frith_in_thorns: (LoK Korrasami view)
I've completed seven weeks of teacher training, and am starting a school placement on Monday. Hilariously, I feel way less prepared than I did in September -- the more I know, the more I know I don't know &etc.

It's been a good term. Really good. I mean, it's been endless seminars and trying to work out what the hell "reflective writing" actually MEANS to your tutor's mark scheme, and crying at midnight because of not having enough extended reading journal entries and drowning in acronyms and buzzwords and educational policy...

...but I'm good at it. This has actually surprised me. I am our group's mascot for nerdiness and tutors have stopped calling on me in maths and computing and science "to give someone else a turn." I've been told by several people in my group that they find me slightly terrifying (and I've given so many explanations to my coursemates of how academic papers work and how you put refs in writing and what the point of an abstract is), and my endless repertoire of Useless Facts are actually really useful in lesson planning and discussing curricula!

I'm bragging, yep. But I can't tell you guys how good it feels to be good at my work again. Oxford crushed me and made me feel stupid and inadequate all of the time and stopped me being able to read novels and I never really recovered. I started my Oxford degree seven years ago this week and right up until then my entire definition of self was tied up in being a bookworm, in being clever. I used to find learning so much fun and I adored school and Oxford stripped that all away and I had forgotten how much I missed it. Except now it's even better because there aren't looming exams and expectations and constant suffocating pressure and emotional abuse and I'm properly medicated for the depression that was grinding me down since adolescence. I still smash into walls of despair and awful, but I can climb them now. It's a hard-won skill.

I'm getting really emotional writing this.

It's just. I'm so grateful. I love Brookes, the university Oxford students sneered at for coexisting in their city (where the not good enough, the boring, normal students went). I love studying. I love my volunteering twice a week, with Brownies and Yellow Submarine, and I'm busy and so happy. I was so scared, before I started this course, that I was going to feel stupid all the time again and be overwhelmed and fall apart. But that's not happening. The opposite, in fact.

I'm going to be a teacher, and I'm going to rock.
frith_in_thorns: Mako Mori with an umbrella above her head in the rain (PR Mako Mori)
I will write a thing for National Coming Out Day this year too.

I'm gay and ace. It took me several painful years and painful experiences before I knew that I was, and that I was allowed to be either of those things. But you probably already knew that about me. It's not the point of this post, really.

Here is the thing: coming out, for me, is a choice. And not an irrevocable, one-time thing, but a thing I have to do pretty much for each new person/situation I meet. I'm femme-presenting, and my body is in the range of shapes judged acceptable to be presented in that way. It's pretty easy for me not to "look" queer. And that can be incredibly frustrating: it's an endless social dance around oblique questions to new acquaintances to try and get a handle on their views, and bosses who ask casual questions about my assumed-male partner, and the moment of baffled confusion from every single estate agent when my girlfriend and I, who walked in holding hands, assure them that we're looking for a one-bed not a two-bed place.

(For weeks last year I was being harassed on my way into work by a group of young teenage boys. Their insult of choice as I biked past was "lesbian!". When I eventually mentioned this to the office boss he was horrified to learn about the harassment -- and also that I was being insulted specifically like that. But he was very very Christian, so I didn't feel I could say anything.)

But usually it's in my control. And that is a privilege, one that I can depend on and that keeps me safe.

For many, many others in my QUILTBAG community, it isn't a choice. She's too butch, he's too femme, she's too obviously trans*, ze's read differently by different people in the group ze's talking to.

Those of us who pass can hide behind those who can't. We use them, intentionally and accidentally, as shields between us and those who would harm us. (He looks queer, not her.) We talk about generalised statistics of violence against our community as if the burden doesn't fall with obscene disproportion on trans* women, and trans* women of colour at that. And it's not fucking good enough. It isn't.

This is one of the reasons I support the philosophy that those of us who can stay hidden should try to be out, assuming it's safe for us to do so (and what comprises "safe" is exclusively for an individual to decide). It can feel frightening and uncomfortable. But. We can help everyone by widening the umbrella of who's seen as queer, and by widening acceptance. We can help by boosting voices too much ignored, and by sharing resources, and by showing that ze's not alone in this group of people, in this room, in this company.

If we're going to claim community we need to be a community. This means no one gets thrown under buses because their needs are different, or more complicated, or less photogenic. This includes things like education and support -- those of us who get passing privilege need to take our share of this.

We talk about wanting better allies. We need to be better allies.
frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Diana 2)
There is a growing prevalence at the moment for Neal/Diana fic. This upsets me a lot, and I'm going to talk about why.

