The Iron-On Line
Below are 20 entries, after skipping 20 most recent ones in the "Nick Kiddle" journal:
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There's a good chance I'm going to have sex this weekend, which is awesome in both sense of the word. In the colloquial sense, it's awesome because I like the idea of having sex and if things go well it should be enjoyable. In the other sense, it's awesome because it's a huge scary big deal that leaves me rather nervous. My potential partner is someone I care lots about and very much don't want to disappoint or hurt, which cranks up the nerves still further.
Left to my own devices, I'd probably ignore all possibility of sex, drink a couple of cans of cider, and "get carried away", which is a great way to suppress nerves beforehand at the price of hugely increasing the probability of horrendous fall-out. But in a poly relationship, I'm not exactly left to my own devices: I owe it to Lucy to, at the very least, practice safe sex, which means at least some advance planning.
I'm new to the whole "having sex with women" thing, and school sex ed never so much as touched on it. I know there are things called dental dams, which are associated with queerness even though oral sex is highly encouraged in straight encounters as well. That and the fact that strap-ons are like penises that you can sterilise in boiling water is about the limit of my knowledge. At this point, I came up with the bright idea of going to the sexual health clinic for information and possibly also dams, which I'm not sure I could find in shops. And since I felt awkward about saying, "Hello, can I have some dental dams, thanks, bye," I decided to kill several birds with one stone and get a full STI screening.
So I made an appointment at the clinic and went along, worrying about the extreme likelihood of being misgendered as a distraction from the vaguer fears that my attempts to act grown-up were a transparent fraud. The nurse introduced herself and asked what I'd come for, and I explained that I was starting a new relationship and wanted to start out fresh with an STI screening. She asked some questions about my health both general and sexual: I was pleased to declare myself seven years smoke-free, disappointed to admit that my planned tattoo has yet to grace my skin, and too ashamed to say that my last sexual encounter took place on an East Midlands train.
Another question was whether I'd ever been pregnant. The answer is yes, once; to the follow-up, I described xCLP in shamefaced clinical terms as a "live birth". And where was I in my menstrual cycle? Absolutely no idea, but I have an unpleasant feeling I'm due some time soon. These formalities having been done, we went through to the "Female Examination Room". Now, I understand that genital configurations have a bearing on what STIs a person is vulnerable to and on the mechanics of the sample collection process. But that doesn't mean I have to like having my body described as female.
The first task in the examination room was a swabbing of my cervix. Since I gave birth, that's been downgraded from "screaming agony" to "teeth-gritting discomfort", which is something. Then I had my throat swabbed, based on my last sex being unprotected oral. Finally, in a different room, the nurse drew some blood to test for infections I almost certainly don't have - the Blood and Transplant Service would have let me know - but it's nice to be sure.
We returned to the first consulting room to discuss how I wanted to receive my results, and I finally asked for advice about dental dams. The clinic leaflet had only mentioned the option of free condoms, but it turns out free dental dams are available too, which was neat. The nurse explained how to use one, assured me that there was an instruction leaflet in each packet, and added a few tips on care of sex toys for good measure. Throughout the process she was friendly, and didn't pass any judgments on either my chaotic sexual history or my nervous babbling.
It's good that the clinic offers dental dams and advice on safer sex beyond PIV, but I do wish they made it more obvious they could do that. One of the many contraception posters explained earnestly that every time you have sex without using contraception there's a possibility you'll get pregnant, not mentioning that some sexual partners don't produce sperm and some forms of sex don't lead to pregnancy. A little thing, but it bugs me. Likewise the cissexist language, although I pretty much knew I should expect that. All in all, a lot better than it could have been in the heart of conservative country, and I felt a lot better for having been a little bit responsible.
I've always been a big believer in giving blood. Just for lying on a couch and sticking your arm out, you can get the warm altruistic glow of knowing you're helping someone in a medical emergency and as much tea and biscuits as you feel like. I was a regular blood donor back in the day, but then I got pregnant, and when the waiting period after giving birth had expired I was on antidepressants (which don't necessarily rule you out, but I didn't know that at the time), and somewhere along the line I realised that since I'd socially transitioned I had to consider the ban on men who have ever had sex with men to apply to me, and there things stood.
However, the Blood and Transplant Service have reviewed their guidelines and decided that men who haven't had sex with men in the last 12 months are no more risky as blood donors than anyone else. And since I've been essentially celibate since last April, that potentially puts me right back into the donor pool. A quick call to their helpline confirmed that the only issue with taking citalopram was whether it made me too ill to safely lose an armful of blood, and I was good to go.
I showed up at the Guildhall Arts Centre, which has hardly changed since I used to donate. There was some confusion because my ancient donor card didn't bring anything up on the system - and I'd re-registered through the internet with a brand-new name. Making a note on my donor form telling the data people to merge the two records was easily done, but since I couldn't even remember the year of my last donation with any accuracy I had to go through all the basics from scratch.
As I waited for the health screening, I started to worry that my blood would be considered unacceptable. I'm used to being persona non grata, disabled-but-not-really, a problem everyone has to handle with tongs at arm's length. But apart from a gentle grilling about the citalopram - including a rather touching enquiry about whether the donor form had overwhelmed me - there were no problems. My iron levels were, as always, fine - apparently my body understands perfectly which element I owe my allegiance to.
And so to the couch, the swabbing with something that smelled like cheap vodka, the momentary discomfort of the needle: familiar memories that needed only awakening from their dormancy. My blood, just like it always used to, poured out with no need for encouragement, and the donor carer was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the donation bag filled up. Then a drink and a bag of crisps - it seems returning donors are subject to the same drink restrictions as first-timers, so no tea for me - a few minutes of quietly sitting, and I was off back into the world.
The end of the football season is one of my traditional times for taking stock. This year hasn't been as bad as, say, 2008, but that's not really saying much.
In fact, all the achievements this year were negative ones. Scunthorpe didn't get relegated. I didn't get evicted. Cis children's services didn't take xCLP away. And among the many problems with negative achievements is the possibility that the bad things will happen somewhere along the line. I'm no longer under suspicion of emotionally abusing xCLP, but they've still got me under a microscope in case I do anything they might be "concerned" about. (Since their last causes for concern were having friends from the internet and sharing a bed with Lindsay, it's hard to see how I can ever win this one.) The eviction threat also remains, looming in the background, as a stick to beat me with if I "give in" to my fatigue too much. And given the length of our released list, I'm not looking forward to next season.
