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State of the Nat - Multiply neurodivergent

I've been on and off work due to stress for the last month or so. For the last couple of weeks, I've been focusing a lot on self care and reducing stress. Yesterday was my first day of phased return to work with reduced hours and responsibilities, and it was a success, I'm going to work another 4 hours today and the plan is to try this 5 days a week until the xmas holidays then start ramping up in the new year.

I identified a while ago that posting here would be a nice way to get thoughts and feelings off my mind at a slower pace than Twitter and with a small audience of understanding people who I've known for a long time. However, there's been so much going on in my life that writing a first post with all the context for the rest just seemed too big and overwhelming. I decided that I'd try to write out the shortest possible 'elevator pitch' description of what's gone on, which has resulted, thanks to my tendency towards verbosity, in a reasonable length entry with a 'To Be Continued' ending...

Getting diagnosed with ADHD and thinking I had all the answers at lastCollapse )

And then I went to BiCon, Nine Worlds and Autscape...

It finally happened

I am now 36, if you know what I mean.


Two weeks on from gall bladder surgery

This morning marked 2 weeks since I had my gall bladder removed. Tomorrow lunch time will be 2 weeks since I was discharged from hospital after my blood pressure recovered.

Recovery has been going very well. I had my discharge call from the surgery department yesterday. It was about 20 minutes long and we talked through various aspects. They were very happy with my progress and I found the call pleasant, useful and reassuring.

Recovery and next steps in more detail...Collapse )

Because I work from home at a desk, I was allowed to start doing phased return a week ago. I've managed at least 3 hours work every working day for a week with 4 or 5 hours most days. As of tomorrow I'm going up to virtually full time (I have 3 flexitime hours in hand from before my surgery so I can have a longer lunch and an afternoon nap). I'm glad I've been allowed back to work because I'd have been very bored indeed by now.

My mum came to visit this afternoon and did some of the chores and housework that I'm not allowed to do yet. I now have a cleaner flat, clean bedding, a fully stocked fridge and some more portions of home cooked food in the freezer, which should keep me going for another week or so. I'm very glad to have patient and helpful parents who live nearby to come and help when I'm in recovery.

So generally recovery has been all going at or ahead of the schedule I was told to expect, with no unexpected difficulties. The only hitch at any point has been the low blood pressure on the first day and that had been resolved by midnight.
Just to update those in the know but who don't follow me on Twitter:
I had laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery to remove my gall bladder on Tuesday. It had multiple gallstones and scarring and had caused me a few painful attacks in the past and was possibly the cause of some of my longterm digestive problems, so it made sense to have it removed. It wasn't emergency surgery, I'd had several weeks notice. The advice was that it was better to have it removed before it became an emergency and that most people can eat normally afterwards.
I'm meant to be signed off work for 2 weeks but as I work from home sat at a desk, I'm allowed to start doing 'phased return' after a week. I think I'll need this because I'm already quite bored of doing very little all day. But also I'd spending the majority of my afternoons asleep so I won't be full time.
My dressings are supposed to come off at lunch time today. Being open to the air is good for healing. If I have any problems, I have a second set of dressings. I think, other than the hypotension on day one, everything's been going well. I have a surprisingly large number of friends who've had the surgery so I had a good idea of what to expect and what life's like afterwards.

It's been a year since I was first referred for assessment, and seven months since I was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition. This September I gained the knowledge of exactly why I was different, 20 years after becoming painfully and hopelessly aware at age 12 that I wasn't and couldn't be like other kids, no matter how hard I tried. After years of searching, I finally knew for certain that the word that described me was 'autistic'.

I have many challenges. I don't deal with stress well, I'm not very aware of my body or my emotions, I find it difficult to organise myself without making a lot of conscious effort, I have sensory sensitivities that can easily overwhelm me, I tend to hyperfocus on 'irrelevant' details, I struggle to maintain friendships, I'm difficult to live with, the things I love doing are considered odd by most others, and I can be too rigid or literal when I communicate.

A year ago I was having a very difficult time of things, which is why I sought help from my GP, to finally know for sure why I struggled with so many 'simple' things. Getting a diagnosis was a huge relief but also triggered some painful reflection on friendships I'd lost, opportunities I missed, decisions I'd made then discounted based on how that change hadn't solved my personal problems.

But six months on from that difficult first month, I'm able to look back on the positive results of the initially difficult conversations with friends and family, I can see the improvements from disclosing to my employers. I can reflect on the help I've been given to identify and act on my emotions. I can look at my home life, my social life and my work life and see just how much happier and more effective I am when I'm able to focus on getting things done and being a good person without worrying about doing things in a way that looks 'normal'.

Continue reading...Collapse )

This post is part of the Autism Positivity Day 2013 Flashblog, finishing off Autism Acceptance Month 2013.

To learn more about the autistic spectrum, read the Storify I created for World Autism Awareness Day 2013.

My 2012

Looking back at my 2012, I went through some pretty major life changes and made some significant achievements, despite the year mainly feeling like putting my life on hold.

January, February and March: Activism, Fandom, Surgery and Stress...Collapse )

April, May and June: Autism Acceptance and putting my life on hiatus...Collapse )

July, August and September: Conferences, Gender Clinic Graduation and Diagnosis...Collapse )

October, November and December: Introspection, Intersections and Reformatting...Collapse )

Having written and proofread the above, 2012 feels like a year where I purposely put everything on hold, 'reinstalled' my identity and hopefully set myself up with a freshly formatted stable home and social life on which to build sustainable new routines, projects and relationships from a position of greater self-knowledge.

The changes I've already made seem to have helped with problems like low level chronic fatigue, which I take as an extremely positive sign that I'm doing the right sorts of things. Next year I'm hoping to work productively with the specialists at Nottingham City Asperger Service on helping me to understand myself and develop better strategies for maximising my strengths and working around my difficulties. I'm also planning to take some of my existing projects out of hiatus and take them in a new, more authentic intersectional direction. I'm feeling optimistic.

Hopefully 2013 will be the year I take my life out of hiatus.

The Tomorrow People to jaunt again

This Sunday is going to be the 20th anniversary of the 1990s version of The Tomorrow People.

I've been obsessed with the show since I saw that first serial aged 13, but it's not a fandom I've shared with many other people. In my 20s I obsessively tracked down the VHS, the 1970s original series and the books associated with both, wrote fan fiction (the only series I've ever done this for) and ran a fan site for a year or so that gained pretty much no interest. I've had a few good discussions at sci-fi cons and occasionally on Twitter, but my TP fandom was always very ...personal, and Doctor Who was always a much more mainstream fandom.

I was planning to spend Sunday rewatching the 1990s Origin Story and reflecting on 20 years of loving the show, but this evening I got home from the supermarket to discover that two of the co-creators and producers of Arrow and The Vampire Diaries and the writer of Chuck are getting together to remake 'Tomorrow People' for the American CW cable network(!!!?!?!?!).

It took me a good hour of giggling and flailing before I even managed to process the news. I haven't reacted as pessimistically as others have. I've wished for another remake for years. I'm already a fan of a remake of this show, and the original, I have no problem with it being done differently again. I genuinely regularly dream that I'm watching the pilot for a new series of The Tomorrow People then wake up upset that it wasn't real. I watched two seasons of True Blood despite not really liking it very much, just because one of the characters was a bit like a Tomorrow Person. I really will watch anything with telepathy and/or teleportation.

I don't even have a problem with this being American; The 90's series was an American co-production with Nickelodeon and an Australian lead, so it's not that much of a jump for me (although I'd love an international cast - let one of those many British actors in US TV use their natural accent!). I also really like The Vampire Diaries, Arrow and Chuck and actually feel like the show might be in good hands. People who grew up watching the 90s version (on Nickelodeon or ITV) could be TV executives in their 30s now, so this show could have been pursued for remake by genuine fans! I don't even mind this being on the CW which tends to go for the teen romance angle - both the 70s and 90s versions of the show had prominent 'teen heart throb' stars after all. So unless they utterly miss the point or manage to make it completely terrible, or it doesn't even make it to pilot, there's a good chance that I'm going to love this show!

