of people who owned and used guns did so far outside of the law. If you wanted a gun, you could get a gun. Not easily. Not from a shop. Not legally. But you could get a gun. So I’m not talking from the perspective of someone who believes that making something illegal will prevent it from occurring.

All that said, mass murders by terrorists in Northern Ireland were generally bombings rather than shootings. Blowing people up is considerably more effective than shooting people when you want to kill lots of them, very quickly, from a distance, especially when the kind of gun required to cause that level of destruction was not actually that readily available. Even in a country with a roaring illegal arms trade, guns were not the go-to tool of choice for mass murder.

I have no issue whatsoever with target shooting as a sport, just as I have no issue with archery, knife-throwing, motor racing or other sports that involve potentially lethal tools. As adult humans, we are, or should be, able to follow guidelines for the safe(r) use and storage of dangerous objects. I DO have an issue with people claiming that a gun is a defensive weapon. Unless you can literally shoot a bullet out of the air, a gun is not a defensive weapon. I am also aware that a gun on its own can’t do anything. It can’t pick itself up, load itself, aim itself and shoot someone (unless there’s some weapons technology out there that I’m not aware of).

Let’s think for a moment about what a gun allows a person to do. With a gun, you can hit a target very quickly and from a distance. With some guns, you can hit a lot of targets very quickly and from a distance. This can be achieved with minimal skill and training, depending on the gun. For a bit of compare and contrast, with a knife you can hit one target reasonably quickly, providing it’s within arm’s length. You could hit a couple of targets if they’re close to each other. With increased skill and training, you could hit one target from a distance, or more if you have a number of knives handy. Obviously by ‘hit a target’ I could also mean ‘end a human life’.

Let’s say one person is trying to stop you from hitting a target with a knife and, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you don’t object to injuring or killing them. Chances are, one person could possibly stop you. Two or more people could probably stop you. A group of people could almost definitely stop you and they could most likely do it without causing any further injury or death. Now, let’s say you have one of those guns that allows you to hit a lot of targets very quickly from a distance. How many people would it take to stop you? How long with it take for them to do that? Could they even manage it without risking further injury or death? Remember, you are using a weapon that is literally designed to kill lots of people, very quickly, from a distance. That is exactly what an assault rifle is designed to do.

An assault rifle is not designed for shooting targets for sport. It isn’t even designed for hunting animals (don’t even get me started on hunting animals cause that’s a whole other blog post). It is designed for killing lots of people, very quickly, from a distance. I know I’m repeating myself. It’s intentional. I’m trying to make a point. The point is why would anyone want a gun like that and why are they readily and legally available to purchase and carry? This is not a rhetorical question. There is no way anyone could realistically claim that they want an assault rifle for sport or anything other than KILLING LOTS OF PEOPLE, VERY QUICKLY, FROM A DISTANCE.

I know that if assault rifles weren’t readily and legally available to purchase and carry but you really wanted one, you could possibly get your hands on one. It would be a lot easier to get your hands on a smaller gun, one that could kill fewer people in more time from less of a distance. There are plenty of things that are illegal but that people can still get their hands on. To reiterate a point from the beginning of this post, I’m not talking from the perspective of someone who believes that making something illegal will prevent it from occurring. But why make it easier? Why normalise the purchase of guns? Why normalise carrying guns? Why normalise the ownership of weapons designed specifically for mass murder?

I follow the debate around gun control with interest (remember, controlling something is not the same as not allowing it to exist). I’ve witnessed people arguing that they should be allowed to own a safely stored gun for shooting targets in an environment created for that purpose. I understand this perspective. I’ve also witnessed people arguing that not being allowed to buy an assault rifle in a shop and carry it in public is a violation of their human rights. This is just beyond me. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, understand this claim.

I’m not saying that if people couldn’t buy assault rifles in shops and carry them in public no-one would ever get shot. Humans are amazing at finding ways to destroy each other.  But if you’re going to tell me, with a straight face, that not being allowed to buy and carry a weapon designed and built specifically to kill lots of people, very quickly, from a distance is a violation of your human rights then you need to go and have a word with yourself about priorities.

My thoughts are with the victims of the horrendous attack in Orlando and with their families, their friends and their community. In the wake of this tragedy, I beg you to consider their human rights.

