THE RAINBOW CARDS PROJECT
Sat in a pub garden with my friend, discussing the travels he and his boyfriend are about to embark on this summer, I came to realise how lucky he and I truly are: as young LGBT folk. Growing up in Brighton, England, surrounded by friends within the same community, has provided us with a haven. Famously a city of queer culture and history, being ‘out’ in the general environment- save for personal qualms from our families- comes with little friction.
This unfortunately isn’t the case for everyone in our position.
In 72 countries, homosexuality is still criminalised, and in 12 of these, it is punishable by death. Wherever the law stands, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still sickeningly present in society today. As a result of coming out as anything other than heterosexual and cisgender, many young people find themselves ostracised, outcast, or abused by their families or communities, which can leave them in a very lonely place. Others may feel too scared or uncomfortable to discuss their sexuality with close friends and family members, leaving them feeling trapped and alone.
Imagine being so isolated from your family that you didn’t receive any cards on your birthday, or received unpleasant wishes instead: The Rainbow Cards Project was set up in 2017 to try and prevent this from happening; the charity works to send birthday cards to recipients who may otherwise receive none, with the aim ‘to combat the isolation, prejudice and fear LGBTQ+ people often face, one card at a time’. Anybody is welcome to write a birthday card or letter to a general or named recipient (a list of recipients’ names, pronouns and interests with approaching birthdays is updated each month), or a Christmas/holiday card when that time of year comes. Writers can send as many or as few cards as they like and are able to make a pledge to send a certain number of cards per month or year, and are also able to write letters to recipients at times other than their birthdays. The cards are all sent to the charity’s PO box, from which the organiser will send them out, so that the recipients’ addresses aren’t shared with vast numbers of people.
An excellent community spirit is provided by the charity’s premise, in that sending cards provides a way to reach out and form new friendships, and the very process of writing cards as a group effort can bring people together and raise awareness of the issues faced by members of our community that have fallen on harder times as a result of who they are: it feels only fair that we stand together and for each other.
Guidelines on card sending listed on the charity’s website are as follows: writers are encouraged to offer support, solidarity, and general positive wishes, and to of course say happy birthday to the recipient. Sending an address to write back to or other contact details is not essential but permitted, allowing potential connections to form. Writers are not to include anything that may be upsetting, such as direct referral to the difficult time or abuse that the recipient is currently going through. If the recipient hasn’t disclosed their pronouns specifically, avoid ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ themed birthday cards and use they/them pronouns throughout the writing. Some of the recipients ask that their sexuality is not mentioned and that the cards are to be in no way LGBTQ+ related, in order to protect them.
The charity was founded by El, self-described as ‘a 20-year-old queer from England with a love for writing, dogs and nature’; I was lucky enough to be able to interview them about their work for The Rainbow Cards Project and their experience as an individual within the LGBTQ+ community.
What inspired you to set up The Rainbow Cards Project?
It was coming up to Christmas in 2016 and I was thinking about the Christmas cards I was going to write for my family, and looking forward to all the ones I'd receive; it just sort of hit me how different Christmas would feel if my family had reacted badly to me coming out, which I'd done earlier that year, and decided to cut me off and no longer send me cards. It made me realise what a painful and decisive sign of disownment that would be, and at what is supposed to be such a happy and love-filled time of year. I know how important found family is in the queer community, so I thought that sending Christmas cards would be a way of fostering that family feeling. I put out a tweet on my WLW (women who love women) positivity account saying that if your family stopped sending you cards after you came out, send me your address and I'll send you a card. In the end I sent about 30 cards to 9 different countries and the response, both from the people who received them and people who wanted to get involved and send cards too, was so positive I decided to turn the idea into an official project where anyone could send or receive cards!
How would you describe the charity in five words?
Spreading love and fighting isolation.
What does a typical day running the charity entail?
I have three kinds of days when it comes to running the charity: birthday card days where I'll typically work on 4-5 packages of cards (usually about 30 cards in total) which involves decorating all the envelopes and packaging the cards up; special occasion card days where I write, decorate and send cards for special occasions such as relationship anniversaries or coming out anniversaries; and admin days where I work on emails, the website and inputting any new recipients into the system. Sometimes I'll work on more than one thing in a day, but I try not to because I like to do everything to the best of my ability, which means not overworking myself.
Have you taken part in any other peaceful activism projects before this?
Because I've been bedridden with my chronic illnesses since I was 16, the only kind of activism I've been able to get involved with is online activism, but I think people underestimate the importance of it. It makes activism accessible and gives voice to the least likely to be heard in a mainstream setting. I've had a lot of people tell me my disability activism has taught them a lot about disability and how to be a better ally, and my queer activism, particularly running a WLW positivity account which works to normalise sapphic love, has apparently helped people accept & love themselves, so I think it is possible to make a difference from your bed!
Have you ever had any negative reception regarding the project?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive! I've had a few rude comments made on social media here or there, but I think the project has yet to get much notice from outside the queer community which helps protect it from harmful responses. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive and the positive comments I've received online completely overshadow the couple of negative ones.
How many recipients have received cards so far? How many cards have you sent?
I currently have around 400 people signed up to be recipients and I think I've sent almost 4000 cards in total so far! I sent over 2000 just for Christmas alone, which was all thanks to all the wonderful people who got involved and wrote cards.
Do you ever get to hear back from the recipients? What’s that like?
I do from time to time! People will often tweet about receiving their cards and sometimes they'll message or email me directly, and it's always lovely to hear back! I've had more people than I can count tell me receiving their cards made them cry with happiness and love, others have told me it made them feel so much less alone, and the general response is one of appreciation and joy that this project exists - which is the best payment I could ever ask for! It's incredibly moving to know this project that is run from my bed is touching lives all over the world and making a difference to how people feel.
How do you fund the project?
I rely almost entirely on generous donations from kind supporters online! I raised the initial funds to start the project selling queer/feminist t-shirt designs on Teespring but that has died down a lot now and doesn't make me much anymore. I've also had a very kind person run an auction for me, and a couple of people have sold things with the promise of donating a percentage of the profit to my charity. But most of the funds come from one off donations either via our donation page, PayPal link or a YouCaring campaign. It's a surprisingly costly project to run because postage costs rack up fast, so I really couldn't continue the project without the generous support of so many people who are willing and able to pitch in.
What are your plans for the project’s future?
Mainly I just want to keep the project running and slowly growing! I need to organise some more kinds of fundraising and I'm encouraging more and more schools/universities/workplaces to organise card writing/making sessions which helps keep cards coming in as well as bringing people together! I'd also like to work on reaching LGBTQ+ people who might not be very involved in the community because they might need support more than anyone, so I need to find ways to reach those people who might not see our tweets or hear us mentioned in queer spaces.
As a chronically ill member of the LGBTQ+ community, what do you wish would be changed in the community to make things more accessible?
I wish more LGBTQ+ people were aware of disability and ableism and were consciously making an effort to fight back against ableism within the community, because currently I feel like disabled queer people get very little support from our abled peers, and we need them to stand alongside us and amplify our voices. We need abled LGBTQ+ people to demand accessible pride events and queer venues, because at the moment most of these places that are supposed to welcome everyone and be an escape from discrimination do exclude disabled people by nature of their inaccessibility. I'd also like to see more queer people giving a voice, and listening to, disabled issues because at the moment it feels like it's mostly disabled people doing that work and no one is really listening. It would just be great if people remembered that queer solidarity means solidarity with disabled queers too!
The motto of the project, ‘fighting prejudice and isolation through simple acts of kindness’, fully encompasses what this charity is all about: pure goodness, and making people smile, just one letter at a time. The LGBTQ+ community can be divided and problematic at times, but I feel that this is an excellent example of what we should be doing- it may not be solving the problems that lead to the situations of ostracisation arising, but this gentle activism goes a long way in looking after those affected.
To take part in The Rainbow Cards Project- be that donating, writing cards, or spreading awareness of the charity- visit https://therainbowcardsproject.org
WRITTEN BY HOLLY PARKINSON
FREE THE NIPPLE
I caught up with Mickey, an active member of the Free the Nipple movement in Brighton to find out what it’s all about…
Can you tell us a bit about the Free the Nipple movement?
Free the Nipple is a movement dedicated to the simple belief that women should have full autonomy over their bodies – and in our case we focus on gaining equality for our nipples! You could say our “Free The Nipple” tagline is just an eye catching slogan to act as an umbrella for the hundreds of female body shaming issues women face not only around the world, but within our own – apparently liberated – Western society. Currently within the UK women are demonised simply for showing a bit of nipple, having too much of a short skirt, flashing a little too much flesh than what is deemed acceptable and this just falls hand in hand with the rape culture of “well, she was asking for it.” This irony is shown best under the tree of the male gaze as it is perfectly fine for a woman to have her nipples and breasts out when being exploited – such as is porn or page three – yet if she wants to take ownership of her body, dress and sexuality she is subject to vilification and sometimes assault – this only goes to verify that women are still not allowed to take rights over their own bodies and definitely not their own sexuality. Further on from this we believe it as one of our biggest goals to make sure no woman has to sit in a gallery of breast-centric art and still be told her breast feeding is disturbing for the guests of the institute #ironyatitsbest. Breast feeding is one of our biggest passions and the fact that breasts are designed to feed only goes to show how stupid this whole obsession with them being covered is!
How did you get involved? How many of there are you that organise events?
I first came on board last year, when I saw a post asking for a photographer to come photograph the march. At the time, Bee & Suze were leading the organisation, helped massively by Rachel, Roni, Dani, Lottie, Beckah and Dory. Currently, we have the same team and we're all just dedicated volunteers, but as the Brighton movement is growing we're starting to ask partners and friends to be involved for the actual march day, plus the police and venues! It's going to be a fab day!
You’re from the Brighton branch, do you know how many others there are around the globe?
Yeah that's right, we're from the Brighton Branch and there are quite a few affiliates around the world. The women who originally started FTN are from New York and even now we know of FTN groups getting together and marching in Scotland and dotted about in the U.K. One of the main things we see, rather than branches like ourselves, are passionate individual protesters all around the globe. With how social media is working these days, you only have to type #freethenipplemovement to see thousands upon thousands of people getting behind us! Also, it's worth noting that #freethenipple by itself started to become a reason for removal of photos on Instagram and Facebook, because you know, when a woman wants to have the right to her own body, the patriarchy gotta' try and bring you down hey?
Have you received any negative responses either online or at your events, and how do you cope with that?
At our last Free the Nipple march there were some guys who arrived and pretend to be documenting the event but their aim was actually to make a “mocumentary” which sadly some of our protesters fell victim for. After we (rightly) told them to f*** off – they uploaded their video of which there were some vile comments full of misogyny and disgraceful rape culture narrative underneath. Our opinion on this is to laugh, now and then we like to wind up trollers a bit by taking the piss – personally, we find it really fun when someone wants to out themselves as being an ignoramus, so we let them crack on. Thankfully though, we don't have a lot of issues with trolling at all.
Why do you think it’s important that we, as feminists, take a stand on this issue?
I think FTN is a really important movement to get involved with as it highlights that we are still brainwashed in believing women within the West are equal. If we're supposed to be showing how women should live – in a free and liberated society – yet we're giving bralettes to our seven year olds and instantly letting them realise they are a sexual object and different to their male peers, are we no better than an ideology asking women to cover up so that men don't get aroused and sexually harm? Some cultures may be more blatant in their misogyny and we are extremely lucky to live where we live, but just because we have made this much progress it doesn't mean we have to stop. It's so funny to me when I have female friends telling me they don't believe in feminism anymore, “anymore?!” I say. When you realise sexualization of any body part goes hand in hand with the current Harvey Weinstein rape culture we are epidemically part of right now, then as a feminist you have to decide to tackle every single measure of inequality, or, like how we've magnified one issue – magnify your own issue, yet be supportive and proud of your fellow feminists highlighting another.
You’ve got a big march coming up, what will that involve? Is freeing the nipple a must or can you just come along in support?