This is REALLY not the 20th anniversary of the remake I was expecting - from now on it's going to be 'the first remake'!

My favourite Autistic Spectrum articles

When I looked at my 'Neurodiversity' folder in my RSS reader yesterday I was greeted with two articles. The first seemed incredibly apt and well-timed because it perfectly summed up a lot of my recent thoughts and feelings:

catastraspie: My own neurodiversity fills me with wonder and excitement – does yours?

The second talked about being queer in both senses of the word and touched on the intersection and correlation of LGBT people on the spectrum:

Wrong Planet: A Rather Queer Year

This got me thinking about which are my favourite articles about the Autistic Spectrum and Asperger's Syndrome that best explain my experiences.

First of all Tony Attwood's Complete Guide To Asperger's Syndrome book was extremely helpful to me in brushing aside the stereotypes and talking about the wide diversity of ways that the traits can manifest depending on someone's personality, life experiences and coping strategies. However that's a bit long, so here's Tony talking about a number of different subjects from the book in a radio interview:

ABC Conversations: Tony Attwood February 2012

Next I remembered an article on the BBC News website I read a few years ago that helped me to see the difference between being on the Autistic Spectrum and having dyspraxia or NVLD. It essentially says that people on the spectrum use the same part of the brain to explain their own feelings as neurotypical people use only for others:

People with autism 'have problem with self-awareness'

I understand myself through intense observation rather than inherently knowing things so this rang very true to me. I also realised through reading other people's experiences that I couldn't explain how many emotions felt without explaining how they affect my body. Here's a personal experience post about that:

Post Cards From the Edge of the Spectrum: Asperger's and Emotions

In fact thinking of myself in terms of being on the spectrum immediately gave me access to things that explained some of the more chaotic aspects of my daily life and what I have to do to compensate for that. For example here's catastaspie again explaining the concept of prospective memory:

catastraspie: Context and the Non-transference of Behavioural Routines

As well as catastraspie's brilliant blog (all the articles are good!) my other favourite is The Third Glance which is written by a PhD student and talks a lot about the sensory aspects of being on the spectrum. This article was useful in helping me to realise how my reaction to senses is often quite mixed up, like I'll want to wrap myself in a duvet and block my eyes when I'm too hot:

The Third Glance: Processing a Sensory Overload

There are lots of other brilliant blogs and lots of other things I'd like to explain that I can't find the perfect article for (maybe I'll have to write my own!) but I think I'll finish with a good overview article intended to be a primer to people asking the obvious question:

Aspienaut: What is Asperger's? A Long Answer To A Short Question

Update: Oh and as someone who was obsessed with Doctor Who as a kid (although mainly the books), I found this article particularly awesome:

Pea Pilly Bean: The Lessons Doctor Who Is Teaching My ASD Kid

Officially on the Spectrum

I spent this morning at Highbury Hospital where two specialists spent four and a half hours giving me intensive diagnostic assessments. This was following a detailed screening interview with a different specialist in June.

I was worried that the results would be ambiguous and there'd be weeks more to wait before I got an answer (as this delay is apparently quite common), but thankfully both the specialists thought my traits were clear enough that they could happily give me a definitive, conclusive and unambiguous diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome (a type of 'high functioning' autism).

Why, how and what's next...Collapse )

I already announced this news on Twitter and got some positive reactions from other people on the autistic spectrum and some very tentative reactions from others, so I just want to be clear that this is a hugely positive thing for me. I've been obsessed with understanding what was different about me for twenty years, since my first year of secondary school, so it's wonderful to finally know for certain that this is the answer!
I'm just back from seeing the National Theatre Live version of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time projected at my local arts cinema. I very greatly enjoyed the play. It's an exceptionally well done adaptation, as innovative as the reviews said and seeing it filmed and projected in my local arts cinema didn't detract (although I'd love to see it performed in person).

What follows is a semi-spoilery review, I'm mostly talking about the adaptation and the staging rather than the story which is close to the original novel...Collapse )


BiCon travel

This is a bit of a long shot but my lift home from BiCon has likely fallen through due to illness and I have too much luggage to easily take the train. Is anyone driving home via Nottingham on Monday able to spare space in their car for me and my luggage or possibly just some of my luggage? I can contribute towards travel costs.

Update: Panic over! I now have a lift arranged for both me and my luggage at Monday lunchtime. Thanks to everyone who offered help! :)


Graduating the Gender Clinic

I saw the gender clinic for my surgery follow up today. That's going to be the last time I should ever need to see them!

After getting blocked by Canterbury PCT in 2002 and having started out in 1999, it feels good to have finally successfully got everything I needed out of the system. I was extremely nervous and felt very vulnerable when I submitted myself to Nottingham Gender Clinic as nonbinary in 2009, but my psych was friendly and cooperative, understanding and helpful right up to the last moment. I'm regretting not asking for a parting hug rather than a handshake! :)

It felt so good to have seen a gender psych for the last time that I celebrated with ice cream :D

Take N+1 on managing housework

If you're following me on Twitter, I think it's becoming increasingly clear that I have some problems with 'executive function'-like things, such as managing to do the housework! I've been coming up with new schemes and plans to make sure the washing up gets done for as long as I've had a sink of my own, and yet I'm still failing to manage to keep to them for more than a couple of days!

As such I'm now giving up on the idea of washing up every day! In fact I'm giving up on ever managing to do the washing up any more frequently than what I've been consistently managing regardless of what I actually intend - about once a week. What I'm now trying to do is develop good habits that stop the kitchen from becoming a depressing health hazard in the times between washing up sessions!

My last attempt at this was attempting to develop a habit (ie, do it every day for a month), but the habit failed because it was far too ambitious for me to do on days like this when I've worked almost 10 hours with only two hours of not very restful noisy sociable lunch break and 30 minutes of non-work, non-social time! On days like this it's an achievement when I manage to eat a meal (at 10pm, whoops!), washing up as well is never going to happen!

The new super simple habits I'm aiming to develop are to once a day:

  1. Rinse all the dishes from that day and pile them neatly
  2. Throw away any piles of rubbish (like tea bags) that have developed because I don't like to touch the bin (I REALLY need a different type of bin)
  3. Pour away any water used for soaking things that wouldn't rinse

I think (hope!) that even I can manage those!

Doing that should make doing the dishes far less daunting and disgusting when I actually do have the time and energy to do them properly (all in one go, usually on Sunday).

Rinsing is a big portion of the work in doing the washing up for real, so this should give me a head start and may naturally lead to me doing small amounts of washing up mid-week. I'll also have a considerably more empty sink and should never have to deal with the job of tipping away a bowl full of pond water and rinsing the stinky residue off of all of the dishes (yes, yes, I have a problem).

...although by blogging about it, I have now probably doomed it to failure! :)

Surgery recovery continues

Two weeks since surgery and visible bruising has gone completely, swelling is much reduced and the dissolvable stitches are starting to work their way out. It's more accurate to talk about 'scar tissue' rather than 'stitches' now. Right now I'm only on ibuprofen with paracetamol reserved from break out pain (usually when I've done something unwise).

Walking any distance becomes painful, I still can't sleep on my side or front, and I still can't sit upright in a chair for long periods (it gets uncomfortable after about an hour), especially if I have to lean forward. But things are getting noticeably better every day or two. I'll be going back to work on Monday.

I'm very happy to have apparently avoided all the possible complications I was told to expect! :)

Surgery recovery

One week ago, I was just being discharged from the hospital after my surgery, and now I'm managing to sit comfortably in a chair! Admittedly the chair becomes increasingly uncomfortable over 15 to 20 minutes, but this is a massive improvement on a couple of days ago.

Everything went perfectly to plan during the operation and so far during recovery. I've had none of the possible complications. The pain was absolutely ...abdominal for the first few days, but that was to be expected!

It's still mostly a case of lying down with my feet raised but I'm now able to sit for short periods and walk around the flat without wincing and walking like a skitsy crab. It really only hurts when I'm getting in and out of chairs and the bath now (or when I'm poking my stitches and abdominals).

