Pro-Choice: A Brief Overview of My Thoughts on the Rights of Pregnant People

3056237316d3584721fa2c47d203d417Abortion is a hot topic right now, thanks to the USian political discussions that are going on. I would hope by now that my readers will know I consider myself pro-choice, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what that means to me, and my reasons for feeling the way I feel. So I thought I’d write them out, and hopefully open up a discussion about the rights of pregnant people to bodily autonomy. I should preface this with context: I have an eleven-year-old son who I chose to have, who I birthed myself, who is the light of my life, and who I have never regretted having. Because, you know, I chose to.

Point the First: A lot of pro-choice campaigners like to reassure the world that pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion. I don’t like this assertion. It implies that pro-choice people need to be anti-abortion, or at least ‘not like’ abortion, but they do need to support pregnant people’s right to terminate their pregnancies. Well I’m going to stand up and say: I AM PRO-ABORTION. That doesn’t mean I think every pregnant person should terminate their pregnancy, or that I am a baby-killer who enjoys sactificing children upon a Satanic altar (actually, I’ll have you know, I’m Catholic!). It does mean that I think abortion is a wonderful, useful and necessary thing for many people. It means that I think abortion can be a fabulous and healing tool for many people who would otherwise be miserable, severely mentally or physically unwell, or even dead. It means I like the concept of abortion and I believe it’s a great thing for those who choose it.

Point the Second: I don’t believe in any limits placed upon termination of pregnancy. Yes, this means that I believe that pregnant people should be able to abort a pregnancy for any reason, or for no reason other than they simply don’t want to be pregnant any more. Yes, this also means I don’t believe in ‘time limits’ i.e. maximum gestational age of the foetus at which the abortion is ‘allowed’. Yes, this means I believe that abortion should be legal at any point in a pregnancy, right up to the point that the foetus is actually born and becomes a baby.

[Corollary to Point the Second: I do not believe that this should be considered offensive to those who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth or post-birth death of a baby. There is a difference between losing something from one’s life and choosing to remove something from one’s life. There is a difference between a wanted child and an unwanted child, and if you believe I’m too stupid to recognise that then that’s a problem with you, not me.]

Point the Third: I believe all abortion, everywhere in the world, should be free, legal and accessible. This means that nobody should ever have to pay in order to receive abortion-related treatment and care, nobody should be penalised legally for terminating a pregnancy for any reason or at any gestational age, and nobody should be prevented from accessing abortion by, for example, the refusal of local doctors to perform the procedure, which often forces pregnant people to travel hundreds of miles in order to receive the treatment they need. This ties into ‘free’; travel can be expensive, and all hospitals with doctors capable of performing the procedure should a) offer it and b) fire doctors who refuse to perform it.

Point the Fourth: I do not believe in the “right to life” of unborn foetuses. Quite aside from the argument that there is no fixed point at which a foetus becomes a person except for the measurable point at which it is born, I also do not believe, even if foetuses were people, that pregnant people should be obliged to use their bodies in order to keep another person alive. If someone I knew (or didn’t know, for that matter) required a kidney in order to stay alive, it would not be my obligation to provide it, and nobody would say that it should be illegal for me to not give up my kidney. Similarly, no pregnant person is required to become a vessel in which a foetus is kept alive until the point that it is born.

Point the Fifth: I believe that if you say “I don’t believe abortion should be legal except in cases of rape”, then you are severely ignorant and you are not, as you like to say you are, “pro-life”. If you are truly against abortion because you believe a foetus is a person, then even a foetus who is the product of rape is a person. What you are saying is that you believe it is acceptable to kill some people, but not others, depending on the circumstances surrounding their conception.

Point the Sixth: If you say, “How would you feel if your mother had aborted you?” then, quite frankly, you’re an idiot. For one thing, if my mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t be here to care one way or the other. For another, I love my mother. Why would I want to see her forced into doing something that she absolutely did not want to do, to give up her body to keep another alive, to take part in something that could kill her, or cause her severe physical and/or mental ill-health? “How would you feel if your mother had aborted you?” Well, if I were somehow able to know about it, I’d be glad for her because she did the right thing for herself, and I love my mother. Don’t you love yours?

