Anxiety is Freedom

I have severe anxiety, according to the psychiatric assessor I saw on Monday. On reflection that makes a lot of sense.

The sensory overload and hypersensitive hearing? Anxiety.

That swooping sensation in my gut where I get a premonition/ sense of deja vu that something is awful about to happen? Anxiety.

Only ever feeling safe within the four walls of my house? Anxiety. 

To be classed as having Anxiety you have to score 7. I scored 22. That’s pretty fucking anxious.

I’ve been off work since Monday, and it’s all been a bit of a daze. I’ve mostly been sleeping. 

I had another moment earlier today – I was switching the lights on my tree (my tiny itty bitty star wars tree that I bought in poundland that is cute as fuck and covered in little foil darth vaders) and it happened again… the sensation all this happened before except last time it happened I was fired. Anxiety really fucks with you. 

I’ve got two weeks for the meds to settle down before I’m supposed to go back to work. I’m seeing my GP again before that happens but for now it’s me, the cats, and daytime TV. 

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Cecily: A Tribute to an Extraordinary Cat

I’ve spent most of today in tears. We made the hardest decision this morning, and said goodbye to our boss cat, Cecily. She’d been under the weather for a while, and hadn’t really eaten anything since Thursday night when she managed a third of a tin of salmon. 

This morning she took a turn for the worse and so off to the vet we went. I never dreamed she wouldn’t be coming home with us.

We adopted Cecily in 2007; a gorgeous tortoiseshell kitten who flopped into Babe’s arms and had them wrapped round her little paw ever since. Babe named her after the character in the Importance of Being Earnest, and she certainly lived up to it.

When we bought Othello home as a kitten just before Christmas 2009, she did a massive poo behind the Christmas tree and tried to blame him. On more than one occasion I woke up nearly falling out of bed where she situated herself in the middle and began kicking me out of bed.

One Christmas she helped herself to a pack of Brandy Butter and made a complete spectacle of herself lolling all over my Dad.

The first year we had her my folks house sat while Babe and I went to visit the inlaws. Of course Cecily escaped. My mother was hysterical wondering how she was going to tell us she’d lost our cat. One of the neighbours brought her back 2 days later – she’d been on an adventure. 

She escaped quite a lot, once shimmying out of a window, earning her the nickname Houdini. 

When she was happy she used to rock back and forth with her eyes closed as she padded the ground with her paws… so we called her Stevie Wonder.

She worked out how to open door handles at 10 weeks. She could hear a fridge door opening three streets away and liked to sit under our feet howling “NOW NOW NOW” for any food coming her way. Every tin we opened was obviously tuna for her (“this is spaghetti hoops, madam, cats don’t like spaghetti hoops”).

She kicked ass in the neighbourhood, showing all the other cats who was boss. She once took on a huge big black and white Tom cat, sending it on its way.

She slept on a particular stair half way up, and it was always warm in the morning when you came down to feed the hungry hoards waiting by the food bowls.

The fact is, she’s been our flatmate and dearest darling for 9 years. She’s always been with us in that house and it’s going to be unbearable without her. The boys – Othello and Bill Sikes – are already missing her. She used to sit with me and watch the Sound of Music when I was poorly.

She was such a happy cat. 

The vet told us a lot of things. A few words stuck out; renal failure, growth on her thyroid, possibly cancerous, gastrointestinal issues… even if we put her through lots of tests and investigative procedures, she wasn’t going to get better, it would just be a managed condition. A future of pain and confusion, because you can’t explain to them why you’re doing all these things. 

We couldn’t do it to her. She was our lovely boss cat and we weren’t going to put her through it all because it wasn’t kind. 

We held her. We told her we loved her. She was so cold and frail, so poorly. Our beloved moglet who was so full of sass and attitude, was just so tired. We held her as she slipped away.

We are completely devastated to lose her. Our lived are better for having known her but it’s so dark here now her light has gone out.

J K Rowling and the Author Who Wouldn’t Quit

I was quite lucky; I got into Harry Potter just before Goblet of Fire was published. Imagine an insomniac teenager on a midnight adventure to Tesco after yet another row with the parents. The first three books were on some sort of offer so I bought them, and never looked back. My first midnight Potter Party was for Goblet of Fire and it remains my favourite.

I dragged my brother to see Philosopher’s Stone when it came out fifteen years ago (Oh my goodness I’m so damn old) and ten minutes in he was nudging me and demanding I lend him the books when we got home.

So this is my way of saying I like Harry Potter. I have sixteen very important years tied up in it. I have the Deathly Hallows tattooed on my back… I like Harry Potter. But damn, I wish Rowling would leave it alone.