I'm off the strongest addictive painkillers and down to only Ibuprofen and Paracetamol as of yesterday. This has helped my digestive system and made me considerably more comfortable as a result.

My mum's gone home now and I'm happily fending for myself after proving myself able to get in and out of the bath without assistance as of Tuesday. It's really good not to feel reliant on someone else for everything, I think I found that the most difficult part last week, worse than the pain.

Healing seems to be on schedule; my wounds aren't oozing any blood at all now and the dressings are only providing padding at this point - no more daily salty baths! Back to using all the soaps! My stitches look very neat and regular, although there's still quite a lot of bruising and swelling around them, both are visibly improving every day. The stitches have been feeling itchy and kind of spiky recently, so I'm wondering how quickly I can expect them to start to dissolve and how long they usually take to have dissolved completely.

I have another week and a half off work to recover. I get the impression that by this time next week I'll be feeling like I'm having an extended holiday, with a mandatory ban on exercising. I'm not supposed to do any heavy lifting for a few weeks after surgery, so I guess I'll be having my groceries delivered for a while...

Thanks again for everyone's messages of support last week, they really meant a lot! Now I'm heading back to my busy schedule of lying down watching endless episodes of Stargate Atlantis, Fringe and Doctor Who! ;)

My Nonbinary Introduction

I just wrote a variation of the following for a closed Facebook group, then decided it's a shame it wasn't public...

I'm Nat and I live in Nottingham, UK. I run http://PracticalAndrogyny.com/ and http://Nonbinary.org/ - I've been openly nonbinary and genderqueer since 2001 and involved in online genderqueer communities for a year or two before that, but I've recently ramped up my visibility by putting my face and legal name against my nonbinary visibility and education activism.

As for my gender, "it's complicated", but if pushed I tell people I'm gender neutral, which is my pronoun preference too, and tell people that I'm a person, not a gender. I don't attempt to 'pass' as anything but in practice I seem to be either highly androgynous or assumed to be a teenage boy, despite being 32. I'm interested in creating resources about the practical side of being 'ambiguous' to the gender binary.

I have a transsexual medical history, passing through the private system in the late 1990s. Despite having legally detransitioned in 2004 in protest over the Gender Recognition Act not recognising my gender (and for other practical reasons), I've just had the experience of successfully getting a change of meds and a transgender surgery funded by the local NHS Gender Clinic (my surgery's actually coming up on Thursday) while being completely open about my nonbinary gender. I'm interested in advocating for others who're trying to access transgender healthcare (of any kind) and I have my hands on those 'incriminating' G3 Gender Clinic group minutes you may have read about.

I'm heavily involved in my local mixed trans* group here in Nottingham, one of three nonbinary people on the committee and several nonbinary, genderqueer and gender nonconforming members. We run weekly meetings in the city centre, we have a 'Trans Zone' at this year's Pride and we're currently trying to overturn the decision of Nottingham PCT to 'red list' all gender dysphoria medications.

I believe in keeping transgender spaces welcoming to ALL people who transgress or transcend society's concepts of gender. A lot of my activism is focused on making sure other trans activists remember nonbinary people exist and that we don't all follow the same neat narratives of 'passing', 'transition' or even gender dysphoria. I recently advised META Magazine on nonbinary and genderqueer inclusivity and I'm happy with the results.

And now I should go pack my bag ready for that surgery...

Avoiding the CLEAN ALL THE THINGS cycle

My plan to trick myself into being a functional adult without going through the doomed hyperactive 'CLEAN ALL THE THINGS' stage seems to be working.

The trick is currently not to let myself get distracted from cleaning up after things. No excuses, I clean up immediately. This means pausing the TV and getting up and doing the washing up in *gasp* the middle of an episode (I KNOW RIGHT?).

So starting this wasn't too daunting, I let myself off doing the epic pile of dirty recycling in one go and I'm soaking some of it with the left over washing up water every time. I'm down to only a small pile now.

The reward after cleaning the things is to go back to the TV show/website/Twitter conversation etc I stopped halfway in the middle of. Having a reward is important.

So far this is working, I'm even cleaning more things than just the dishes. I finish the washing up and go 'hmm this thing is also dirty, might as well clean that'. I am giving myself the habit of tidying up after myself, like a grown up or vaguely well trained child does!

This strategy took me until I was 32 year old to work out :)

...although it's not been a week yet, so I guess we'll he how long I take to burn out with it ramped down to 'clean SOME of the things'...

Duple Time: Friday part one

This weekend I'm at the 24th annual UK Filk Convention, Duple Time in Grantham. I've written before about why I love filk music and the filk community so much, so let's take it as said that I've been looking forward to this. (I'm writing this on my phone so expect more links to be added later).

I was sensible enough to book a half day off today, so just for once I was all registered and in my hotel room an hour before the opening ceremony! I had a 30 minute set in the second slot at 8pm and managed to do a full sing through in my room before heading down to the con floor and saying hello to everyone.

The opening ceremony was a little bittersweet as our con coordinator Keris sadly died in a car crash in November, but we agreed that the con is a tribute to him and very much what he'd have wanted. Brenda has created an Absent Friends chair cover that means Keris will always have a seat at the convention, which seemed very apt, especially as it's sat behind the tech desk this con... UK guest of honour Lissa then cheered us all up by providing everyone at the con with a kazoo ...this made the sound check for the first set somewhat 'interesting'...

Valerie's Pick 'n Mix was the first set with some great songs including a rousing sing along to Following In Valentina's Footsteps, but I confess I mainly had my mind on my own rapidly approaching set.

When my turn came, I got off on the wrong foot by managing to start Second-Hand Songs in the wrong key and got thrown off by being able to hear my voice over the speakers. So not the strongest start ever, but that just made my second song sound amazing in comparison ;)

Next I sang Stacy's amazing Concrete Wilderness, which is Talis Kimberley's apocalyptic Worlds End but told from the perspective of a city dweller. This is a song I genuinely tried to write myself before reading Stacy's far superior version of the same idea. I hope I did it justice with my sincere Tracy Chapman-esque 'urban soul' performance.

Next I performed a revamped version of The Changes, which was in fact revamped late night on Thursday - mainly removing some repetitive lyrics, adding a bridge and putting in a gratuitous key change :D ...this did mean I felt a little unsure with my performance....

Then Breaking Out Is Hard To Do, an extremely fun to sing rendition of Boom Shadow (to the tune of Cat Stevens Moonshadow), a (slightly strained) cover of Paper Worlds by Talis and finally an enthusiastic performance of Singularly, my fun Billy Bragg Sexuality filk. All in all it was a good set with only a couple of minor lyrics slip ups. I wish I could've weaned myself of the lyric sheets given I know the words perfectly to all but two of the songs. I also need to learn what to do with ny hands...

I've had some lovely comments about my voice having an 'almost gospel' quality for one song and being 'chameleonic' with male and female qualities changing between songs.

I still have to do the androgynous vocal techniques workshop I'm running in the morning and then I can enjoy the rest of the con without worrying about straining my voice!

In fact it's late and I'm tired, so I'll finish this tomorrow in the hope I actually manage some sleep before my workshop tomorrow...

Clothes that fit

Last week I went to a formal ball. It was an LGBT Pride formal ball, so allowed some degree of alternative gender expression, but the dress code was still 'cocktail dress or suit and tie'. As you may be able to imagine, shopping for this made me somewhat gender dysphoric as my gender expression is usually firmly casual and in the overlap between clothing genders (think t-shirts, jeans and hoodies). Nonetheless I was determined to go and actually enjoy dressing formal and knowing that there would be queer women there dressed in suits helped me to be comfortable with the idea that I was still dressing in the overlap (especially once I'd applied eye makeup and nail varnish to bridge the void between suits and dresses a little further).

In order to defeat gendered space related anxiety, I went shopping with [personal profile] forthwritten, a nonbinary friend going to the same ball. We managed to turn anxiety inducing gendered shopping into a transgressive genderqueer jape as we raided every department in the shop. I can heartily recommend clothes shopping with a trans* buddy, it makes shop assistants arbitrarily (mis)gendering you a two-against-one situation :)

Trying to buy me a suit in the M&S mens section was an interesting experience. When measured, my neck size was 14", while their smallest suits were for 16" collar and cut assuming bulky shoulders and arms (despite being 'slim fit'). There was no way I was going to pay £99 for something that looked boxy and ill fitting on me. Meanwhile their 14.5" 'slim fit' shirts fit my top half reasonably well but were pretty tight around my waist and hips.