Why Self-Publishing Is Good For Readers

When I think of how many amazing books there are out there that have never been published and probably never will be because the subject matter is thought to be too obscure or the story (or author) too unmarketable, it breaks my heart a little.

I love to read and I love to support other people who write. I don’t want to only support writers who have written something with an appropriate level of mass appeal to be published traditionally. I also want to support writers who are creating something incredible that doesn’t appeal to the publishers’ most lucrative demographic. I want to support writers who are creating bizarre and wonderful things that only a hundred people will ever read but it will change those hundred people’s lives. I want to support the self-publishing writer who is in it as a serious business and the self-publishing writer who just wants to give it a shot and see what happens.

Some of the most stunningly talented musicians I’m aware of are people I know personally or have seen perform in tiny venues or at festivals or in the street. A few of them have built up a bit of a cult following but none are famous, mainstream, please-all-the-people, make-lots-of-money, well known. If I was waiting for mainstream music publishing to bring me a full range of epic music and astounding musicians, I’d be in for a long wait.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of widely known music around that I absolutely adore, but I don’t want to live in a world without the thunderous drum crew shaking the floor of a club with sweat dripping off the walls as five hundred people dance together in a homogenous mass of rapturous joy. I want Bach and Aerosmith and Nine Inch Nails and the woman playing a bodhran in the basement of the arts centre and my friend who shoots fireworks from his guitar as he sings. I want the busker in Paris who sang Everybody Hurts so beautifully in broken English that it made me cry and I want the man next to Edinburgh castle who serenaded tourists in the rain with Lady Gaga songs played on an accordion. I want all of it.

I see literature in the same way. I absolutely one hundred percent want Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho and Brave New World in my life. I want the Virgin Suicides and the Bell Jar and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. And I also really, really want the collection of poetry by the writer who I met in a Facebook group and the book by the writer who sent me a twisted, hilarious and deeply engaging message on Twitter. I definitely want the feminist fantasy novel that I discovered on the blog of a writer who decided, in her sixties, that she was going to write a book and wasn’t prepared to wait around for someone else to approve of it before she could share it with the world.

And I want to pay for their writing. I don’t have much money to spend on books but when I buy a self-published ebook, the vast majority of what I pay is going straight to the author. As someone who works for themselves, I appreciate the value of not only earning money but of someone saying, through their words or actions or both, “I love what you do so much I’m going to pay you to do it. Your work is worth something to me. Your time, effort, experience, creativity, drive and determination are worth something”.

I would love to self-publish a book one day, even though everything I’ve heard about self-publishing suggests it’s a tough road to travel. Your work doesn’t stop when the writing is finished. You are responsible for everything it usually takes teams of people and not-inconsiderable funds to achieve. I know some self-publishing writers pay for services like proof-reading, editing and formatting, but even these services are often provided by other independent contractors rather than by big companies. Self-publishing may be a difficult process and maybe there are fewer people earning a comfortable living from it right now than there are people not reaching that level of income.

But.

When you discover a writer through their blog or social media, you have the opportunity to really hear their voice. You get to know the unedited, or at least only self-edited, reality of who they are. And when that writer whose blog posts you look forward to or whose Tweets brighten your day self-publishes a book, you can be pretty sure you’re going to love reading it.

It’s OK To Express Yourself Through Images Of Yourself

This is a reminder that it’s OK to express yourself through images of yourself. It’s OK to take photos of yourself, to draw or paint pictures of yourself. It’s also OK to write poetry, stories, essays and blogs based on your own experiences and ideas.

It’s OK to share those things with your family, your friends, your community and the whole world if you want to. If you don’t want to, that’s OK too, but it doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t. Your choices are your own and deciding where, when or even if your image and your words are seen is an act of empowerment and you deserve to be empowered, to empower yourself.

Self-portraits are not new. Autobiographies and memoirs are not new. But somehow as soon as people – especially women, especially young women, especially people in minority groups or oppressed groups, or people on the fringes of society, or people with lifestyles outside of the mainstream – have access to the tools and channels to place their pictures and words in the public sphere without prior approval from the powers that be, it’s all ridicule, shaming and accusations of narcissism.

