Pride Month // i talk about queer things

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(A note: I use the word queer to describe myself and I’m going to be using it a lot in this post, just to let you know.)

I’ve said this approximately 192730 times already but IT IS JUNE, AND IT IS PRIDE MONTH, aka the month of the year where I not only think about queer stuff all the time but also talk about queer stuff all the time! And everyone else talks about queer stuff too! (Yes. I like Pride Month a lot.)

I thought that today it would be nice for me to talk a bit about my own — and I sort of cringe to call it this, but? — ~queer experience~. I know this might feel like a familiar topic, and I am definitely not super unique, but it’s cathartic for me to talk about myself. And who knows? Maybe it will help someone else. ūüôā

The internet and by extension the blogging community have both been really formative for me in so many ways. One of these ways is that I essentially discovered that LGBTQ+ people existed and I could be a thing that wasn’t, like, a normative gender or sexuality. I initially thought I was asexual, actually. (And yes, fanfiction introduced me to this. It might sound weird but I think it made a difference to hear it described in terms of feelings?) I didn’t identify with what people around me were saying about crushes and attraction, and to be honest to this day I still don’t. But I’m really grateful to the blogging community for helping me to become more educated, and to discovering myself.

To be honest, I didn’t feel great about my identity for a long time. (I still often don’t.) But simply just talking about queer stuff and how I was feeling really helped me. I’m just looking back on my blog, and I think the first time I started blogging about LGBTQ+ stuff was early 2016? Yeah. In many ways I find it easier to talk to strangers over the internet, and it’s also cool that you can easily find other people who are similar to you.

The first time that I came out to my friends in real life was about a year ago — just after Brexit, actually. Anyway, one of my friends told me they were bisexual and then it turned out a bunch of my other friends were also LGBTQ+ which was cool! I don’t think I officially had, like, a proper coming out moment after that but somehow it’s sort of pervaded our friendship group that many of us are LGBTQ+ which is pretty rad. *finger guns*

I’ve had some people tell me they don’t like it when people put their orientation or identity as their defining feature. I really respect if you don’t want your identity to be a big thing, and of course I’ll try my best to not make a big deal of it! (I¬†mess up sometimes, and I’m sorry.) But I do find it frustrating when people say that I should talk about queer stuff less so I can try and assimilate or something. I know that many people don’t want to talk about their identity a lot but personally I find it pretty stressful to keep everything inside.

Because I am¬†always¬†thinking about queer stuff. It might sound weird, but just being able to talk about it makes me feel so much happier. I know that I have so much privilege — because I’m white, living in the UK, able-bodied, I haven’t really experienced much homophobia or queerphobia — yet it still made me feel isolated to just not be talking about stuff I spent a lot of of time thinking about.

Of course this is something so many people have to do, and I respect you so much. I’m so lucky to be in a place where I actually¬†can¬†talk openly about queer stuff — I can go to a society at school and just chill being queer. And IT FILLS ME WITH SO MUCH INEXPLICABLE JOY. I LOVE TALKING ABOUT QUEER STUFF.

So, yeah, I’m really happy that in the last year or so I’ve been able to be more free with myself, and accept myself. I really hope that I can do that more in the future. One of the things I’d love to do would be to attend a Pride celebration! The nearest one to me is London, and currently I am planning on going, which I’m pretty excited about. ¬†(If you’re thinking of going then and want to say hi then I’d love to hear. *nods*) I do hope that I can, and that I can be more happy with myself in the future, even if it isn’t always easy.

 

 

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TBR Update // books with lgbtq+ characters

Yes! I’m talking about books! A new and exciting thing! Okay, not really. I’ve been feeling pretty exhausted so far this week because of exams, so I thought it would be nice to just sit down and be excited about books. ūüėÄ Also, it is Pride Month, and I am feeling Extra Queer — WHAT COULD BE BETTER?!

There are so many awesome books with LGBTQ+ characters that I hope to read in the near future. (Mostly YA.) I started compiling a list of books for this post and I ended up with SOO MANY. There’s a lot of wonderful LGBTQ+ YA out there!

wild beauty

Wild Beauty by Anna Marie McLemore¬†I’ve talked about it several times here, but I absolutely¬†loved¬†When the Moon Was Ours by this author. It was one of my favourite books of last year! Wild Beauty sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to read more of McLemore’s beautiful writing when it releases in October. The cover is also SO BEAUTIFUL, AAH.

little & lion

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert¬†I found this book scrolling through my TBR on my tumblr, and I’m so glad I did. It’s girl who falls in love with the girl her brother is also in love with; the MC is black and Jewish, and although I haven’t heard much about it I really look forward to its release in August!