As far as positive achievements go, everything is in limbo. It's over a year now since Lucy and I got engaged, and we haven't even been in the same time zone since. Never mind choosing a wedding venue and setting a date - I haven't even been able to put a ring on her finger yet. The thought of a whole year without seeing her depressed me beyond measure when we got engaged, but somewhere along the line it's become the miserable status quo.
In that same year, I've written virtually nothing. Last year's Summer Spell stuttered and died, despite my best efforts to reboot it, and I declared myself "too crazy for NaNo". I even stopped writing for the matchday magazine after my mind refused point-blank to come up with any words at all on a deadline. Every so often, I look at a rough draft and think I should edit it, or tweet that I have Thoughts in need of blogging, but somewhere between the thought and the action my will evaporates altogether. I don't know how much is disorganised brain and how much lack of confidence in my ability to say anything worth hearing.
The allotment ought to be a positive, but that's in another kind of limbo. So far, I've succeeded in digging several small beds and planting some seeds at home. If I can get everything sown and planted at an appropriate time, and if I can keep things weeded and watered through the growing season, I'll get a confidence-boosting harvest. But the state of my day-to-day life at the moment suggests that those "if"s could easily trip me up.
Part of me wants to try to stay positive: I'm still alive (even if I have days of wishing I wasn't), I have people who love me (who are either small children or an ocean away), I have a roof over my head and enough money to (just about) meet my needs. Another part thinks that positivity is just another facet of the denial I've been wearing myself out with for goodness knows how long now. I just don't know what to think.
Tracts of land: A new season|
My first year as an allotment holder didn't go quite as planned. Most of that was down to medication side-effects and other problems that kept me from taking as much care of it as I should have, but I wasn't helped by the ground. According to allotment gossip, the previous owner had used the plot for "everything except growing things"; all visible traces of his activities were gone when I took over, but the lack of working was still obvious. When I made a start on this year's digging, I found a disposable nappy and some large piece of rusty iron half-buried beneath the surface, and threw down my spade in disgust.
Just as I was deciding my only way forward was to hire a rotivator and plough up the whole thing, the bloke in charge phoned me. Another upheaval meant that the plot immediately next to mine was vacant, and he wondered whether I would find it easier to handle than my original plot. The previous owner had dug most of it thoroughly, planted useful things, and kept it weed-free, and there were several well-established fruit trees. I asked for some time to consider, mostly because I had a bit of sentimental attachment to my old plot, but my dad quickly convinced me I could much more easily fall in love with a patch of ground where I didn't risk digging up biohazard with every stroke of the spade, so I've made the switch.
We took a day to remove everything I needed from the old plot: "everything" mostly consisting of bricks, carpets (highly useful for weed-suppression) and scrap metal, but also including the last of the potatoes, some leeks the size of spring onions (but tasty) and some rhubarb that had grown up quite happily with no input whatsoever from me. The new plot appears to be much larger, and it's already divided into beds which, for this season at least, I meant to stick with.
If I'd got anything into the ground before the rain began, I'm sure they'd be thriving; unfortunately the combination of cold rain and heavy soil has rather put me off doing any digging. One advantage is that xCLP now goes to Beavers just across the road from the allotments, which gives me a golden opportunity in decent weather to put an hour or so of work in. I already managed to dig one bed that way, and mean to put broad beans in it as soon as the weather settles down.
At home, I have two different varieties of tomato plant (Golden Sunrise and Principe Borghese) growing on the windowsill and waiting to be planted out, as well as a couple of artichokes and a pumpkin which are struggling with my haphazard watering schedule. There are also cauliflower seedlings - xCLP's choice - in urgent need of singling and growing on in little plugs, and any number of seeds both bought and saved. Given how little I got done last year, I suspect it will be another learning year, but I hope it will also be a fruitful one.
Cooking skills, with bonus recipe|
I'm a pretty good cook in my way. I won't ever win Masterchef or pick up a Michelin star - my plates don't look fancy enough, and I use too many tins and packages. But I can reverse-engineer the recipe for a particuarly good restaurant dish I've eaten, I can make a tasty and satisfying meal out of whatever bits and bobs I have in the cupboard at the end of a long week, and perhaps even more importantly, I can improvise in unfamiliar conditions.
In someone else's kitchen, without my trusty peppermill, pestle-and-mortar or food processor, with saucepans that are all slightly the wrong size and cupboards whose contents are a mystery, I can substitute this or that, modify my method slightly, and turn out a meal that delights my host.
Last night, with half a cauliflower sitting in nakedfaery
's fridge from my previous culinary effort, I promised her a chicken korma. Usually, I'd make it with fresh chicken breast and korma paste, but we had some frozen pre-cooked chicken pieces and the nearest Tesco's didn't have korma paste. All the same, nakedfaery
enjoyed the resulting dish enough to ask for the recipe. I told her I'd blog it, so here it is.Ingredients
1 medium onion, or half a large one, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, or more to taste, crushed
1 tbsp butter or margarine
a good shaking of mild curry powder
1 tsp coriander
half a tin of coconut milk
half a cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
1 courgette, cut in half and roughly sliced
a handful of button mushrooms, the dirt brushed off
a handful of baby sweetcorn, each piece chopped in half
a packet of frozen cooked chicken, thawed outMethod
In a large saucepan or wok, melt the butter and gently saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft. Add the curry powder and coriander and cook for a further couple of minutes, stirring continuously.
Add the coconut milk and stir well. Add the cauliflower, courgette, mushrooms and sweetcorn, and mix until the sauce coats them evenly.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, adding hot water if the liquid evaporates too fast.
When the vegetables are cooked but still firm, add the chicken and cook until well heated through. Serve immediately with your favourite rice.Variations
Usually when I cook this, I start the chicken from raw. In that case, you would need to cook it along with the onions and garlic, letting it change colour all over before adding the spices. The vegetables, as in any good curry, can be varied according to whatever's available, although I generally use cauliflower and mushrooms as a jumping-off point. When I'm cooking for someone who isn't allergic, I throw in a handful of flaked almonds just before serving; you can also put sultanas in, but I despise the taste of fruit in curry. And that's about all there is to it.