But while we were browsing the boys section finding [personal profile] forthwritten a rather dapper suit cut for '11 years', I couldn't help noticing that an awful lot of the clothes we were looking at (and sniggering at - M&S seem to be helping you dress your children as mini hipsters or baby lesbians) appeared to be in my size. Now I'm 5 foot 10 (178cm), weigh 10 stone 2 (about 64kg, 142lbs) and have a 31.5" waist (80cm), so I have never even vaguely considered going to look in the children's section for clothes, but this stuff looked like it was just my style and just my size. So I was tempted to try it on... And lo and behold some '13-14 years boys' jumpers from Marks and Spenser's fit me impressively well. If anything they were fitting me better than any clothes usually do.

In the end I supplemented mens shirt and trousers with a '13 year old boys' suit jacket that was slightly too tight on the chest to do up and slightly too short in the sleeves, but fit my shoulders perfectly, sat on me very well when open (albeit making me look like a hipster) and looked great combined with the 14.5" collar slim fit mens shirt I'd bought with the cuffs sticking out below the jacket sleeves (the 13-14 year old boys shirt fit me perfectly in collar, shoulders and chest but was also too short in sleeves). Having looked online, the same jacket is available one size larger on the M&S website (14 years), but I was shopping 2 days before the event so didn't have the option of that. I also ended up buying two of those impressively well fitting '13-14 years' jumpers in different colours.

So this was quite the revelation for me, that I could not only shop in the mens and women's sections of the shop but also in the children's section too, despite being quite a lot taller than a child and having a 20.5 'ideal' BMI. It's got me to thinking about why that is... Mainly it's because I have an unusual androgynous/transgender body shape. I have pretty much no muscle mass (in fact I have hypotonic muscles due to dyspraxia), a pretty much flat chest and body fat that goes on my waist and hips long long before it gets anywhere near my chest, arms and shoulders. Having gone home and measured based on size charts, my chest is 34.5" measured under the arms, my bust is 35" (yes, not much difference), my neck is 14", my waist is 31.5", my hips (aka 'seat') are 35.5" and my inside leg is 32" (I'm using imperial measures here because the clothes sizes do too). I *think* my sleeves should be about 32 to 33" from back of the neck to wrist (as suit/shirt size guides seem to go) although this is difficult to measure on yourself, about 20" armpit to wrist.

Sizing table mainly for my own information...Collapse )
So it's really no surprise that I keep finding mens tops I buy bag up around my armpits or neck, or fit lopsidedly on my shoulders. Or that when I buy size XS or S (depending on the shop) t-shirts from 'young fashion' outlets like H&M or Topman, that are cut to fit my shoulders well, they tend to be tight around the hips and waist and so somehow manage to make me look like I have a potbelly even though I'm happily in the middle of BMI ideal (and frankly even when I was underweight they weren't very flattering for my fat distribution). Meanwhile women's tops assume that I have rather more of a bust than I do or have annoyingly short sleeves despite fitting my shoulders well.

Which leaves me in the odd situation of discovering that boys clothes from some shops that are designed for 34" chest 13 to 14 year olds fit my shoulders and arms really well, are cut to assume a relatively flat chest but seem to leave a lot more bagginess around the waist than mens clothes with that chest size do. Essentially boys clothes cut for my shoulders expect you to be a little bit chubby around the waist but have no muscle mass on your shoulders and arms, while mens clothes cut for my shoulders or neck expect you to be rake thin or have muscles you want to be showing off (which I *really* don't). As a friend said, "I've been enjoying shopping in the boys department since they started making 11 year olds in my size".

So ultimately this proves that everyone's body shapes are different, transgender people doubly so! It also means I'm more aware of my actual measurements, so I can approach shopping knowing my actual sizes (especially as each chain store has a sizing guide on their website), and I now have yet another department I can look in for clothes that suit my style and body shape, so more choice! ...and I could be saving a fortune in VAT ;)
It's making me sad to post this because I'm sure Keris would've responded, my thoughts are with everyone at his funeral today...

Inspired by hearing Charlie Brooker on BBC 6Music this morning talking about Black Mirror and how it was inspired by things like Year Of The Sex Olympics, I've decided to ask for recommendations for other classic TV science fiction to track down online or on DVD.

Here are the sorts of things I like:

The Tomorrow People
Doctor Who
The Changes
Chocky (+Children +Challenge)
The Tripods
Day of the Triffids
Dark Season (and to a lesser extent Century Falls)
The Girl From Tomorrow
Sapphire and Steel
The Last Train
Blake's 7
Star Trek TOS onwards
Year of the Sex Olympics (1968)
The 1954 BBC Peter Cushing adaptation of Orwell's 1984
Anthology science fiction series (Masters of Science Fiction, Outer Limits, Twilight Zone etc)

Obviously I also like modern and 1990s stuff, I'm a big Babylon 5, Farscape, Quantum Leap, Sliders, Star Trek, Stargate and Misfits fan!

I particularly like psionics, kids TV science fiction and parallel universes, if that helps you narrow things down. Oh and post apocalypse (yes, I've seen The Tribe). Particular episodes of anthology series that fit these themes would be very welcome.

I'm not very into campy B Movie stuff, so haven't listed much classic American TV sci-fi although I have watched a lot of it and Lost In Space, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants etc.

If it's children's TV science fiction I'm interested even if it's pretty dodgy, I recently watched the 1971 Look And Read serial The Boy From Space for example!

Good recommendations already received from Twitter:

1965 to 1971 BBC anthology series Out of the Unknown
The early 1980s Dominick Hyde time travel Play For Todays
Nigel Kneale's 1971 teleplay The Stone Tape
Nigel Kneale's 1976 Beasts anthology series

Any more recommendations in this vein? :)
I'm in the process of setting up an international nonbinary (and genderqueer/gender nonconforming) visibility, education and advocacy network, designed to highlight, signal boost, encourage and pool the resources and visibility efforts of activists across the web.

The website (with wiki, case studies, FAQ, forums etc) isn't ready yet, but the social media outlets are up and running on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. Would you all mind looking at them, liking/following them and giving them a signal boost if you like what you see?


This is going to be a long term project and the major focus of my activism work from now on. I've been talking with other activists and we're planning several resources, projects and campaigns. Including an initial focus on general visibility and a campaign about equal access to transgender medical care and services.

I want this to become a properly self sustaining community-based network, so it's going to launch with a wiki and forums and ask for case studies and contributions from the start. It's also not trying to re-invent the wheel at all, there's loads of writing and activism out there that can be highlighted. I was involved in setting up the modern positive asexuality movement (wrote the asexuality.org FAQ and ran the forums for a while back in 2002/03) and that gained momentum pretty quickly, ultimately having moderator elections and the like within a couple of years, so I'm hopeful that the success there is repeatable.

Right now I'm stressing about setting up the website and making sure the technology and structural decisions I make are right, so I'm wondering if you guys could give me some feedback on how to host the group blog. Should I set it up to use Wordpress (hosted on my own server, as with Practical Androgyny) or Tumblr?

Tumblr has a big nonbinary, trans* and genderqueer scene, lots of engagement but relatively poor accessibility. Of all outlets I use, I always seem to get the most responses and thought-provoking debate on Tumblr, but I find the reblogging model of commenting difficult to follow and end up clicking through 'Notes' to dozens of different pages, each with their own differently laid out theme/layout/colour scheme.

Wordpress has features like Most Read, Most Commented, tag clouds, searchable archives, threaded comments, better homepage integration for the planned 'community portal' feel, but it wouldn't come with an existing active nonbinary/genderqueer/trans* 'scene' like Tumblr has.

So what's your opinion? Whichever we opt for, the Nonbinary Tumblr will be active and highlighting non-blog content like wiki pages, case studies, resources and forum discussions.