So our March on the 7th of July, will be about 45 minutes long. We've made the route wheelchair/buggy accessible and after reading some feedback from last years march we're going to take it at a slower pace. The March is always a fantastic day! First of all we will all meet at 2pm on The Old Steine Gardens to settle in, get to know one another, have some body paints done (by our resident female body painter Dani.) Then we will take down to the seafront at 3pm, with music, banners and chants all to say F*** you, to inequality!! We really want to make sure the message is loud and clear that
no participant has to have their nipples free'd if they don't want to. As FTNB is all about giving autonomy to women over their bodies the last thing we would ever want to do is stipulate the removal of clothing – that would be as horrendous as telling a woman to cover up! We also want more nervous participants to know that we on the team have all at some point or another suffered with anxiety and mental health and for this reason we will have a dedicated team marked with balloons to turn to if anyone feels the march is getting all too much, or if they believed anyone was being inappropriate. We had a very safe, loving and peaceful march last year and this year, as it's getting bigger, we are asking for police escorting too (yet to be confirmed). We would welcome any one to write in if they have any anxieties, questions or concerns. We will finish the march at Pop-Up Brighton where you can get changed, have refreshments. Then at 8pm our after party hosted by the fantastic Traumfrau will start – which again you are free to free your nips or not!
Does the collective put on other workshops or projects throughout the year?
This year, what was fantastic is we were asked to do a workshop for International Women's day at the Brighton Dome. This workshop was an hour long and we're currently working on making it a bit longer. We decided to make it a “Protest Workshop.” As we found the FTNB march so liberating and detoxifying we wanted to speak to people about how they could express pain through protest – a safe but purging place to release. We got our participants to talk with us (if they wanted to) about issues they've felt in their lives around body-objectification. We all split into groups and tried to gain a deeper understanding of how even the smallest comment could make a persons journey in life extremely painful and we also tried to break down how it has been systematically indoctrinated into us to believe image is so important, when actually we believe it isn't. At the end of the workshop, all of this honest learning led to a protest chant in the middle of the Dome (I'm sure they wondered what the hell we were up to) and we encouraged our group to scream as loud as they could and get some of that pain and anger out. It went down a storm and we loved it – once the organisation of the march is over, we want to continue this educational side of Free the Nipple Brighton.
IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PART IN THE MARCH, THE DETAILS ARE-
Free the Nipple Brighton.
Saturday 7th July.
2pm – Meet at Old Steine Gardens.
3pm – March on Brighton Seafront.
4pm – Rally at Pop-up Brighton
8pm – Afterparty with Traumfrau.
Find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
Contact us at Freethenipplebrighton.wordpress.com.
“Bryony exudes a PJ Harvey-esque epic which is enthralling” – Indie Midlands
Following the success of her debut EP ‘Wanderlust’, alt-pop singer Bryony Williams has returned with her brand new second EP ‘Conscious’. We sat down with her to talk LGBTQ+ representation in music, the new generation of queer musicians and find out the plans for her imminent tour…
Your new EP Conscious has just been released, are you happy with the response so far?
Totally! A lot of people have compared it to my debut EP ‘Wanderlust’ (2016) and have expressed how much ‘Conscious’ still manages to authentically capture me as an artist and person all while giving listeners that extra ear candy by infiltrating the pool of indie-pop.
The response proves to me that my artist development has progressed massively and how by exposing myself to new sounds, my music can only continue to evolve.
You say you ‘want to make audiences think twice about the female artists they’re listening to’, can you explain what you mean by this?
I probably ought to re-phrase that as it does seem a little obscure and broad. But ideally, I think what I mean to say is that females and in this case, female artists can be just as intricate, sexual, mysterious and strong as any artist. So, take myself as an example, on the surface I probably showcase youth and innocence, whereas my lyrics harness quite cold and confrontational perceptions. I think I just want the average listener to go beyond surface value and to truly analyse what an artist can be experiencing.
You sing about relationships in your music, how important do you think it is to represent the LGBTQ+ community in you work?
I think talking about female sexuality in general which in my opinion equals empowerment is a huge topic of importance and needs to continue to be tested and shaped, take PJ Harvey for example with 50ft Queenie. And things are changing in the music world towards this, for example Hayley Kiyoko’s hot-ass music videos. It’s incredibly important to open up a discourse around LGBTQ+ representation across the music landscape and to 1) make it less of a taboo in popular music culture and 2) to represent all types of love and to break down the typical stereotypes of what gay men and women may traditionally fall under.
When did you come out?
Okay we have two stories to tell here…
I was 14 when my high school found out and it spread like wildfire! It was a forced ‘coming out’ which wasn’t ideal… But I wouldn’t have had it any other way looking back on it. There were mixed reactions… I personally didn’t even know what homosexuality really was – not like they taught it in sex education – and this is something that angers me soooo much! And so in future, I aim to become an activist, arguing the importance of LGBTQ+ education and also consent, sexual harassment/assault, the do’s and don’ts, not just how a sperm meets the egg and how to put a condom on…
But yeah, I just knew I liked a girl and that was that… the boys would high-five me down the corridor at lunch and some girls in the P.E changing rooms may happen to have an ‘issue’ in case I would, in their minds, come onto them. By year 10/11, some of those girls had changed their tunes if you know what I mean haha.
Then I was 17 when I came out to my parents. Again, completely by accident! A friend of mine had literally wrote ‘lesbian lesbian lesbian’ line after line in a birthday card of mine. I returned home one day and my mom confronted me about it… We had a nice discussion over a cuppa tea while the Olympics played on the TV in the background… She convinced herself it was a phase until about a year later when she finally accepted that my college girlfriend at the time wasn’t going anywhere for the next 8 months.
Do you think that it is important for young artists such as yourself to be open about their sexuality, so that in years to come the previous question won’t even be necessary?
Certainly. When I was growing up, I was even prejudiced against other LGBTQ+ people for embracing their sexuality or recognising it and that’s purely because of society at that point and what I was/wasn’t exposed to (despite recognising my own sexuality at the time too..?? Like that makes sense!)
So I think the more people who shout about it and embrace it as a norm, then the less risk it has of being seen as a negative, as an excuse to bully, and the less pressure it has on people to find it necessary to validate themselves. Plus, to expose young kids to the idea of sexuality, because as we all know, it’s a terribly confusing stage of your life, that by having that openness and by being exposed to the idea of homosexuality and everything between, it would contribute to an accepting and supportive society within popular culture.
Loving the new video for Narrative form, how much say do you get in artistic direction and what were the influences behind it?
Thank you! I in fact had 100% artistic direction. The video is quite avant-garde and I can only actually think of two visual influencers for this video: the film ‘Neon Demon’ and Jenn Hval’s music video for her track ‘Conceptual Romance’.
It was around the time of the heavy snowfall in March and I knew I had to use the white, isolating landscape somehow, I then became set on juxtaposing those scenes with something odd and almost narcissistic which is where the bath scenes came in. I experimented on my own first, setting up a camera on a tripod and grabbing extension cables so I could use lamps to light up a blackened-out bathroom. I then proceeded to nearly setting the place on fire by attaching paper to the walls and setting them alight… that part of the vision soon came to an end.
I simply put a call out on Facebook to anyone who would be interested in shooting a DIY video and well with being a Media student at the time, somebody was bound to pop up, and thankfully they did! Shannon Lockett. She patiently stood by my experimental vision and did a brilliant job.
The drone scenes were from a short film idea I had from over a year ago… and since this was going to be quite abstract and with a female lead, I figured why not use that idea for this? I knew a guy with a drone and we headed to Cannock Chase – a crazy big woodland area. In my original vision, the female lead was naked, covered with dirt only. But considering this was 1) an open space and 2) questioning how the music video would have been received online… I decided to keep my clothes on but to have my jeans and shirt buttons undone to subtly signify whatever it is I was trying to portray… So far I have the answer of sexual objectification crossed with female empowerment.
As well as being a musician, we hear that you run a female collective AND zine called GRRL GROANNN!!! (busy woman!) What does this involve?
So GRRRL GROANNN!!! Is the name of the female collective I came up with a business plan for as part of a university module in late 2017. But around the same time I began to develop more of an understanding of feminism and what it means to me (late-bloomer here) that I desperately wanted to officially found a collective - so I did.
GRRRL GROANNN!!! is a collective that aims to help circulate and celebrate female creatives within music, the arts, and culture, and ultimately, to become an independent record label for aspiring female artists who are unsure of where or how to start. Or artists who want to be working with a team of females, something which is pretty rare in the music industries since it is so male-dominated. It holds a DIY aesthetic and if it wasn’t obvious, is inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement. So naturally, it is all about helping to support females within the creative industries, with a key focus on music. The collective also has ambitions to branch out into monthly podcasts, music/art events, and generally a space where women and girls can contribute their artistic endeavours and to have some creative fun.
I feel like this resonates with me strongly as I didn’t have any kind of female support network when climbing up the ranks in the local music scene and it’s just something that is swept under the carpet. I want females to recognise their abilities and to utilize them with confidence in a scene that arguably doesn’t represent that.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
I’ve just had a rummage through my childhood CD collection because honestly, my memory of childhood is so poor! Just name a few, we have: [early] Black Eyed Peas, Jet, Paramore, Anastacia, The Ting Tingz, The Chemical Brothers, Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliot, Bombay Bicycle Club, Lucy Rose and Florence and the Machine. These albums I can totally vouch for!
Also, my dad played a huge influencer into my childhood musical journey. He would spoon-feed me The Beatles, Empire of the Sun, Nirvana, Blur… He took me to my first concert – Paul McCartney – I was five.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Right now I’m totally rocking off U.S Girls new album ‘In a Poem Unlimited’ after seeing them at The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham. Though my current Spotify history tells me that Beach House, Stella Donnelley, Fazerdaze, Chastity Belt, St. Vincent, Blondie and Waxahatchee have been my streaming faves in recent weeks.
If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be?
Oh wow this is a tough one…
I’m going to have to say Grimes.
You just wouldn’t know what to expect, would you?
When you are not making music, or working with the collective or on the zine what do you do to have fun and relax?
You can usually find me somewhere in Birmingham, either at a gig/art galleries or having a few too many drinks with friends… or catch me watching true crime documentaries.
Will you be at London or Brighton Pride this year?
I will be in London during the Pride weekend but I am unsure whether I will be able to attend much of it since I’ll be at the BST Hyde Park Festival and then I’ll be continuing my UK tour on the 8th at Good Neighbour, London. Though saying this, I’m sure I could squeeze some Pride action in.
And finally…Will you be taking this album on a tour?
I will be indeed!
You can catch me touring the album on the road at any one of these dates:
5th July - House Show, Cardiff
PRIDE AND PRIVILEGE
I remember the 1st time I heard Stacyann Chin’s Three Frenzied Days on Def Poetry Jam. The frenetic way she had with words, as her voice chimed high from my television screen declaring, “Where if memory were my only reminder, I would convince you that it isn’t really illegal to be lesbian in Jamaica.” I recall in a familiar way how she recounted in Other Side of Paradise how she viewed being sexually assaulted as punishment in for being openly Lesbian and not conforming to societal expectations of sexual identity. I understand and empathise with how she says her voice was silenced.
I judge my experiences have pale by comparison to the extreme force I have seen and heard of being perpetuated against Lesbians. Looking out into the larger world, into foreign lands, into paradise, I have kept a running list of the places where I would feel unsafe living and vacationing. “Those places,” I tell myself “are dangerous.” I have become hyperaware of “those people in those places” and hypercritical of their backward and unprogressive ways. These judgements, I formulate from the security of “the land of the free and home of the brave.”
My thinly veiled courage exists on the edge of privilege… Comparatively I live in a place where I can openly live my truth without recompense, mostly. I exist during a time when I can proclaim my Queerness, cloth myself in rainbows and walk hand and hand with my lover in public. All these things I do with a reasonable assurance of safety and protection under the law. Same-sex marriage remains legal for the time-being. And I can openly celebrate PRIDE.