So there are six points which broadly outline my thoughts. I have a lot of other fragmented ideas on the subject, but these are all I feel like writing about at the moment, and I think I’ve covered all of the most important things that were on my mind. I hope that you’ve either learned something, had your feelings reinforced, or been forced to confront your views in a way you haven’t done before. Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go back to sacrificing those children…

5 Things I Have Learned Since Bringing Home a Puppy

14525210_1162982767102167_2129286753256304352_oLast Monday, the 3rd of October, we brought home what might be the world’s tiniest puppy, who was born on the 8th of August and who we have named Ludo. A Jack Russell and Chihuahua cross, he’s a bundle of joy, laughter, terror and destruction, and we already love him as a part of our family. We chose him for his sweet temperament and gentle affectionate nature, and we have not been disappointed with our choice. He is simply beautiful, inside and out. I did a huge amount of research and reading before we brought him into our family – however, there are still a few things I didn’t quite realise, so here is a list of five things I’ve learned about puppies within the first week of owning being owned by one.

1. Puppies spend a lot of time sleeping.

I should have realised this, as I have an eleven-year-old human son who was, naturally, a baby at one point, and baby humans sleep an awful lot, too. Trying to keep Ludo awake before bedtime so that he is actually tired when the time comes is very, very difficult. He is currently on the carpet nuzzled against my slipper (in which resides my foot!) snoozing away because I wouldn’t let him up on my lap (because I knew he would just fall asleep). This, of course, means that at about 1-2am he wakes up raring to go, which isn’t ideal for the human grown-ups who sleep in the same room as he does! Like with a human baby, I should have realised not to expect unbroken sleep for some time.

2. Housetraining a puppy is a long and tedious process.

Yes, the books I read should have prepared me for this, but I just pooh-poohed (hah!) the idea that it would take a long time. My puppy wasn’t stupid, and would catch on faster than usual. My puppy would learn almost immediately not to go on the carpets. My puppy… you get the idea. Alas, my puppy is, indeed, much like pretty much every puppy ever born. He has no idea that he’s meant to go outside. The ‘training pads’ you put on the floor for the puppy to toilet on were about as much use as a chocolate teapot – he thought of them as chew toys – so we’ve resorted to the age-old “grab the puppy when he starts to toilet and run with him at arm’s length until you get outside” school of housetraining, and taking him out every hour just in case. It isn’t going well for us, but we’ll get there. But if you’re sitting there still thinking, “But my puppy won’t be like that” then I’m afraid you’re an idiot!

3. Puppies don’t instinctively know what a lead is for.

Don’t worry, we’re not taking Ludo for walks just yet! He hasn’t had his second lot of initial vaccinations yet, so it’ll be a while until he can scamper around beside me as we go about our day. But when I take him out hourly for a hopeful toilet visit (see above) I’ve been putting the lead on him to stop him scarpering. The first time, I thought he would just follow me out to the garden if I gave the lead a gentle tug. I was wrong. He sat steadfastly still, looking at me like I’d gone even madder than he already believed me to be. When I tugged, he tugged back. Eventually I carried him, lead trailing behind us, and then when I put him down outside I just held the lead to stop him running off, before carrying him inside again. I know, he is spoiled. He also gets carried around outdoors in a bag, so I can’t deny that. Eventually I’ll train him to use it, but I think it’s going to take a while, (see: housetraining).

4. Puppies will want to play with the household cats. The household cats will not have any of it.

Ludo believes Eevee, our eighteen-month-old ‘kittencat’ to be his friend. He shows her his best “Wanna play?” stance, and pounces at her, only to be swatted about the head with her paw. He chases her, and she leaps over the puppy gate to get away from him, at which point he stands growling and barking (or rather, attempting, but not achieving, rather pathetic growls and barks) at the gate. Whenever he approaches Steve, our skinny nine-year-old, he simply gets hissed and spat at, and occasionally batted away, before Steve stalks off in a huff. Sheridan, our fat five-year-old, is terrified of him and just won’t go near him. Ludo managed to get to about a metre away from Sheridan, took one more tiny step and Sheridan ran away like I’ve never seen him run before. He’s spent the whole week sleeping on the stairs out of Ludo’s reach. Ludo seems to genuinely want to make friends with the three of them, but I suspect it’s going to take a lot longer than seven days for them to warm up to him.