Chesterfield 1 Scunthorpe 4|
I had big plans for the day, first heading up to Sheffield to finally meet @incurablehippie from Twitter, then doubling back to check off Chesterfield's new ground, before heading back to Lincolnshire with my dad and Fluffy. But as I told Lindsay, the match was the important part. If I missed my train and had to walk to Sheffield, if it rained all day, if @incurablehippie decided she hated my guts, I didn't care as long as we picked up the all-important three points.
The first disaster was a shattering one: our Family&Friends railcard was nowhere to be found, and a more thorough search would have caused us to miss our train. I decided the lesser evil was to board the train and hope the guard was sympathetic; unfortunately she wasn't, and the excess fare wiped out all my cash and most of my remaining credit card balance.
The Sheffield part went OK, although I monopolised the conversation as I so often do, and I hopped back to Chesterfield in cheerful mood. As xCLP and I headed up towards the town centre in search of dad and Fluffy, they strolled station-wards with a similar aim in mind. Since they were flush with cash and willing to help me out, my only remaining worry was the match.
Chesterfield were firmly fixed to the bottom of the table, but any early hopes that we might find them ripe for the plucking quickly withered. The match settled into tedious stalemate mode, and I fell into conversation with Fluffy, interrupted every so often by expletives as Scunthorpe took unreasonable risks at the back. Fluffy was explaining her theory of cursing - that a swear word combined with an animal makes a much more powerful curse - when Cliff Byrne cocked up epically, Sam Slocombe made a heroic but ultimately futile dive, and the ball nestled in the Scunthorpe net. No curse on earth could sum up the bitterness of my feelings; I simply dropped my head into my hands and left it there until well after the restart.
We toiled forwards in search of an equaliser, but Chesterfield knew exactly how to defend a lead. They let us into the penalty area, but it was so crowded with defenders that we could do nothing once we got there. Fluffy pulled out her phone and turned to Twitter for a distraction. The Scunthorpe Telegraph sports editor, whose tweets I usually rely on for matchday information, considered the goal deserved and pointed out that we had done nothing. From this gloomy but accurate summary, we looked up just in time to see a ball being whipped into the Chesterfield penalty area for Jordan Robertson to put into the net.
Chesterfield immediately pushed forward looking to retake the lead, and our defending still wasn't impressive. But we made it through to half time with the score 1-1, and Fluffy led the way to the concourse for drinks and scores. News from elsewhere was not reassuring, and I returned to my seat muttering that we needed to score again and not really believing we would.
The second half, with Scunthorpe shooting towards our end, was much more fun. We had several chances that Chesterfield did well to scramble away, although Slocombe had enough to do at the other end that I speculated he might become one of our most valuable assets. Then the chance finally came that, instead of being cleared, was blasted into the net by Josh Walker. The fans behind me taunted the home fans with, "1-0, and you fucked it up," which made me wrinkle my nose at fate-tempting, and "We are staying up," to which I stuffed my thumbs into my ears.
Jordan Robertson cuts an unspectacular figure, and he's been out of the team so much that I haven't learned to recognise him like some of the other players. So when he pounced on a half-cleared ball to put us 3-1 up, I didn't immediately know who had scored. That didn't stop me leaping to my feet, both hands triumphantly raised, to acclaim the goal that made the three points rather more likely.
And we still weren't finished. Andy Barcham advanced on the left-hand side with the ball, worked his way into the penalty area, and shot from an improbably tight angle straight into the net. With under ten minutes to go, xCLP was certain the points were ours, although I pointed out in my usual pessimistic way that they still had time to come back and humiliate us.
In fact, the fight had rather gone out of Chesterfield. With their fans plodding towards the exits, the team couldn't do much to stop us stroking the ball casually back and forth, each completed pass earning a cheer from the Scunthorpe fans. Robertson had a chance to claim a matchball - and lift our goal difference from -1 all the way up to 0 - but it wasn't to be. Still, four goals was plenty, and other results went our way too. I returned home in such a bubbly mood that, when we stopped for groceries in Newark, I couldn't resist whizzing on the trolley. Three points, as ever, will do that to me.
A short FAQ about "cis"|What does "cis" stand for?
It's not an abbreviation at all. It's a term borrowed from chemistry, which might explain why my ex-chemistry-teacher dad knew immediately that it meant "opposite of trans". That's what it means in chemistry, and that's what it means when trans people use it.So, am I cis?
To borrow from Asher
, when you were born, someone weighed you, noted your Apgar score, and also had a squint at your genitals. They then wrote down a M or a F on the birth record1
. If you think that the M or the F they wrote down is a pretty fair description of what you are, all things considered, then you're cis. If you think they got it wrong, you're trans.Why do you need a word for people who aren't trans?
Because calling them all "Hey You" is rude?
In all seriousness? There are always going to be times when we have to talk about how the trans experience isn't the same as the cis experience. We need some kind of word to use for those conversations. "Not-trans" is clunky, and marks trans people out as the strange ones. "Normal" suggests we're abnormal. "Biological" and "genetic" suggest we're, I don't know, robots or something. Cis and trans make a matching pair, on an equal level with each other.I don't like being called cis.
Well, I don't like being called freakish, deviant, deceptive, confused, "it"... Cis strikes me as incredibly mild in comparison. But if you hate it so much, try to come up with a better expression. If it sounds nicely balanced and doesn't insult trans people, it might catch on.What is "die cis scum" all about?
As I understand it, it's about trans people getting incredibly frustrated with the idea that we have to keep patiently explaining ourselves over and over to hostile cis people in the hopes that they will eventually see the light and grant us a bit of human dignity. When you're being asked on a regular basis to "understand the point of view" of people who think you have no right to exist, the urge to blow off some steam becomes irresistible.It seems a bit harsh to me.
I kind of understand, because if it was a group of POC saying "Die white scum" I might feel a bit upset too. Getting defensive, though, doesn't help matters. It gives the impression that we care more about white/cis people's comfort than POC/trans people's struggles, which is not exactly the best way to prove our allyship. If it makes you feel better, tell yourself the "scum" refers to the specific cis people who need to die and that you, being a good friend to your trans fellow travellers, aren't in that group2
.How is "die cis scum" any different from "die trans scum"?