She’s set Potter adrift on the Seas of Publication to be consumed and lived and enjoyed by the multitudes. The constant poking and prodding and press conferences are completely unnecessary.

The most obvious example was the “announcement” that Dumbledore was gay. Well whoop-di-shit. Some people got very upset; those people are called homophobes, and they felt their childhoods had been ruined because an old man with arguably dodgy intentions and life choices regarding the health and wellbeing of a small boy was apparently queer as well. Be upset about the fact that he pretty much manipulated every one around him for his own ends, if you’re going to be upset about anything. Or the fact that there was nothing – absolutely  nothing – to suggest Dumbledore was gay in the actual text.

It was like the opposite of queerbaiting. 

Does it add anything to the overall experience? Not really, apart from the vaguely bitter taste of regret that Rowling couldn’t actually use the word “gay” in any of her books. She built a whole universe, there was bound to be one in there somewhere.

And so the pattern was established; little “actually’s” – tidbits of information being fed through the Internet. A lot of these so-called “revelations” are things we already knew and just churning up the waters again. 

The fandom, of course, is a huge monster. First there was LJ (does anyone remember LJ?) and of course there’s Pottermore. A quick perusal of AO3 reveals 112195 results, and then there’s tumblr with all its meta and fan art. It’s bigger than Rowling, each person with their own image of hogwarts and the people that inhabit that space. And it’s far more diverse place than Rowling ever dreamt.

Queer folks, disabled folks, queer disabled poc folks; how to the dormitories help non-binaries, do house elves help out some of the young witches and wizards with mental health issues. Is there a special quill for kids with learning disabilities, what about trans Harry; in the aftermath of the battle for hogwarts, what support was available to the students who survived. The meta goes on and on and it’s good. A lot of it is really well thought out with references to the Canon and with neat summaries. You could hand some of it in as a well-argued essay, it’s that good.

And yet Rowling’s response – while not aggressive as, say, the author of a certain vampire book series we could mention *cough* Anne Rice *cough* – is rather patronising. The all-seeing mother of the Potter world come to tell you that your headcanon is cute and it’s lovely you feel that way, but here’s another “revelation” about Neville.

The fandom deserves better.

It’s probably the wrong moment to mention that I don’t consider myself *in* the fandom. I can’t draw and I’ve never written HP fanfic. I own a certain amount of merch but I’ve not really leapt off the fan diving board into the murky depths of fandom. I’m just quietly appreciative of the books – and films – that saw me transform from awkward angry teenager to bewildered angry adult.

And where all this is coming from relates to two things that happened this week that are very much related, and cement in my mind why Rowling should make like Frozen and Let. It. Go. 

Not too long ago we had the hashtag “givecapaboyfriend” in reference to captain america and possible candidates bucky barnes and Sam Wilson. Go on marvel, a certain section of the Internet said, be brave and make him canonically queer.

They made him a Nazi instead.

This week there was a sort of breaking of the fandom dam, and out poured all the pent of feelings relating to Sirius Black. The betrayal. The fact that he lost all his friends in a 24 hour period, how he spent most of his adult life in a prison, before being sent back to the prison of his unhappy childhood (that Dumbledore again). Before being cruelly killed defending his godson. He certainly bears all the hallmarks of the suffering queer trope. Go on, Rowling. Seeing as you’re the all-seeing eye of Potterdom, confirm what we already know.

Ah but you see, for those of you paying attention, Harry had already seen and commented upon the posters of scantily clad muggle women in Sirius’s bedroom. Apparently that is enough to confirm rigidly that Sirius Black was straight as an arrow.

Now, whilst generally I’m pretty indifferent to the sexuality of Sirius Black, on this occasion there was a certain amount of scoffing on my part, because that was the literary equivalent of the opening verse to Skater Boi by Avril Lavigne. 

But the final nail in the coffin came the following day; when Rowling “announced” that Remus Lupin’s character arc was a metaphor for HIV.

No shit.

My dear Rowling you’re about ten years late. Apart from the fact that lycanthropy as metaphor is the oldest trick in the book… when all those folks on the Internet were yelling at you about Sirius Black, it was because they had Lupin in mind as the boyfriend in question. 

Again, Lupin has excellent queer credentials; the metaphor for HIV aside, he is an outcast of society, he suffers and eventually dies. There’s way more queer subtext here than there ever was for her actual gay character. The only way we knew Dumbledore was gay was because she said so.

It isn’t an accident that Rowling made her latest revelation about Lupin in the same week as the hashtag about Sirius Black. It was a very cynical move on her part.