5. In the beginning at least, puppies will consume your every waking minute.

From the moment they wake you at six in the morning whining, piddle on your bedsheets while you hurriedly dress, and watch you take your morning piss, to the time at which you take them outside for yet another failed toilet visit and then try to sing them to sleep while they cry at you because you won’t let them sleep in your bed with you, puppies are bloody hard work, and not for the faint of heart. They require constant supervision and attention, whether that is to stop them getting into trouble, prevent the chewing of things they shouldn’t be gnawing on (I had to remove my Lightning cable from Ludo’s mouth today, and got sulked at for quite some time), watch out for sudden elimination which will trigger the mad dash for the back door, or simply because they are doing something super adorable and you just can’t help but stare at them for half-an-hour like they are some kind of deity – this puppy is a helpless infant creature who requires your attention and care at all times.

So there you have it – the five most important lessons I have learned during my first week of puppy ownership. None of these things makes me love Ludo any less – in fact, learning them has taught me a lot of things, not least the virtue of patience and positive reinforcement with regards to behavioural training – I suppose both of these things were values I had to learn when my son was born, and now I’m just brushing up on my skills, but I feel like this is different. Perhaps because, unlike my son, Ludo is never going to fully understand what it is I am trying to communicate with him, at least not the nuance which other humans understand, and he will never be able to fully communicate with me what it is he needs. So I am learning as much as I can, how to read his behaviour to find out what he wants, and to keep mine consistent so he knows what it is I want. It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m loving every minute of it – even the ones that involve piddle on my bedsheets!

PS. If you’re eager for more photographs and/or updates on Ludo, he has a Facebook page, Ludo the Wonder Dog, and an Instagram account at @ludothewonderdog!

“Use it for food, don’t buy drugs with it!”

urban-poverty-1-1562388Every person who asks me for money on the street has a different story, but they’re all the same. I need money to get into the shelter. It costs £14. Or £16. Or £20. It’s always a different number. I know the next question that’s coming, if I am honest and say I have no money I can really spare. Well, I have £12. Can I swap it for a twenty pound note? I rummage, and produce a crumpled fiver from the bottom of my wallet. I tell her, I have less than ten pence in my bank at the moment. This is all I have. Her face falls. She wanders off, clutching the note, to ask someone else.

Now, there aren’t enough homeless shelters in my city to match up with the number of prices I am ‘quoted’ for how much it will cost the individual in question to get in for the night. I have had personal experience of people – people who became very good friends of mine, who ate at my Christmas table – who begged for money on the pretence of saving it for shelter entry for the night. In the case of my now-ex (the friendship disintegrated for other reasons) friends, they were comfortably housed, and begging to feed their heroin addictions. That is not the case for everyone, or even the majority of people who I give money to in the street, but it is likely that in some cases, the person begging is not homeless, and/or that the money I give ‘fuels’ addiction (be it to illegal substances or to alcohol).

One lady, who I know fairly well, asked me for a pound a few months ago. As I gave it to her, she said to her boyfriend, “Okay, now I can get a tin… oh.” She looked back at me. “I shouldn’t have said that. Do you want it back?” She was – and still is, as far as I can see – so far into an addiction to alcohol that she was reduced to begging strangers for money so that she could drink. So that she could feel human. So that she could feel something. Or, perhaps, to feel nothing at all.

Sadly, at least in my city, there is little camaraderie among the homeless community. They are generally eager to downplay each other’s problems to the people trying to help. Talk to A about B, and you’re told that B has a comfy flat and an iPhone hidden away. Talk to B and you’ll be told A lies about being a domestic abuse survivor to garner sympathy so she can raise money to buy a bottle of vodka every night. Talk to C and he’ll tell you that A and B have both been in trouble for robbing old ladies.

Not all of it can be true. The truth of it seems to be that A, B, and C all realise that the money isn’t endless and they are fighting among themselves for what little they can get. If one of them can put you off the other two, then they ensure all of your money goes to them and not the others; they’re fighting for scraps with the very people with whom they have the most in common. I find it desperately sad that they feel the need to turn on one another rather than banding together to help each other out.

