hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-26 01:07 pm
Entry tags:

How to deal with living as a sighted person

I was coming up the escalator at Piccadilly, from the Fairfield Street entrance. An older white man in a suit, with a wheelie suitcase, was a few steps ahead of me on the escalator. When he got to the top, he stopped (well out of the way, not like a tourist in London), turned around, smartly snapped the handle down on his suitcase, and gave me just long enough to think I wonder what he's doing... before he said "you're coming to the end...now!" just as I was indeed getting to the top of the escalator myself.

It made me laugh. I'd never had anything like this happen, or heard of it happening. It turns out that escalators are exactly the kind of thing white canes are good at -- I always put the cane on the step ahead of the one where I'm standing so I can feel, I can get a bit of warning even if I'm not paying attention (because I can see well enough to be fine on escalators anyway if I'm not daydreaming) and it tends to work very smoothly.

Still, I appreciated the guy's unobtrusive, effective help that only lasted a second and didn't interfere with my own plans about how I was getting around (as a person who's probably more sighted than I look when I'm using my white cane, sometimes overhelpful strangers surprise me and cause more of an obstacle than I had before, unfortunately).

I laughed a little at the sheer delight of it, told him he was kind, and moved on thinking about how once I get this immigrant book out of the way (it seems now like I never will, urgh) I might take all my thoughts about the sighted class -- I've been offered lots of classes on living with sight loss but I don't think it's me who needs them, it's everyone else! -- and make that into a book or something too. Since I can't actually get a job teaching the class, which is possibly the thing I'd most love to do (besides be an astronaut or something even less plausible), I could maybe put it all in a little book.

The next thing I had to do was buy my train tickets, so I got in line to do that. Just then I got a text so I took my phone out and I could swear that the middle-aged white man who'd just joined the queue behind me was glaring at me. But I chalked it up to either his bitchy resting face or just me being paranoid because I do worry about doing anything when I'm out that complicates the perception of me as a blind person. Of course, totally blind people use phones too but it's another thing that subverts people's expectations of us and I'm aware of the potential animosity that can be caused by anything that does that.

So the line crawls along, there's a big group of students or tourists or something who seem to be going to London and are having to have peak and off-peak tickets explained to them. Eventually I'm at the front of the line and someone calls "next please!" from what seems like miles away. It's certainly on the other side of this group of European young people who still don't have their tickets but do all have rucksacks and bags everywhere.

And this part of Piccadilly station is really badly organized; there's no way for people who want to leave with their tickets to get out except to walk past the queue of people waiting t buy tickets. So I see a man walking towards me from what I can presume is the ticket seller who's just shouted for me and because she's way down the other end and there are all these people and their bags at one of the nearer ticket counters, I'm waiting for this man lwaving to walk past me before I attempt to go to the ticket seller because there's no room to do anything else. (And indeed I still end up bumping into somebody's bag anyway as I tried to get past this big group of people.)

But as this man gets past me and I start moving toward my ticket seller, the grumpy-looking guy behind me says "go on love!" in his grumpy northern-man voice. I can't help bristling at this, and snapping "yes I was doing." I add a "thanks" that I hope is understood with all the sarcasm with which I intended it but I worry that it's to mitigate the possibility that he was telling me to be nice and not to be mansplainy or ablesplainy like it seemed to me. (Or even just to be impatient but in an impersonal way.)

And then I was annoyed that I do expect sexism and ableism so much that maybe people would legitimately be able to say "but I was just trying to be nice!" and I am in fact an ungrateful bitch.

But then I thought about how this contrasted with the other thing that'd just happened. I didn't mind being singled out and helped then (even when it was help I didn't strictly need). I was pretty convinced this grumpy man wouldn't have been as grumpy if I weren't younger and more feminine than him even if I weren't carrying a white cane.

We never interact with people as only one of our identities unfortunately. I don't know what it is about me that makes people react to me like they do. I can't react to them except as a combination of all the other interactions I've had and what those have led me to expect. Of course it's not fair to each new stranger I might encounter and maybe react to a bit more snippily than they think is warranted. But it's hardly fair on me, either.