Because only one of them is happening on a regular basis. I think I heard once about a trans woman who killed a cis person for being massively cissexist. And you bet she was arrested immediately and subjected to the harshest ravages of the prison system. Meanwhile, the Transgender Day of Remembrance site
lists name after name of trans people who were murdered, misgendered in death, even blamed for their own murders through the disgusting "trans panic" defence.
Beyond that, cis people pass and vote for laws that make trans lives unbearable. Cis people propagate the idea that trans people are inherently criminal, deceptive, unstable, untrustworthy and harmful. Cis people box trans people into a corner so the only possible escape is to take our own lives. Cis people are already killing trans people, directly and indirectly, all the time. Trans people are just muttering "die cis scum" when the frustration gets too much. I think we're being remarkably restrained, personally.1
The situation is slightly more complicated for intersex people, but trans people have made more than enough wide-ranging statements about intersex people so I will simply note that they are outside the scope of this post.2
If you aren't
a good friend to your trans fellow travellers, sort it out instead of complaining that your cissexism gets you called nasty names.
Consider this my Twitter policy|
If you are on Twitter, maybe you want to follow me
. I seem to be doing more and more ranting on Twitter these days rather than here, because a burst of short messages is easier for me to sustain than a longer and properly thought-out post. Also, I enjoy being able to jump from serious political issues to xCLP's latest moment of cuteness in an instant. Coherence is a fine thing, but stream-of-consciousness meandering sometimes suits me better.
However, my Twitter is not suitable for everyone. If your workplace disapproves of naughty words, you probably won't be able to read at work. I get angry a lot, and f-bombs are the quickest way to express that anger. If someone's behaviour appals me, I call them vile names (although I try not to use an insult that will splash other people
). Less often, I talk frankly about matters sexual or share jokes about oral sex.
My Twitter is also subject to a generalised trigger warning. I tweet about things that enrage me, and very often that means some kind of injustice. I quote some of the most disgusting things I hear or read, the better to express what I loathe about them. I am very bitterly sarcastic; stripped of nuance by the twin constraints of text and a character limit, it might easily sound flippant. If you don't want to watch someone coping out loud with sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, ableism and any other forms of oppression that happen to catch my eye, you're better off not following me. I also talk about my own struggles, including my rocky mental health and occasional suicidal ideation.
I assume the people who know what I'm talking about will know what I'm talking about. But since I use one set of vocabulary in my social-justice tweets and a different set in my football tweets, there's something for everyone to be puzzled by. Google ought to help with the social-justice terms, but I'm always open to reasonable requests for clarification. Crossing the streams - getting Scunthorpe fans to talk about oppression or political bloggers to express an interest in Scunthorpe - is one of the greatest joys Twitter can offer me.
One final note: if I tweet some form of swear word without further explanation, especially if it's Saturday between 1500 and 1700 UK time, you may safely assume Scunthorpe have just conceded a goal.
Proposals and rituals|
One semi-famous tradition of Leap Year Day is that women are "allowed" to propose to their menfolk - any other day they apparently have to drop heavy hints and hope the bloke gets the message, because nothing builds a stable marriage like a complete lack of communication. So I suggested to Lucy that, being by far the more womanly half of the couple, she ought to propose to me, a bit of fun which gave rise to these tweets
It was mostly just our usual flirtatious silliness, but there is a serious point at the heart of it all. If you're going to have a grand, theatrical, traditional, romantic proposal, by far the best time to have it is after you've already agreed that you're getting married. Nat explains very well
why the big public proposal is a horrible thing to put a woman1
through if there's any uncertainty about whether she wants to. Once you've quietly agreed that you both want it, it becomes pure theatre with no coercive elements: far healthier.
Lucy and I got engaged in a very low-key way. As I remember it, I was sulking because Scunthorpe had got relegated and The Wedding was everywhere I looked, I complained that I wanted to marry her but didn't know how we'd ever manage it, and we started looking up marriage laws in different jurisdictions and vowing to find a way. The most exciting part was changing our social networking profiles to reflect our new status - a story to tell any grandchildren we might produce it certainly is not.
I have promised that next time we're in the same country, I'll get down on one knee and propose in the most flamboyant manner I can manage. Lucy has agreed to give me her family engagement ring beforehand to make it all proper and official. We're neither of us taking it very seriously: we're saving the seriousness for the business of getting our paperwork in order and building a life together. Frothy, playful silliness is a big part of our relationship, and it just feels right to formalise our engagement in a playful way.
The proper rituals, the proper stories, might prove especially important in our case. As a mixed-citizenship marriage, we're likely to come under scrutiny to make sure we're not counterfeiting love for the sake of a green card2
, and you bet I'm going to do what it takes to prove the "real"ness of our relationship. A public proposal, in front of plenty of witnesses, should be a solid piece of evidence, I reckon. But even if nobody official is watching, I want to have a story and a set of rituals we can enjoy living out.1
I don't know whether any men have had similarly painful experiences on this or indeed any other day, but the social pressures bear much more heavily on women quite apart from the fact that they're almost always cast in the role of proposed-to.2
The plan is for Lucy to come over here, where we don't have green cards, but the basic point stands.
Voluntary misgendering for fun and profit?|
Trans men in women's spaces. Trans men looking to date lesbians. Trans men, in whatever capacity, claiming some kind of honorary womanhood because hey, they have a vagina too. It's disrespectful to women, it denies male privilege (yes, trans men do too have male privilege), and by promoting an essentialist definition of womanhood it's especially harmful to trans women. These are all very good reasons for trans men to knock that shit off already.
But I want to talk about something a little bit different, because I really don't understand why a trans man would want to be in a women's space in the first place. I know that trans men aren't magically immune to obnoxious entitled dudeness, but there is one aspect of being a trans man that's different from being a cis man: the ever-present threat of misgendering.
Moving through a cissexist world, I sometimes end up with no choice but to use a space marked "women". People assume that anyone who has a cervix, or anyone who menstruates, must be a woman. In some places, they haven't even figured out that a small child's main caregiver won't automatically be a woman. Or without labels, if I'm in a group of women who are all reading me as a woman, it will function as a women's space unless I speak up, and speaking up isn't always safe.
So it happens, but I hate it. Being reminded on such a regular basis that not everyone considers me a man corrodes my confidence painfully. Worse, I end up thinking I'm going to be judged and found wanting: that if ever I go before a gender recognition panel, they'll bring documentary evidence of that time I nipped into the Ladies loo and throw out my case. Some of it is paranoia, but some is simple awareness that the world is full of people looking for any excuse to inform me that I'm a woman.