Every person who asks me for money on the street has a different story, but they’re all the same. A lot of them are genuinely collecting up cash to spend on a night in a shelter out of the cold, or to feed themselves for the day. Some of them are genuinely homeless and sleeping rough, but will spend the money on drugs or alcohol anyway. Some of them, I dare say, are housed to some degree of comfort or another, and are ‘scamming’ people for money to buy drugs with.

To be honest, I can’t tell the difference by looking at a person – nobody can separate the ‘scammers’ from the ‘genuine’ on sight alone – and frankly, I don’t care. Once I’ve given money to a person, I honestly couldn’t care less what they do with it – the moment it moves from my hand to theirs, it belongs to them as much as if they had earned it sitting in an office or laying bricks.

The mindset that a person can do as they please with the money given to them doesn’t just make sense morally, but logically as well. If a person with an addiction needs £10 worth of drugs and manages to get together £10 by begging, they will eschew eating food in favour of drugs. An extra £2 (or however much) could be the difference between drugs alone, and drugs plus a sandwich. I’d rather an addict took drugs and ate as well, than took drugs and starved herself. In the words of an addict I spoke to, “No addict will choose food over drugs once the need is there.”

It doesn’t help anybody to infantilise people living in abject poverty, least of all the people themselves. For the longest time, I couldn’t fathom what the people doing the infantilising got out of it either. Then it dawned on me that it is, simply, that it helps them to feel superior. By telling a person who is begging “Use it for food, don’t buy drugs with it!” they get to feel smug.

They aren’t homeless or vulnerably housed. They aren’t addicts. They aren’t reduced to sitting in a cold, damp doorway, being spat on by strangers to whom their very existence is an affront, their last vestiges of self-esteem slipping away, asking people they don’t know for money.

And they would never be in that position, of course. Never mind that the difference between comfortable and homeless can be less than three month’s pay. They are so convinced that they will never be in that position because they are a better person, that they trot out inane instructions on what the person in receipt may spend their ‘gift’ upon.

I don’t regret the money I used to give to my addicted ex-friends, and I refused the alcoholic lady’s pound back. If I gift something to somebody, it shouldn’t come with provisos. A gift doesn’t come with strings attached. And a gift is exactly what it is when one gives money to a homeless person. To add a proviso is, essentially, to treat them like a child; to “pay them to be a good girl/boy”. I’d rather encourage adults to be adults, and to make their own decisions, than to presume for one moment that I know more about their life than they do themselves.

Hopefully, someone out there will have changed their mind after reading this, and will consider gifting to someone who begs on the street next time they are asked. That’s all I can ask for of you, readers – don’t ignore everyone on the basis that some might be lying, and consider the autonomy of the person to whom you are giving a gift – and it is a gift. Let your kindness be kindness unmarred by pseudo-parental finger wagging, and your generosity be generosity without restrictions.

Fat Phobia and Thin Privilege

Today, folks, I want to talk to you about fat. Specifically I want to talk to you about fat phobia and thin privilege. It’s disturbing to me how many people are unaware or unwilling to believe that fat phobia exists, and how many thin/’average weight’ people are either unaware of or refuse to accept the privileges they have over fat people.

So, what is fat phobia, and what is thin privilege? For a start, the ‘thin’ in ‘thin privilege’ does not mean “size zero”. It means “of ‘normal’ weight”. Some examples: If you can walk into Top Shop, Miss Selfridge or any other high street fashion shop and know their size range includes your clothing size, you have thin privilege. If you can book a flight without fear that other passengers will hope like hell they’re not seated next to you or worse, that you will be refused entry to the flight because of your size, you have thin privilege. If you can happily travel by car or bus or train and know that the seat will be built to accommodate your arse, you have thin privilege. If you can visit your doctor without being constantly berated about losing weight and having every physical malady you suffer attributed to your size and nothing else, you have thin privilege.