The thing is, it’s not necessarily about captain america, or Sirius Black, or any of the other popular literary characters who are queer-coded but remain straight by default in canon.

It’s about the severe lack of diverse representation in media. Where are the happy queers? Where are the happy poc queers? Where are the happy disabled poc queers? Nowhere. 

To be different from the blond able-bodied male is to be invisible. What folks are doing with Harry Potter, and other popular fictional worlds, is filling in the gaping holes so that it reflects reality – a reality where trans folks exist and queer people live happily ever after.

And Rowling should cut her umbilical cord and let them get on with it.

 

I Think I’m Allergic to Straight People

Yesterday I went to a gathering, a social shindig, for some friends of mine who were celebrating the splashing of water over the forehead of their tiny offspring by a man in a black dress who says people like me shouldn’t exist. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I was quite excited to get the invitation because I haven’t seen these guys for ages. We went to uni together so we’ve been friends for well over a decade. But I got the invite a couple of weeks ago which is more than enough time for my socially anxious brain to convince me that crawling under a rock for the foreseeable future is a much better plan.

Plus there would be people there who I definitely don’t like. I know you’re supposed to put your big boy pants on for this sort of thing and just make an effort for the sake of the host… but mostly I was begging Babe to please not let these people anywhere near me. 

It’s quite strange how once your eyes have been opened to straight culture you can’t escape it or forgive it. There’s this whole nuanced language where het couples gather to joke about hating each other. And yeah, the word “gay” as a negative adjective gets thrown around a lot, even though you’re sitting right there and this is a group of people you’re out to.

There was a lot of gross gender stuff as well because the tiny sproglet is a girl. That means pink. So much pink. Because otherwise how would we know?!

And yeah, Babe and I were the only queers in the village. 

So today I feel very drained. Only the day before we went out for brunch with our usual bunch of friends – a small gathering of five having a good laugh and a catch up. Our lovely neighbours are expecting their own tiny sproglet in a couple of weeks. Their nursery is all done out in greens and yellows -it looks gorgeous. We left that gathering feeling cheerful and refreshed.

The difference between the two groups is really marked. 

If it was up to me I’d be spending today in bed recuperating. Alas, Monday calls.

You’ll Prise My Labels Out Of My Cold Dead Hands

So, after many months of waiting, Babe finally got their appointment through for the GIC, and their first appointment was this week.

This is after going to see a GP who took them seriously and did their job properly, as opposed to the initial pile of crap in a labcoat. 

You need to understand that I have massive trust issues when it comes to Babe’s safety and wellbeing. I don’t trust anyone. Babe had a really good friend who they chatted to every day and went to stay with at the start of the summer. When they came home the “friend” essentially told Babe they were disgusting and broke off all contact, after being nice to them to their face. And after that first doctor, and the many horror stories I hear about trans folk at the hands of the NHS – the hoops they have to jump through, the having to prove that you’re trans by ticking boxes that cis people believe you should merit in order to be trans – let’s just say I had reservations.

I still have those reservations. The Transgender Equality Inquiry released earlier this year by the Women and Equalities Commission was several pages of “yes isn’t it terrible someone should do something” without setting out what that something should be. It also completely failed to deal with the issue of non-binary folks and the spousal veto when it comes to transition.

Babe returned from the GIC full of beans. There’s a plan in place for them to help them get to the point where they know what they want which is great. I’m pleased they’re happy. But some of the things the cis doctor had said left me feeling… concerned.

Apparently the good doctor has been working with trans and questioning folk for the past 30 years. Excellent. Good experience is nice to have. And she works with a lot of young people in youth clubs. Again… so far so good. 

She said she was seeing a trend where identities were far more fluid among today’s youth (YAY) and that eventually all these labels that us dinosaurs cling on to will eventually disappear.

I mean, it’s great you have your opinion. But Babe is in a very vulnerable place right now where they’re looking for direction on how to proceed. Telling them labels aren’t useful is not great.

The “no labels” rhetoric has always annoyed the hell out of me. Labels give you security. They’re self defining. Humans have been searching for the ergo sum for countless years. And usually “no labels” is reserved for anything that isn’t binary. Gay folks shout from the rooftops that they’re gay. Straight folks are beyond secure in their heterosexuality. The “more than one gender” brigade? Well there’s a whole load of toxic discourse on bisexuals and pansexuals, and even where someone does spit out the word “bisexual” or “pansexual” it will often be reported as “opens up about their sexuality” in the queer media.

Even if the label you choose is “queer” it’s still a valuable commodity. I use it quite a bit because it’s quicker.