I don't let those people dictate my life. I do a lot of feminine-coded things, to the point where family members have suggested I join the Women's Institute. But even if it wasn't constitutionally a women-only organisation, I'm not going to misgender myself that way. It doesn't matter whether I'd be welcome or not: I wouldn't feel right calling myself a woman.
But some trans men apparently don't mind it. To have that androgynous look that's cool in queer circles, they have to be fairly early in transition, so I would have thought they - like me - get their fill of misgendering as they move through the world. Why would they voluntarily offer themselves up for more of the same in their social lives? Is misgendering somehow OK if they're getting sexual attention? (Misgendering rarely puts me in a sexy mood.) Do they feel so secure in their manhood that misgendering just slides off? (Would they feel the same if it was a shop assistant calling them "ma'am"?) I can't fathom it. The whole thing makes no sense to me.
It was never sexual. Well, mostly. There's one sexual act I'm unsure about at the best of times, and certain people used it to annoy me, to misgender me, to impose their ideas on my body. But apart from that, it wasn't sexual.
It was telling me that I was having sex wrong. That my lack of orgasms was down to some deliberate wrong action I was taking. That obeying my own instincts made it harder for me to enjoy sex. That my kinks were evidence of deep psychological damage.
It was using sex as a form of control. Ruling out, one by one, the sexual acts I most enjoyed, if I accidentally said something hurtful. Offering the sexual acts I wasn't so comfortable with as some kind of consolation prize.
It was taking advantage of the way my body responded to hormones. The way I lost my heart to anyone who touched me. The way I fell in love and put up with any amount of crap for my loved one's sake. I don't know if there's a good way to respond to that kind of love, but taking what suited you and then rejecting me cold was definitely a bad way.
It wasn't sexual, but sex was part of it all the same. The way I feel about sex now is tangled up in all those things, because how could it not be? Sex has been a means of hurting me, and I am terrified of being hurt again.
There are words, I know, but I'm afraid to use them. They feel as if they belong to other people, people whose pain is more clear-cut and easier to define. I don't want to steal the identities of others, but I need a way to describe myself.
Leyton Orient 1 Scunthorpe 3|
With my original plan to meet a friend for drinks scuppered, I didn't much feel like going to Leyton. I spun out the process of getting up, snuggling with my clothes for fifteen minutes so they would be nice and warm before I put them on. There was no need to hurry - there should be plenty of London-bound trains, and I had no pressing pre-match requirements.
Arriving at the station just before noon, I began to see the folly of this plan. There were no London-bound trains for an hour, which meant I would arrive at Kings Cross at 1430. I jumped on a Norwich train, reasoning that I could change at Peterborough, where there was sure to be a London train. And so there should have been - except that a "level crossing incident" had delayed it for half an hour. I finally arrived at Kings Cross at 1410, and ran like hell for the Tube. Luckily, there were no more delays; I reached Leyton at 1445 and got to the turnstile with plenty of time to buy a couple of hot dogs and a drink before the match got underway.
Other people described our first-half performance as "lethargic" and "crap". But after the best part of a month with no football, I was just happy to be watching a game. It seemed lively enough to me, with a bit of help from some ridiculous decisions from various officials. Mark Duffy failed to keep the ball in play on the goal line - to be clear, I mean that the ball was a good foot over the line - but neither referee nor assistant awarded the obvious goal kick. Duffy spent a moment staring in disbelief before playing the ball into the middle, where a Scunthorpe player went down in the box. The referee waved play on - probably just as well, in the circumstances.
Things changed just after the half-hour mark. Orient attacked, and though we looked to have things more or less under control, someone popped up to get his head on the ball and direct it past Sam Slocombe. The home fans burst into song, earning derision from the Scunthorpe faithful for waiting until they'd taken the lead to find their voices. And, as always happens, attacks that had looked promising when the game was 0-0 suddenly looked horribly inadequate once we were chasing an equaliser. Our best effort was a long-range shot that, as I suggested to Karen, would have been a magnificent goal had we been playing rugby. By half time, we were making heavy enough weather of it that I was relieved to hear the whistle.
I spent half time in futile attempts to find a programme, find a couple of acquaintances among the crowd by the refreshments, and get some sense out of Lindsay on the subject of the rearranged Yeovil game. As the second half got underway, I fired off a text message to my mum, uneasily aware that I had started the first half texting as well. But we looked a lot better, and eventually found an equaliser. No-one had much clue who had scored it, not least because we were still busy celebrating when his name was read out. I thought I'd spotted a number 14 on the shirt as the ball was flicked goalwards, and to my great delight the internet on Karen's phone proved me correct: Josh Walker had indeed brought us level.
Orient attacked again, and for a moment I thought we would fall behind again immediately. But no, we had it under control. I was willing to believe we could hold out for a draw, which wouldn't be that bad a result really - except that Karen's phone brought bad news as well as good. Most of the teams around us were winning, and a draw would see us lose ground.
Another Scunthorpe attack. Someone behind me said, "Pass and move," someone else said, "Stick and weave," and as the ball went across the penalty area I tried to figure out what they meant by these terms. I hadn't come to a satisfactory answer when the ball headed back into the middle and Andy Barcham distracted me once and for all by diverting it into the net to put us 2-1 up. This was such a stunning surprise that, rather than shouting "Yes!" or "Goal!" as is customary, I screamed "What!" before leaping to my feet to applaud.
Several Orient fans began heading for the exits, much to my bafflement. I don't pretend to understand why people leave early anyway, but a single goal behind against a team as notorious for conceding late goals as us seems especially inappropriate. But out they sneaked, while we looked determined not to throw our advantage away. We attacked again. The Orient keeper jumped up and claimed the ball, but dropped it as he landed. New loanee and immediate fans' favourite Jon Parkin stabbed it ruthlessly into the net. The referee pointed back to the centre circle before turning his attention to the keeper, who had injured himself badly in his landing. The Iron players finished celebrating, returned the ball to the centre circle, then stood round awkwardly while physio and stretcher-bearers did their work. "He did allow that goal, didn't he?" I asked, suddenly afraid that the referee would decide we'd fouled the keeper and disallow it after all.