Fat phobia is thin privilege in action. Fat phobia is the media’s insistence on sensationalising the ‘obesity epidemic’ and consistently and continuously painting fat people as lazy, unhealthy slobs. Fat phobia is in the general public’s pervasive and misguided belief that fat automatically means unhealthy (I’ll come back to that later). Fat phobia is in the refusal of clothing manufacturers to accommodate fat people when designing clothes, meaning that the majority of us end up spending twice as much in our ‘specialty shops’ as a thin person would on the high street. Fat phobia is in the medical professionals too lazy and indoctrinated to do their jobs, instead sending us away every single time with the instruction that if we lose weight, we will magically no longer be depressed/have CFS/have a broken leg (I’m kidding, sort of, but it really is that bad). Fat phobia is this society, which operates on a fat=bad belief and systematically beats down anybody who dares to disagree.

Many of my thin friends – women especially, women whom I otherwise think of as good, intelligent, progressive women – get massively defensive when I talk about fat phobia and thin privilege. “But skinny people are oppressed toooooooo!” I hear. Yeah, I get it. You went into a shop and ZOMG that top was too short/hung wrong on you. But do you know what? I didn’t even bother going in, because I knew I was four sizes larger than even the largest size they offer. You tell me you know how I feel because that top ‘didn’t fit you right’. We have totally different ideas on what ‘doesn’t fit’ means. To you, it means it didn’t flatter you. To me, it means it didn’t actually cover the intended body part. You were walking along the road and someone shouted that you were too skinny, or told you to put some meat on your bones, or blah blah blah? It is not the same as having the entire world consider you evil, the bane of society, and too stupid to know what’s good for you.

I said I’d come back to fat=unhealthy and how fucking ridiculous that is. I was going to in this paragraph, and then realised that Kate Harding said everything I wanted to say, and far more articulately than I could have hoped. I suggest you go and read her post before you comment with a ridiculous and misguided statement like “Don’t you know there’s an obesity epidemic?” “Don’t you know that fat kills?” “Haven’t you ever heard of Type 2 diabetes?” “Don’t you realize how much money this is going to cost society down the line?” “Won’t someone please think of the children?

Here in the UK, at this very moment, there are politicians who want to make obese people pay for their NHS treatment. Many of you might well be going “as well they should, fat people bring it all on themselves!” Well quite aside from the fact that as I’ve discussed, fat people are no more unhealthy than thin people, think about it properly for a second. How would you put that into practice? Firstly, would obese people have to pay for all their medical treatment, or just the stuff that could be caused by unhealthy eating/lack of exercise? How would you determine what caused what? Would thin people also be charged for things that could be caused by unhealthy eating/lack of exercise? How about this – how would you determine how ‘fat’ someone had to be before they were required to pay?

BMI, you say? Well quite aside from the fact that the Body Mass Index is a crock of shite, you’d then have a hell of a lot of athletes (many of whom are considered ‘obese’ according to their BMI because of their muscular build) being asked to pay for their NHS treatment. Using the BMI, it’s utterly unpoliceable. The only way to do it would be to go into intimate and personal details or by looking at people. He’s a fattie, make him pay. She looks thin, give it her for free, even though it’s entirely possible her take-away diet is the cause of her heart attack. And aside from all that, the whole point of the NHS is that it is fair and accessible to all. The heroin addict who’s dying of an overdose has exactly the same right to have his life saved as the nun who’s fallen down a ladder. It’s universal health care. If you start making fatties pay, where do you stop? Alcoholics? People who don’t visit a gym three times a week? People who don’t eat their ‘five-a-day’? People who break their leg while skiing or horseriding (after all, you brought it on yourself by participating in a dangerous sport!)?

Of course some fat people are unhealthy. Some thin people are unheallthy too. It really chaps my hide that fat people are immediately considered unhealthy when I, all sixteen-and-a-half gloriously wobbly stone of me, eat better and am more active than every single thin/’normal weight’ person I know. A thin person who eats nothing but greasy take-away is still considered ‘healthy’ because of their thinness, as long as they don’t divulge their earing habits. But the thin person is thin! so people/doctors generally won’t bother asking about their eating habits because they don’t think they need to! I on the other hand, on my home-cooked, all-vegetarian, low-fat, high-fibre diet, am not only questioned but disbelieved when I explain my eating habits. You can almost see their thoughts behind her eyes. “If she really ate that healthily, she wouldn’t be fat. She must be stuffing her face with crap and too embarrassed to admit it.”