we are okay

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour¬†This is another author I’m returning to — Everything Leads to You was a wonderful queer girl story which made my heart sing with joy. This one sounds like a really interesting and nuanced read, and I also absolutely ADORE the cover. (What can I say?)

queens of geek

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde¬†I LOVE NERD BOOKS. I think that cons and nerd spaces are really cool because the experiences I’ve had have been pretty queer-friendly. AND I AM JUST EXCITED FOR GEEKY STUFF, because yay. Also, this has an Autistic narrator, and one of the MCs is Chinese-Australian which is cool!

peter darling

Peter Darling by Austin Chant¬†A trans retelling of Peter Pan! Aah! I admit, I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about Peter Pan, but I’m super excited to see what this book does.

our own private universe

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley¬†I love reading happy queer stories, especially ones with queer girls! This sounds super cute, and I’ve heard that it also discusses safe sex which is awesome. (Because my sex ed at school basically only explaining straight/cisgender/allosexual things in terms of sex. We did have one lesson on, like, LGBTQ+ stuff though? So I guess it’s improving.)

juliet takes a breath

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera¬†I HAVE BEEN WANTED TO READ THIS FOR AGES. It’s about a gay Puerto Rican girl, Juliet, figuring herself out, in which there are many queer ladies. YAY.

the midnight star

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu¬†I’ve actually already read the first two books in this trilogy, but for some reason I never finished it… So I need to do that! The last book finished on a bit of a cliffhanger, if I remember.

the color purple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker¬†I feel like I’m really missing something reading this… It’s one of the Important Books You Should Read, and I JUST REALLY WANT TO READ IT. *nods a lot* (Yes. This entire post is essentially just ‘I REALLY WANT TO READ THIS AND THIS AND THIS.’)

tash hearts tolstoy

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee This reminds me that…I REALLY NEED TO LOOK INTO WAR & PEACE THINGS. I love the Great Comet of 1812 musical which is based off War & Peace, but I do find the book rather daunting. Anyway. Not actually this book. This book is about internet people! I love people on the internet. And from what I understand, there’s asexual representation, which is awesome since I haven’t seen that very often.

There were SO MANY other awesome books that I didn’t get the time to include in this post, alas! But there are many wonderful books with LGBTQ+ characters around and that makes me super happy. If you have any recs or just want to chat about books then I’d love to hear them! ‚̧

LGBT+ History Month: Some Cool Resources

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*rolls in* YAY it’s LGBT+ History Month and I am very excited! If you guy haven’t seen, I’m doing a thing about LGBTQ+ history in schools and as a part of that project I started to research LGBTQ+ history myself… This is one of the main things that came up! Since I hadn’t really learnt much about the topic before then, I thought it would be cool just to collect some of the resources that I found through which you can learn about LGBTQ+ history. (Like, I wish we did learn about it at school. But pro-activity and all that.)

The LGBT History Month theme this year is is Citizenship, PSHE and Law. (Note: I think it is officially called LGBT History Month? But they seem to have things including people from across the spectrum, so I’m just kind of going with it as an umbrella thing if that’s alright.) This July will be the 50th anniversary of decriminalising homosexuality, which lines up nicely. I was having a chat about this the other day, but I think it is interesting how things seem to have changed fast… I mean, I don’t know. But my parents were still alive when being gay was illegal which I find kind of weird. Obviously there’s still a long way to go, but…yeah.

The LGBT History Month website itself has a whole host of cool things to offer, including posters about LGBT+ people from history and the wonderful official magazine. I’m literally just reading through it and SO MANY COOL THINGS, from mental health to TV representation to activist interviews! They also have a series of posters about inspirational LGBTQ+ people, and a super cool wallchart here: (warning for some not-great

The app Quist tells you things that happened on this day in LGBTQ+ history. If you are able to download it I think it’s a fun and easy way to learn a bit about LGBTQ+ history!

I know I have been shouting a lot about it recently, but I FINALLY WATCHED THE MOVIE PRIDE AND AAAH IT WAS SO COOL. I feel like I don’t know that much about the history of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK, and I read less historical UK books with LGBTQ+ characters, so it was super cool to learn about that. It’s based on a true story and it’s about a group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. (As in the miners’ strike.) You can even follow them on Twitter, which I think is wonderful; they did a panel alongside a showing of the movie but alas I couldn’t go. It was just!! Very fun but also informative. Yep.

The Proud Trust don’t yet have a guide for 2016 LGBT+ History Month, but they do have several from previous years, and an activity/information pack on LGBT+ Black History. These are more aimed towards schools and youth groups, I think, but they’re still well worth checking out!

I haven’t actually listened to this episode yet, so I’m not completely sure what it’s like, but Radio 4 did a thing on how British attitudes have changed towards being gay. (They also have a really interesting episode on non-binary people.)