But after an outfield player had pulled on a green jersey to replace the keeper, the game did indeed restart from the centre circle. He pulled off one rather impressive save, but we didn't manage to put him under much pressure in what remained of the match. I declared that nine minutes of stoppage time - much of it down to the keeper's injury - was plenty of time for us to concede two goals. I was still insisting that we had time to throw it away as the referee blew for full time. Three more precious points, and an easy journey home: I was rather pleased I'd made the journey after all.
Ableism at the market|
I left the market shaking.
One of our producers was showing off the new cane she'd bought to try to help with her gait. I suggested that, since walking with a cane apparently means "benefit cheat" to certain fail-addled minds, she might need to watch out when she was using it. She was outraged, as anyone would be. But instead of blaming the ignorant and arrogant jackholes who make this assumption, the tabloid headlines that feed their bigotry, or the government who collude with the tabloids, her big problem was with the benefit cheats.
Obligatory disclaimer: benefit fraud is a Very Bad Thing. But the fraud rate, last I heard, was somewhere around half a percent, so the odds are overwhelming that any given claimant is not fraudulent. As things stand, I don't think benefit fraud is anything like as big a problem as the constant demonisation of disabled people.
My fellow producer felt otherwise. Half a percent is still a lot of money in absolute terms, and benefit cheats are So Very Bad that Something Must Be Done. She started complaining about the Motability scheme, whereby people with mobility impairments can exchange part of their benefit for a leased car (I think - feel free to correct me if I've mangled it). If an individual has money to spare and wants a flashier car, they can pay extra out of their own pocket to upgrade. The filthy rags, with their customary disdain for facts, reported this as "Free BMWs for people on benefits". And her brother-in-law paid five hundred pounds for some car or other, so this is clearly a terrible, terrible injustice.
She then explained her plan for putting the scheme to rights: all cars leased through the scheme must be permanently marked "Disabled". In her world, this would act as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters while having no effect on genuine disabled people. People are already terrified to use designated disabled parking lest they get insulted or even assaulted by the fail-addled, so expecting them to paint a target on their cars is utterly ridiculous. Her only answer to this was to repeat that genuine disabled people wouldn't mind having it written on their cars.
She considers herself an expert on benefit fraud from watching a television programme called "Scummers1 and Scroungers". Since I don't own a TV, I've been spared this particular offering, but apparently it's all about how shocking benefit fraud is. I don't know whether they simply report on convicted fraudsters or try to actively expose people they believe are scrounging. The former is irresponsible, because widespread reporting feeds the perception of a widespread problem. The latter is utterly indefensible.
My fellow producer has seen on this programme how claimants are "going abroad" and "dancing" with "our money". Perhaps I should have challenged the idea that going abroad is somehow proof of scroungerhood instead of just a thing that people - even disabled people - sometimes do. But I started with the dancing and got bogged down. One of our former producers uses a wheelchair when she needs to, but is also capable of walking short distances, so I would have expected my fellow producer to understand about variable conditions. Five minutes of footage of someone dancing proves nothing, but she insisted she knew, from the images on screen, that these people were evil scrounging fraudsters. They were dancing, after all. That proves it.
The camera, she told me, doesn't lie. I retorted that film editors do, but I might as well have saved my breath. The naked hatred for disabled people who dared to do anything more than subsist from moment to moment was too strong with her. I found other things to do for the remaining ten minutes and left, shaking.
She's a craft producer, which means I don't have to work closely with her and I don't have to eat lunch with her. For which mercy I am profoundly grateful, but I am still boiling with anger at the lies she has uncritically swallowed. Lies that could yet lead to her being abused if the wrong person sees her cane, but still she doesn't get it.
1That is not strictly the name of the programme. I am taking a cheap pot-shot at a certain non-existent South Coast city to give myself a touch of comic relief.
Resolutions and support needs|
I think New Year's Resolutions are supposed to be like goals. You take something you would like to achieve and break it down into simple steps that you can manage through your own individual efforts. At any rate, I don't get on well with resolutions, just as I don't get on well with goals, because there is nothing I want to achieve that I can manage alone.
This is not me being negative or defeatist or running myself down. This is just me accepting a simple - if rather depressing - fact. I have a collection of disabilities that add up to needing an enormous amount of support. I've tried telling myself comforting lies about my ability, but it always ends with me not managing something and beating myself up for it. So no more. I will not pretend that I am stronger than I am.
On the other hand, I don't want to turn aside altogether from my wants and dreams. There are things that I want, and I believe I have the potential to achieve them. Just as long as I get the support I need.
I thought for a while that my resolution should be to ask for help and keep asking until I got it. But that's just yet another way to set myself up to fail. If people don't put a high priority on giving me support, repeatedly asking will only succeed in annoying them. If organisations can dismiss me with impunity, going to them again and again will exhaust me to no obvious good. I can't control the way others react to me, and pretending I can is victim-blaming.
So all I have is this. My side of the bargain is to ask for help without shame, to stop downplaying my support needs in an attempt to pass as abled. From those who care about me, I want a commitment to support me. If I can manage to make my needs explicit, I'm hoping enough people can manage to fulfil them.
Review of the year|
It's three and a half inches by five inches, and about an eighth of an inch thick. The lovely jessica_dickens
challenged me to list three good things about my life. I wanted to get up to Scunthorpe early so we could browse the charity shops. Some reasons why I am not a "dirty het-boy": There was a man who caused a great deal of suffering and pain. I've said before that I have a certain amount of sympathy for Nice Guys. I just need to get back into the habit of writing. I don't want to talk about it. I've misplaced (temporarily, I fervently hope) my informational suppository, and it's got me thinking about back-ups. The trip to Stevenage had so many things to recommend it. I'm not doing NaNo this year. Have some music and a story.( Lots of questions behind the cutCollapse )
Tracts of land: The harvest|
It seems ridiculous to claim that I "grew" anything, especially given the complete lack of attention I paid to my plot during the last few months of ever-worsening breakdown. All credit must go to the land, which did the best it could without my assistance.
The tomatoes and beans died early for lack of water. The sweetcorn and marrow eventually followed. Carrots, spinach beet and leeks are still technically alive, but do not appear to be promising a great harvest.