And you know what? I shouldn’t have to explain my eating habits to anyone. I shouldn’t have to feel like, in fact, know that, people immediately put me in the category of ‘unfit’ and ‘unhealthy’ just by looking at me. I shouldn’t have to put up with total strangers and ‘well-meaning’ friends and family members offering unsolicited advice on how I can make myself small enough to fit into their version of ‘healthy/attractive’. I shouldn’t be expected to starve myself and make myself miserable in an attempt to shrink myself that will not work before a doctor will take me seriously and give me the treatment I need. In short, I should not be treated as subhuman simply because my size doesn’t please people.

And you thin people? Yes you, and you, and you over there thinking “but I’m not thin, I have a bit of a belly and I want to lose ten pounds!”? A lot of the time you are part of the problem. I’ve written before about listening to people go on about their weight, and admittedly I was in a shocking mood when I wrote it. But the sentiment remains the same. When you say “I’m so fat” or “I feel fat”, the unspoken ending to that sentence is “…and that’s a bad thing.” And by implying that fat is a bad thing, you are insulting me.

I don’t care how many times you tell me “But I don’t mean you!” or “But you’re not that fat!” or even “It’s fine for other people but I’d feel better if I was thinner!” – you are being fucking offensive. By implying that fat is a bad thing – even the tiny amount you have on your skinny ass – by saying fat is bad you are saying there is something wrong with being fat, and if you are saying there is something wrong with being fat you are saying there is something wrong with fat people, and if you are saying there is something wrong with fat people you are saying there is something wrong with me. However you try to paint it, every time you moan about how ‘fat’ you are, it is a personal insult because of all those unspoken implications which you’ll tell me you don’t mean but they are there.

Want to know how you, thin or ‘average-weight’ person (yes you, in the corner still muttering about those ten extra pounds, I mean you), can be an ally to fat people? Stop moaning about being fat. If you want to exercise and eat well, then that’s a really good thing and I’m happy for you that you want to be healthy. But don’t make it about fat. Don’t talk about how so-and-so has put on weight. Don’t listen to people who gossip about other people’s weight. Stop telling fat people that you know just how they feel unless you are or have been a fat person. You don’t. I know you think you do, but you can’t and you don’t. Stop seeing fat as the ultimate evil. Stop saying “oh, I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet.” Diets don’t work! No, not even if you call them ‘lifestyle changes’! By going on a diet when you’re of average size, you’re perpetuating the fat=bad belief, and (here I go again) being personally insulting. Stop talking about the ‘eeeevil obesity epidemic!!!1!’, stop blindly believing what you’ve been spoon-fed about obesity and health.

Most importantly, stop shaming fat people. Seriously, if shaming us made us thin, there wouldn’t be a single fat person left in the world. That means not offering fat people advice on ‘how to lose weight’, especially unsolicited advice. It means not talking as if being fat is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. It means not poking your fourteen-year-old niece in the belly and telling her she’s filling out. It means not behaving and talking like a privileged asshole when you’re talking about weight, be it your own or someone else’s.

With a bit of common sense and intelligence, we could erase fat phobia entirely. It starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with everybody who gives a shit about truth and dignity. It starts with every person who is willing to take a stand, to call people out on their fat jokes, to question the status quo, to stand up to their doctor when he or she starts spouting untruths about obesity and health, to accept their weight and stop seeing fat as the enemy. It’s not. Hatred is the enemy, misinformation is the enemy, the media with its obsession with flat bellies and non-existent arses is the enemy. Say it with me. Fat is not the enemy. Fat is not the enemy. Fat is not the enemy, and I for one will not treat it as the enemy for one minute longer.

This is a repost from an old blog. I talk about myself using ‘feminine’ terms because it was before I came out.

from Paris with love

1_2563964aI rage because children live fearful
for their lives, because our answer
is always more bombs, because we think
that dead children are collateral damage
and that their parents deserve the despair
of losing a son or daughter so precious.

I storm because my peers forget
that people are real and they bleed
and they feel, and they cry, and they
lose their will to live when babies
are torn apart by a force they can’t control
sent by the government of a country
that hates them, and they don’t understand
why hatred exists, what they have done
in their ordinary lives to deserve it.