By the way: I’m probably not going to be around much over the next few days since I’m mostly shrieking about my school play, but fear not! I am alive somewhere! And I hope you’re having a wonderful day. ūüôā If you want to share any other cool LGBT+ history things I’ve missed then I’d love to hear them!

LGBTQ+ History in Schools

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Hey! So, if you guys remember, I went to a weekend and learnt some stuff about how to campaign… And I guess this is me announcing my project? For the next year or so I’m going to be working to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ history, with a focus on getting it into schools.

Homophobia and transphobia is still present in schools, and can be highly damaging to young LGBTQ+ people. Nine in ten secondary school teachers say pupils are bullied, harassed, or called names for being perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual (The Teacher’s Report, 2014). Three quarters of trans young people say they have experienced name calling, and 27% have attempted suicide (Metro Youth Chances 2014).

Schools have a legal duty to promote the wellbeing of all young people, including those who are LGBTQ+, and there is clear Ofsted guidance looking at how schools tackle homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Despite all this, over half of young people have never learnt about LGBT issues in school (The School Report, 2012).

In raising greater awareness and discussion of LGBTQ+ history in schools, we can support LGBTQ+ students and teachers, celebrate LGBTQ+ stories from the past, and through learning help tackle prejudice. History is so important to help us understand and navigate our own lives; it can empower and educate our opinions on the world we live in. But when LGBTQ+ voices are erased from our education it can seem that LGBTQ+ people do not have a place in that history, or in our present society.

LGBTQ+ young people are at high risk of suicidal thoughts, depression, and self-harm. As a queer young person I’ve found it incredibly isolating to never see other people like me in my learning. Leaving LGBTQ+ people out of learning only creates the sense of difference, the sense that we somehow do not deserve a space as much as non-LGBTQ+ people. I believe it is incredibly vital¬†that we work to ensure that others do not feel this way.

LGBTQ+ history can be integrated in so many ways as part of students’ education, whether that is within the history curriculum itself, or as part of an assembly or PSHE lesson. LGBT History Month is held every February in the UK, and the theme of 2017 LGBT History Month is Citizenship, PSHE, and Law. Pride Month, held every June, is another excellent opportunity. Both LGBT History Month and Schools Out, a charity working for LGBT equality and visibility in education, have many¬†resources available for schools and teachers, among others.

We want to learn LGBTQ+ history. We want to see it as a part of school life. Therefore I’m asking schools to commit to including LGBTQ+¬†history in their schools — not just once but into the future as well.

I know there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now, and I know that perhaps this is not the worst of it — but I thought this might be a good place to begin, because I have to begin somewhere. I didn’t want to do something that wasn’t mine to champion. Since over the last while I’ve become pretty passionate about LGBTQ+ things, I thought that would be a good place to start.

This project is going to involve several different things, but to start with: I have written a letter. I’m going to be sending this letter to schools in the UK, but I need your help in supporting it. If you could share this, keep an eye on my work, or do a little research of your own about LGBTQ+ history then it would be so greatly appreciated.

I’ve got a couple of things that I want to do — just researching for this has opened up a lot to me, and I really want to share things with you! This is a journey for me too since I’ve basically never learnt about LGBTQ history, sadly. February is LGBT History Month in the UK so you can look forwards to some posts about that, and if you have any suggestions for what you want to see, then let me know! (Would you guys want a page of links and ways to find out about LGBTQ+ history? A Twitter chat? How you can do stuff in your own area) ¬† In the meantime, you can follow a subscription letter that I made for this to update you, if you would so wish. Thanks for reading. ‚̧

I Discuss Some Gender Issues‚ĄĘ

I’m gonna be honest… I’m a tiny bit anxious about posting this? (Or writing it. I haven’t actually posted it yet, so you know.) I don’t post all that much about personal things, and I especially don’t really post stream-of-conscious-ness-y things, though in some ways I wish I could. I edit a lot. The stuff I write is not my undiluted thoughts.

ANYWAYS. I digress! I’ve showed my blog a to a handful of people in real life, and although I’m not really sure if they actually read it, it’s enough to know that they can, and that worries me a bit. I’m not entirely anonymous and all that. But normally I just sort of try to write as though I don’t really care if real life people read my blog, otherwise I’d be worring ALL THE TIME and that’s super not fun. I guess it might be a bit awkward, but…at least I don’t have to talk face-to-face? Yeah, never mind, that was just a RANDOM INTRO BIT which got longer than expected.

Some of you guys have picked this up from my various tweets/conversations with you, but I’m kind of having some issues with my gender right now, I suppose? I just. I am just not 100% sure if I am a cisgender girl, in summary.