Privilege is defined as special rights, advantages and immunities being granted to some. The term privilege is used more frequently as society attempts to unpack the ways in which some benefit. The term itself has been beneficial in helping us to recognise how privilege has/is being employed by ourselves and others. Use of the term provides us with an opportunity to become aware of it, check it and reposition ourselves not to be a mechanism of the construct. It's also been a hindrance, desensitising folx with its overuse and misplacement. And it has given way to weaponised tears and emotional hijacking from folx who are unwilling to do their work.
As so many around the world celebrate the spirit of LGBTQ+ Pride, I am considering all the ways I take up space. I am taking inventory of all the ways in which I am adjacent to privilege, how I participate, profit and support its existence. I can enumerate the ways in which I encounter it as a fat, Black, femme, but rarely do I consider my role. My seemingly innocuous consumption and distribution of information and how I separate myself from “those people over there” is insidious. My judgment of “those people over there,” who do those backward things in places that I willingly avoid is both seemingly small and symptomatic of something larger.
How can I profess “Happy Pride,” deign to be in solidarity, or proclaim myself an activist without checking myself and the benefits that I enjoy while women in the world who look like and speak in different tongues are not free to do the same.
There is much shared modern history of our common progress and the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Fifty years after England and Wales decriminalised homosexuality, at least in part, there remains at least 71 countries/territories throughout the world where same-sex relations and relationships remain a crime. In 45 of those countries sexual relationships between women are outlawed. According to the 2017 International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) State-Sponsored Homophobia Report, in all 71 states laws persist that can carry anywhere from a 7-year prison term to the death penalty. There are eight states where the death penalty is activated at the time of the report. As we are awash in a sea of rainbows, there is still much to be accomplished throughout the world, when homosexuality is a crime punishable by the law in 37% of UN states. What have we as a global community to be proud of.
Even as I prepare for celebrations in and with my community and family I reflect on important moments in the history of law and LGBTQ+ rights, which have made room for latitude. For example, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act passed by Parliament for England and Wales is a moment of reflection on what right looked like 50 years ago. Behind the other 20 or so countries that led the way in legalisation before the turn of the 20th Century, they were still over three decades ahead of the country where I live, the United States. It would be another 36 years, June 2003, before the United States would legalise sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex. While the state of Illinois had taken the step in 1962 as country it would take four decades for the United States Supreme Court to follow suit.
As I gather myself together and consider where I will show up and how, I am challenged to consider the historical road paved in violence with which was bequeathed these freedoms and how many still have not been afforded them. I think about how the 1967 SOA amendment enacted by Parliament did little to change societal attitudes towards homosexuality. And I think about the abhorrent history of the Thatcher Administration’s Section 28 and it’s subsequently disquieting legacy. The road was long and arduous for male-centred bodies even as women and trans folx were excluded. Rather than being a moment of collective liberation, I think about how women continued to suffer violence invisibly and silently, erasure.
“In between being sacked from jobs, thrown out of pubs, beaten up, sexually assaulted, and labelled a “freak” and “kiddy fiddler”, I was informed by some gay men and heterosexuals that lesbians were not oppressed because we were “not illegal”.” Julie Bindel, The Guardian
In this Trump-era United States, I am contemplative about how attacked LGBTQ+ rights are. I ruminate on the ways in which I have taken for granted the work that has been done, as I exist under threat of it being undone and this place becoming like one of those underdeveloped and backward places. I binge The L Word on Netflix and consider how much of that show does not reflect my reality, my lived experiences and yet how just under the surface there are the ties that bind. How bonded I am to a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell story line, when I have lived to see DADT repealed under the Obama Administration. I think how on June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that the states cannot ban same-sex marriage and how there must be a woman that I could marry legally, even as I navigated the terrain of my sexuality.
As I design my ensemble for the local PRIDE parade and consider how to best incorporate images of Marsha P. Johnson and Rainbows into my costume, I am consumed by the need to do more, be more, acknowledge more. I am reminded that because of a Black, bisexual, trans, sex worker hurling a brick through the hot night of a summer in 1969, we have Pride. A year later people, my people, were marching through the streets on the one-year anniversary of the night that members of the LGBT community collided in rebellion with the police at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. I consider how that violence erupted and a community pivoted and were thrust into an important moment in history and the turning point for LGBT rights in The United States. That day June 28, 1970, the Christopher Street Liberation Day became the first Pride in the United States.
Three years later, in London on July 1, 1972 the first official UK Pride Rally was held in solidarity with the commemoration of Stonewall. 1976, twelve years ahead of Thatcher’s Section 28, the Houses of Parliament even threw a grand picnic in Victoria Gardens for Gay Pride Week. And for all of its’ oppressive dictates Section 28 didn’t deter Pride parades and in 1983 it was renamed Lesbian and Gay Pride, finally centring at the very least L and G folx. Though Pride has seemingly become synonymous with the parades and carnivals of pageantry, it is incumbent upon us to recollect that this fete came on the heels of a vicious raid that culminated in days long riots, undertaken legally by a police force executing laws ascribed by a system steeped in rampant homophobia.
That is the part of history that privilege will allow me to forget as I prepare to watch fireworks blaze through the sky. That is the part of privilege that allows me to celebrate here in the safety of my insular community, while women in those other places are taken in to captivity for being. Or those women are forced to hide and sneak and not be or be less than, under the threat of death. I remember as I search for rainbow Converse that the first rainbow flag was stitched together by Gilbert Baker as a symbol of hope and pride for the LGBT community. As I go forth into the revelry, I am mindful of how I able enjoy shared spaces brazenly. And I have hope in all of those places where I am afraid to visit, there are women who are hurling bricks, owning their bodies in the ways they can and must to exist. I am emboldened in the belief that they are disruptive and resistant and demanding their spaces and their rights. That is Pride, the real Pride.
WRITTEN BY MALAIKA SALAAM
MY QUEER LOVE LIFE #5
(names have been changed to protect the innocent... and the guilty)
Group sex is fun.
I've always been intrigued by it, fantasised about it, downloaded porn selling it and almost done it, so many times. But until a couple of months ago I was a group sex virgin. I mean unless you count that time I was 18, and I had sex with my best friend while our two other best friends were in bed asleep next to us, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count.
I jumped into group sex in spectacular style. It all started with a seemingly innocent match with Kat. Tinder, by now, is working its algorithm in Hackney centric style with nearly all of my matches being in East London. It means those last minute hookups are on my doorstep and I couldn't be happier with this bubble of a borough that I've found myself in. Kat lives in Shoreditch and is married to Alicja (they are lesbians *said in an overly loud whisper for extra idiotic effect*). Kat and I text for a week or so about all the things. We cover polyamory, Melbourne, Eurovision, how most British girls are not into sexting, etc. We text every day for seven days straight until we start sexting, when I say sexting, I mean SEXTING. They say it took God seven days to create existence, well this was better than existence. She is filthy and dominant; I am filthy and (currently embracing being) submissive, it's a match made in heaven; if heaven existed, which it does not.
At the end of the seventh day, we start making plans to meet, as we are both super excited to see if this energy that has contributed to me coming seven times throughout the afternoon will be present in real life. During our week of texting, Kat talked about Alicja a lot, and I spoke about Albi a lot. Kat asks me if I would like to meet Alicja when we go for a drink the following week. I'm a bit confused by this. Kat's tinder profile does mention her wife and also has a pic of her, but I thought I had matched with someone who is poly and is seeking intimate connections with people outside of their relationship. I say I would prefer to meet her as I am interested in exploring our energy, just the two of us. She puts it to Alicja, and they agree that we can hang out alone. So we start making arrangements, we are both really excited.
Halfway through the week, I receive a WhatsApp message from a number I don't know. It reads: "My name is Alicja. Firstly, stop texting my fucking wife". It's late, and Albi is staying at mine and is in the middle of cooking us dinner. I freeze with panic and confusion "Albi, something really fucking weird is..." before I get a chance to finish my sentence I get a second text "JKS". I am in shock; I don't initially find this funny as I'm still trying to slow my heart rate from the first message. My phone vibrates again "It's Kat's birthday on Saturday, and I want to organise a surprise fuck for her, I know you've been texting and that you are into each other and I thought you would be perfect. So I stole your number from her phone". By this point, I'm calm and can get on board with the joke, so my first response is this "I'm sorry I don't know who this is and I have no idea what you're talking about" BAM nailed it. My phone is still. I leave this text to simmer. I respond again "JKS BACK." Then it's on.
Alicja "So here is my idea- I tell Kat we are going on a date, I bring her to yours. We let ourselves in, you're naked and chained to the bed, your face is covered, and you are in heels and lingerie with your arse to the door."
Now, call me crazy but, I’m not keen on letting two strangers that I’ve never met before into my flat while I’m chained to a bed with a bag over my head. I talk through my concerns. I also voice the fact that I’m not comfortable with Alicja just assuming that she would join us, keeping in mind this is the first connection I’ve ever had with her, and it’s as a result of her stealing my phone number from her wife’s phone and placing herself in the middle of what Kat and I had going on.
I say that I would only be comfortable with this scenario if Albi were there as well. Albi is well versed in group sex and says he is happy to watch Netflix in the other room or go and have a drink with Alicja or watch us with Alicja or, of course, join in!
So the three of us go about making arrangements for Kat’s birthday surprise. I pull out my circus rigging gear and affix it to my bed base so that I have restraints for my wrists, ankles, and neck. Albi and I set up my bedroom so that cushions adorn the floor for easy viewing of the action and we make delicious berry cocktails for their arrival. Neither Kat nor Alicja have ever seen a picture of Albi, which makes him greeting them on arrival even more delightful.
When they do finally arrive, Albi hands them their drinks and shows them through to the bedroom. I am dying with nerves and excitement. I’m dressed, if you could call it that, in stockings, heels, bra, and g with a soft cotton bag over my head and my red hair tucked up inside. Kat’s favourite techno artist is playing through the sound system as Albi explains the rules of the evening. Kat is in charge, she can do as she likes with the girl on the bed and Albi and Alicja are allowed to ask to join in or to make suggestions, but ultimately Kat makes all final decisions.
It’s worth mentioning that up to this point Kat, and I have exchanged some pics, but none of mine were body shots. She has no idea that I have tattoos or what my body looks like in the slightest. Kat begins to tease me and gently spank me. I can tell she is enjoying herself merely from the sounds she is making and the way she is grabbing my flesh. Her wife and my lover watch from the makeshift cushion sofa. Kat takes the bag from my head, but she is behind me, so it’s easy for me to avoid her seeing my face. I want the anonymity to last for as long as possible. I turn and look at the others and grin, we three are delighted at how well we have pulled this surprise off. It takes her what feels like 40 mins to finally see my face, and when she does, it’s adorable. Her eyes light up, she grins like a child and cradles my face with her hands and says ‘oh my god it’s you” she then kisses me passionately and slowly for a long time.
It goes from here into the wee hours of the morning, turning into a debauched and delirious foursome, the joys of which, I could never have imagined.
We are all worn out and smiling by the time they leave my flat, individually pleased with our achievements and surprises of the epic evening. We all know that this will happen again. And as it turns out, letting two strangers that I’ve never met before into my flat, while I’m chained to a bed, with a bag over my head is an excellent idea.
WRITTEN BY JESS LOVE.
We caught up with Channel 4’s Kiss Me First lead character, Actor and Performer TALLULAH HADDON to talk queer representation, feminism and her favourite queer nights out in London.
Who, if any, were your LGBTQ+ role models growing up?
I was really into Bad Girls.... and TRACY BEAKER she was my idol. She was a butch hero. In my early teens I was BIG into Avril Lavigne and had blue hair and played the electric guitar (hah) and when I met my best mate we listened to Patti Smith, The Runaways, Courtney Love. Joan Jett was a leathered legend and I couldn't believe she was a lezza! When I met my friend Marisa Carnesky and she taught me about cabaret I started to explore sexuality and gender through surreal imagery and performance, she is an LGBT+ and feminist hero of mine.