Update: I wrote this explanation of how Tumblr works after I was asked for more information in one of the many places I posed this question:

Tumblr is kind of a 'miniblogging' service, designed to fit between 140 character microblogging like Twitter and full on blogging like on LJ or Wordpress. Every member has a personal blog on there, but the system is designed to make it very easy for people to share and add to other people's posts.

If you like (or dislike!) someone's post, you can click 'reblog' and then quote it on your own blog (with links/attributes back) and add your own thoughts.

This means that it has a lot of active members who quickly share and debate content, but the discussion tends to escape from your original post and into a long threaded discussion across dozens of different blog pages very quickly. Kind of like following a mailing list discussion but with the added complexity that the layout, text style and colours are different on every message...

Try following the full discussion across the 146 'notes' (likes and reblogs) on this, for example: http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/post/12457351441/the-nonbinary-vs-genderqueer-quandary

I also clarified how things would work if I opted to primarily use Wordpress:

The group blog wouldn't be 'on' Wordpress or require a Wordpress account, it'd be on hosted on Nonbinary.org and likely using Disqus for comment entry and management (which allows multiple types of login including Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, OpenID, anonymous etc).

Whatever happened, I was planning to post summaries of every post (along with notable forum discussions and wiki pages) over on http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/

This is all really a question of whether the group blog contributors will have to get logins for Nonbinary.org's Wordpress install or whether they can just use Tumblr to make their contributions (of course some may not be on Tumblr and would be forced to sign up there in order to take part).

On baby steps in trans* representation

I've now seen several people I trust say positive things about 'My Transsexual Summer', a new series due to air on Channel 4 this evening and premiered in London yesterday.

I'm tentatively expecting it to be positive overall and a genuine change in the way trans* experiences are depicted on television, but the original press releases from Channel 4 had me feeling pretty nervous that it was going to conflate 'transsexual', 'transgender' and 'trans' as one thing and present that as the process of transitioning between binary genders.

Apparently it's an 'in their own words' part reality show format with group discussions, so whether nonbinary or genderqueer people get a look in may be down to what the people Channel 4 selected to represent the trans* community say.

I think I'd feel a little more confident about Channel 4's commitment to representation if their pre-publicity gave the impression that they included any minority trans* experiences.

Looking at the list of seven participants, only one of whom is over 30, all of whom appear to be white (although I'm told one has taken exception to that description) and able bodied, binary identified, transitioned or planning to transition, I can't say I'm seeing a full reflection of the trans* communities I'm a member of...

Maybe I'm expecting too much from a TV show, given that just having trans men and trans women featured together, on equal terms and in their own words is frankly a major breakthrough.

Maybe the producers decided that including all that 'complicated' stuff like intersectual experiences and nonbinary identities would just confuse the viewing public? (Seems to be the number one excuse for erasing me ...that and 'correct grammar').

And maybe I should watch the actual programme and view these people in their own words before I comment, it's not like I don't know enough people whose stories were 'simplified' by the press...

Update: I'm informed that one of the newspaper reviews says a participant on My Transsexual Summer is transitioning to 'a happy place inbetween'. If that's true then the pre-publicity really is guilty of conflating different trans* experiences into one! But I'll be watching with great interest to see!

Update 2: My reading comprehension skills clearly weren't up to much when I read all those profiles this morning: It says 'a happy place inbetween' at the bottom of Donna's profile. Remember, tune in to Channel 4 at 10pm to see how each of the participants self-describes!

Update 3: Judging from the first episode, Donna's 'inbetween' comment seems to be euphemistically talking about how firmly happy she is with her body with no wish for surgery (and how brilliant to see that view represented on TV!). It wasn't clear whether she also identifies outside of the binary in some way, and I consider it a failure of the programme makers for not making that clearer. Here's hoping there'll be more discussion of this in later episodes.

I've since spotted that one of the contestants describes himself on Twitter as 'two-spirited' and feels a lot of what he said about himself on film hasn't been shown. If the programme makers really have simplified a participant's self-described gender identity to make it 'easier to understand', I'll be very disappointed, but I'll reserve judgement until we've seen more episodes.

I've also seen another participant blogging about people complaining about stereotypical depictions in the show and left a comment there saying that the critique is very much placed on the producers for not having more diversity represented in the people they selected for the show (and in their editing). The stories of the participants featured are all positive and valuable and should be celebrated by 'the community'.

I'm sure a blog post will be written for Nonbinary.org in time for the site's launch :)

Filk song: The Changes

Update 2013-04-30: For the 40th anniversary of The Tomorrow People, I re-recorded the vocal to reflect the newer lyrics I wrote based on feedback from Talis and others in the UK Filk community. The song is now slower, makes use of the different vocal qualities my voice is capable of, has a new bridge, a gratuitous key change and a softer ending.

Update 2011-11-02: Now updated with an improved vocal performance (I hadn't warmed up and only did one take yesterday).

Inspired by listening to Talis Kimberley on BBC iPlayer this morning, I wrote and recorded a new song over my (extended!) lunch break.

It's about classic British children's television science fiction and the experience of being a queer teenager. Listen for free here:


Lyrics for The Changes below...Collapse )
Big thank you Talis for inspiring the folk protest song style I'm using here (and probably the tune, I not usually very original with that sort of thing).

You also may be interested in a video I made for PracticalAndrogyny.com about vocal androgyny, where I sneakily included some filk music:

Practical Androgyny - Vocal androgyny in speech and singing

I'd be interested to hear your feedback!
I wrote an article appraising and critiquing this year's IoS Pink List, suggesting constructive responses and looking at how some of the eleven (binary, transitioned) trans* people included for the first time this year have inspired and represented me as a nonbinary, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, queer-identified, atypically transitioning, andrognynously presenting trans* person. Here are some extracts:
This stuff is important. I had an ‘inspiration board’ on the wall of my teenage bedroom, full of printed out song lyrics, pictures and newspaper clippings that kept me going through my last couple of years as a closeted queer teenager at a rural comprehensive school (1996 to 98). My board included people like teenage Age Of Consent campaigners Chris Morris (who was the same age as me) and Euan Sutherland, and famous performers like Ellen Degeneres, Wilson Cruz, Brian Molko, David McAlmont, Ani DiFranco, Michael Stipe and Skin from Skunk Anansie. Being surrounded by images of successful queer and gender nonconforming people and listening to their music made me feel like less of a freak and gave me hope for the future.
As a community, we need visible inspirational ‘heroes’ to look up to. Some people survive, get through it and are inspired to succeed and perhaps become activists themselves due to newspaper articles just like this one. It is possible to critique the form of an award and the nature of the organisation that issued it while still seeing it as important and valuable. As little as I believe in the honours system and the monarchy, I still found it incredibly significant and inspiring when the establishment recognised the work of trans* activist Christine Burns by issuing her with an MBE in 2004 and Stephen Whittle by issuing him with an OBE in 2005.
I see these lists and the tendency to single out certain prominent famous and notable people for recognition and awards as only problematic in isolation. If we let this be the only way that trans*, queer and LGBT people are celebrated in our communities, then yes, it is problematic. If we let this start a conversation about who else should be recognised and celebrated, the hard work that so many others do in our communities and all the different ways people make a difference, then it becomes just one of many ways that the deserving, inspiring people in our communities receive thanks.
When Dan Savage started the It Gets Better campaign, I was among the critics who found it deeply problematic. But it started a conversation that prompted complementary and constructive campaigns that focused on helping young people to Make It Better, and inspired many other It Gets Better videos that weren’t problematic in the ways that Savage’s had been. There are now some amazing trans* and queer It Gets Better videos out there and no end of testimonials from people saying how seeing them has helped them in the way my inspiration board helped me.
And let’s not forget that we do have eleven openly trans* people and several more trans* allies recognised within the Pink List article. Forget the numbering and the different categories and focus on the recognition these people have been rightfully given. As I said above, I want to see more trans* people included, more trans men, more trans* people assigned female at birth, more nonbinary, openly genderqueer and solely gender nonconforming people, and I want us to work towards getting those people into next year’s list and given recognition through our own community efforts, independent of The Independent. But let’s not play down the hugely important work those who are listed have done to represent, inspire and improve the lives of all trans* people.
Travel writer Jan Morris whose groundbreaking 1974 memoir Conundrum and its journey through her transition (most notably chapter 12) was my first exposure to the reality that it was possible for me to become androgynous, it wasn’t just something that some people were naturally gifted with that I could never achieve. I cannot overstate how important this was to me and how much hope and inspiration it gave me as a dysphoric nonbinary person trying to find comfort with my body and social role.
Sarah Brown, Britain’s only openly transgender activist serving in an elected political position; a Liberal Democrat Cambridge City Councillor, and chair of the Lib Dem Transgender Working Group. Sarah was instrumental (along with Zoe O’Connell) in influencing Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert to raise the issue of gender neutral documentation such as passports in the House of Commons. Something that will be vitally important to many nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender and gender nonconforming people in this country (including myself).

Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence, an organisation that does hugely important creative work with young transgender and genderqueer people and is explicitly inclusive of the wider transgender spectrum. Jay organised the wonderfully positive and inclusive Trans Community Conference, that I was lucky enough to attend this year, and was previously the chair of FTM London, an AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans* support and social group known for being inclusive of all identities and expressions within the wider transgender spectrum. I have briefly spoken with Jay and seen him speak from stage and on video. He comes across as someone who comfortably challenges stereotypical assumptions that all trans men are hyper-masculine. Read him here encouraging readers of the Times Educational Supplement to celebrate transgender students and allow male assigned students to express femininity in their schools.

Journalist Juliet Jacques (in the ‘Nice to meet you’ section) whose blogging for The Guardian has talked frankly about the process of coming to terms with being a trans woman and undergoing transition in a very public and visible way that has exposed the human story behind trans* people’s lives to a whole new audience. In her earlier articles, Juliet talks about how she did not have the stereotypical transsexual childhood story (in a way I hugely identified with), and tried on and explored numerous transgender identities and communities before transitioning. She writes about having been drawn to male crossdressers, made to feel less alone by the comedy of ‘action transvestite’ Eddy Izzard and going through years of identifying as a gay male crossdresser and later ‘transgender’ as described by Leslie Feinberg and Kate Bornstein. As such she is one of the few journalists to have written about transgender people who ‘live beyond the traditional gender binary’ in a mainstream outlet.


So while I am not aware of any nonbinary, genderqueer-identified or solely gender nonconforming trans* people recognised on the Pink List this year, every one of the trans* people listed above has either worked for their rights and/or recognition in some way, or challenged binary gender roles and the public’s stereotypical view of transgender people through their openness, their humour or their own gender nonconformity. I don’t know about you but, as a genderqueer and nonbinary person, I think that’s worth celebrating.

Read the entire article at PracticalAndrogyny.com
Today is the last day for responses to the UK Government's 3rd survey of transgender people (which explicitly includes 'androgynous', 'non-gender' and 'genderqueer' options in the demographics section). This survey follows up on responses from the first two surveys by focusing on issues of employment, identity and privacy. If you're in the UK and identify as trans*, genderqueer, non-binary or gender variant please complete the survey (sorry for the late notice!).

Below is a sample of my responses to the survey as a non-binary trans person (some responses have been reworded to protect my privacy):

What barriers or challenges do you think exist in employment?

As a non-binary trans person (identifying and neither female nor male) my protection from discrimination under the Equality Act is ambiguous, I may not be protected at all due to the 'gender reassignment' wording. My neutral/androgynous gender identity is not recognised under the law so it is questionable whether I can be said to have undergone 'gender reassignment' even though I am treated by a gender clinic and have undergone medical treatments for my gender dysphoria.

It is difficult to educate employers on my legal protections when the wording of the act heavily implies that I may not be protected at all.

What do you think Government can do to help trans employees tackle workplace discrimination?

Clarify the ambiguous position of non-binary trans people.

Does expressing our gender identities constitute 'gender reassignment'? Can 'gender reassignment' protections apply when the law does not recognise our genders as existing or valid?

Are we protected should we ask for gender neutral language to be used in reference to us rather than gendered words such as 'man', 'woman', 'Mr', 'Ms', 'he' and 'she'?

If we undergo hormone treatments or have surgeries to treat the gender dysphoria arising from our non-binary genders, does this fall under the 'gender reassignment' protections even though we do not identify as an 'opposite sex' or gender?

Are we exempt from gender-specific dress code requirements such as short hair and ties for those with male 'legal genders' and makeup and skirts for those with female 'legal genders'?

What do you think employers can do to help tackle workplace discrimination?

Recognise all gender identities and expressions. Offer gender neutral facilities and language for those who require them. Offer a gender neutral dress code for those who are not comfortable with firmly female or male presentation

What can the following do in helping you to find employment?

Government: Recognise non-binary genders not just female and male, recognise the unique challenges faced by non-binary trans people.

Employers: Be aware of non-binary genders and those who live outside of the gender binary. Do not require a binary gender on job application forms/websites. Do not insist on using gendered titles such as Mr/Ms. Do not use gendered job titles such as 'Dinner Lady' or 'Postman'.

In response to the problem you identified, what do you think the following can do to address these challenges?

Government: Explicitly recognise and protect non-binary trans people, perhaps by wording the law as protecting 'gender identity and expression' rather than 'gender reassignment'

Employers: Provide gender neutral facilities wherever possible

Are there any other workplace issues you want to raise?

Use of gendered language such as 'man', 'woman', 'Mr', 'Ms', 'he' and 'she'. Gendered dress code etc. Employers should allow gender neutral options wherever feasible.

What do you think Government can do better to protect your privacy?

Explicitly class gender as private information that it is not reasonable to ask for when providing goods and services (Data Protection Act should apply).

Do you consider your current identity secure from disclosure?

No. Numerous services require a binary gender (female/male) or a gendered title/honorific (Mr/Ms etc) to be specified as required fields. As such I am misgendered or outed as transgender when ordering shopping, using my bank, registering for a library card etc. This is a particular problem where others complete my form for me or where computer form validation enforces entry of binary gender identifiers.

What can be done by Government to help you successfully live in your current identity?

Explicitly class gender as private information that it is not reasonable to ask for when providing goods and services (Data Protection Act should apply). Explicitly recognise and protect non-binary trans people, perhaps by wording the law as protecting 'gender identity and expression' rather than 'gender reassignment'.

Are there any other issues concerning your privacy and/or identity you want to raise?

The government does not recognise my non-binary gender identity. Only binary (female/male) options are provided on birth certificates and passports. As such I am discriminated against by the government and denied Gender Recognition afforded to other trans people.

I consider the sex I was assigned at birth to be deeply personal information that is only relevant to a handful of medical professionals and my partner. However the law and common practice currently force me to disclose this in a wide variety of situations. Doing so causes me gender dysphoria, misgenders me and outs me as transgender in a way that binary trans people are able to avoid due to the Gender Recognition Act.

Please extend gender recognition protections to all trans people, not just those with binary identities. Please also help to establish that gender (even 'legal gender') is deeply personal information for many people and it should not be reasonable under the Data Protection Act to require its disclosure when ordering groceries online or signing up for local services.

Google+ privacy for trans* people

If any of you have any influence with Google's privacy policy or know anyone who does, people pass this commentary about trans* privacy on to them.

It's a good start but Google can do better: How Google+ could improve the safety of trans* people

* The asterisk at the end of ‘trans*’ denotes that this is the wider inclusive form of trans that includes all transgender, genderqueer, gender variant and gender non-conforming people regardless of gender identity or expression.

My relationship with activism

Activism and being an activist are important to me but I have a long, mixed and largely ineffective relationship with activism.

When I first became chronically ill in my early 20s, was running both my university's LGBT society and the 'Gayline' once weekly overnight helpline (where I was re-working all the training materials and aiming to get the name changed to something more inclusive). Some part of me still now associates doing too much and taking on too much responsibility with 'making myself ill'.