I don’t really know. I’ve been kind of considering this for some time now, I suppose, but my main thing is that…you know, it’s not one of those things where I automatically discovered what non-binary meant and said YEP, THAT’S ME. Equally, that didn’t really happen with the general other queerness thing — dude, I don’t think I’ve ever actually said it on the blog but I’M REALLY QUEER, IN CASE YOU COULDN’T TELL — but at least looking back there was kind of signs. A general feeling of difference.

I am basically just A PERMANENTLY CONFUSED PERSON. When I was trying to figure out whether I actually liked girls, or boys, or indeed anyone at all (what am I saying, still am) I spent a lot of time examining and picking apart my own emotions. Like, a lot. I still do that. I research, and then I compare, I feel certain, I research more, and I completely don’t know again. I’m now moderately certain that I at least don’t like girls any less than I like boys.

So, yeah, like I said — with ~gendery things~ that general feeling of ‘maybe this is me’ didn’t immediately happen. And I know that doesn’t necessarily mean loads, but it means that I end up feeling really uncertain. I didn’t particularly have a lightbulb moment, I don’t think, but I just sort of ended up thinking ‘I’d quite like to look like that’.

And THINGS GET COMPLICATED. It’s difficult to disentangle your own emotions from stuff like what society tells us, because they’re all mixed up. Is this just that I don’t feel I fit into the veryveryvery narrow typical role of a woman? Is me wanting to be less feminine a part of internal misogyny? Like when guys open doors for you because they’re ‘being a gentleman’. I’d rather it was just because I was an actual human being and it seemed a nice thing to do rather than because they thought I was a girl.

Anyway. In general from what I can tell, gender is kind of…bleurgh, no one even knows. DOES IT ACTUALLY EXIST? IS IT A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT? I suppose at the moment I feel a lot more comfortable wearing typically masculine clothes… I own a (crappy) binder. I’ve worn it a few times. It’s not that comfortable. But, like, is it just an issue about presentation? Is that kind of thing just part of the gender stereotyping? Would I be cool with just looking kind of more masculine but still identifying as a girl? (Because there are lots of super cool ladies who present more masculine.)

I also don’t really want to give up stuff like Girlguides — I mean, I enjoy it loads, but obviously it is a female space. That seems selfish of me. Does this mean that I shouldn’t be allowed there? Because I do find it a tiny bit uncomfortable when people just assume I’m a girl because of that. (Although it’s fair enough.) I’m not going to give it up just now, though, because I¬†am¬†still figuring things out.

As you can probably see: I just throw up more questions for myself! All the time! *shrieks* I don’t… I’m not really sure what I’m hoping to achieve with this post; some catharsis, I suppose. I’ve been semi-writing-it-in-my-head for some time now. I’ll probably remember loads of things that I wanted to say but didn’t get a chance to.

Also, I know my posting has been a little messed up lately, but hopefully over the holidays I’ll have more of a chance to write stuff and build up some posts for the next school term. ūüôā

 

 

In Search of Ace Representation // it’s ace awareness week!

ace awareness week.jpg

All this week — the 23rd to the 30th October — is Asexual Awareness Week! It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a week to raise awareness about asexual, aromantic and anywhere-along-those-spectrums experiences. (Although I don’t know why all these weeks start on Sunday. MONDAY IS THE START OF THE WEEK?? But anyways haha.)

I actually missed ace awareness week last year because I didn’t even know it existed until it came around… So this time I was especially determined to write something. I mean, I still got the dates wrong but pfft, I’m writing this in advance.

If you don’t know what asexuality is — and no, it’s not just for plants — then it’s basically just a lack of sexual attraction. That’s it! There are also people who identify as aromantic, which is a lack of romantic attraction, and people who identify as demisexual/romantic (when you only experience attraction to people you’ve known for a long time) or grey-sexual (a general time for people who are somewhere in between). ¬†But I’m not here to you to explain what asexuality is… Whilst obviously that’s extremely important, it’s also in many other places across the internet, in a much more eloquent way than I can put! I’d recommend the Ace Awareness Week site and the AVEN wiki as a starting point.

So, after that little intro bit, I decided to talk about some misconceptions people have. Although of course raising awareness is super important, my personal experience is that people know the technical definition but don’t always understand what it actually means. The diversity of ace and aro — I’m kind of using this to mean all people who identify along those spectrums; I hope that’s alright — ¬†is SO WIDE. Yes, some ace people aren’t interested in any relationships. Some ace people are interested in relationships, or other options like queerplatonic relationships. Some ace people are also gay or bi or trans or any other identity, Some ace people want to have sex. Some ace people don’t. (But that’s not the same thing as celibate.) Some ace people can experience certain kinds of attraction, in certain situations. You can’t just say THIS IS WHAT AN ACE PERSON IS LIKE. I mean, you can’t do that for anything. But in my personal experience, asexuality = the plant one to many people.