When did you come out?
I think I discovered I was bi/pan sexual through experimenting and then it was more of an organic process. I felt a lot of shame when I was younger about fancying girls, and it took me a while to work that out. My first proper gay relationship was a turning point, like I was stepping out and it felt terrifying but wonderful. I think it could have been easier, hopefully it will be in the future for the younger generation. Now I embrace my identity, however it feels like there is a distance between what I externally portray and the physical and mental realities. I love being part of the LGBTQI+ community, I feel strong and lucky to be able to be visible. A big part of being visible is recognising your privilege and making change to enable others to be.
You’ve got a striking look, can you tell us a bit about what influences it?
I guess I'm influenced by insects at the moment. Chainmail and re working vintage clothes; Milk Maids and leather, latex, bonnets...
Do you see any similarities between you and your character Leila?
We are both strong and don't give f*ck.
Talking of strong women, do you get any negative feedback online about being such an unapologetic (and rightly so!) feminist?
I haven't experienced much no. I get more abuse in person, on the streets etc for calling out sexist and abusive behaviour. Recently I have experienced the worst behaviour from bystanders, this bystander mentality - when you have been assaulted on public transports and grown adults say nothing to you, it's appalling.
With your growing success on TV, but also within the performance world, do you think it is even more important to make the feminist voice heard? To ‘spread the word’ to a younger generation?
Its really important to me to be a role model for young girls and women, gender rebels and queers.To present an achievable alternative from the norm, an example of someone who is unapologetically themselves, and being the change they want to see.
For so long we had to find role models and queer them, turn them into idols, if we couldn't see it, we would imagine it, and wish it, and form something for ourselves to worship.
Feminism is something that gets a lot of bad press. We are conditioned from such a young age through play, gendered toys + clothes, which physically changes the elasticity of our brains. Even how we are held as babies, studies showing female babies are cradled to the chest and cooed at and male babies are held out to face the world and comforted less. And saying that it's obvious that masculinity needs to be held under the microscope too alongside out dated models of femininity. Around three-quarters of all suicides in 2016 in the UK were male. Men's poor mental health urgently needs to be tackled. Be tactile with your male friends, let boys cry!
More women in science, industry, government + drastic change in the infrastructure of our society to disable inequality. (Equal pay)
What are your favourite queer nights out?
BAR WOTEVA - one of the first things - is its accessible which is great, allot of gay bars (as they disappear) are corridors or down a flight of stairs - INACCESSIBLE! The people who run it programme the most eclectic performances. Seen some great work there and super relaxed environment to experiment and share work. Love ACCESS ALL AREAS, a performance company making work with neuro diverse people. Also COCO BUTTER CLUB is great! QUEER HOUSE are an agency just opened representing queers in the industry! SHE KAREOKE! Where are the lezza bars?! Shall I open one?
And finally, Are you working on any other projects at the moment? I have seen something about jelly!?
Yea! I'm making some work with my partner - we are called ‘Shared Saliva’! That's been really exciting- exploring the language of queer love and mixing it with myth and super natural, magic realism surrealistic language and imagery.
PHOTO BY ALEX LEE JOHNSON.
MY QUEER LOVE LIFE #4
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty)
Never say never.
After the heartbreak of my divorce and the trauma of being betrayed by my lover and best friend (see MQLL #1) I had sworn I wouldn’t fall in love again. I didn’t believe in it. After all, it's only a series of chemicals released in my brain, and I want no part in it ever again. Its demise was too painful. I WAS DONE. And then I matched on Tinder with Albi.
NB: The next 1000ish words contain information that has changed my life forever.
Day 5 of Tinder dating, I woke up disheveled from my first date with Riisa and the slight weirdness of our parting ways (See MQLL #3). I started swiping while still in bed. I matched with Albi in the morning; his profile didn’t give me much to go on except that he brushed his teeth twice a day, hates Tories and is Poly. He messaged me in the afternoon; this is roughly how it went:
Albi: “Hey Jess, you look familiar, and with the number of friends we have in common we must have been in the same place at the same time”
Jess: “Hmmm must have. Which friends do we have in common?, I missed that!!”
Albi: “half the queer performance art world and a quarter of the circus world”
Jess: “Bahahaha, well there you go”
As you can see, I clearly have my texting banter down in the first week of internet dating… NOT!!
Albi, however, is smooth as fuck and suggests we move to what’s app immediately. I am attracted to his profile, pictures, and bio, so I dive in and embrace a “Yolo” attitude. We chat into nightfall, and he very quickly suggests we hang out that evening. Considering this has been my experience with app dating so far I am not at all shocked by this instant experience concept and agree to go to meet him at his workplace when I’m done performing in Covent Garden.
I arrive in East London at 11 pm. Albi works in an incredible community garden, which by that time is entirely empty and extraordinarily romantic and welcoming. Fairy lights are twinkling in the treetops, an open fire warms a sunroom and a small greenhouse is glowing pink. We sit by the fire, and he offers me wine. There is an immediate connection; our energy is undeniable, I like him instantly. He is tall (compared to me, he says he is medium height, but I disagree!), has bright blue/green eyes with a warmth that I find impossible to articulate with words, and an awkwardness that is just the right amount of sexy.
We sit next to the fire and immediately try to work out how we are connected. It unravels quickly, and within minutes we have discovered that he has taken workshops run by my ex-wife and that I studied clowning with his dad and am friends with his dad's partner. We then spend the next couple of hours talking about all the friends and shows we have in common and there are a lot. We get drunk. We are having a fantastic time together. He moves from his couch to mine; we are sitting side by side- the tension is extreme. We kiss, the adrenaline is rushing. We end up making out for ages until we slide down to lie on the couch. I want to have sex right there but it is his place of work, and even in his drunkenness he is responsible, which makes me like him even more. He asks if I would like to go back to his place. I say yes.
During our chats, he has also mentioned his girlfriend several times. We talk about her briefly, mainly me asking how their open relationship works and what the rules are. He says that they have only recently opened up their house to being somewhere they can take other lovers to. We get a cab back to his. We are attached the whole ride home. We make it there without ripping each other’s clothes off… just. The next 12 hours are ours but let me say this; we both agree that it was some of the most incredible 12 hours of sexual connection we have ever had. It was wild, free and effortless. It was also filthy as fuck. We were more compatible than we could’ve imagined from our tinder profiles or our family connections. THIS was next level shit. We wake up wrapped in each other's limbs and agree to see each other again.
He heads off to work, I go home; I woke up ill so end up spending the whole day in bed (still to this day I swear it was not the poppers that spilt all over my face and went up my nose seconds before squirting everywhere- oh shit I wasn’t going to talk about that stuff… oops!) Despite him being at work we texted all day. We talked about how exciting the night before was and how much we enjoyed meeting. We talk about our connections and how exhausted we are from staying up all night talking and fucking. I whine about being sick, and he says he wishes he could make me tea and cook me soup. I’m supposed to be meeting someone else (actually two other people as I had double booked myself accidentally) for a date, but I change my mind about seeing them when he sends me this;
Albi: Are you sure you don’t just want a tired and warm man to slide in and curl up under your duvet at 11 pm?
Jess: Awww… Sure
Albi: Is that a positive confirmation or are you saying you’re sure you don’t want that?
Jess: I would love you to come round to mine. I shall cancel my dates (plural!) ha
A week after we first met, Albi and his gf of 5 years decide to split up. It’s a long and complicated story and not mine to share, but it has meant that we have also had an odd and complicated start to our story. But hey that’s life right?!
That was just over two months ago (it feels like two years ago!!!). Not a day has gone by that I haven’t woken up without him on my mind. I have quickly and unexpectedly fallen in love- HARD. He is my muse and my confidant. I cannot imagine life without him, and it’s hard to believe that I got this far without him by my side. Intense right?! Love is the drug remember? All this coming from little miss “It is only a series of chemicals released in my brain, and I want no part in it ever again.” Such a fickle thing. I am aware of my hypocrisy and the ease with which I have quickly slid into a state of intense love for someone again. But this time, this time it’s quite different. We have both kept dating this whole time, some old and some new lovers. We have shared fun stories about awkward meet ups, amazing orgasms, dirty text messages and spontaneous afternoon sex. We have dissected our way through jealous reactions and possible future problems. We communicate with the same ease we do most other things. We are kind and thoughtful and generous with each other in every way possible. And if all of this lust and sexual energy is just temporary and not for us in the long run, then I can honestly say that I have met a friend for life. Someone I will know and love until one of us dies, a soul mate, a best friend, So thanks for the match Albi, I couldn’t be happier that our stars aligned and I look forward to sharing the adventure that is life with you.
BY JESS LOVE.
GLITTEROUS LAUNCH PARTY
++ GLITTEROUS ++
THE LAUNCH PARTY FT. NADINE ARTOIS [PXSSY PALACE] + THROWING SHADE [NTS]
//Gay Girl Dance Party //
\\ Everybody Will Come \\
EMERGENCY!! SXX BOT ATTACK!! WARNING!! NEW GIRL RAVE LAUNCHING 8TH JUNE AT VFD!!
A GLITCH IN THE MAIN FRAME AT NEARBY SXX-BOT FACTORY HAS RESULTED IN DERANGED SXX-BOTS ON THE LOOSE IN DALSTON!!
INFECTING PASSERS BY WITH LETHAL
HURRY!! MAKE IT DOWN TO THE LAB AT VFD ON JUNE 8TH FOR YOUR INOCULATION!!
GLITTEROUS IS A BRAND NEW RADICALLY DIFFERENT GAY GIRL PARTY. WE BELIEVE IN QUALITY MUSIC AND THE POWER OF THE RAVE. CREATED BY GAY WOMEN AND MADE FOR ALL LGBTQ WXMEN AND THEIR MATES. GLITTEROUS IS INCLUSIVE NOT EXCLUSIVE. BRINGING IT BACK TO BASICS. THERE WILL BE CARNAGE.
A GLITTER FXCK FOR THE SENSES.
YOU’LL COME AGAIN & AGAIN & AGAIN & AGAIN.
+ YOU DON’T NEED A VXGINA, YOU JUST NEED A GLITTEROUS +
BADMAN SELECTAS DR. NADINE ARTOIS [PXSSY PALACE] AND THROWING SHADE [NTS RADIO] WILL BE ADMINISTERING INOCULATIONS OF 80S RNB, 90S HOUSE, GARAGE, SLXT HOUSE ANTHEMS, RNB MASH UPS & CHUNKY DISCO!!
++ THE SEXIEST SLUTTIEST CAMPIEST PLACE TO BE ON A FRIDAY NIGHT- GLITTEROUS IS THROWING THE ULTIMATE GOOD VIBES DANCE PARTY FOR GAY GIRLS AND THEIR MATES. EVERYBODY WELCOME, WXMEN PRIORITISED ON THE DOOR.
ENTER OUR SXX BOT LAB & RAVE THE NIGHT AWAY WHILE WE GLITTER FXCK YOUR SENSES ++
WARNING!! HIGH LIKELIHOOD OF MIDNIGHT SEX BOT ATTACK!! MAKE SURE YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF £6 ENTRY B4 MIDNIGHT!!
ADVANCED EARLY BIRDS: £3
ADVANCED ALL NIGHT ENTRY: £5
DOOR B4 12: £6
DOOR AFTER 12: £8
MY QUEER LOVE LIFE #3
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty)
POLYAMORY, can we just.
For most of my adult life, my partners struggled with how “intense” I was. When I fall in love with someone it consumes me… and them. In the beginning, its great for everyone, as the honeymoon period wears off for my partner, it continues for me. FOR AGES. I text them all the time, shower them with gifts and compliments, want to have sex every day- at least, and pine for them insufferably when we are apart. Love is my drug of choice, and I’m an addict. Since engaging in an open lifestyle, I can spread this intensity generously with several people at once which, has allowed me to be meeker with how I express love for my partner. In turn, creating a more rounded and enjoyable connection for my lovers and less intense experience for me.