Anyway, I'm really going to have to think about writing that book! Like I need another book to be writing...
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-24 08:58 am
Entry tags:

Signs that I am loved by good people

I'm so lucky that my life is far enough removed from the gendered expectations of the dominant culture that both Andrew and James noticed I'd shaved my armpits as soon as they'd seen me after I did it. They both seemed concerned or confused, and asked me why I'd done it.

I've totally forgotten that bodies like mine are expected to be hairless. And it's largely down to these two men.

Also, this happened:
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-22 12:07 pm
Entry tags:

Aunt

My mom's wonderful ability at writing e-mails:
We will try on Sunday to skype.  Dad has his colon test today and then there is [my aunt, Mom's sister].  She got burned from boiling potato water and broke her ankle, which she needs surgery on.  She is at a burn unit in the cities.  We are going tomorrow to see her and see what is going on.  I was at the hospital last night till the transmitted her to the cities burn unit. 
And this is all I know, except for the Skype call, which ended up being on Tuesday. (I still don't know a) why my dad's having a colon test or b) why I need to know this.)

My aunt got discharged from the burns unit more quickly than expected -- apparently despite severe burns on her torso and groin, she hadn't had to take a single prescription painkiller she'd been prescribed. (Which is a bit of a shame really as my mom had to pay for them! Their other sister paid for a little mobility scooter to help her get around while she can't walk. Apparently Medicare didn't see fit to pay for these things. Useless fucking American no-healthcare system.)

She's had the operation on her ankle: a plate ans eight pins are now holding it together. I thought the ankle must've been related to the scalding water incident that caused the burns, but apparently my aunt says not? My mom assumed they were related too and I'm confused as to how it might have happened otherwise but I guess there's no point wondering.

This is the aunt that moved back to Minnesota to look after my grandma after my grandpa died, because she couldn't manage alone. So my mom and the other sister have been taking it in turns, a few days at a time, to stay there and cook and clean and care for both of them.

My parents are taking my aunt back to the specialist burns unit some time today, to have dressings looked at I think (but I get all this like third-hand from my mom so I never understand what's actually going on with my family's health crises).

Once the burns are sufficiently healed and the cast is off her foot, my aunt is apparently going to need lots of rehab and therapy in order to be able to walk properly again. She's been through a lot (my mom, who doesn't believe in TMI, shared some grim details with me), and she's got a lot more to get through.

And she's so nice. She made the summer vacation that I had to go on with my family last year bearable for me. Having spent her adult life halfway across the country, she and I share the We Got Out and We Know There's a Bigger World Out There mentality that separates us from the rest of our family, who never say what they're thinking, eat fresh vegetables, or have a beer without it being a big deal.

She's also the one who's best with newfangled things like texting and e-mail (I think her daughters trained her better than I or my cousins managed to get our parents up to speed with this kind of thing...though my parents' new iPad has meant I'm now afflicted with them wanting to Skype all the time). So I really should get in touch more.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-20 08:43 pm

Interview

A nice chap from a local news website has just re-interviewed me about my book. I talked to him a few months ago while the Kickstarter was going on and it was actually a lot of fun, he was good to talk to and asked interesting questions.

But then the Dictaphone on which he'd recorded our conversation (and, it turns out, a bunch of other interviews!) broke, and so recently he's been in touch again to ask if I'd return to and update him on the subject -- he'd noticed that my Kickstarter was successful and was sweetly pleased for me.

He told me he wasn't going to allow it to go wrong in the same way as before so he's going to write it up right away and it'll be on the website tomorrow or Friday. I'm terribly curious about how it'll end up looking!

He asked if I'd had any other interest and I had to say I hadn't thought of seeking any out (he got in touch with me originally, probably watching for Kickstarters that say they're based here), he encouraged me to and gave me a couple tips on how to go about it, which was nice. It'd be good practice at clarifying the theme and intent of the thing, anyway! And by "clarifying" I might mean "coming up with one in the first place"...
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-11 09:56 pm
Entry tags:

#BlackLivesMatter Manchester

I can't do any more words about this (I'm just getting around to eating my first/only proper meal of the day), so have some I prepared earlier.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-09 11:18 pm
Entry tags:

Your Liberal Britain

Tonight I was delighted to be a speaker at Your Liberal Britain event. It was a great night, I got to see old friends, met some great new people, started plotting about a group for Lib Dem women (and nonbinary people) outside of the stuff that currently only goes on in London...and I gave a little talk! Asked to choose a specialist subject, of course I was the one banging on about immigration. The other talks, about engagement with underrepresented groups in the party and about how we should all be paid the same for working less, were great.