Yet despite all this intersection with other identities, there are barely an ace characters in books and the media? It’s estimated that 1 – 4% of people are asexual, which is kind of similar to the percentage of redheaded people living in England. I can name SO many redheaded characters, yet I can count the number of asexual ones on one hand. Often there will be a character who seems like they’re ace, but the word is never actually mentioned? I mean, I feel like this is getting better for asexuality, although I’ve never seen aromanticism mentioned once. And sometimes it isn’t always needed, like perhaps in a fantasy setting where society works differently.

It’s just so frustrating to still see media where a lack of attraction is seen as something inhuman. Take Sherlock — which, I’m going to be real, is very far from the paragon of representation, but anyway. Sherlock’s just this unreachable icy guy, and it’s like his apparent lack of attraction means he’s a psychopath? *sighs* And Steven Moffat literally said asexual people weren’t interesting to write about, ugh. (This show is problematic in so many ways, I know. And yet I still watch it. Kind of.) I will headcanon Sherlock as asexual until the end of time just because of that — because all the characters keep saying how can you manage without a relationship?

I don’t want it to be that way. I just want characters who are ace and aro without being any less human; without abstaining or choosing the high moral ground or something. Characters who are just people. Because romantic love isn’t always the most important, you know?

I enjoy reading romantic stories — like, I enjoy them even more than I enjoy romance in real life. I read a book like Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun and marvel at all the love there. (Of many kinds.) It also makes me kind of sad, though… I don’t know if I’ll ever have that, or even if I want to. Currently I identify as grey-asexual, but it’s fine if that changes in the future. And it probably will, because it’s sort of a deduction game… It’s a lot more difficult to tell the absence of something. I don’t think I’ve ever had a crush, but maybe I have; maybe I just didn’t know what it felt like. I’ve spent SO LONG searching things on the internet trying to tell if I’ve felt it or not.

Quite honestly, the internet has educated me about asexuality more than anything else. Some parts of mainstream media still sneer at identities like demisexuality. (I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. I have not forgiven that newspaper.) I obviously only have my own experiences, and I’m still very much learning, so I don’t mean for this post to be anything like speaking for the whole community. I just wanted to say my little bit, and I really hope to see more great books with ace representation in the future.

do you have any ace/aro book recs for me? any headcanons? read any cool things for ace awareness week? let me know!

On Banned Books & Censoring Teen Fiction

I’ve always had a lot of thoughts about censoring YA and children’s literature. For me, books covering subjects which are maybe less accepted in day-to-day life are¬†so¬†important. I’m a big believer in not banning books, especially kid’s ones, because very often those are ones which have very important messages. (Plus: if you ban a book, it just makes kids want to read it more. So obviously not a good tactic.)

Anyway. I once read an interview with an author who I will strategically not name saying that children’s innocence should be protected… and I’m just like NO.¬†Books are not about protecting innocence. Books are not about sheltering kids from the world around them — because yes, there are bad things happening in the world. Death exists. I think that it is so, so important to learn about the existence of suffering because if you just wait until you’re an adult then YOU WILL KNOW NOTHING. It’s going to be a big shock when you discover that, you know, sometimes pain actually exists. Sometimes you will experience pain.

I so dislike the assumption that children’s and adult’s books must be completely separate — that I can’t deal with ‘adult’ books. I’m often very frustrated by the age restrictions that appear everywhere. (I used to add, like, 3 years to my age or whatever.) One of my friends has been turned away from looking at the YA section in a bookshop because the assistant thought she looked too young. You can’t pick and choose your audience simply based on age, because…people don’t work like that? WE’RE ALL REALLY DIFFERENT. Some are more ready to read things than others, and that’s 100% okay.

We don’t want to be pushed away from books. We don’t want you to tell us that we can’t read George Orwell because the sentence structure is too simple for our reading level. Newsflash: sometimes, like, you actually can’t just judge books using a machine? Sometimes there are complex ideas behind them? All this red tape just doesn’t make sense to me. I think it is important to let people know what is inside — for instance, The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks (whilst for me a fascinating book) has literally no indication of the horrors inside. And I think perhaps a little warning of that would be nice, because then people know what they’re getting into and they can make a decision for themselves about whether to read it.

But we can judge for ourselves what we are able to read. Kids & teens are sensible people! If something is making me upset then I will put the book down, or skip ahead a section. We’re good at knowing what’s appropriate for us; it isn’t just like watching a movie passively. You actively have to make the decision to keep reading.