It’s not that I'm expressing less love than I would for one partner exclusively, it’s that I’m quite productive and capable of having many things going on at once and it makes more sense for me to share this energy between many lovers. I end up being calmer in my everyday life and feeling more secure with each person. Each relationship is relaxed and chilled out, not escalating at an insane pace making us feel like we are spiralling out of control and into a black hole of promised permanence. Because that is unbelievably unrealistic and unachievable, as the only permanence in life is impermanence.
So let's get to it then. On day 4 of tinder dating, I have had three dates, all ok but nothing to write home about. I matched with Riisa on a sunny Thursday morning. We texted throughout the day; it was incredibly engaging and enjoyable. By the afternoon we were still chatting, I had the whole day off and had been lounging around procrastinating, scrolling through Instagram feeds and watching old episodes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I asked him if he was out enjoying the sun. He said he was at a local Hackney pub in the beer garden reading and offered for me to join him. It was at this point he also mentioned he had a girlfriend, that he was poly and he was about full disclosure. I was ecstatic. This is what I had been looking for. I grabbed my keys and RAN out the door, it was 4pm. It took me 20 mins to get to him, and I arrived at the bar with a different sense of excitement than I had felt on the previous three dates. My instinct was correct, he was charming, cute, awkward, intelligent and kind. He was a philosopher from Mauritius and we sat in the afternoon sun for 4 hours getting to know each other. Both feeling a significant connection we decided to move to the next bar, a cocktail bar a short walk away. After another 3 hours of laughing, teasing, storytelling and debating- we kissed. We kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed and well, you get the idea. He was sweet and gentle and we enjoyed each other very much. He proposed to come back to my place, I asked if that would be ok with his gf. He explained that she was on holiday in the Ukraine and that because our date had been so spontaneous he hadn’t told her yet but there deal was that they were required to talk about it first. So I said no. He said “it will be fine, she will be cool with it”. I said “you have a deal you’ll get permission first, soooo...no.” He said “I want you”. I said “NO”. He said “it will be totally fine”. I said “no”. And again, you get the idea. This went on for about 30 mins until I finally left him on the street corner outside the bar with a mopey look on his face.
Now it is at this point that I’m going to mention CONSENT. If you ask someone a question and the respondent answers with a definitive YES or NO, do you continue to ask the same question over and over for half an hour while they continue to respond with the same answer? NO, so DON’T DO IT WHEN IT COMES TO SEX. The thing is, Riisa was lovely and gentle and sweet, and I didn’t feel threatened by him at all. But I said no, SO MANY TIMES. And after the first repeated NO, I already started to feel uncomfortable and pressured. The thing is I was unquestionably attracted to him, but he and his gf had rules, and I was not interested in breaking them. This kind of behind the back, shady behaviour is exactly why I was no longer interested in monogamy. BUT THAT'S NOT EVEN THE POINT. The point is that NO MEANS NO, no matter what the circumstances.
That awkward moment aside, I liked him, and I decided I would have the consent conversation at a later date.
We arranged to meet again a couple of weeks later. He accompanied me to an opening night of a circus show. I knew some dear friends of mine would also be there, so I set it up as a double date. My friends liked him as much as I had and the evening was going great until he casually mentioned to my friends that he was moving to New Zealand in 2 months and he was breaking up with his gf as a result. This threw me; I inquired privately when my friends went to the bar. He explained that he had known for a while but hadn’t wanted to spoil our first meeting with the news of the move and that he had only just decided to leave his partner. I was quite shocked and didn’t know how to feel about it all. We continued the night and ended up at a late night kebab joint sloppily stuffing greasy delights into our gobs and talking drunkenly about his life choices.
We finished our cheap beers and walked out into the Camden nightlife, lips locked for again what seemed like forever. He told me he had talked with his gf about how our date might end, so I asked him if he wanted to join me for the night. He said yes, then no, then yes. Then he said no again and decided he would go home to his gf. He explained that he had left for our evening together after telling her that they needed to break up and that he might end up having sex with someone she had never met and that he really liked!! Smart move!
So here I was again, standing on a different street corner, this time frustrated and dejected by all of this new information wondering to myself if Riisa and I would ever manage to fulfil our mutual desire to get down and dirty with one another.
That was weeks ago, we have texted since, and he decided that he should deal with his life before starting any new relationships. I love his mind and respect this decision. Who knows what may come of our friendship in the future, until then I have made a friend, a lovely, intelligent, open-minded friend.
BY JESS LOVE
IMAGE CREDIT- Jess Love, Toby Reynolds and Love is the Drug company
EILEEN MYLES TALKS BOOKS
I met with punk poet and writer Eileen Myles after a reading of their new book Afterglow, which is out in the UK in February. As they are an absolute hero of mine, I struggled to string a sentence together, but I did manage to say just how influential Chelsea Girls was for me the first time (of many!) that I have read it. A couple of months later, I started thinking about writers that have influenced not just my own writing, but my entire lifestyle. I thought about the likes of Myles, Winterson and Waters and started to wonder, who were the writers that inspired them? What books were the writing that shaped their adolescent years?
I got in touch with Myles, who was just coming to the end of their US book tour, and we scheduled to talk the following week. Publishing over 20 books of poetry, prose and fiction over 40 years, I just knew that they would have an interesting and eclectic collection of books that inspire them.
So as not to put them on the spot on the day, I asked them to compile a list of their top 10 favourite books of all time ready for when we spoke. The list came back almost straight away, when it comes to writing, they don’t mess about.
So, Eileen, how was the Afterglow tour?
Great now that it's done. I was on tour from early September till just last week with big gaps in New York in between. Each place was different. Pittsburgh was astonishing - there is a place called City of Asylum that has houses for writers and their families seeking political asylum in US. San Diego - UCSD where I taught and wrote/lived much of the book. El Paso was astonishing in the back yard of the Blackbird Cantina, The Saturn Bar in New Orleans, Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, The Strand in New York… it was all very great! Happily I love reading my work...yeah I saw friends all over North America, it was fun and I'm so glad it's over. I'm kicking back in Marfa right now.
You have been hailed as a ‘literary legend basking in the latest literary renaissance’- that’s quite a title! Are you enjoying the new surge of interest and the republishing of your earlier material?
Yeah it's totally validating. I mean if it's a small room and everyone's listening, the room is full. I'm a poet and we read our work and publish communally so I always experience total success in the readership I knew, and knew me. I mean we act like the mainstream is reality. It's not. Reality is all these little scenes people consume and experience work within, so I've never felt unknown but of course it's nice to see my work more widely known and get money. It's the right time and I welcome it. And having a young audience means my work works.
Yes, I found, when reading your earlier writing for the first time, as relevant, way over a decade after it was written. When you revisit your youth within the earlier work does it feel like looking back on someone else? How does it make you feel?
No. I am them. I was learning to write in my earlier books so I see that happening, but I know them very well. I don't think people change though we do get devastated and have to come back from that. There blazes of joy as well, that I also have to recover from just to keep walking down the street or driving my car.
Do you plan to do any readings in the UK when Afterglow is released in Feb?
Yes! March! I do the UK in March and then on to Australia and NZ in May, but for now still…
So, Eileen, what are your top 10 books of all time?
La Batarde- Violette Le Duc
Master and Margaritte- Mikhail Bulgakov
Nightwood- Djuna Barnes
Maude Martha- Gwendolyn Brooks
Hotel Wentley Poems- John Wieners
Under Glacier- Halldor Laxness
The Activist- Rene Gladman
Winter in the Blood- James Welch
Collected Poems- James Schuyler
Tropic of Capricorn- Henry Miller
WRITTEN BY AMY RIDLER
MY QUEER LOVE LIFE #2
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent... and the guilty)
Let’s talk labels.
I’m not a huge fan but I see how they can be helpful. On more than a couple of occasions, I have used labels for myself that I don’t wholeheartedly identify with, just because I have thought it would help the person I’m talking to relate to me less weirdly. I am never 100% comfortable with how it makes me feel to do that.
Let’s start with Bisexuality.
I am not bisexual. I thought I was, just like I once thought I was a lesbian. In 1917 Sigmund Freud coined the term Pansexual, it took about another 90 years before my ears were graced with the word. The first I heard of it was circa 2013, a friend told me that all “the kids” were coming out as pansexual. That it was the current sexuality fad and how exciting it was that we had a generation of gender-blind youths about to take over the world from people like Tony Abbott, Ann Widdecombe, Jeremy Clarkson and Sarah Palin.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this new term. I researched it for days, wrangling with the idea that I needed to “re-label” myself AGAIN. I was so over coming out. But as before, with lesbian, this made more sense to me than bisexual and I started to feel uncomfortable using that to describe my sexual identity. Gender has never occurred to me when I am attracted to someone, nor race, nor class, nor height (a considerable talking point on tinder profiles FYI), nor blah blah blah. I am either attracted to a person or not attracted to a person. I don’t have a type, although I have always ended up in long-term relationships with people in the creative arts, maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong!
So if you insist on labelling me, it’s pansexual all the way but I prefer to call myself gender-blind.
Next off the rank: Slut.
An ex-boyfriend once casually called me a slut because he assumed I had slept with a lot of people. It turns out he had slept with shitloads more than the mere eleven I had chalked up at the time. It was classic slut-shaming bought on by his insecurities. I fought back with numbers, but actually, fuck that. I’m allowed to have as many friends as I want without being considered morally questionable. So why should having sex be any different? If I have a couple of friends who I always go to see the latest films at the cinema with and another group of friends who I party with and another few friends who I always go to a boxing class with, why can’t I have a selection of friends with whom I have sex? It is the sharing of a common interest that we have a connection over, that excites both of us- pardon the pun. I often repeat the words of a wonderful man who once walked this earth: “If you can’t fuck your friends, who can you fuck?” -Derek Ives
So yeah actually, I am a slut. An ethical slut, otherwise known as a polyamorist. I am honest with all of my lovers. I am upfront about my lifestyle choices, and I form meaningful, intimate and beautiful relationships with the people I sleep with regularly. I am not a massive fan of a one-night stand; still, I do have them occasionally. I am a fan of loving and caring for all of my friends and equally all of my lovers. So if you do find this thread of conversation threatening or uncomfortable and you think you might have a slut-shaming tendency, quit it, it’s not cute.
N.B. If you haven’t already read The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy, do, I can’t recommend it enough.
Last but not least: Queer
Which has in recent years become an umbrella term for people who identify as a part of the LGBTQIAPK acronym. Let’s just clarify this acronym: L- Lesbian, G- Gay, B- Bisexual, T- Transgender, Q- Queer, I- Intersex, A- Asexual, P- Pansexual and also P- Polygamous/Polyamorous, K- Kink.
At different times in my life, I have identified with between one and seven of these labels. I love that Queer has become the umbrella term. I have always felt queer, whether it be just feeling odd at school or not fitting in with my family of middle class, hetero-normative Christian school teachers, being a circus performer or having had a lifelong continually shifting and morphing sexuality. Queer has always been something with which I identified. It’s my constant.
Interestingly enough I once referred to Jean-Michel (See My Queer Love Life #1) as queer during one of our many great conversations about life and sex, and he flipped out. At first, I thought it was some weird homophobic response, which didn’t at all fit his belief system or what I knew of it anyway. I think it was maybe a slight “lost in translation” moment, which does happen when you are conducting an intimate relationship in a language that is not your mother tongue, him being French. Ultimately though he identifies as straight and dirty. Just because he has kinks that are not considered conventional hetero-normative desires does not automatically make him queer. Only he can decide if he is queer and he doesn’t identify as that. This conversation reminded me that labels have the potential to be very dangerous. Nobody has the right to label anyone else or assume anything about anyone’s sexual preferences or lifestyle. FULL STOP.
Personally, I finally feel comfortable with the following sentence that I think encapsulates all of the aspects of who I am: A kinky, gender-blind, people loving, ethical slut.