For people who are just working out their own identity labels can be such an important lifeline to cling to. If you don’t find them useful that’s great, lucky you. But like the cis doctor, maybe your privilege means you’ve never needed them. How nice for you. Don’t take them from other people.

The Wonders of Modern Technology

Funny story: not that long ago someone suggested I could link my blog and my tumblr. For some unfathomable reason that seemed like a good idea.

What I didn’t realise is that it would post absolutely everything rather than the posts I actually write. I can only apologise for what must have been a flood of nonsense.

5000 bits of nonsense, to be precise.

But hey, I fixed it. I could only delete 20 posts at a time but I got there in the end. Also the link between the two blogs has been broken on a very permanent basis. No more spam about Natalie Dormer, Jillian Holtzmann or Sebastian Stan.

I did keep the bi talks posts though because those, at least, are vaguely relevant to this blog – and the tags were ported over too so that was useful.

If you haven’t deleted me in despair, thank you kindly. And hey, maybe I’ll be round here a bit more.

Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken

After last week’s television fest, I’ve been thinking about some of my favourite queer films and shows; especially as it’s Halloween so I get to watch some of my favourite horror movies – including The Haunting.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list and I’m bound to miss out some favourites but here we go.


The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise)

I saw this film at uni and let me tell you it’s one of the scariest films you will ever see. I can’t believe it’s only a 12 rating.

Theo is a compelling character, one of my favourites. Her sexuality is subtle; we’re told she lives with someone, that they furnished their apartment themselves, but that she isn’t married. She’s fun and sparky and feminine.

“Unnatural things, nature’s mistakes – you for instance,” Nell spits at Theo in a fit of anger. 

It’s refreshing to have such a character in a film from the 1960s. She’s not predatory or “punished” in the plot for her sexuality. 


Velvet Goldmine (1998, Todd Haynes)

In October 1999 I went to the 16th birthday party of one of my friends. It was a rip-roaring evening; there was peach schnapps and popcorn, Kat doing back massages, and a bunch of us went out at midnight to howl at the moon… Coz we were a bunch of 15 and 16 year olds having fun. 

And we all curled up in sleeping bags on Rachel’s floor to watch a film; this film. Based loosely on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop and with Oscar Wilde references galore, this was the first time I watched a film where the protagonist had valid relationships with a variety of people and genders. They were flawed characters, human characters with their foibles and fuck ups. And the glitter; can’t forget the glitter.

Tipping the Velvet (2002, Geoffrey Sax)

I’ve heard this described as “Pride & Prejudice with lesbians” and I can see that – complete with a dastardly bisexual Ms Whickham trifling with our lesbian Miss Bennett’s heart. The Daily Fail-reading general public were fainting and clutching their pearls over the depiction of an actual dildo on the BBC?! England has fallen…

Yes us non-monosexuals get thrown under the bus but what else is new? Sit back and enjoy the Victorian lesbians 🙂
Rent (2005, Chris Columbus)

You can’t talk about queer representation in media without talking about Rent. There’s not a blue-eyed, blonde-haired white boy having a coming-out crisis in sight. The poc cast is full of positivity; let’s start with Angel who is always everyone’s favourite with her great rhythm and style and gender ambiguity. Then there’s Collins who is a professor, Joanne who is a successful lawyer. All queer. Bless Maureen, our resident bisexual, and her diva ways but you know what? Even though it’s another cheating bisexual trope, damn she owns herself. And her relationship with Joanne and how she relates to everyone else is rather endearing.

The most boring part about Rent is the “blossoming relationship” between the only two straight people in the room (oh Mark? Essays have been written about why Mark isn’t straight).

And yes it was directed by the same guy who brought you Home Alone and the first Harry Potter film.
Cucumber (2015, David Evans, Alice Troughton & Euros Lyn)

I was a bit dubious about cucumber: focusing on the gay scene in Manchester fifteen years after Queer as Folk. And yes there was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white boy… This time called Freddie. “I like boys I like girls” but no label was forthcoming, as such.

But I kept watching it because it was an interesting concept, with it being tied into the side series “Banana”. There were trans characters with their own storylines, older members of the LGBT spectrum which is nigh-on unheard of (because sex is for the young and pretty, obviously). It was funny and moving and tragic and relevant.

And then, right in the last episodes, they said the magic word; the word no one ever uses. They remembered that there were more than two letters in the acronym. “Bisexual” they said. “Transgender” they said. Several times. Magic.

So it was definitely worth watching. As long as you were watching the accompanying side series too.
Honourable mentions go to Pride (2014) and Chansons D’Amour (2007) both of which I would heartily recommend.