It’s OK to feel confident. It’s OK to feel beautiful. It’s OK to not feel confident or not feel beautiful or not to care about, or be motivated by, the concept of beauty in the slightest but to accept that you are as worthy as anyone else of existing and taking up space and being seen and heard and represented.

And if anyone ever dares to tell you that your face or your body or your voice are not acceptable, if anyone ever dares to tell you to sit down and shut up, to be less visible, to be less anything, that says nothing at all about you and everything about them.

They Them Myself

They Them Myself

On my old blog, I wrote a piece where I talked about feelings of alignment with the identity of genderqueer and my preferred pronouns, they/them. If you’re squinting at your screen and thinking “Huh?”, take a trip over to these pages, do some reading, then come back. I’ll wait for you.

Are you back with at least a vague idea about what all this genderqueer and they/them stuff is about? Good. Let’s go! In my previous Disjointed Ramblings, I explained part of my journey toward identifying as genderqueer. I’m about to be meta as hell and quote my blog on my blog.

I have never felt comfortable with binary gender or that someone else, or society as a whole, gets to decide who I should be and how I should behave and react and feel because of what certain parts of my body look like. It’s not that I am ashamed of being read as female or that I hate it or I think being female is in any way not-ok, and it’s not that I feel like I’m male or want to be perceived as male. It’s that the entire system, the whole gender is a choice between two things issue, doesn’t sit well with me at all.

I didn’t feel like I had any right to question my gender identity because I am a (sometimes, kind of) femme-presenting person and there are aspects of my appearance which are generally associated with femaleness. Some of these are things I did not choose, like my waist-to-hip ratio and the not-inconsiderable size of my chest. Some of these things I did choose, and while I don’t associate them with any particular gender, I’m aware that society-in-general does, like dyeing my hair pink, (sometimes) wearing make-up and nail polish, or (often) wearing long skirts instead of trousers. Even when I wear stereotypically masculine or androgynous clothing, I tend to be perceived as not only ‘female’ but often overtly sexual because of the shape of my body.

Since I began giving the whole gender issue more thought instead of just telling myself to shut up and stop being awkward, I’ve had the pleasure of reading about other people’s experiences of gender and gender identity that really resonated with my own. This included plenty of those wonderful this person has just described my situation better than I’ve ever been able to describe it myself moments. It’s kind of amazing, discovering that feelings you’ve had for years, that you’ve always thought were weird or different or somehow unrelate-to-able, are actually pretty similar to other people’s feelings. It’s even more amazing to feel like maybe you could talk about those feelings openly because other people have and maybe if you do, even more people will feel able to and fewer of us will end up wandering through the world feeling like we’re carrying a burden that is solely our own to bear.

Two pieces of writing about gender identity have stayed with me since I first encountered them. They aren’t written by people I know, or even people I know anything about. They are written by strangers and while I don’t wish to reduce complex, fascinating human beings to one paragraph each, I also don’t want to give the impression that I represent them or they represent me or that we are in any way connected.

I’ve never felt quite like a woman, but I’ve never wanted to be a man, either. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be something in between. To quote Ruby Rose: I called myself a girl, but only because my options were limited. I always assumed that everyone felt that way.

– from How To Be A Genderqueer Feminist by Laurie Penny

People told me I was a woman, and I believed them because the way they treated me was consistent with my understanding of that category. I never questioned the feeling of arbitrariness, because I naively assumed that other people experienced their own genders in the same way.

– from Preliminary Navel-Gazing (Towards an Eventual Contribution to Gender Theory): Part 1 by mhuzzell

Last year, I changed my gender on Facebook to genderqueer and I changed my pronoun to They. I removed gender identifiers from other social media sites where this was possible and changed my Tumblr name from missdecemberbliss to mxdecemberbliss. I posted a link to my Disjointed Ramblings blog on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. It wasn’t a coming-out as much as an updating of information to accurately reflect my current situation. I didn’t really come out as genderqueer for the same reason that I didn’t come out as bisexual way-back-when (I now prefer simply queer as the descriptor for my sexual orientation) – I didn’t want to, I didn’t feel I should have to and other people’s assumptions about me are their issue, not mine. I didn’t have a closet to come out of. I was never in a closet.