The thing which sparked me to return to this post — which has been stewing in the back of my mind for ages¬†— was a review marking a book with a bi MC for junior & senior high readers only. This cropped up on Twitter, and it was approximately the worst time for the magazine to publish this because HELLO BI AWARENESS WEEK.¬†You might have already seen it going around twitter. But it is…wrong in so many ways. It’s not particular to this reviewer, though; sadly from my experience it’s a rather common theme that queer = mature. That makes me really sad. Like, according to this review I shouldn’t be reading this book. It definitely makes sense to stop bi teens from, like, actually reading about themselves for once. God forbid it give them a little hope.

I just. Queer characters are not mature content; they are not to be filtered out. LGBTQ+ people exist just as straight ones do. Queer books have honestly been my lifeline. Information is super cool and all, but — books are books. Endlessly not seeing yourself in books is sad.

I would like queer books to be recommended alongside any other book. Their stories have just as much worth. We shouldn’t be protecting kids from them — I mean, if anything, we should be writing and supporting more queer kid lit. For my 11-year old self to not think that randomly choosing a crush on a boy was the only option.

Also, as I was writing this post I came across the ALA Banned Books week, which is actually running over this week! Interestingly, they even have a section about diverse books which are frequently challenged. A good number of the top 10 challenged books feature homosexuality as a legitimate reason to ban the book. *scowls* rest assured that I’m really looking forward to all the cool Banned Books stuff happening!

Stories are so important. Don’t filter them out just because you think someone else won’t like them.

Why I Love LGBTQ+ Retellings

‘TIS I, actually writing something for Pride Month! *dances* I’m rather excited to write this post, because I kept writing some very angsty depressing posts about conversations I’ve had with people and it was Not Fun. (There is a time for depressing posts. But right now I just feel like being excited.) (And I HAVE SO MANY OTHER POST IDEAS THEY ALL CAME AT ONCE.)

So! Today I decided to write about something I love a lot, which is retellings with queer characters. THIS INCLUDES ALL RETELLINGS. Not just fairytales. Which sort of applies to every book if you want to get philosophical, but I guess I’m mostly talking about tropes as well…?

ANYWAY. A big reason why I love queer retellings is because I think that they give the story way more nuance than just…a straight relationship. Perhaps it’s rather self-indulgent, because in most cases I would rather about queer characters. But there are so many novels with straight romances that I don’t feel too bad.

Especially with fairy tales, the original story is usually pretty old and so is rather rooted in your typical gender and historical constraints. I feel like if you’re going to rehash a story that’s been told so many times over and over, it’s important to make it original. Also, it really sucks to never see yourself in these stories.

Loads of people are irritated because Russell T. Davies’ adapation A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the BBC apparently wasn’t’ true to the original. (He cut some lines about suicide which worked fine in the 16th century but not today and ended with same-sex relationships.) And it was really fun! QUEER SHAKESPEARE FOREVER. I saw another adaptation of it at the Globe the other week where they put in a queer relationship so I feel pretty good. Anyway, RTJ said: ‚ÄúI find it hilarious that people get up in arms about Titania kissing a woman, but they‚Äôre perfectly happy with her kissing a donkey.‚ÄĚ That encapsulates a lot of my feelings.

a midsummer night's dream gif.gif
Titania and Hippolyta; source

Ash by Malinda Lo is one of my favourite books. It’s an f/f retelling of Cinderella with way cooler fairy lore. But when I first read it at the age of around 9 (probably) I didn’t understand the romance. I knew that Cinderella was supposed to end up with the prince and I didn’t understand why she ended up with a girl.

ash

I feel sad for younger me. I didn’t¬†get the obsession I was supposed to have with boys but I didn’t know there was any other option.¬†I really hope that in the future we don’t end up with kids growing up like that. And I think an important way to do that it is more diversity in kid lit. (Because also,¬†let’s remember that I used to call the peach pencil the ‘skin colour’ pencil.) I find it really frustrating that people think showing kids there are options other than being straight/cisgender/allosexual is ‘pushing an agenda on impressionable minds’ or whatever. -_-

We deserve to have fairytale endings too. We deserve to go on grand adventures and spaceships and ride dragons. Retellings allow different experiences to be written into stories where before they were erased. They let us say: this belongs to¬†everyone. I mean, I guess I’m talking more about older works of literature. In those not everything translates the same way as it would have done at the time. The audience reaction changes, you know?

I think that part of the reason I do like fanfiction (although I can’t deny that itS many flaws) is because I can read happy stories with queer characters. I guess it’s another kind of retelling, in a way. If I’m irritated at a book with no diversity — I still maintain that Keira Cass’ The Selection would have been 100% better with queer characters; SO MANY OPPURTUNITIES — then I can go and read something where the girl does end up with the girl. And they fight supercomputers together and save the world.. I can read stories about agender space pirates. I can read stories¬†about asexual wizards. I don’t know any books with genderqueer characters that aren’t coming out/self-discovery/self-affirming kind of thing.