Now that that’s out of the way we can finally get down to Tinder.
I signed up on a Monday at midday, by 4 pm I was out on a date. Drinks at a local bar with a guy called KC. KC is a tall Ghanian dude with long dreads and a slow manner. He is a Rastafarian, pot smoking, reggae musician. We have an hour of stunted awkward conversation over two drinks. He says things like “I can tell you are gonna make me laugh every day” and “do you want kids? I have twin 1-year-olds”. It was too much. It made me nervous. I laughed a lot. Something I do when I’m nervous and uncomfortable which made him think I was enjoying myself. I left him on a street corner after an awkward goodbye of him going in for a snog and me turning my face abruptly so that his mouth caught my cheek. Taking this bumpy start to online life in my stride I walked home determined not to let this slow me down and spent the next 4 hours swiping.
And then it happened, I matched with Millie. I’d been matching pretty consistently, but I was also new to this and full of excitement and adrenaline and had been pretty indiscriminate with my right swipes while I got used to the app and messaging and understanding how to make it work for me. So I was pretty stoked when this stunning woman with a shining smile and sparkling eyes swiped right back. She had caught my eye with her blonde hair and her remarkable style. This is the essence of online dating apps, they have an unmistakably horrible superficial ethic at their core. Having said that, they are also for everyone and anyone, from the KC’s of the world to the Millie’s. I love it’s inclusivity, people from all walks of life signing up to have intimate, or not, encounters with strangers.
Millie and I messaged for a few days. I was pulling out all the charm and charisma I could muster that messaging allows. I asked her if she would like to meet me at Columbia Rd Flower market on Sunday for a coffee and a browse. What I thought was a super safe, public space to meet someone for the first time to have a “get to know you” moment. She agreed to meet with the exception that she may have a brunch that morning and would get back to me. After 48 hours of no response, I messaged again on the Saturday before to make a time and place to meet. Her response was:
“Still waiting on confirmation of my friends brunch, but I just realised that we are complete strangers and have never met before. You could be anyone”
Me: “You’re right we haven’t. But isn’t that the whole point of online dating apps? We might meet and decide that we like each others company and arrange to see each other again and see what happens. We might meet and hate each other and become mortal enemies or we might meet and have an instant connection and spend the rest of our lives waking up in each others arms.”
Millie: “Haha true” … 10 minutes later;
Millie: “Hey, sorry, I’m going for brunch.”
I never heard from her again. I guess she concluded I was an axe murdering psychopath? Or maybe she just thought I was a wanker. I will forever wonder.
These are two examples of the beauty of life online, two people I had fleeting encounters with, which I’ll probably never see of or speak to again. But I enjoyed it, the excitement, the intrigue, the possibilities. These experiences existed in moments, each one beautiful and awkward in its own way. Leaving me with an insatiable appetite to explore what this seemingly never-ending pool of untapped encounters has to offer.
WRITTEN BY JESS LOVE.
WHERE ARE ALL THE BUTCHES?!
Where are all the butches?! I say this with tongue firmly in cheek. I am not one for labels like ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ as they are just too simplistic for my liking, but for the purpose of this piece, when I say butch, I am referring to the typical stereotype of a ‘butch’ woman or ‘masculine presenting’ lesbian…I find these terms problematic, as who's to say what is masculine anyway?
Butch women seem to be the only accepted aesthetic of what a lesbian looks like in the eyes of the public majority, leaving feminine presenting lesbians to eye roll their way through the various series of ‘you don't look like a lesbian!’ or ‘I would never have guessed!’ from their ‘surprised’ work colleagues, yet butch woman are so scarcely represented in the mainstream media.
I am not trying to claim that there are no butch celebrities or TV characters at all, but the fact that you can probably count them on one hand is nothing to celebrate. The way I look at representation is through the eyes of a teenager. If I was growing up and looking for positive role models/people to identify with, whether that be in regards to race/sexuality/appearance etc, can I think of 5 or more people in that category that are well known in the general public? I asked a number of my friends of different genders and sexualities if they could name more than 5 butch women, either celebrities or in main stream TV programmes or films and no one managed it. Of course there are butch women out there and if you research and look for them, there are hundreds of butch actors, celebrities, musicians etc but the point is, why should we have to search for them?
To fully represent a group, it must be normalised entirely so its not a surprise when watching a TV soap or drama, you suddenly think, ‘Oh, theres a butch woman in this!’ Even ‘lesbian programmes’ on the whole seem to ‘femme up’ the characters to the point where seeing a butch character is a novelty- (most people I asked to name 5 or more butch women gave Lea Delaria’s OITNB character Boo, as their first answer) Have the media signed an unspoken contract to ignore the existence of butch woman? In her Between Butches essay, Author, Philosopher and Director of The Centre for Feminist Research at University of Southern California, Jack/Judith Halberstam recalls, ‘Many times as I have been working on my project on ‘Female Masculinity’, I have reflected on my own butch history and I have felt in my own life, the lack of butch role models.’ In order to fully represent the lesbian community, all ‘types’ of lesbians must be included.
The quite obvious underrepresentation, to me, shows an unspoken hierarchy of what is deemed an ‘acceptable’ lesbian. In my mind, and some may think it’s a tad dramatic, but I stand by it, the clear lack of butch women in the main stream media is a misogynistic attack on how women should represent themselves. Shane Phelan expands on this in her essay, Public Discourse and the Closeting of Butch Lesbians, ‘Butch lesbians are caught by the strictures of a movement that demands respectability as the price of inclusion and equality. Respectability is not simply a matter of treating oneself and others with respect and integrity. It requires careful attention and obedience to prevailing norms of dress and comportment’ she goes on to say, ‘Mainstream erasure operates through the production of images that recode lesbianism for a mass audience nervous about what equality for homosexuals might mean.’ It seems that lesbians are only accepted by the general public if they are feminine presenting, and therefore fit what is the acceptable attractive appearance for a woman in the eyes of a straight man- and of course I am generalising here, I am not claiming this to be true of every straight man. Like they say, ‘sex sells’, and the media panders to the idea that- ‘its ok to be a lesbian… as long as you’re a Piper Chapman/ Sophie Webster/ Tina Carter/ Bette Porter/ Cat MacKenzie’- the list is endless, I could go on, but you get my point.
Alex Gillings, Frontwoman of The Great Malarkey/ former Suffrajet, says ’The thing is, if you accept the ridiculous fact that it’s ok to cast people based on how attractive they are, it still doesn't make any sense! Butch women ARE attractive! They are beautiful, handsome and sexy. To me, the bottom line is, the media have simply decided that butch women are not attractive to their target audience- it’s nuts!’
At some point in all our lives we all hear that dreaded question that makes your blood run cold, ‘if lesbians like women who look like/want to be men, why not just go out with a man?’ This is generally a question asked in regards to a butch/femme relationship, though it’s quite fun to watch the person asking the question squirm when you ask them if they think that two butch women in a relationship, means they want to both be a man and be in a relationship with a man, therefore meaning all butch couples must want to be gay men?- It blows their minds! But on a more serious note, it is as if the idea that if a woman can dress how she feels comfortable, which happens to be butch, and attract other women, then she must have a super power that threatens men’s chances with that woman (god forbid the woman in question could actually make her own decisions about who she sleeps with!) and is therefore brushed under the carpet as something we know exists, but we don't speak of so as not to make anyone uncomfortable. I think on some levels, it seems as if the idea of a butch women is too threatening to be spoken of, as they refute the patriarchal constructs that have been put in place to control women, so they are kept as this mythical creature who is rarely seen. Harris, one of the all female team that won Gold at The Chelsea Flower show 2017, Landscape Gardener and member of The Drakes added, ‘I think that butches completely mess with the patriarchy and threaten its very foundations, which uses expectations of women to control them in every interaction they have- personal, professional, as consumers and within culture. Butches take masculinity and reform it.’ If there is a large section of a certain community that is disregarded and ignored, it stands to reason that people who identify with this section would feel under valued and excluded. It reinforces the idea that there is something to be ashamed of.
A similar example can be said for the ideas around the representation of black women in the media. On the whole, there still seems to be a hierarchy of what it is to be an ‘attractive black woman’ and this largely relates to the lightness of her skin colour. So people may say, ‘what are you complaining about? There are loads of lesbians/black woman on TV/celebrities now!’ but that is only if you fit into the accepted aesthetic of what the media’s view of that community is. Anyone outside of that bubble is regarded as ‘other’ and excluded, in the eyes of the general public, from the community that they belong to.
If women do not fit into the very limited boxes on offer to them, they are ignored on mass. It’s like that childish notion that ‘if you cant see it, it doesn't exist’- but butch women do exist and are not going away! I am shocked at just how underrepresented butch women are continued to be in 2017- its almost as if ‘the powers that be’ are thinking, ‘if we just ignore them, they will put a dress on, get the lipstick out and strive to be like the TV lesbians we all know and love.’
Like I previously said, in order to represent a community fully, all aspects of that community must be equally represented. Whilst a rare sighting of a butch woman across the vast media we have access to is still an exciting novelty, the lesbian community is not being represented. It is not ok to exclude an entire group of people and still claim to be inclusive and diverse. As part of the LGBT+ community we can do our bit by having these conversations, bringing this issue to the forefront and making people think about it. Ruth Hunt, CEO at Stonewall, suggests ‘Change must come from all levels of society. As individuals, being vocal about what you want to see on television really helps. Supporting those who do representation well – or at least attempt it respectfully – is also essential. It’s also important to report poor representation to the relevant watchdogs.’
Ask a cross section of people to name more than 5 butch representatives off the top of their heads, you’ll be surprised. It sounds like an easy request until you sit down and think about it. How can we still be having to fight this battle in 2017?
WRITTEN BY AMY RIDLER. (WRITTEN MAY 2017)
MY QUEER LOVE LIFE #1 BY JESS LOVE
(Names have been changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty)
“I’m sorry but I don’t look like an Andy Warhol print in real life.
Someone told me I should say on this that I’m #genderblind
Someone else told me that I’m really good at dramatic countdowns. I asked if I should put that on my tinder profile, they said it would quadruple my success.
I’m really good at dramatic countdowns.
I’m currently reading a lot about ethical non-monogamy. I’m also putting it into practice. I promise I won’t go on about it.
That’s a lie.
I like adventure.
Not a lie”.
So, this is my Tinder profile. That and a few selfies that I think make me look as enchanting as possible without being a wanker or coming across as too narcissistic… an oxymoron when it comes to selfies I know, but we do our best. I also have one pic of me balancing a hula hoop on my forehead, as being a circus performer seems to be one of the most instantly interesting things you can say to a person who isn't a self-identifying carnie. It can basically guarantee a hookup. But, like a lot of people, I prefer somewhat of a challenge. So I don’t specifically mention that I’m a circus performer but I dangle an image like a colourful lure and wait for nibbles.
I haven’t always been in the dating game. In fact, historically I'm a serial monogamist.
Let’s start from the beginning, at 15, after years of snogging and fondling with boys (I had my first French kiss when I was 8), I came out as a lesbian. I lost my virginity to a lady shortly after that but things still didn’t quite add up for me. I realised I was bisexual a year into my new found lesbianism, this, this made all the sense in the world. The discovery was very organic and therefore I didn’t think it necessary to come out a second time as bi, right? WRONG.
Three years after a very complicated and police involved start to my homosexuality (watch out for that juicy story in future posts), I had sex with a man for the first time, I was 18. I enjoyed it very much. I continued to have sex with both men and women until one warm spring evening in Melbourne, outside a Spiegeltent, my friend of one year and lover of one week asked me to be his girlfriend. I agreed. We stayed together for 5 years. During this time we were exclusive, well that was the rule. I wasn't, I would leave the house after one of our many huge screaming matches fuelled by drugs and alcohol and seek out the arms of my ex-lover, of the female kind. I continued to do this for longer than I would like to admit but eventually, I realised that the double life didn’t suit me so I stopped seeing her. I didn’t tell my boyfriend until after we broke up.