Here, just for fun, is what I said: )
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-07-05 12:29 am
Entry tags:

Oxford


Went to Oxford last weekend!

James had rung me a week before, asking what I was up to. Not a lot...why? His ex Mary had asked him if he'd wanted to go to Oxford; the tutor who helped get her through her degree was retiring, there was a fancy dinner and poetry and everything. He had to work, but suggested me and now was ringing me to see if I'd like to go.

I was sad he couldn't -- he'd gone to the same college, it was how they met, and he's been talking with me about how we should go visit anyway. But since he couldn't go, hell yes I wanted to. One of the few things he, Andrew (who had a couple of weeks at a residential summer school there when he was working on a distance-learning diploma) and Stuart (who'd lived in one of the colleges when his dad worked there, or something) all agree that I'd love Oxford; I'd never been. And I'd met Mary a few times and we got along, but she lives for away so I think I've seen her at the rate of an afternoon per year for the couple of years I'd known her so far; it'd be nice to increase that ratio a bit!

This was the view I was met with as soon as we got our keys and directions to our room and everything -- we were staying at the college, St Edmunds Hall, which is awesome and also pretty cheap if you used to be a student there (I'm already planning to take advantage of James for this purpose in the future!).

We got there on Friday evening, from our opposite directions (Mary lives in Norwich). She offered to meet me at the train station and told me exactly where she was when she got there before I did, so A++ on how to be nice to your blind friends, there. We got a taxi, got lost finding our room, unpacked and of course went straight for the student bar.

We got the one cask ale they had in plastic cups so we could sit out in the evening sun. We went to the library, which is in what used to be a church, and sat on a bench looking into the churchyard.

After nearly-sleepless nights and the terrible referendum news, and Mary in particular having a stressful journey because she had to get across London and the slings and arrows of floods, getting lost and Brexiters being horrible to her all conspired to justify the drink.

After lovely Mediterranean food at the Queens Lane Coffee House nearby (we shared a platter, and I'd forgotten how nice it was to be eating with another vegetarian so we could say "those chiles are perfectly spicy, aren't they?" and "do you think the hummus is homemade?" and just share the experience like that), and a bimble that ended in the White Horse where we swapped pints halfway through to find out which was better (answer: the Wayland Smithy (which actually looks like a pretty interesting thing itself!, from the White Horse brewery itself), it'd been a long day after an even longer night so we were in bed before too long.

We got breakfast with our room, but only between eight and nine. Which seemed barbaric but we managed to drag ourselves down to the dining hall at a quarter to nine, for mushrooms that tasted like they'd been marinated in butter and glamorgan sausages. Mary was amazed to see veggie sausages, this not being something she could've expected twenty years ago. She told me a story about the chef they had at the time, an Italian who hated vegetarians for some reason and gave one student who asked for a meat-free meal a plate of dry pasta with a fried egg on top.

It's just as well we had breakfast early, because the event we were there for started at lunchtime. We had sparkling wine as everyone turned up, Mary got to speak to her tutor and did a better job of not crying than she worried she would. This woman clearly meant a lot to many of the people there, spanning a few decades in age. It was nice to see.

People, including the tutor when Mary had a chance to say hello, seemed to think we were a couple. I saw some Looks when one of us referred to the other as "my friend" -- even though that's 100% true, of course! The nice lady sitting the other side of me at dinner asked how we knew each other, Mary said I was the current partner of her ex, and this woman said "I find that very strange, ladies" with the sort of directness that I'm so unaccustomed to that I laughed in surprise. I think we'd have been better off just letting people think we were a couple.

Then, poetry!

This was the view I had of the front of the room where all this took place. I particularly like the seventies wallpaper and deep shadows of the guy on the right; he looks like he's in a detective story. It was all terribly atmospheric. And which a nice view out on the quad.