The clover, my return gift to the land, is going strong, although I suspect I should have dug it in before now. And one patch has exceeded all my wildest expectations: the potatoes. I began digging them apprehensively, thinking perhaps they had rotted in the ground. That quickly dispersed as more and more spuds came out with every stroke of the fork, looking as good as anything I've seen in the shops. The carrier bag I'd brought along quickly filled to bursting point, so there are still more waiting to be dug up.
A bag of King Edward seed potatoes, already sprouting and sold off cheap. A plot of well-dug ground. Water when I remembered, or when the sky provided it. And this is the harvest. It's quite amazing, really.
Have some music
and a story.
The week before Christmas 2006, Fluffy and I were at my dad's, listening to Radio North Bank. Scunthorpe had a Friday night game at Millwall1
, and the station was trying to balance the needs of Iron fans in search of live commentary with those of regular listeners of their Friday night music show. So at any point when the match wasn't happening - pre-match, half time and post-match - they played music.
After the match, we hung around waiting for the manager's comments and listening to the music. The man in the studio was one of the sports reporters, and he didn't seem too comfortable linking music. As Fairytale of New York
came to a close, he made some remark about "getting into the Christmas spirit there", to which Fluffy reacted with derision.
"No, no," I said. "It's exactly the Christmas spirit. What do we do every Christmas? We get maudlin drunk and end up screaming insults at each other." Maudlin drunk was possibly an exaggeration, but the combination of bad weather, insufficient distractions, and high stakes reliably turned any tiny clash into a screaming knock-down argument during the festive season. At that time, Fluffy and I were still rubbing each other up entirely the wrong way on a regular basis; either we would come to blows, or our constant simmering quarrel would drive my dad into a rage.
A few days later - possibly even on the 25th - we were washing dishes or peeling vegetables or something and the inevitable happened. I was stressed, she was stressed, words were being exchanged ... and I remembered what I'd said about Christmas spirit. "You scumbag, you maggot," I said. Fluffy picked up the reference immediately, "You cheap lousy faggot." And the tension was broken.
This is not to say that our Christmases have been happy ever since. I don't think we've had another screaming argument with each other, but we've individually had violent quarrels with a certain other family member in two separate years, and I'm still prone to bursting into tears when people open my presents. But now that we can laugh about quarrels being part of the Christmas spirit, I think it's helped us take everything a notch or two less seriously.1
We won 1-0, and it was to be the first of an epic 19-match unbeaten streak that turned us into everyone's odds-on favourite for the title well before Easter. This is in no way relevent to the story, but it's such a sweet memory I like to relive it whenever possible.
Defective cis people|
Lucy has written an awesome post
at her website (registration required but well worth it if you're interested in Trans201 type discussions) riffing off something I tweeted yesterday. I'm a bit embarrassed, because she's expanded my thought to encompass a whole range of ways in which trans people are viewed as defective cis people when I was thinking of a much narrower definition.
The thing is, even a lot of trans people tend to judge our bodies based on how closely we conform to cis expectations - in common parlance, "how well we pass". This isn't completely unreasonable, because we're safer, both physically and emotionally, if cis people read us as cis and gender us correctly, but I for one have internalised it in a very unhealthy way. I don't look at my body and say, "This is a pretty typical trans male body without HRT." I don't even say, "This is a body a lot of people will read as female, which sucks." I say, "What kind of man has these things on his chest? What kind of man has a cock you can't see unless you stick your nose right on it?" And then I stop looking at my body, because the differences between it and a cis male body make me doubt my manhood in all sorts of gross ways.
(I don't want to come across as minimising physical dysphoria. I know it's very painful for some trans people, but I don't really suffer from it. My discomfort all comes from a different source.)
The other thing I had in mind when I talked about "defective cis people" was the Negative Fertility Definition of gender. I've mostly heard it from transphobic radfems, but I'm sure there are others who use it as a justification for their bigotry. The problem transphobic radfems have is that most of their "reasons" why trans women don't count as women are also applicable to some cis women (as elaborated in this post
.) In a search for ways to deny trans women's gender without offending the cis women they claim to be supporting, they've come up with the Negative Fertility Definition.
The Negative Fertility Definition basically says that the benchmark of being a man or a woman is the inability to reproduce like a woman or a man. It's not perfect for the transphobes' purposes, because it doesn't allow them to dismiss infertile trans people (at least without resorting to massive essentialist handwaves last seen from opponents of marriage equality), but it's guaranteed not to accidentally misgender any cis people. It is completely arbitrary - why make the definition of gender all about how you don't reproduce - but it's a lot harder to attack than, "How can someone be a woman if they have a structure in their body that produces testosterone?" (Fun fact: ovaries produce testosterone too.) I can see why they use it.
More broadly, trans people's reproductive status is one of the big things that breaks cis people's brains. We can't make babies the way cis people do, so the expectation is that we will just suck it up and live an infertile life. And for some trans people, that's fine: not everyone wants to make babies, and some are actively grossed out by the idea. But some trans people want to pass on our genes, want to have families that are not dependant on the good graces of a potentially cissexist adoption system, want, even to make babies. And it's pretty cruel to say that we can't because cis people the same gender as us aren't able to.
The idea of pregnancy has long been the only thing that let me reconcile myself to my body. It invites misgendering and it pumps out soul-destroying hormones, but it can grow a new person almost out of nothing. That's a pretty cool thing to be able to do. And I never felt more comfortable with the lumps on my chest than when they were producing high-quality baby food on demand. (This is why I was so resistant to weaning - "getting your body back" didn't seem to apply.) People want me to be apologetic or upset because these aren't things associated with male bodies, but they're amazing things. Why should I feel bad about having a body that can do them?
I have a trans male body. It has its own limitations and its own capabilities. It is not a defective cis male body.
Too crazy for NaNo|
I'm not doing NaNo this year. It began as a resentful acknowledgement of inescapable fact, and was quickly backed up by a dreadful apathy. No preliminary work means that even if I summoned up a last spasm of stubbornness, I've got nothing to hit the keyboard with: this first of November will bring none of the usual frenzy for me.
I hate it. I've tried to congratulate myself on facing facts, but I can only see it as an admission of failure. I'm barely clinging on as it is: to my minimal household chores, to the market baking, to my programme column. I am, I must reluctantly concede, too crazy for NaNo.