For the next 8 years, I jumped from one monogamous relationship to the next. I used the extremely short solo periods in between these to flirt, fuck, wine and dine as many fellow humans as possible. Inevitably this would end in meeting someone who I couldn't shake from my bones and I would end up tied into a heavily bound closed off arrangement. By all accounts, this made me happy.
In 2009 I met my future wife, Isobel. We fell madly, deeply and desperately in love. My family freaked out. They were confused, wasn’t I straight? I was confused, didn’t we have this conversation 12 years earlier? I was queer. Oh hang on, I see the confusion. I came out as a lesbian then I dated men, I didn’t tell my family every time I ended a night out with my face tongue deep in someone’s pussy. Maybe I should have. The next few years were fraught with family arguments, tears and lots of confusion. They thought my lesbianism must have all been a “phase”, how original. They found it so hard to conceive the possibility that I could be sexually attracted to both men and women.
Keeping in mind when I came out as a lesbian my mum said she had absolutely no idea I was gay. I responded with "you really didn't know? I had what I coined a “lesbian haircut” from about 10 years old. I refused to wear the girls uniform at school from the age of 7 and my room is covered with images of Drew Barrymore, Natalie Imbruglia and Elton John" her response "I didn't even know women could be together, it just never occurred to me". Granted these tendencies of refusing to wear skirts and idolising gay icons doesn’t mean you are queer but it would certainly spike my curiosity as to whether my sporty spice loving, athletic overachieving, Tori Amos listening daughter was heading towards identifying as a gender fluid, non-heteronormative queer. But I digress.
During the time my wife Isobel and I were together we adhered to the boundaries of our commitment to each other… more or less. We were honest and open when we broke the rules. Or rather I was honest and open when I broke the rules. As far as I’m aware she wasn’t sexual with anyone but me while we were together but I’ll never know for sure.
We separated after 6 and a half short years because we couldn’t stop fighting and no amount of counselling was going to fix it. It broke and we lost some of the pieces along the way. Cue Jean-Michel. A handsome, hilarious, intriguing French clown with a fetish for piss and pegging, I had met my match. Again I started a relationship set in monogamy, our names carved into the cement while it was still wet. We talked about the option of being open, considering he lived in Paris and I lived in London, but we decided it wasn’t for us. And as before we swore we would spill the beans if indeed beans needed to be spilled. After almost 2 years of incredible sex and companionship (as far as I was aware), he enjoyed some non-ethical, non-monogamous extra curricular activities and refrained from spilling those there beans. I had a feeling something was up and asked explicitly if he had met someone or fucked someone. He said ‘NO’. The next day I accidentally discovered naked pictures of his new lover on his MacBook while trying to open Spotify. He was standing beside me at the time.
That was 9 months ago. I had lost all faith in monogamy. I had lost all faith in love. I had lost faith.
I was sad, lonely and bored of my life. I went on Her, a dating app for women who date women. I met a cool, interesting and stylish filmmaker from Montreal. Her name was Suzanna. She was first generation Canadian, her parents had immigrated from Ecuador a few years before she was born. We went on two dates during the week she was here. She returned to Montreal and we continued to message each other all day every day. She was fun, sexy and we had brilliant conversations about life, art, sex and queerness. I adored her. Just 4 weeks after our first meeting we went halves in a return plane ticket from Montreal to London. She came to stay with me for a week in my small London flat. It was weird, exciting, fun and horrible in equal measures. She returned to Montreal and it fizzled out, and by fizzled I mean it started to feel a little bit "single white female" but I can sometimes be a little overdramatic. I deleted the app.
After a series of sporadic (some good some bad) off line sexual and emotional experiences, I decided I would finally give in to peer pressure and sign up for Tinder. It was the smartest decision I’ve made in years. I began to have a sexual awakening, a spiritual awakening. I began to feel alive again. After being in either a divorce, break up, or emotionally abusive relationship for the last 7 years I was finally feeling like myself again, light, fun, cheeky, sexy and happy, really fucking happy.
So with dates almost every day, some of the best sex of my life, new lovers that feel like old ones, new friends that I'll know until I die and a future full of promise and excitement I decided to share this, with you. A born-again lover birthed on an app and retold online. So stay tuned and get ready for the ride of my life!
WRITTEN BY JESS LOVE
PHOTO BY TOM RUSSELL
VICKI COOK ON THE GROWING SUCCESS OF FEMROCK
FemRock is an award-winning DIY not-for-profit and Brighton’s longest running night celebrating and showcasing women in music. FemRock is on the first Friday of every month at The Green Door Store, Brighton. The team also run women-centred club nights called Grrrls To The Front.
As the club gets ready to celebrate their 5th birthday, this Februaury, I caught up with Vicki Cook, to find out how she feels about the growing success of her baby-
Who were you favourite female singers/bands growing up?
My absolute favourite bands growing up had to be The Distillers and Juliette and the Licks. Brody Dalles voice really shook me when I first heard her, it was so powerful and full of anger and I’d not heard a woman sound that way before. It was eye opening. Women could be loud and outspoken and fucking angry. Who’d have thought?
So, What made you start FemRock?
Live music is a huge passion of mine and I’ve always been a big gig-goer. But I noticed one day that of all the bands and line ups I’d seen, I’d seen so few women. So much so that when I did it, they really stood out. It was from here that I decided I wanted to start a night with women in music at the centre of it, I wanted to put grrrls to the front. It’s been so fulfilling to be able to create line ups each month with such talented women at the heart of them. I’ve heard from so many of the women we work with that they’ve been questioned at shows which of the band members is their boyfriend, as if they couldn’t possibly be in the band themselves. Or they’ve been patronised at gigs with setting up their instruments and equipment, as if they couldn’t possibly know what they’re doing. We just thought, enough is enough.
Whats been your proudest FemRock moment?
I’d probably have to say FemRock Fest last July which was our very first all day festival. We had 10 kick ass women fronted bands, an outdoor feminist marketplace and vegan food stalls. It was absolutely amazing. The whole team worked so hard for months to make it happen and it exceeded our expectations and then some! I’ve personally always wanted to put on a festival so it felt like a real achievement. Plans are underway for this summers FemRock Fest too so keep your ear to the ground...
That sounds like heaven! I will most definitely be getting a ticket for the next one. So… Not only have you created an amazing space for female musicians, but you were also one of the geniuses behind Oueer Prom! How did that come about?
Queer Prom came about out of a desire to change the narrative around LGBTQ+ peoples experiences of Prom. We spoke with members of our community about their experiences of Prom and no one had a positive Prom story. Either they didn't go to their Prom or they went but weren't able to have the experience that they wanted to because of their gender or sexuality among other things. People were unable to attend with the partner they wanted to go with because they were of the same gender or they weren't able to present themselves in a way that best reflected their gender identity for fear of being victimised. Because of this, we decided to create the Prom we should all have had the opportunity to attend and experience!
And what an experience it was! People cannot stop raving about it! How are you all feeling about it’s success?
The response to Queer Prom has been overwhelming! From the heartfelt thank-yous and messages from attendees saying it was the prom they never had to the national recognition and news coverage, we could never have imagined this kind of response. Off the back of this success, we plan to make Queer Prom a bi-annual event and also plan to take to the road and have plans for events in London, Bristol and Manchester in the pipeline so watch this space!
BRILLIANT. The spaces your team are creating are so important and a vital part of keeping the community alive. When’s the next FemRock?
Our next show is on Friday 2nd February, and it’s our 5th birthday! Then, on the 2nd March it’s our International Women’s Day Special as IWD is 8th March. It’s always one of our favourite shows of the year!
You can find FemRock online-
WRITTEN BY AMY RIDLER
COPING: JANE POSTLETHWAITE
The theme we are looking at is COPING. As modern society seems to become less interested in being kind to one and other, the world can feel like a giant ball of self obsession. With mental health services stretched beyond belief, and a lack of resources available to us, people are going it alone. These women talk about how they cope and the forms of self care they use to get themselves through.
Jane Postlethwaite is a Cumbrian performer, artist, actor & writer making hilarious, dark, thought-provoking, multimedia work. She runs comedy writing workshops and a comedy character podcast. She also runs Brighton comedy night, The Bad Book Project, which is held twice a month, in which 'the funniest people read from the baddest books!'
Jane's new show touches on raw themes of mental health, suicide and self help. ‘Last Night at the Circus’ is a gut wrenching yet hilarious one woman multimedia show exploring what it means to sabotage your own success set in a dystopian yet breathtaking Circus landscape. You can see this new show at Brighton Fringe 2018 in The Warren's Theatre Box and it will be taken to Edinburgh Fringe in August.
A few years ago, I’ve found my love in life, and that’s comedy. I love writing and I love performing. I finally felt I’d found what makes me get out of bed in the morning. I’ve been writing characters and putting on fringe shows for a couple of years now. I also act and I’ve dabbled in stand up comedy to get my confidence up. I’m one of those perverse people who get up on stage and want to entertain you. Often when I’m entertaining you on stage there is a whole other silent backstory taking place, and that is- I’m coping with my brain trying to kill me.
Everyone is coping with something, every second of every day on various levels. I often look around a busy cafe, or when I’m walking along the street, and wonder who is coping with the same things as me. I know I’m not the only one with a brain like this, but you can’t ask about it easily, as it’s not something you can just slip into a conversation.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that my brain is trying to kill me. I’ve got Bipolar 2, which is a brain disorder and means I’m at high risk of killing myself. Bipolar 2 causes extreme shifts in mood, energy and has an impact on day-to-day tasks.
Getting on the right mood stabilising meds about 5 years ago stopped me mainly having intrusive suicidal thoughts and acting on them. This was after fifteen years of numerous doctors saying I was ‘just a bit sad’ and getting antidepressants (which never worked) thrown at me like ‘pick n mix’.
As well as the medication, I take really good care of myself to stay well. No alcohol, drugs or smoking. Only healthy eating, exercise, massive amounts of self help, a good sleep, creativity and meditation.
But, sometimes no matter how well you take care of yourself, life can throw some shit into the mix. Last year was a tough one because, due to ill health, I had to leave my full time day job which supported me financially. I decided to move from Brighton back to my childhood home in Cumbria. I joke with my friends that this is the start of a horror film! Thirty something woman returns to childhood home and it all kicks off. I can safely say it hasn’t kicked off, but rather it’s been a weight off my shoulders and a whole new approach to life…
Leaving my full time job was extremely stressful. It took months of being signed off and me wondering what the ‘right thing’ to do was. It was a level of rock bottom- especially as my co-workers of 8 years seemed to disown me. If I’d broken my leg it would have been a different story. I’d have received a bunch of flowers and nice card. Not so, when you’re signed off for work related stress, anxiety and depression. No one bothers with you, which adds to a massive weight of guilt.
I thought everyone hated their job and felt like I did. But, apparently thinking about death every day, worrying parents are going to die or I was going to die, having crippling anxiety from thinking about sitting in the office at my day job, crying every day, not sleeping, having nightmares, feeling empty and like there's a huge heavy weight in the pit of your stomach isn’t what everyone else is thinking or feeling in the office!
Also, turns out there’s no ‘right thing’ to do when it comes to your life. You have to go with what feels right and what’s not making you ill.
I’ve been back in the north for six months now and I’ve surprised myself, as I’ve realised I want to speak up and talk about mental health in my art. I want to talk about circumstances such as the day job making me ill, but also the time four years ago when I reached my ultimate rock bottom. This happened when the person I thought was the love of my life, had an affair, and then left me for another woman. It was that cliché story- we were buying a flat, planning kids and a whole life long future together and then BAM! Something weird was going on, so I checked their emails and found out about the affair. I’m sure you’ll understand that it really cuts deep when an email starts, “ I spend 5 mins with (insert your own name here) and all I can think about is you”.