Disclaimer: I am not censoring anyone (since I am not a government entity, it would be literally impossible for me to do so). It is everyone's personal choice to write what they write. I am just trying to explain why this particular choice is very loaded, and problematic, and capable of hurting people. Not everyone feels like this, obviously. I don't speak on behalf of any group.

(If you're going to comment with YKINMK, or some variety of "don't read, then", please don't bother. I don't need to read the fic to have it glare in my face as I scroll down my flist.)

Diana, you see, identifies as a lesbian, at multiple points in canon. Very clearly and unambiguously. She has expressed her lack of attraction to men in general and to Neal specifically.

Writing her otherwise is erasure.

The obvious (and very tired) retort is "but what about writing straight characters as gay/bi? That happens all the time!"

Firstly, I can only think of two characters I have ever seen who have actually stated themselves to be straight (Pete from Warehouse 13 and John from BBC Sherlock, if you're curious). Because we live in a heterocentric society, characters (and people) are assumed to be straight unless and until they state otherwise. Coming out is hard, and it isn't a one-time event -- if you're lucky enough to have passing privilege you have to come out again, and again, and again, to each new group of people. It's SCARY. Even then, it can be really hard to get people to respect your identity -- think of all the "you just haven't met the right man/woman yet" bullshit.

And secondly: writing a straight or assumed-straight character as queer is an act of subversion. In our heterosexist society, our media suffers deeply from an overabundance of assumed-straight characters, and a lack of meaningful representation for queer people. Taking assumed-straight chars and writing them as queer can be powerful: it's forcing ourselves into spaces which actively try to keep us out. It's saying, We can be main characters. We can be heroes. We belong here.

Taking a gay character, one of the very few textually gay characters, and writing them into a straight relationship is a fucking kick in the teeth. No way to sugar-coat it, I'm afraid, and I don't want to.

I was talking a moment ago about the lack of respect for queer people, and queer identities, and this is a part of that. Writing a gay character in a het relationship does not happen in a vacuum -- it happens in a context where gay characters are already crumbs compared to the spread of assumed-straight characters. Where we all know that creators can and do take them away from us at any moment (Moffat's Irene Adler, I'm looking at you). Where (usually) straight people feel completely justified in continually questioning self-professed queerness, and so many media narratives glorify the gay-identified person finding that they "just happen" to fall in love with someone of the opposite gender. Where "she'd like it if she just tried it" is a meme, one that makes people feel justified into coercing or forcing gay people into sex they don't want. Where we all know that you might not really be gay -- maybe you're just confused, or immature, or waiting for the right man.

There are reasons to write a pairing like Neal/Diana. Because you find the thought of them together hot. Because you enjoy their interactions, and want to write more of them, and a relationship is an easy way of doing that. Because you just feel like it.

There are reasons not to. Because it hurts people to see that one of the few characters they can identify with, that they can count as one of them, other people feel justified in claiming for the over-represented majority instead. Because you respect representations of queer identities. Because, whether you agree with them or not, you realise that writing het ships for gay characters makes people upset and hurt.

You can choose which of those reasons you care the most about. But you ARE making a choice. And you're displaying it in public every time you write this pairing. Please, consider choosing not to.
frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Diana 2)
I have some thoughts for (Inter)National Coming Out Day.

If I'd posted this when I opened this tab, a few hours ago, it would be a happier post. About 70% of my facebook feed today has been taken up friends posting statuses about it, and it's fun, you know, to actually see a load of us all being vocal at once. To talk about issues in public, and have people who normally refuse to listen read the threads because we're talking about something positive. (That said, the thread on my status has devolved into a discussion on tea and on whether it's unforgivably antisocial to read a book during sex.)

But. Something about getting quick, supportive "Likes" or comments from people who feel happy tossing around identities as pejoratives, or from the guy in my gaming group who I've had long, long arguments with about his "right" to call people f*ggots or to be a racist douche -- well. It's that easy, is it, to do your bit and assert you support us. Today. Just today.

There is an LGBTQsoc stand at Freshers' Fair. And every year, lots and lots of straight people come up and say something along the lines of, "I'm not queer, but am I allowed to sign up anyway?"

"Oh yes," the people on the stand say. "In fact, you can also sign onto the mailing list for the activism branch of the society! We're working towards things like improving the uni environment for queer people, writing political letters, and all that sort of stuff. We always need more allies."

"Oh. Actually, I only want to join in on the social side of things. You know, the drinks nights?"