Which is a bitter irony, because the pep-talk emails speak of NaNo and crazy as a natural pairing. They invoke the supposedly positive stereotypes of craziness: freedom from inhibition, boundless faith, gleeful illogic. It's an appealing mix, if your normal life is very clearly sane. Like the controlled danger of a rollercoaster, the controlled craziness of NaNo is a great source of excitement for those that can make use of it.
But doing NaNo while genuinely crazy is a very different experience. Not for me the gleeful abandon the pep talks describe. My NaNo has always been a grim struggle to force words through a barrier, caught between two almost equally paralysing fears. Game after game of Solitaire, trying to get my head into that elusive writing space. Checking and rechecking Twitter, theoretically to research important points but really for the twin comforts of reassurance and distraction. The words are somewhere in my head, but they're held back by a conviction that they will turn out to be useless.
That's the fear that holds me back, but the fear that spurs me on is even more nebulous. If I fail to make my word count, if I turn aside from my self-assigned goal - what? Scunthorpe will lose, I used to say; even accepting the bizarre causality, it hardly explains anything. Scunthorpe lose on a depressingly regular basis, and I generally survive the experience. Why should the risk of one more defeat make me erode my sanity still further by trying to live on two hours' sleep a night?
It's a question, I think, of control. I set myself ever more stringent targets - last year, I was aiming to write 4000 words each day - pushing myself harder and harder in a desperate attempt to prove that I can manage it. I can wrestle the words into submission, beating my own fears and physical limitations by sheer force of will and bloody-minded refusal to give up.
I know that I sound wistful. Even as I acknowledge that it's damaging to me, I admire it. Partly it's the spirit the pep-talks try to harness - the sense that out of the craziness and physical suffering a great work of art is taking shape. But there's also the fact that surviving my self-inflicted NaNo ordeals takes a kind of strength I wish I had more of. That, of course, is the reason I do it. The damaging game of bloodymindedness is a substitute for the strength and courage whose absence I feel so very keenly.
Not doing NaNo - and especially writing this explanation of why - takes a different kind of strength, and one I tend to undervalue. I want the impressive kind, the photogenic NaNo craziness - the things I don't have. And I don't know whether I should hope I'm sane enough to join the fray next November or sane enough not to want to.
Scunthorpe 4 Tranmere 2|
The nearest home game to my birthday is a cherished tradition, and the discovery of my buried building society passbook meant I had no excuse to stay away. We caught the usual train out of Grantham, made our connection at Doncaster, and after an unscheduled toilet stop at Scunthorpe General, arrived at Glanford Park at half time in the Chelsea-Arsenal game.
We settled in with Karen and some of her friends to watch the action, filling the handful of lulls with last week's burning questions: would you rather have Swedish furniture, meatballs and au pair or the pleasure of watching Scunthorpe United, and how much would you need to be paid to wear a Grimsby shirt for ninety minutes. The prevailing answers were, respectively, Scunthorpe United all the way and a mere hundred pounds because it's only a shirt; more importantly, Arsenal turned a half-time deficit into a memorable victory. As that match reached its conclusion, we trooped off into the stands in the hopes that our own would be as enjoyable.
It began very badly. Scarcely five minutes had gone before xCLP asked where the ball was. I pointed to a Rovers player standing on the distant touch-line. "He's going to throw it in, and then they're going to score." He threw, Sam Slocombe punched weakly, and the ball was scrambled into the net. To add insult to injury, the scorer was former Iron trialist Mustafa Tiryaki.
I needed nothing more to set me thinking miserably of wasted journeys, but the Tranmere fans provided something anyway, lauding their physio-turned-manager with a burst of "Who needs Mourinho." I turned to the xCLP and recounted once more the story of our physio-turned-manager, who stepped into a black hole somewhere in Hampshire and hasn't been heard of since, largely because I refuse to listen. While I was midway through this bitter tale, we created a chance at the other end and the ball appeared to go into the net. So deep was my gloomy mood that I waited for it to be disallowed, finally accepting when the ball returned to the centre circle that we had in fact scored a legitimate equaliser.
Once, I might have hoped we would use this as a springboard to take control of the game. Now, I just hoped Tranmere wouldn't retake the lead, and sighed with a sense of inevitability when they did. It was Tiryaki once more, a beautiful and hard-to-defend-against strike. But it struck me that this was the scoring pattern Chelsea had enjoyed in the first half against Arsenal - could lightning strike twice?
I amused myself by asking the xCLP the children's equivalent of the Swedish question. Having established that ice cream and computer games were preferrable to Scunthorpe and the distinction between bedroom tidying and the match was too fine to parse, xCLP decided to pose me a few questions. I has just claimed to prefer watching Scunthorpe to having my head sat on - although it was a close-run thing - when Bobby Grant lashed us back into the game, just in time for a cheerful half time.
After grumbling that the top two prizes on the draw went to consecutive numbers and the tannoy announcer didn't see fit to bring us vital intelligence from the FA Cup fourth qualifying round, we took our places for the second half, hardly expecting any improvement. But the half had scarcely settled down before Chris Dagnall raced through the Rovers defence and stuck the ball in the Donny Road goal.
The Arsenal parallels continued, but I refused to trust them. We could produce a delicious finish, but we couldn't manage basics like holding onto possession, and Tranmere attacked once more. Something I couldn't clearly see outside our penalty area left my fellow supporters chanting for a sending off; they cheered the flash of red, but I feared it was aimed at an Iron player until a white-shirted Rovers player detached himself reluctantly from the pack and trooped off the pitch.
"We can't beat ten men," I muttered, but possession had suddenly become much easier and the chances mostly happened at the end immediately in front of us. A promising exchange between Bobby Grant and another player ended when one of them was crudely dumped on the ground; the referee swiftly brought us still more joy by pointing to the penalty spot.
With Dagnall and Michael O'Connor both having failed from twelve yards in midweek, I wondered who would be willing to step up. It turned out to be Grant, and he slotted the penalty away cleanly for his second goal of the afternoon, and a lead it was hard to see us surrendering.
The noisy lot behind the goal chanted "We want five" every time the ball came up to our end; they were destined to be disappointed. I continued to repeat that we couldn't beat ten men, more as a superstitious warding-off of potential disaster than from genuine fear; I was destined to be relieved. My namesake Ajose had one moment of brilliance resulting in a cross too close to the keeper to be dangerous, and I was almost disappointed that four minutes of stoppage time didn't produce further goals. Improbably enough, I have seen all our league victories so far.
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