When an English tutor retires, her students come back and read poetry, the first half mostly texts she'd taught (lots of romantics), but my favorite thing was an unexpected but lovely version of "Matty Groves" -- Mary said she was sad to learn this was one of the versions that did not end happily. She also put her head next to mine and whispered a recitation of "When You Are Old" as it was being read, which makes her a BAMF in my books. And, having decided she couldn't read the poem she wanted to without crying, and having been reassured by the tutor that she'd cry too so Mary should read it anyway, I hurriedly copied out "Surprised by Joy" on the back of the running order and she snuck into it.

That night we were thinking of going to see a Bach Mass in the Sheldonian Theatre but instead stumbled upon a "ghost walk" tour and since I loved that one in York I've been looking out for them since as a fun way to learn about some history and architecture and whatnot. Mary and I joked this one was more like a "shag tour" than a ghost tour, with a supposed lover of Good Queen Bess killing his wife to run off with her, and a teenager who killed herself after her French soldier sweetheart disappeared from down the street one day. We also didn't ingratiate ourselves too much to the tour guide, getting excited and saying stuff like "Hamlet's father?" to each other which turned out to be the dramatic reveal he was working up to. My favorite was when he was talking about this strange frieze

and told us about the imagery supposed to depict the Christian apocalypse. The star, he said, was Wormwood, which fell to earth and poisoned the poisoned the waters. "And in 1986..." he started.

"Chernobyl means 'wormwood'!" Mary said, at about the same time as I was saying "Halley's comet appeared in 1986!"

I think he wanted to add us both to the list of untimely deaths he was talking about, by that point.

The walk finished at a very narrow alley (St Helens Passage, it said on the sign, but we were told this was a polite version of Hell Passage) with a lamppost at the end of it...which of course is associated with the entrance to Narnia. But we were told there was a good pub at the end of it, called Turf Tavern because it had been built in what was the ditch just outside the city walls. We found it very nice indeed, stayed longer than we meant, and got lost trying to leave so maybe it's more like Narnia than we thought.

On Sunday morning, we went punting.

Such an Oxford thing to do! And I'd never been before. Mary hadn't since she lived in Oxford. After a few quick instructions from the boat-hire place, off we were.

Soon the perils of having a dyspraxic punter with a poor sense of direction became apparent, though! I ended up trying it myself, marveling at how stupid a means of locomotion it is to just have a big heavy long stick to get your boat around with. I'm used to kayaks and canoes, smooth and efficient. I helped my cousin's five-year-old on a kayak last summer, for goodness' sake, and she could practically get us around on her own, while remaining perfectly safe and comfortable.

It wasn't the first time that Mary had said "I'm gonna fall in!" but the last time she said it was followed with a sort of resigned-to-the-inevitable expression on her face that meant I had a little warning when she, in fact, did. The water was so cold she took a while to catch her breath, so I was worried until she could tell me she was okay. But before she regained the power of speech, I saw one arm rise out of the water, and throw one of her slip-on sandals back into the boat, at which point I knew if she was worried about her shoes she was probably okay.

She started laughing, and so did I. I could hardly move, even though I was trying to get the huge useless stick out of the way so it didn't hit her or anything, and then trying to see if there was a phone number on the little map we'd been provided from the boat hire place.

Of course there happened to be people walking along the footpath next to the river just in time to see all this. Two men were laughing and taking pictures of this


One of them shouted "If you can get over to the shore, we'll punt you back," which I thought was a very generous offer. "You'll have to tell us your number and we'll text the pictures to you," one of them said.

Mary, hoisting herself onto the shore, said, "Well, this is a novel way to pick up blokes!" got them to share a look and uncomfortably say they were gay. "So are we! That's okay," Mary said.

One of them had apparently been a rower at Oxford, he said he'd only been punting once but he was a damn sight better at it than we'd been. By this point we wouldn't have been back in time to not have to pay extra for overrunning our boat hire if they hadn't been there to save us! As we got near the place and saw other groups going out in their punts, middle-class families with Dad punting and the kids in the middle and Mum looking horrified at Mary who cheerfully greeted everyone we passed with "I fell in the river!" Their expressions reminded me of that King George line in "I Know Him": "I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do."