In conversations about gender, as with in conversations about sexual orientation, I am absolutely open and honest about my genderqueerness (although I don’t always use that word because a lot of people have never encountered it), as I am about my queerness in general. I just never felt moved to make a huge announcement about any of it. That said, I want to make it clear that I completely understand why a lot of people do choose to come out and I don’t think for a moment that they shouldn’t, or shouldn’t want to or need to. Different things are right for different people and the most important thing for anyone is that they are being true to themselves in as far as they can safely do so. Coming out is an incredibly important process for a lot of people and I support that one hundred percent.

Due to, I assume, my comparatively quiet introduction of my they/them-ness a lot of people still use she/her pronouns for me and while I definitely feel more comfortable with they/them, I don’t feel terribly upset or affronted by the use of she/her. I’m going to let past-me explain this.

I’m actually alright with she/her pronouns too and am not like OMGHORRIFIED at being referred to as female because my experience of life has been shaped by people’s reactions to me as a person who is perceived to be female, so that is still a part of who I am.

I tend to use gender neutral language as much as possible and while this was an effort to begin with – saying y’all or folks instead of you guys, for example – it feels completely natural to me now. This feels like an appropriate moment to point out to anyone who protests that they/them is plural, LANGUAGE EVOLVES and also they/them is already commonly in use when the gender of a person isn’t known. For example, “Oh, your friend is coming to visit? How lovely! When do they arrive?” or “Your coworker was in a car accident? I hope they’re alright”.

In case anyone thinks I’m trying to speak for all non-binary people, I’m most definitely not. Some people feel very strongly about only having gender neutral pronouns used for and about them, which is cool. Individual preferences should be respected. Just cause one genderqueer person is sort of alright with she/her or he/him pronouns doesn’t mean all genderqueer people are. Some people who use gender neutral pronouns prefer ze/hir or any number of other options (there’s a list here, if you’re interested).

There are also transgender people who choose to use gender neutral pronouns either in an ongoing way or as a step towards using she/her or he/she pronouns which reflect their true gender. I do not identify as transgender (although some genderqueer people do feel comfortable under that umbrella) so I can’t speak for trans people and would instead like to direct you to this page on GLAAD’s website as a good starting point for reading about transgender identities.

Pulling back from that slight tangent, I want to explain why I don’t jump in and correct people who use she/her pronouns for me and how you (yes, you, all of you) can help make it easier for non-binary people to feel comfortable saying “I use they/them pronouns” without it being A Big Deal. This begins with a couple of seemingly unrelated stories, but bear with me. It’ll all become clear.

I don’t drink alcohol very often and when I do, it’s generally in very small quantities. For most of my 20s, I didn’t drink alcohol at all. When I was out with workmates or acquaintances (rather than close friends) and was offered a drink, I always said “No thanks” or opted for a soft drink so as not to be rude and decline a kind offer. About ninety nine percent of the time, this led to me being asked “Why not?” (seriously!), to which I would answer “I don’t drink alcohol”. The responses to this ranged from a deeply personal line of questioning about religious choices, medication, health conditions and other things that I had no desire to talk about with people I wasn’t close to, to aggressive assumptions that I had a problem with other people drinking followed by fight-picking about alcohol consumption. My boring truth was that prior to that stage in my life, I was heavily into partying and used to drink a lot so I reached a point where I just didn’t really want to do it at all for a while.

For the last eleven years, I have been living with a disability which does not have instantly apparent visible symptoms (unless you knew me before and have seen how much my appearance has changed because of it). When this has come up in conversation, usually in relation to something totally mundane like my briefly and politely explaining that I can’t attend an event that doesn’t have parking close by as I’m unable to walk very far, some people (not all, or even most, but enough) have responded by basically accusing me of anything from making excuses to exaggerating to outright lying based on the fact that, to them, I don’t appear to be disabled or unwell. Often, upon accepting that I am indeed not a healthy human, I have had to endure a barrage of insensitive questions and lectures which is frustrating, upsetting and not something I have the energy or inclination to deal with.