My energy levels are now so unreliable that I will have weeks (especially in the darker winter months) where I struggle to work my full time job and keep on top of my self care, let alone do anything else. I have other weeks where I'm brimming with energy, enthusiasm and motivation, but I've come to see this as a cycle. I try not to volunteer for things during those periods any more. I especially should not volunteer to run regular in person meetings because in person meetings are the first thing to go when I'm fatigued.

I've come to see my activist energy as something finite, I've come to see activist causes and activities as something I have to choose very carefully.

Then there's the 'bad poster child' factor. I didn't become an asexual visibility poster child back when I was 'a founder the asexual movement' (according to a paper I read recently!) because I was also androgynous non-gender and felt that associating asexuality with genderlessness would damage both movements (as both were only just recovering from being linked to a 1980s American chat show guest). Similarly I was asked to consider being the first (if I recall correctly) NUS LGB Trans Officer but (partly) turned that down because I felt a genderqueer person would not be the most appropriate choice to represent all trans people (I don't exactly follow the typical transsexual or even transgender narrative).

And finally there's finding the right type of activism, doing what I feel to be the most important work with my limited and valuable time. I tell people the bi community is my home community where I feel most accepted. I always run workshops at BiCon, I sit on the bi stall at Prides, I'll recommend or defend the bi community to anyone who'll listen, but I have never identified directly as bi. Every time I attend bi activism workshops, or it's suggested that I run a bi group, I can't help but feel that it's not the activism I should be doing. Similarly whenever I've looked into trans activism in the past, it's been focused on binary trans identities, on a type of trans that I'm not. I'm not trans through transition (although I did transition over a decade ago, twice in fact), I'm trans because of my 'end point', because my identity and my appearance are transgressive.

So I've recently been focusing on finding the right type of activism. I'm back on focusing on visibility. I might have been a poor poster child for asexuality but for non-binary gender, a visibly androgynous person who refuses to make concessions to the binary, while getting on with their life without apology, that's a pretty good example. That's a case study for the people who refuse to accomodate non-binary people because "everyone sees them as men or women anyway". That's an example of what's possible for questioning non-binary people who can't feel any hope that what they know they have to be is even possible.

I'm also focusing on practicalities, on presentation, expression and behaviour. Historically the non-binary gender community has tended to focus on identity, on carving out ever more specific identity divisions and celebrating the diversity of our differences. But in our day to day lives, those of us who present ambiguity have more in common than we do different. If we're presenting ourselves to the world as something other than female and male, women and men, it doesn't make much of a difference if that's because we see ourselves in terms of a gender continuum, as non-gender or as something else entirely. We deal with the same reactions from others, we have the same difficulties with gendered spaces, with forms and language, with mandatory gendering.

That's why I started Practical Androgyny, and that's why I'm excited to see other people taking the same focus on practical day to day living for those of us who present our non-binary genders to the world. This is the right path for me, this is activism I can believe in. And I hope it's one that will become a movement, that has its own visibility campaigns and activist weekends. If you want to get involved, please get in touch!

Census meme

As everyone seems to be doing this...

In 1981 I lived in Lincolnshire with my parents, my mum was pregnant with my little brother.

In 1991 I was in my final year of primary school, my parents, my brother and I still lived in the same house but we were soon to start renovating my dad's childhood home where we'd eventually move. This was the year I first became gender dysphoria (during my first year of secondary school).

In 2001 I was living with kimble and rho in a student house in Canterbury. I was in my final year of uni, a year before I became chronically ill. I think we were just about to meet barakta but hadn't yet. I wrote to the census about how I as a non-gender/genderqueer identified trans person with a by then androgynous body should answer the census. On their advice I ticked neither male nor female but was told the census would arbitrarily choose a gender for me in order to 'protect my confidentiality'.

In 2011 I live alone in Nottingham where I work from home. I've just launched a website to help other people who, among other things, have the same problem with how the census words that question: http://practicalandrogyny.com/2011/03/13/united-kingdom-census-2011/

Those ten year gaps sure miss out a lot don't they?


Announcing PracticalAndrogyny.com

Practical Androgyny is a new site I've created devoted to the practicalities of ambiguous gender presentation within a binary gendered society.

The binary gender system classifies all people into either female or male, woman or man. However not everyone fits neatly into these categories. Some people have non-binary gender identities, and so do not feel comfortable when assigned a traditional gender. Whether owing to choice or chance, many of these people are not readily gendered by others. This state of binary gender ambiguity can be described as androgyny.

Practical Androgyny is a resource for both those who are comfortably androgynous but struggle with the pressures of the binary gender system, and for those who are gender dysphoric and wish to explore the possibilities of gender ambiguity. The site does not focus on the details of gender identity but on the practical aspects of living with, or obtaining, an appearance that defies gender classification.

Why ‘Practical Androgyny’?

Most websites and discussion communities about genderqueer and non-binary gender tend to focus on identity. The discussions tend to be mainly theoretical, deconstructing society’s concepts of gender and exploring the diversity of gender identities and expressions possible for those of us that slip through the gaps in the binary gender system. The most commonly asked questions are ‘What is gender?’ or ‘What is my gender?’. These are hugely important questions and it’s a good idea for everyone to be asking them, not just those who feel gender dysphoria or feel out of place in a binary gender system. However for those of us who already asked and answered those questions for ourselves, it’s difficult to find resources about the practicalities of living as something other than female or male.

‘Practical Androgyny’ is also descriptive rather than prescriptive. Resource sites that non-binary identifying people may find useful are often tied to a particular identity, with the assumption that the reader will hold that identity or the implication that you must take on that identity label if you relate to what’s described. Practical Androgyny recognises that gender identity is highly personal and that there can be as many gender identities as there are people. Practical Androgyny recognises that more than just non-binary gendered people will find androgynous living resources useful, and everyone will pick and choose from the resources this site provides. Plenty of genderqueer or non-binary identified people choose to live within the gender binary to some degree and even highly androgynous people need to blend in under some circumstances. These are the sorts of practical choices this site supports. Equally, there are circumstances under which binary identified people may find information on living with gender ambiguity of use. The resources that will be presented on the site are provided with no implication that all genderqueer or non-binary gendered people will find them useful, or that everyone who finds them useful must be transgender, genderqueer or non-binary identified.

What To Expect From The Site

Right now Practical Androgyny is more of a mission statement than a website. I’m planning to gradually post articles about different aspects of androgynous living that will eventually form a comprehensive guide to living outside the gender binary.

In addition to this, I will be keeping a blog of my personal observations and experiences of living with an ambiguous gender presentation. I would love to also host observations from other people who live androgynously, especially those who are androgynous for different reasons or who have differing experiences to mine. If you’re interested in contributing resources or blogging here as a columnist, please get in touch!

Subjects To Cover

Right now I'm blogging about my experiences of living with an ambiguous gender presentation and posting articles about pressing issues. Below is the list of subjects I'm planning to cover soon, I hope others will contribute their own suggestions for other subjects that should be covered.

  • Gendered Spaces
    • Changing Rooms
    • Employment
    • Formal Occasions
    • Public Toilets
    • Swimming Pools

  • Identity and Documentation
    • Campaigning for Change
    • Forms
    • Legal Gender and ID
    • Websites and Social Networks

  • Language and Pronouns
    • Gender Neutral Language
    • Names
    • Pronouns
    • Titles and Salutations

  • Physical Changes
    • Hair Gain
    • Hair Removal
    • Hormone Therapy
    • Surgery

  • Presentation
    • Binding and Tucking
    • Body Language
    • Clothing
    • Hair
    • Packing and Padding
    • Voice and Speech

Visit Practical Androgyny

Cre2c3ndo Convention Report

Better late than never writing this up, right? Excuse my tardiness, mainly this was because conventions always wipe me out and leave me relatively fatigued for days after the fact. I know this will happen and plan for it, but it does mean my con reports are always late - this year's was even worse because I had an exhausting weekend after too.

Cre2c3ndo was the 23rd annual UK filk convention and ran from the evening of Friday the 4th to late night on the Sunday. It was my fourth annual UK filk convention since I (re)discovered filk at Redemption 2007. I've also been to HarmUni 4 and a couple of Eastercons with strong filk programme streams, so I'm starting to feel like I'm actually part of the community rather than an interloper in a long established group. All the people and their songs are comfortably familiar and get warm welcomes when I arrive.