Lots and lots and lots of people. Every time. We'll be your allies while it's fun for us. Not when it's work. When you have to sit back sometimes, and give up things you like, and speak up when no one else does.

I am remarkably privileged. I am white and my parents are comfortably middle-class and I can usually hide my crazy and I can talk about being gay and poly and ace because it's safe for me to do so. I get angry about microaggressions and slurs and I am so incredibly lucky because I am safe.

Acceptance is good. Acceptance is important. Action is more important, because this world is so far from good enough. I can come out, but we have gay kids and trans* kids living on the streets and we have people being murdered in all these countries we live in and we are not doing enough. I am not doing enough. We all need to work so much harder.

Days of Things are all very well, but it's the rest of the year that's important. What you're doing then. Who you're remembering. What actions you're taking to make the world better on all those other days.
frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Eternal Law - Mrs S - scars)
A note about commenting, since this is the sort of subject this is relevant to: my journal does have anon comments enabled, but they're screened because I keep getting spam. I let non-spam ones through, obviously!

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. So I've decided to write a post, after thinking about it for a while. I haven't decided yet whether I dare to submit it to the masterlist of posts, which you can find here. I do encourage you to read at least some of them.

What I'm writing about are attitudes to evidence of self-harm. Since it's May Day, and summer started when we heard the singers from Magdalen Tower, this becomes especially relevant.

Trigger warning: Discussion of depression and self-harm )
frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Firefly - Misc - can't take sky)
Today, disabled campaigner Sue Marsh has released her Report for Responsible Reform -- the 'Spartacus report' -- into the proposed changes to DLA: a report entirely funded by a group of sick and disabled people who I'm proud to count myself as part of.

To quote from the press release to demonstrate why this report is so important:

Among the report’s conclusions:

* Only 7% of organisations that took part in the consultation were fully in support of plans to replace DLA with PIP

* There was overwhelming opposition in the consultation responses to nearly all of the government’s proposals for DLA reform

* The government has consistently used inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants

* 98% of those who responded opposed plans to change the qualifying period for PIP from three months (as it is with DLA) to six months

* 90% opposed plans for a new assessment, which disabled people fear will be far too similar to the much-criticised work capability assessment used to test eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA)

* Respondents to the consultation repeatedly warned that the government’s plans could breach the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The report can be found HERE. Please, especially if you're in the UK, read it. Today, we need to make a lot of noise about it. #spartacusreport is currently trending on Twitter, which is amazing. This has the potential to save lives. People are already dying because of these reforms.

This is important. This is the most important thing you will read today. Please, support us.

frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Default)
On Monday I'm planning to go to a protest in London. If you're free then you might be interested in coming along too.

(I hate to beg, but: relevant friends in Oxford/London, please may I crash on someone's floor afterwards for the night, if it's not too much bother? The train connections I need to get all the way home in the evening are mostly absent, and it would be a massive help. I can compensate you!)

The protest is against the, quite frankly, evil cuts this government is making to Welfare for people with disabilities - among other things, stating that they have a target of reducing the people who are paid Disability Living Allowance (which is paid regardless of working status, and designed to reflect the additional costs to living associated with having a disability) by 20%. To stop paying Employment Maintainance Allowance after a year (because disabilities totally vanish when there's no money!). To remove mobility payments to people in care homes, meaning that many will become virtual prisioners - these payments are often used by care homes to, eg, fund an accesable minibus, and to provide wheelchairs. Cutting the respite care hours for families, including those where a child takes care of a parent.

None of these measures are going to solve the deficit. They are penny-pinching, and they are going completly against promises made by Cameron during his election campaining, and they are downright evil. They are going to kill people. (I'm not joking.)

You can read an article at The Guardian, here, which sums up the key points pretty neatly, and if you want more details on what specifically is affected, and how, you might like to read some of the posts on Where's The Benefit?, a blog set up in response. Or personal stories on how these cuts are going to have huge and horrible impacts on people on another related blog, One Month Before Heartbreak.

Here is the page with the information about Monday,. I'm nervous about going on my own (outside! in a big city! with strangers!), but to me, after having been following these blogs and reading about the planned cuts for months, I think I have to. This is important.
frith_in_thorns: Unfortunately, you'll also all blow up. (Zundry - Crane)

This post contains some things that I've been thinking about for a while, and thinking about saying publically.  However, these are personal things, and they have the potential to change your opinion of me, so this is a warning.  I considered flocking this post, but, having decided that I want to say these things, I don't want to hide them away.

Nor is this post either a whine or a rant.  It is a thought.


Read more... )

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