Based on those common reactions to utterly uninteresting statements explaining that I don’t drink or I’m not well, I very much do not want to get into a ‘debate’ about MY OWN identity, especially as a lot of people (in my experience) like to claim that their opinion on issues that are purely conceptual to them is more relevant and valid than the lived experiences of people whose lives are directly affected by those issues. I’m usually happy to chat with open-minded folks about gender stuff but I don’t have the energy to educate hostile people, especially not hostile people who talk to my chest and insist that I am female because boobs. I pick my battles and I don’t pick that one right now. Also, I don’t want every conversation to turn into a conversation about gender, or about me. That’s a lot of work and a lot of focus-shifting that I don’t feel comfortable with, especially as she/her pronouns don’t bother me too much, although they/them is definitely my preference.

So, what can you do to help create a supportive environment in which people of all genders, or no gender, can feel comfortable being open about their pronouns? If someone says that their preferred pronouns, or simply their pronouns (some people have one set of pronouns that they’re OK with and that’s that, no ‘preferred’ about it) are different from what you’ve been using, don’t view this an an opportunity to interrogate them or worse – to argue with them about WHO THEY ARE. I guarantee that the person you’re talking to knows themselves better than you know them. Just accept it and endeavour to use the correct pronouns in future. If you mess up (and you will mess up, cause we all mess up), correct yourself and carry on. Use the right pronouns for people even when they’re not there to hear you. Do your best. This stuff is important.

Alternatively, you can ask people what their pronouns are. I find this one a bit difficult in practice because to avoid drawing attention to your assumption that someone is non-binary or trans it would make sense to ask everyone and I haven’t found a non-awkward way to say “Nice to meet you. What are your pronouns?” to every person I encounter. If you also find this a bit difficult, you could try using gender neutral pronouns for people until they make a clear reference to their gender. There are some communities and environments where it would actually feel totally natural to ask everyone their pronouns but there are also plenty where you may end up not feeling safe as a result of starting that conversation (for example, in certain workplaces). I’m going off on a tangent and this may well end up being a blog post in itself at some point.

Finally, I’d like to thank a friend for inspiring this post by referring to me as ‘they’ in a comment on Facebook today and making me incredibly happy. I’m still navigating the unfamiliarity of accepting that I can wear skirts and make-up sometimes and still inhabit a genderqueer identity without letting the side down. I’m still struggling to accept certain aspects of my appearance outside of other people’s reactions to them. I’m still getting to know a part of myself that I pushed down and held under for so long. Getting to know yourself is a life-long process and contrary to popular belief it isn’t necessary to pick a firm definition and have that be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, for ever and ever amen.

So…they/them pronouns please 🙂

Please, please, please, for the love of all that is pink and fluffy, do not lecture me about how labels aren’t important and how it doesn’t matter what other people think. Labels are descriptives, they are shorthand for complicated concepts, and are used as such in conversation. They also make it possible to look stuff up on the internet. I’m not being all “I AM THIS” because I must attach someone else’s words to my own existence. I’m exploring concepts, ideas, feelings and myself so when I do that with words, I use, y’know, words.

Brief Thoughts on Toxic Masculinity

In the wake of recent atrocities across the world where lives were lost in the name of power, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a Tweet referring to toxic masculinity and the fragility of the male ego.

I have no clue what the Tweeter was thinking when they Tweeted this and I could be wildly wrong, what with individual perception and subjective understanding, but when I see statements like that I don’t see “Men are evil/bad/wrong/deserving of destruction”.

I see recognition of an extremely messed up system, referred to here as toxic masculinity, which forces horrendously damaging expectations onto dude-humans and tries to deny them the opportunity for balanced emotional development, instead pushing ‘values’ such as violence, aggression and thoughtless confrontation as not only the norm, but the desired state of being.

The messed up system tells men, “You are not enough, you are not REAL, unless you are physically dominant at all times”. It says, “You are not permitted to explore natural avenues for processing your grief, your pain, your frustration”. It says, “You must not be weak. You must be angry”.

References to the fragile male ego aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, meant as an insult. They aren’t insulting men’s feelings. The ego is not your emotions or your capacity for love. The ego is the thing that you are forced to build around yourselves to fit into a broken system that tells you, wrongly, that to fight is the only way forward. That IS fragile because it’s unnatural and unfair. The strength lies beneath that, in the parts of you that suffer loss, the parts of you that need to cry and the parts of you that know how to offer comfort and support to others.

As a non-dude-human who knows so many wonderful, kind, loving men who are constantly told by the world that they are not enough, this messed up system breaks my heart.