We'd checked out of our room just before the punting adventure, but the kind man let us back in so Mary could shower and change clothes. And then it was off to the Museum of the History of Science with [personal profile] sir_guinglain. The history of science is practically my favorite thing, and the company and conversation were just as good as the surroundings. We went for lunch and, after a couple of days in a room where the wi-fi didn't work, I felt like Mary and I were slowly re-entering a crazy new world. I started to see our lack of internet as a blessing; I think we picked the best possible weekend to be offline!

It was a perfect weekend, just what I needed. I wish all my chums suffering post-referendum could've had one like it.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-28 07:34 am

We in the shit now, somebody gotta shovel it!

I woke up this morning still exhausted and sick at the world I find myself in. But I'm starting to, as I knew I'd want to, get back to my coping mechanism of Having Something to Do, so I'm aiming to get back to the Kickstarter book by finishing off my long-neglected citizenship application and starting some of the e-mail interviews with the (many!) people who volunteered to tell their stories.

But first, I posted this update to my Kickstarter backers:
I haven't done an update since the happy news that I'd more than reached my goal, sorry about that. But I have been busy since.

Since the amount of money I got is pretty much (after Kickstarter fees and etc) exactly what I need to pay for UK citizenship application fees, I've been working on that application with the intent that the last stage of this "duel" is then something I can include in the book. I've got it nearly done (anyone know what I did with my passport-sized photos?!) so hopefully that'll be posted off soon. They say it can take up to six months for a decision to be made, though -- let's hope it's not that long!

I've also been working on the book, of course. Current word count: 23,656! I don't know if they'll all be staying in, of course, but it feels good to know they're there.

And that's just from me -- a conversation with a new friend, another immigrant to the UK, has inspired me to ask people if they'd like to be interviewed for the book. I know many other people will be as keen to tell their stories as I am, and I'm keen to illustrate that my experience isn't the only one -- and, since I'm a white English-speaker from a country that Britain more or less approves of, my experience is the furthest thing from the worst of them. I've been heartened and overwhelmed by the response I've gotten, from my friends and acquaintances but also their friends and acquaintances, people I don't know. I'm currently working on collecting their stories. If you are or if you know any immigrants to the UK -- wherever they're from, however long they've been here, no matter if they think they've had an easy time or a hard one -- who'd like to get involved, feel free to e-mail me.

And in the midst of this...a British MP was killed by a right-wing terrorist, a white man radicalized by the UK media. And then the UK voted to leave the EU, and the rise in racist, xenophobic hate crimes since has been dramatic. Suddenly it seems like talk of immigration and immigrants is everywhere, and again I'm very aware I'm less vulnerable personally than many others, but it's still a really tough time for me, as I know it is for a lot of people here, British or not.

I didn't set out to write a book about "Brexit" (a word almost as ugly as the concept it represents!) and I don't want it all to be doom and gloom because that wouldn't be a good representation of being an immigrant. But I feel this book's going to end up being a lot different than I thought it would be when I started.

I'll do my best to keep you posted!
And that goes for you, too, DW/LJ friends.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-24 02:49 pm

How. The. FUCK

...am I supposed to write a book now about being an immigrant. About what immigration in the UK is like.

(I will -- don't fret, Kickstarter backers! But I'm so sick and sore of the subject now, I feel like I have either nothing to say or else I have to put my bleeding heart on the page and I don't want to do that. I need to find words for things there are no words for. And I just don't know yet how I can do that. But I'll try as hard as I can, I promise.)
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-24 09:13 am

On the lesser Britain I find myself in

I have a stock answer for anybody who finds out I'm American and asks (out of politeness or incredulity, it ends up the same) what brought me here.

"My husband's British," I say. "And he thinks Manchester is the best place in the world."

1:49 this morning is the first time he told me he was sorry for bringing me here. "I thought when I married you I'd be taking you to a country where you'd be safe."

It broke my heart.

He hasn't stopped apologizing since. And my heart hasn't stopped breaking, for all kinds of reasons but this chief among them.

I love the UK. I love living here. I love being an immigrant, for all its miseries and horrors. I am surprised to find what an integral part of my identity this has become.