Those stories are important, but I wish there¬†were more queer characters in other narratives.¬† I think it’s such a shame that we don’t have more queer characters in fantasy and sci-fi, because there’s such potential in a created world. Does homophobia still exist? The gender binary? Does magic or virtual reality make it way easier to change your gender presentation. *sweeps hands* SO MANY THINGS. If you’re creating with a new world there are so many opportunities to play with dynamics in society. Like in a dystopia: where there’s prejudice between, like, people of a different District, is it okay to be queer in the Capitol? I don’t understand why people can be perfectly okay reading about aliens and elves but say that being non-binary doesn’t exist. *scowls*

Overall: KEEP RETELLING ALL THE THINGS. Make it something that shows me something new about the original trope. Because I do not want to read another straight we’re-playing-Romeo-and-Juliet-in-the-school-play-and-I-have-a-crush-on-you.

do you like retellings? shakespeare fan? got any queer ya recs for me? i’d love to hear!

Generation Politically Correct? // germaine greer & freedom of speech

Apparently I am a member of Generation Z. (I have no idea what we’re going to name the generations after this, but hey.) Over the last few months I’ve been accumulating various pieces of media about how we’re all far too radical and politically correct, and this kind of culminated in me doing a whole bunch of research into attempts to no-platform speakers, most notably Germaine Greer.

Basically, there was a petition to ban Greer was banned from a Cardiff University talk for saying among other things transgender women ‘aren’t real women’. Across the issue various other people like Peter Tatchell and Mary Beard signed a petition supporting freedom of speech in unis. (Many signers later received death threats.) Although many journalists might tell you that this issue embodies how young people are destroying the concept of opinion, it’s more about the reaction of students to people being transphobic.

Okay, freedom of speech is obviously a really difficult thing to discuss: we’re supposed to be able to say what we want, but when does that become hate speech? Where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between an offensive comment and a comment born from the privileges of society? Yeah. A lot of stuff like that.

Often when people quote long words about privilege and equality and the oppression of society in comments, they’re dismissed as being ‘too Tumblr’.¬†That attitude is sseen¬†a bad thing, and in some ways I think it is. I am an avid Tumblr user, and I see¬†almost daily¬†the somewhat aggressive social justice agenda on that website. I do love it sometimes, but what frustrates me is that if you make one mistake, you are bombarded with criticisms — you’re not allowed to be ignorant. Just having no malicious intention isn’t okay: it’s are you sponsoring the discrimination of society? By using this word are you supporting that prejudice? It means that often in a discussion I will stay silent rather than risk offending anyone. Even as I write this, I’m kind of hesitant because I don’t want to offend anyone. I know that I have a lot of privilege, and I can’t speak about all kinds of discrimination. I can only talk from my own viewpoint. So if you think I’m speaking out of line then please, please say.

Anyway. I digress. I’ve realised that I’m using a lot of rhetorical questions in this post… Probably because I don’t really have any of the answers. I’m just someone trying to formulate an opinion about all these other opinions. I DON’T KNOW.

Now that we’re over my small angst introduction, it’s time for me to let out some of my current frustration at Germaine Greer. You can read some of the things she’s said, which are lots of general crude¬†comments about how trans women aren’t real women.My immediate reaction was: well, I don’t agree with you at all, and to be honest that hasn’t really changed as I’ve researched. Obviously I’m not going to agree that being trans is a delusion…? :/ I have so, so many problems with what she’s saying, and I don’t think it’s okay.

Just because a person says one problematic thing doesn’t make all their views wrong, of course. I know of Greer, but I haven’t really read anything she’s written.¬† Since she’s not as much of an icon for me, I suppose I’m not really inclined to defend her. Do her views on trans people make her a less desirable speaker? Does that mean she should have been banned from speaking at universities?

I mean, going back to Tumblr I think that in particular it has a habit of shutting people down as soon as they say anything slightly wrong. Sometimes these things take a bit of time and explaining rather than righteous fury. By that logic I should probably be saying that Greer shouldn’t have been banned from speaking. I think the situation has worsened by doing that; she seems to just be defending her views as before along with a whole cohort of freedom of speech advocates. This open letter to Greer is excellent, and I’d like to hope that kind of thing would be more useful. But…to be quite honest, I feel that if a uni wants to ban her they can. There’s a difference between a casual person on the internet and an official speaker saying hateful things, you know? I personally wouldn’t have gone to a talk with someone who says things like this. Although: allowing institutions to accept this kind of transphobia isn’t cool, but perhaps it was not the decision of the institution to make the ban. I think it was the whole student union trying to ban her?¬† But¬†I guess I don’t know enough about the role of unis and their relation to visiting speakers.