I cry because it could so easily
be my little boy raising his arms to a camera
because he believes it is a gun
because it could so easily
be my little boy having his world
destroyed by people he’s never met
because it could so easily
be my little boy laying dead in the dust
of wartorn country full of fear.

what wasn’t said

Nobody ever said, of me,
“and those eyelashes – wasted on a boy!”
but they were.

One Christmas morning I awoke
excited for a bright red bicycle
my first, red for strength and fire;

but it was pink.

The little boy I was knew pink wasn’t for me
(though the man I became adores it)
and disappointment seared through me
interwoven with the guilt of the audacity
of feeling disappointment.

Of course, my parents hadn’t known
I desperately wanted a red bike.
They saw their daughter and thought
she was beautiful and pink suited her.

Nobody ever said, of me,
“What a bonny wee lad! So handsome, so strong!”
but I was.

When I was ten I was so desperate
to fit in with the other boys
that I joined the school football team.

but I hated football.

I tried with every fibre of my small being
to play, and to play well, like the others.
But sport of any kind was not my forte,
perhaps an omen of the broken body
my adult self was to find himself inhabiting.

Of course, I was never one of the boys
I was the tomboy. Worse. The wannabe-tomboy,
a little girl who cut her hair short
but couldn’t even kick a ball across a field.

Nobody ever said, of me,
“He’ll grow up to be a good man one day.”
But I did.

Seventeen years later I found the courage to stop
trying to be the best girl a guy can be
I discarded her, the itchy suit I’d sweated through.

but she follows me.

She is a weight ever-attached to my ankle
taunting me with well-meaning but false pronouns
and pricking me thousands of times a day
with every ‘love’ and ‘darling’ from a stranger
with every ‘I’m sorry! I thought you was a geezer!’

Of course, they aren’t to know, and
of course, it won’t always be like this, and
I need to grow a thicker skin, really.
The perceptions of others shouldn’t define me.

Nobody ever said, of me,
“Congratulations! You have a beautiful baby boy!”
but they did.

Quinn Norman 31/07/2015

A Letter of Apology

I’m sorry that I let you believe
the bullshit binary beliefs
of cis society on sex.
I’m sorry I wouldn’t let you
speak up for yourself.

I’m sorry that a midwife
slapped your arse and declared
you were a certain type of person
based on what she saw between your legs.

I’m sorry I let you let them
dress you up like a pretty doll.
Looking back, you were beautiful
and I am sad for them
that you never existed.

I’m sorry I never told anybody
that the reason all your teddy bears
were boys, was because you felt
closer to them, that way.

I’m sorry I didn’t speak out.
I’m sorry that the boy within you
was hidden for so long
that he thought he’d disappeared
for far too many years.

I’m sorry you were so surprised
by blood between your thighs
though they’d told you to expect it
you’d prayed it would never arise.

I’m sorry for every lip gloss
in your sizeable collection
gathering dust in landfill
and I’m sorry for painting you
into a person you didn’t recognise.

I’m sorry I let you go off the tracks
into the bed of anyone who’d have you
I’m sorry I put you in so many
dangerous situations. I didn’t know.

I’m sorry I made you live
a heteronormative life of domesticity
without letting you question
who you were, because other people
were always more important than you.

I’m sorry it took me so long.
By now I’ve realised that this apology
is not to some unknown ex-person
but to my own self.

I’m sorry that I ever tried
to pretend I was something so foreign
that I never understood, even as
I played the role that the world
had so cruelly pushed upon me.

I’m sorry it took me twenty-seven years
to man up. To admit I was wrong.
To tell the Universe that it was wrong…
or maybe, like me, it knew all along?

I’m not sorry to be where I am now.
I’m not sorry to be ‘in the wrong body’;
I’m not sorry to not fit expectations
and I’m not sorry that my body’s
considered a variation on the norm.

I’m not sorry for my smooth face or high voice
though I wish they were different
they are material wishes to aid the world
in seeing me as I see myself.

This apology’s not to an older self
it is to me. There is no pre-me and post-me
there is just me. The only thing that changes
is how I present and am perceived
and how I want the world to perceive me.

I won’t speak to my former self, because he
was never she, he was a little boy like any other.
It was me who pushed him down
and now it’s me who will revive him
and give him the life he deserves

and now it’s me who will revive myself
and give myself the life I deserve.

Quinn Norman, 15/06/2015