But of course, most of all I love him. I love the lives we've worked so hard to build together.

That anything, or anyone, could make him, the naturalized Mancunian who resists all my complaints about the weather and about how nice Yorkshire would be, could make him apologize, is almost as bewildering as it is enraging for me. He's 100% convinced he's brought me to a fascist country, where I'll be less safe as an immigrant, as a disabled person.

Considering, of course, how bad the country I'm from is on such things, I think at first he's exaggerating; my heart doesn't just break but feels like it'll shatter when I understand that he is not.

Goddamn anyone who makes him feel like a failure for marrying me and working so unbelievably hard at keeping us fed and housed and as happy as possible. I couldn't ask for anyone more committed to my happiness than he is -- not my parents, certainly not me! -- and goddam anything that makes him doubt or question or regret that.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-22 10:33 pm
Entry tags:

"Leaving the EU won't solve the immigration problem."

Even the nice people, the people on the right side, the people who'd never wish me harm, the people I think of as friends, are saying this on social media.

And it's a headline you can find in all sorts of news, if you're self-destructive enough to Google it.

One day, I hope not to be a problem at all.

One day, I hope I can expect more robust cases in favor of immigration, not just pointing out that a once-important country shouldn't ruin itself over its hatred of immigrants because then it'll be ruined and there will still be immigrants.

One day, I hope we can take a step back from "that won't work, you can't get rid of the immigrants that way!" (true though it may be!), to "but why the fuck would you want to get rid of all the immigrants anyway?!"

I hope for these things. But I'm not sure I can see a path to that world from this one.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-19 09:41 pm
Entry tags:

Today I learned

P.G. Wodehouse didn't invent the spelling of Gladys with a 'w', even though it sounds like the kind of thing he'd do.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-16 02:32 pm
Entry tags:

Bees on a train!

Watching this movie called The Swarm. It's about a killer bee attack, but it's from the seventies so there's meeting where they argue about whether they're African bees or Brazilian bees. There's clashes between the military and civilians trying to stop the bees. There's a nuclear power plant they can't shut down because millions of people rely on that power.

You never get enough of this mundane stuff in modern movies. They'd just blow the bees up or send them into space. But mundane bureaucracy is so much more entertaining.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-16 12:17 am

Sir Holly Appleby

Andrew's bemoaning how most people fail to distinguish the signal from the noise (referendums are bad for him).

"They should all listen to me," he says. "I could tell them all the information."

"Yeah, what you're talking about there is a monarchy, though," I say.

"They wouldn't have to vote like I told them. But at least they'd know."

"You aren't even very good at knowing about your own life," I tease. "Much less about everything." I point out a hospital appointment on Monday that he didn't even remember he forgot about until bedtime yesterday.‎

"I know that you should go to hospital appointments if you have arthritis!" he says.

"But you don't know when it is."

"No. That administration. Not policy."

I think about this for a second. "You really do think I'm the civil service in the Monarchy of Andrew, don't you?"

"Not think as such. More like, know..."‎
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-14 06:33 am
Entry tags:

Can't sleep; I'm bisexual

I've done some amateur research on bisexuality and mental health. I feel like I've said a million times that bisexuals experience worse mental health than lesbian, gay or straight people.

This morning I feel like I'm contributing to that statistic.

Lots of people are saying the victims of Orlando's queer nightclub shooting died because of who they love.


My parents know who I love. (Well, they don't know everybody I love, but that's less to do with being bi than being poly.) But they don't know how tough a few days this has been for me and mine.

I don't know what they learned about the shooting from TV news; I don't know what they think about it. If the news is really as keen as people are complaining about it being to erase the LGBT+ identities of the people shot, if they're really making it all about Isalmophobia, that'll probably work on my mom, at least.

But I know that when they bug me to talk on Skype and I make excuses, or when they call and I'm not here because I'm holding hands with strangers (which I really liked! holding hands is something so practical you make little kids do it when you're going to cross a road, and something so affectionate that it's felt like crossing some kind of threshold in nascent romances when I was younger) and then that I'm in the pub with my friends and even if we're talking about politics and work and partners like usual, we're all particularly in need of hugs and company this evening. The unspoken agreement on this makes it feel different, even if we're not outwardly behaving any differently.