I am¬†frustrated that a lot of people have spoken up saying this shows how young people always shutting down any dissent or debate. We apparently don’t want to hear any opinion to ours.¬†It is a problem, but that’s not the whole story.¬† It’s not always because we don’t want to hear any different opinions. Usually it’s because we don’t think you garner respect or responsibility from misinformed views and hurtful words. We’re changing, alright? Yeah, maybe it’s not okay for you to call someone’s identity a delusion anymore. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Look at all these far too radical and politically correct students! How dare they!

Having said this, that doesn’t make it acceptable to attack people in response. Many people who signed a petition for freedom of speech in universities received death threats. I know you might be angry, but those actions are also not cool. And they’re not going to persuade people of anything, if that’s the aim. To give this a Les Mis allegory: We need to leave the Valjean eye for an eye/several limbs phase and move into a slightly more forgiving mindset, I think.

I think there’s a lot more I could talk about on this topic. Maybe I gave myself too broad a headline. Because there’s SO MUCH. This opens a whole span of issues about the words we use and how we deal with inclusivity. I’ll probably have to write something else in the future. But I’ve looked at a crazy amount of articles for the moment, so I’d like to hear what you think.

should we be able to ban speakers from universities? what do you think about germaine greer’s comments? how do we draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?

But Netball’s For Girls! // gender and school sport

I go to a co-ed school. Mostly, it’s pretty good¬†at being welcoming to all genders — we aren’t separated for any academic classes, and you aren’t particularly encouraged/discouraged into anything because of your gender.¬†This is with the obvious exception of sport.

For some reason I’ve always directed my general frustration with school at sport. I’ve never been good at team sports, so I spent most of my primary school days being told to practice shooting in the corner as the A team was coached. It’s definitely better now, but there’s still a massive gap between boys’ and girls’ sport.We do play hockey, tennis, and¬†water polo mixed, which is¬†great. But¬†continuing down the list: girls do netball, dance, fitness, and rounders. Boys do football, fives, cricket, and occasionally softball. I quite honestly cannot fathom the reasons for this…?

I often see the ‘males have a biological advantage over females’ argument put forward. I don’t actually know¬†the science of that, but¬†top male¬†athletes do¬†perform better than female athletes. Still:¬†I would like to know the strength required to play fives. Obviously women could never be physically capable of patting a ball against a wall. It couldn’t possibly be because fives is a sport almost exclusively invented and played by public schoolboys. Of course not. -_-

It’s not just girls wanted to play ‘male’ sports. I know a lot of boys who’ve expressed interest in playing netball or rounders. (Although there are probably also many¬†who would only play it as a joke, so that’s not the best argument.)¬†I detest the idea that girls must do fitness but boys are…I don’t know, already fit. Encouraging gender stereotypes doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly doesn’t teach values of equality to your pupils.

And ¬†all this discussion discounts the existence of non-binary pupils. Let’s just remember¬†that non-binary genders aren’t even recognised under UK law, fabulous! Which apparently doesn’t result in ‘any specific detriment’. Apart from the obvious detriment of¬†being forced to choose a gender that doesn’t represent you, and¬†effectively being told that¬†your¬†identity¬†isn’t as worthy as someone else’s. Not being able to access the right healthcare. Not being able to choose the correct title. Not being able to apply for jobs, courses, use public services because they require presentation of ID that only has two gender options.¬†(I found some of these in this article, where you can also find many other quotes about the Ministry of Justice’s statement and living as a non-binary person in Britain.) It also means that there’s very little awareness of non-binary identities, and schools probably aren’t going to start doing things to support pupils who don’t identify as either male or female.

Sports, like many others¬†things, is just very¬†linked¬†to the gender binary, since the divisions are based on sex and physiological advantage.¬†Maybe with the exception of roller derby, which I really recommend you check out because it altogether seems pretty cool. I don’t know how we’d solve¬†that. I probably wouldn’t want all my sports lessons mixed.¬†I know that I’d be uncomfortable around many boys, because they¬†have harassed me and¬†I really just don’t like them as people. (I guess¬†I deal with them in class, though?) A lot of young¬†people¬†—¬†and above, too —¬†are embarrassed of their bodies. They don’t want to be around the ‘opposite’ gender, and it’s difficult to just force that to happen, you know? Maybe it’s better when you’re in a sports team with fellow players who respect you, but I’m unlikely to ever be in a position. But then again: mixed teams are going well, so maybe we should just take the lessons together and be done with it.

It’s difficult. I know that I’m pointing out everything that’s wrong and not providing very good solutions. In general¬†the state of Britain and current UK politics is pretty depressing right now. Still: to be honest, teaching¬†fives to¬†girls and netball to boys wouldn’t be that difficult. Neither would legally recognising non-binary genders. *coughs*¬†But though¬†I don’t know if there’s a perfect solution to gender and sport, I hope that it’s something we continue to explore and improve.