This year's UK guest of honour was Marilisa (little_cinnamon) and the overseas guest was Canadian duo Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps. This year's footloose filker was pinguintante. (If you're not sure what any of this means, read my post on what filk is and why I like it which includes a primer on UK filk conventions).

This year I hadn't signed up for a set or even particularly practised any of my songs barring the ones I sing all the time. I decided not to take any of my musical instruments. I aimed to give myself a low pressure weekend to just enjoy myself, spend the time listening to as many performances as possible and not hold back on singing in the evening circles (in past years I've had to be careful not to strain my voice before my set).

Friday...Collapse )

Saturday...Collapse )

Sunday...Collapse )

Monday and beyond...Collapse )

All in all, Cre2c3ndo was a fantastic convention and of course I'm already signed up for next year's con! I'm hoping to sign up for a full set next year and have at least one number accompanied by my keyboard playing (so there's my motivation to practice more and improve my skills). I'm resolving to find more places to sing with other people over the next year rather than have these cons be my annual binge, I'd love to keep the feeling going :)

What filk is and why I like it

You've probably seen me post about filk and share filk song lyrics here. It's occured to me that some of my readers might not be familiar with what filk is, so here's an attempt at a primer.

Filk is the music of science fiction and fantasy fandom. It's something that grew out of general conventions (originally a programme book typo for 'folk singing') and still goes on at bigger conventions, but it's also big enough in itself to have its own conventions and communities in various parts of the world.

There seems to be a misconception in Internet-based fandom that filks are always existing songs rewritten with new SF-related lyrics and mainly humorous. While this is of course a big part of what filk singers write and sing, it's by no means representative of filk music. There's easily as much original music inspired by science fiction and fantasy, probably more serious than humorous over all, and no shortage of music about mythology, space exploration, science, technology, beer, cats, knitting, music itself, filking, filkers and anything else filkers are interested in. The genres filk covers are wide as well, while singing in circles does tend to lend itself to folk or at least acoustic music, there are no shortage of filk rock bands either. It's very hard to pin down exactly what filk music is except that it's the music that filkers make.

The format of the annual UK filk conventions is a daytime programme made up of 20 or 40 minute sets by various performers, in the main hall with professional quality sound equipment. These are open to anyone, to the point where I've had sets of my own at two past UK cons. The convention also has guests of honour; a UK guest and an overseas (North American) guest. Sometimes a duo are brought over as the guest. The con also pays for a young Footloose Filker brought over from continental Europe (always Germany and always female as far as I'm aware but I don't think this is the rule). The guests of honour run workshops on the weekend mornings, overseas Saturday morning, UK Sunday morning. They also get a set each on each day. In addition to this there's a filk fund auction, a 'main concert' in which anyone can perform a single song (or reading) and an award ceremony where the con-goers' vote wins for four different categories. In the evenings there are filk circles in which everyone sits in a circle and takes turns to perform, either bardic-style going around the circle and taking turns or more chaotically with whoever has a 'follower' song or the confidence to push in goes next. After the con ends, there's a 'dead dog' circle where everyone who's staying overnight at the convention gets together in a room and sings together, usually with lots of accompaniment, harmonising and singing along.

The main reason why I love filk is that it's an all abilities community that celebrates and encourages creativity and expression in everyone, not just those who are particularly gifted. Two of my favourite 'filk manifesto' songs, Take It Back and Second Hand Songs express this the best and are often sung early in filk circles (or at least I'll sing them if no one else does). I also wrote my own song about discovering filk Where The Fandom Sing, which you may enjoy.

It's always been one of my biggest regrets that I gave up music early in my secondary school career (for painful reasons) and I made various attempts during my twenties to learn musical instruments and develop my singing voice. I first stumbled across filk at a CCDE (camping in a reclaimed landfill sitefield with a bunch of Discworld fans) about ten or eleven years ago and it had a big enough impression on me that I started writing songs and calling them filk, but I only got over hang ups with my voice enough to consider filk singing in my late twenties. My confidence has grown considerably in the last four years, mainly through the encouragement and inspiration of the filk community.

Filk conventions are the time where I get to be around amazingly talented people (singers, musicians and song writers alike), get to sing with them and have them sing and play along with me, and pretend for a few days that I'm a real musician like them :)

Filk: Breaking Out Is Hard To Do

I'm just fresh from the stage performing a newly written filk at Con2c3rto (the 23rd annual UK Filk Convention). I've had song writer's block for a year but sitting in on wonderful music sung in German seemed to shake loose the lyric writing parts of my brain :)

I'm really pleased with how this turned out, and that I've finally written filk about my dearest and most personal fandom...

Lyrics: Breaking Out Is Hard To DoCollapse )

Sleeping around the problem

I have long term problems with insomnia. Regardless of what I try I end up falling asleep between 1am and 2am. Gory details follow...Collapse )

Quite some time ago I came to the conclusion that I likely have delayed sleep phase syndrome. I should probably be on Eastern Standard Time rather than GMT. The reasoning behind that...Collapse ) This is clearly a repeating cycle and not working.

What I've been trying to work around that...Collapse )

So I'm probably completely jinxing things by writing this all down, but currently this seems like it's working :) (Oh and I'm still easily keeping on top of my life laundry routine and keeping the flat in good order, which is nice).


Doctor Who Alphabet 'A': Alpha Centauri

Alpha CentauriSince I started the Who Alphabet 2 challenge last weekend, the nominations for letters A, B and C are in, the polls for letters A and B are closed and, as of this afternoon, the art for letter A is complete!

This is Alpha Centauri, a hermaphrodite hexapod alien ambassador, seen in the 1972 and 1974 Doctor Who 'Peladon' stories during the Third Doctor's era.

I used AutoDesk SketchBook Pro 10 on a Tablet PC, starting with an initial sketch layer (not visible in this image), then line art, flat colour, digital airbrush colour, and finally digital airbrush background. I worked roughly an hour a day Sunday to Saturday.

Voting for letter B is already closed, The Brigadier won the poll and will be drawn over the next week. Voting's open now on letter C - you can find the poll at the bottom left of my deviantART profile page.

Please click the small image to see the full sized version over on deviantART!

Doctor Who Alphabet 2: The New Batch

Hi everyone, I'm back! Sorry for neglecting this journal, you've probably noticed that I've completely moved over to Twitter for my day to day blogging, and deviantART for sharing and blogging about art.

You may remember back in August 2008 when I did 26 alphabetical Doctor Who new series full colour fan art pieces (and three or four other things) as part of the National Art Making Month 2008 (naarmamo ) challenge - You can see the art I created last time in my NaArMaMo 2008 gallery.

Well I'm not doing one a day again (that was a bit crazy!), but I do want to do at least one letter a week! It'll be Doctor Who monsters, aliens, creatures and characters again, working from A to Z, but this time I don't want to limit myself to just the New Series, in fact I want to slant a bit towards the older eras of the show and the Matt Smith series because I covered the Tennant Series so well already.

I also want to get you guys involved in deciding what I draw for each letter, so I'm going to be taking suggestions in comments and on Twitter and then putting my favourite suggestions in a deviantART poll for anyone with an account there (they're free!) vote on. Whichever monster, alien or character gets the most votes, I'll draw next! I'm going to try to draw a good mix of interesting aliens as well as human characters, so I reserve the right to leave out obvious choices for a particular letter if I feel like they're too similar to what I've drawn already.

Hopefully this'll be a good way of getting me into the habit of doing weekly art, will give me some practice to improve my skills, give me a chance to try out new art styles, and ideally have fun!

And in the mean time, why not look through my deviantART gallery for the art I've been doing since I stopped crossposting with LiveJournal, like this speed paint of the cliffhanger to An Unearthly Child, for example...

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

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Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

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Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

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Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

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Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

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Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

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Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

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Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

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Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

Aggregated from my Twitter timeline by LoudTwitter

Yesterday: A Tweet By Tweet Guide

Yesterday I posted the following tweets...

From Twitter timeline @thirtysix...Collapse )

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December 2016


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