And I pick up my phone this morning to check just how unnaturally early I've woken up (5:37) and my phone also tells me I've got an e-mail from my parents, subject line "You." (My mom will probably never know what a great talent she has for ominous e-mail subject lines.) And it's not like the little bubble of understanding and pain and grief and love I've coccooned myself in over the past few days. It's small declarative sentences that, as always with this rural-Minnesota Guess/Offer culture, don't seem harsh or difficult in themselves...but in which as a native of that culture I read guilt and accusation.

And it's all too much and I crumble.

I started crying, not really about the e-mail but about loss and pain and despair and loneliness and whitewashing and gaywashing and ciswashing and all the secondary traumas. I cried because I couldn't tell my parents this, I cried because I can't tell them I'm bi and most of my friends are queer. I cried not because they don't know who I love but they don't know who I am.

This is what being bi is. It's not threesomes or cheating or fancying everyone or being greedy or indecisive. (Of course, some bisexuals will do and be those things, but so will plenty of straight or gay people!) It's not even about who I love.

It's a friend of mine and her different-gender partner getting biphobia at a vigil last night for being perceived as a straight couple intruding on a queer event. It's being told I "pass" for straight or have "straight privilege" for being married to someone of a different gender, as if being forced back into the closet is a privilege instead of a harm to my mental health. I can talk to my parents about who I love (they always ask about him anyway, if they haven't talked to him first), but I can't talk to them about the rest of what being bisexual is like.

There are no employment protections in the state of Florida for LGBT people, nothing stopping the survivors of the weekend's attack from being fired on Monday. This isn't just about how they love, it's about jobs and housing and everything that it's okay to deny people.

I always tell people who say I can't be bi and married that they can be gay (for some reason it is usually gay men who tell me this, though it'd work as well with "straight" here of course) and single. We are who we are all the time, not just when we're crushing on someone, or shagging them, or dating them.

There's a lot of rhetoric about people being unfairly targeted because of "what genitals they like" or "who they love," but it's about much more than genitals and even more than love. And this is actually enshrined in a UK legal judgment! In a 2010 asylum case, the expectation that gay men could return to Iran or Cameroon and be safe from persecution as long as they "lived discreetly" was acknowledged to be a form of persecution itself. One of the judges in the case, Lord Rodgers, said
In short, what is protected is the applicant's right to live freely and openly as a gay man. That involves a wide spectrum of conduct, going well beyond conduct designed to attract sexual partners and maintain relationships with them. To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.
I'm in no way insinuating that my parents not knowing I'm bi leads to anything like the same kind of discretion as living in a country where my life would be in danger for it, yet it helps me to know that people recognize "living discreetly" amounts to a kind of persecution itself.

It's an insidious one, too, because it has to be constantly self-monitored. You end up with a little model of biphobia (or homophobia) running in your head all the time. Such hypervigilence is well-known to be a detriment to mental health. And when it becomes a habit to anticipate potential threats in order to be able to control one's reaction to them, it's both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Your brain gets so good at this, sometimes it can think of ways to hate, criticize, or police yourself that your enemies would never dream up.

I think this is part of the reason why bisexuals overall experience more mental health difficulties than gay, lesbian or straight people.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-12 03:37 pm

Want to be featured in my book?

One thing I'd love for my Kickstarter book is other UK immigrants to talk to.

I think it'd be a lot richer if I can compare and contrast other people's experiences with mine (especially people of color, of faith, from less-anglophone countries, etc because I'm aware all these characteristics will have given people an even tougher time of it than I've had).

I've written up some interview questions that I could e-mail people, if anybody fancies helping me out and getting their stories told in their own words.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-11 11:00 am
Entry tags:

Current status:

resenting bras, my need for bras, how they never fit right (and yes I have had fittings!), how they hurt and maim, how they get old so quickly and are useless, I hate needing to think about them.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-06-08 02:13 pm

I'm back!

On Sunday morning the mouse on my laptop stopped working completely. As did other mouse-like devices I tried plugging in.

Fixing a problem with the mouse is impossible for me, because you can't use the mouse.

Andrew's ended up having to nuke the OS from orbit; now I'm re-installing things and remembering just how very many things there are that need tweaking for me (and for some reason the accessibility stuff (for me, high contrast and large fonts, mostly) are not working at all yet.

But still, one of the first pages I opened in the browser I just had to install is the one in which I'm writing to you now, to tell you how glad I am to be back! I was annoyed by how severely my mental health suffered at even a few days computerless. I could keep up, just about, with e-mail and social media on my phone, but I had a few empty days I'd planned to spend on my book, I couldn't watch baseball or do grocery shopping or even play music on Spotify as I sulkily did chores when I eventually got bored enough of all my usual activities being unavailable to me.

And while lack of computer isn't the crisis it was in the pre-smartphone days, my elderly phone is developing enough quirks (and the apps for it are getting increasingly terrible as people increasingly can't be arsed with the BlackBerry OS, which is fair enough but such a pain in the ass...on the plus side, all my friends complaining that Facebook chat/messenger isn't working for them any more at least make me glad that the mobile website is unaffected on my phone because there's no Messenger app to try to force us on to, Facebook having intentionally nuked its BlackBerry app a few months ago. So between shitty user experiences and a phone that's deciding, eg I can't click on anything in the bottom left corner or I can't keep it from thinking I've clicked on whatever's in the top right corner, it's been suboptimal to say the least.

Anyway, the fonts are still wrong but I'll take that. In the meantime, I went to Martin Mere yesterday, a Wildfowl & Wetland Trust site that had a deal for WI members so about 20 people from my WI (and some of them's daughters and grandkids) went to look at birds. And otters! I have some pictures, but technical failure means you'll just have to take my word for it now. I had a nice day, anyway.

One of the nicest things about it, though, was on the way back. The lady who organized it gave a few of us a lift, one of them being someone I know slightly as the secretary of our branch. We got chatting and I found out a lot more about her life, as a Sri Lankan immigrant who moved here when she married a Brit she has a lot of vehement opinions on the awfulness of the immigration system which as you can imagine are just like mine but worse because she's a person of color and says Islam is the religion she was born into (she doesn't consider herself one, but you can imagine how much that counts to the Home Office). I told her about my book and said I'd like to get her story in it; she seemed really happy to do that and even said she can introduce me to some other people. I wanted to address how the problems I have, numerous and severe as they may be, are maybe one percent as bad as they could be, because I'm white and from the U.S. And she just seems a lovely person and it turns out she lives so close that I have unknowingly walked Gary the Wonder Dog past her house every single day.

The WI's been great for this kind of thing: the other day I ran into H who cut Gary's nails for us outside Fred's. K saw me at the market one day, all excited about my purple hair, needed me to go and talk to her friend who was thinking of dying her hair purple. I've seen N and her lovely dog Lucy in the park a few times. I feel so much more connected to where I live than I did before.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-31 09:27 pm
Entry tags:

As if I didn't already have too many things to do!

So [personal profile] miss_s_b sorta hinted at wanting a Six/Evelyn story (her favorite Doctor, my favorite companion (and one of her favorites too but I'm less sure it has the top spot for her than I am for me)) fluff...

...and because I do love Evelyn so much and there are never enough stories about her, this was sufficient for me to want to write something. Especially for such an appreciative audience as would be, if I got it right.

But, I'm no good at fiction. I can never come up with ideas (it's why I have no problem blogging: this's just about stuff that's actually happened to me!). What could I do that'd be worthy of such beloved characters?

Since Andrew's out of the house tonight, I was with the Hamilton soundtrack without headphones, loud. (I was also vacuuming, these being two thing Andrew can't tolerate when he's in the house so I have to save them for when he's not. I know how to enjoy my rare evenings home alone, oh yes.)

So naturally I thought What would Evelyn the historian think of Hamilton? Other than that it's Not Her Period, of course... There is already a Six/Evelyn American-history story (it's a theatrical story, even!), and it's a good one -- Assassin in the Limelight (and it's even theatrical, too!) -- but still.

Oh man. I just realized that such a story might be a really good home for [personal profile] po8crg's idea that Britain calling it "the American War of Independence" is arguably racist/white-supremacist... Now I wanna write this even more.