My life was unexpectedly turned upside down in a heartbeat and I hit that painful black rock bottom. I had six months off work and comedy. I was suicidal. I actually planned my own suicide in great detail. I was lucky that I realised just in time just how many people I had in my life who cared about me. I came to this conclusion after thinking how I needed to write to everyone to explain why I was going to kill myself. The thought of all those envelopes and cards for everyone, plus I’d have to go outside to buy stamps, put me off as I just didn’t have the energy, so thought I’d give life another week. I can laugh about it when I talk about it now. Not having enough stamps and the price of them saved me.
I managed in that week I’d given myself, to get the right medical care and therapy I needed. It took at least another six months to start feeling better, but I got back on my feet again and my comedy performing took off. Reaching that rock bottom of sheer bleakness has done something to my soul. It’s actually made me fearless. I know life’s too short. I know I should go for what I want in life. I aim to not be a victim of my circumstances or what's happened to me in the past. Nothing scares me. I chose to live my life.
I still have intrusive thoughts when I get stressed, but not to the point I want to die. I still get anxiety and depression, but I have coping strategies. I am coping.
Since talking more openly about my experience I’ve had friends come forward to say how they were once suicidal and planned their death. It’s more common than you would realise. It can be talked about in such a ‘matter of fact’ way by people you would never imagine being on the edge of that dark precipice.
My new show for Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe is called, ‘Last night at the Circus’. I started writing a character show about a circus ending and how each character would feel about that, but something took over me and it’s become so different in the last 6 months. I saw myself in the characters and have decided that, the show is still about endings, but it needs to be about mental health and me. I love the fact I’ve set the show in a Circus, as that is what life can feel like for me.
I want to tell my story, and I want people to get clued up on suicide, to see the signs, and prevent it. I want to start conversations long after people have seen the show, about how we handle people with depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts etc. Don’t ignore that person who is signed off with stress at work. Send them a message showing you care. It can mean so much.
I also want to help anyone in the audience who is having mental health issues, and let them know they can get help. Also, I mainly want anyone who has been suicidal, or had intrusive thoughts to know they are not alone and, how well they are doing for coping with those memories.
The show, surprisingly, is under the comedy section as I want it to be funny, moving and memorable. Sometimes we need to laugh in the face of tragedy to cope.
I’m now freelance. I’m making a small amount of money. I’m running workshops to inspire other people to write comedy and perform. I’m getting cognitive behavioural therapy to help deal with change and anxiety. I’m writing and performing a show that is the most personal project I’ve ever done. The brain that is trying to kill me is helping me create art. I’m excited to tell my story and to share how I’m coping.
Get more info on Jane’s website at www.jane-postlethwaite.com
Follow on twitter @_JPostlethwaite Facebook www.facebook.com/janepostlethwaitecomedy
Photo by Andy Hollingworth
BEAUTY & THE #BOYBEAT
As a person who spends a vast majority of time, and considerable amounts of money in the cosmetics industry, I thought I had overturned every stone that the beauty industry had to offer. That was until a few nights ago. As I was scrolling through my Instagram story, I came across a look with the hashtag #Boybeat. Intrigued, I began researching the term. The term boy beat itself can refer to a couple of things. The first is the look many drag queens adopt whilst out of drag, yet still wanting to experiment with makeup whilst maintaining a masculine persona. The second, and the most popular is a look given to Beyonce by her makeup artist - Sir John-. This look is one that accentuates the features of the face that society has conditioned us to consider to be ‘flaws’. I’m talking highlighting beauty marks, emphasising redness and bushing up brows to give a beautifully natural, super laid back, effortless look.
You may scoff at those definitions. I mean, who hasn’t seen this look before? ‘No makeup, makeup’ has been worn since the dawn of makeup time. This look however leaves a different taste in the mouth. The attitude behind it is one of defiance, not trickery. No one is pretending to be barefaced here, they are challenging the standards of the beauty industry. Biting back at the brands who employ models with an already unattainable level of perfection, and airbrush them to further catapult their beauty out of the grasp of us mere mortals. Boy beat is about reclaiming and celebrating our imperfections, and blowing big raspberry’s at the company’s trying to flog us products to cover and hide our flaws. Well screw them. We have all spent enough of our lives in hiding. We are here to be celebrated, not tolerated. Just like our flaws!
Achieving the look
Boy beat starts with skin. Good skin, bad skin, black, white or blue. Make sure skin is cleansed, hydrated and comfortable. I love prepping my skin with Aerin rose face oil (£52 For 30ml) for a dewy, fresh Base. Then take your favourite foundation, B.B. cream or tinted moisturiser. Mac face and body (£29 For 50ml) works great for this as it gives a second skin finish, and allows all freckles, blemishes and beauty marks to show through. Warm the foundation in the palm of your hands until evenly dispersed and pat onto skin to give a veil of luminosity, without masking the skin. Leave the under eyes bare! Curl lashes and leave free of mascara. Take Charlotte Tilbury Legendary Lashes in Super model (£18.50) and brush brows upwards to achieve a messy, unruly, boyish brow. Next feather through a brow powder in a shade to suit you. This will give a fuller, more hairy look. Sweep powder bronzer over the cheekbones and forehead, then apply heavily over the nose to give a tanned effect for this I love Tom Ford Bronzing Powder in Terra (£70). With a lighter hand apply blush in the exact same place as your bronzer. Charlotte Tilbury Bush in Love Is The Drug (£30) is a great option. The red tones from the blush will add a slightly burned effect to the bronzer, as if you have spend a day outside enjoying life, rather than sitting inside avoiding sun exposure for fear of age spots like we are told to do. Next, apply a thick balm or gloss to the lips and eye lids. Aerin rose lip perfector (£24) is super nourishing and smells divine. Then take the excess from fingers and pat onto cheekbones and the bridge of the nose to give a glossy, fresh skin. For the final step, take a fine brush into your brow powder and apply a smattering of freckles across the bridge of the nose, tops of the cheekbones and across the forehead for a fresh, sun kissed look. For a fun alternative, replace these freckles with paper flowers and sequins for a cute, festival vibe.
WRITTEN BY CHARLIE ROSE
'OUTING' YOURSELF. LBTQ+ & THE WORLD OF WORK
The Stonewall Come out for LGBT campaign got me thinking about how many times I’ve put myself back in the closet at work because it ‘seemed easier’- which is ridiculous(!) or had to come out over and over as I’ve changed jobs and why this is.
I am very open and I like to think, proud of my sexuality. In my personal life I am out to friends, family and anyone who wants to know! I don’t hide my sexuality at all- (I run this magazine!)- and am proud and happy to live and socialise in a place where I can walk down the street -in most areas- holding hands with my girlfriend without fear of violence. With this in mind, it came as a big surprise when I found myself not speaking up when I started at a new job.
I work in education through an agency and was placed at a new school as supply cover- I was in a small class made up of 8 boys aged 14 and 15 and I was supporting a sex education session. This was clearly already hilarious enough for the class and they needed to be calmed down and told to ‘be mature’ a number of times. When we got round to speaking about relationships, they kept talking about ‘a boy and a girl’ and I interrupted to remind them that they should not forget about same sex relationships. This was met with a groan and a few mumbles about ‘not knowing people like that’, but the session continued. Later on in the session, when talking about sex in a loving relationship, I was asked ‘Have you got a boyfriend Miss?!’ and I said no. Then to my horror, I didn’t say anything else and the conversation moved on. Why didn’t I say, ‘no, but I have a girlfriend’ ??? WHY?
At the time, I told myself this was because I am in a position of authority and my private life is not relevant- but something wasn’t sitting right. Many of my colleagues speak about their spouses and children with the pupils, when relevant. It’s normal, and it humanises you to the pupils. I realised to my horror, that this wasn’t a professional thing, this was me not wanting to come out to these children for fear of rejection and/or humiliation.
I was shocked to find that at a crucial moment, I found myself staying quiet rather than standing up for not just what I believe in, but who I am!
I spent a lot of my time patrolling the playground correcting people for saying ‘you’re so gay man’ to their friends as an insult, but when it mattered, and I could show these 8 boys who get on very well with me, that actually, it makes no difference, and they DO know someone who is in a same sex relationship and it’s perfectly normal, I kept quiet. I thought about this for the next couple of days and then at the next appropriate time to bring her up- it happened to be when we were talking about their futures, and moving out of home, someone asked me where I live- and I said, I live with my girlfriend. The room went silent for a bit, and then someone said ‘wait..what, miss? You're a lesbian?’ and I said yes….the room went silent again, and I waited, and then one of them said- ‘like Cara DeLevingne’-and then they went back to their own conversations. I did start to say, well no, because she’s bisexual, but then then they had all moved on. And that was it. I was pleased that I’d managed to just slip it into conversation and from then on I could bring her up casually, if relevant. I still have to correct the ‘you’re so gay’ playground insults, but I do think it was my job to out myself, and therefore to normalise something that some of these pupils have never knowingly come into contact with. I know that other people may feel differently, but I feel, in a way, as someone who is proud of my sexuality, though it is not what defines me, my relationship is a very central part of my life and I never want to feel like I have to hide it in order to keep the peace. Only if we keep talking about things, and calling people out, will the sex of your partner be as irrelevant as their height.
We spoke to women of varying ages, from different professional backgrounds to hear their experiences of being gay in the world of work-
'People talk about their 'coming out story' a lot. The problem is, I think people actually come out over and over again. The big one is, of course, our families, but then after, there are friends, colleagues, cab drivers, acquaintances, literally anybody we meet. Society still, (although slowly diluting), has a stereotype inbuilt- husband, wife, 2 kids, and anything outside of that requires 'coming out’- be that the LGBTQ community, a partnership that perhaps has no desire for children, people within open relationships, etc, we are all coming out all of the time.
I think that I, more than most, come out, some days on an hourly basis. I am a barber and half of our role as barbers requires conversation. We build relationships through skill, conversation and relating to our clients. Most conversations start with the awkward 'partner' usage, before you drop the big one… 'wife'. I have to say that I have never endured any negativity and actually, often perhaps the truth is that it is my own judgemental outlook that actually prevents me from 'coming out' to some clients. I actually don't give some people the chance to be absolutely fine with it, flirting with pre-conceived ideas that they will probably be uncomfortable with it.
Truthfully, I am one of the lucky ones. I work in one of the most masculine industries that there is, but actually, these guys are more than 'ok with it', it actually doesn't bother them in the slightest, which is the definition of normalisation I guess, and perhaps deserve a little more positive expectation.'
- Alex Gillings, Barber.
'I have never considered myself ‘in the closet’ in my work, though I haven’t explicitly stated my sexuality to many, as I don’t think it’s relevant. Most of my career has been in the music industry, and therefore very highly populated with white middle aged male management teams, especially in the 90’s, when I was working for a multitude of labels/companies. For me, thats the inequality right there- that’s where the misuse of power happens. Being a woman, and gay too, means, though it is slowly getting better, you can witness this more acutely in this industry.'
- JD, Music Industry.
'“Oh my partner has read/done/seen that”
“What did he make of it?”
“She loved it.”
I have never hidden my sexuality from those I work with, and my coming out has always invariably gone something like the above. I've always been of the mindset that if i'm pointedly not awkward about it (as there is no reason I should be) then the person I am in conversation with won't, or shouldnt, be either. My sexuality is just one facet of who I am, so it's neither announced nor hidden away. It just is.'
- Laura Henry, Director.
WRITTEN BY AMY RIDLER
COPING: SUZIE PINDAR
The theme we are looking at is COPING. As modern society seems to become less interested in being kind to one and other, the world can feel like a giant ball of self obsession. With mental health services stretched beyond belief, and a lack of resources available to us, people are going it alone. These women talk about how they cope and the forms of self care they use to get themselves through.
As someone that has struggled with my mental health over the years, from depression, anxiety, self harm and abuse, I for one, never really got the support I needed on a regular basis. This was down to lack of money, and having to rely on supporting myself. I remember when I was 30, and having a breakdown, I had to wait on a list for therapy even though I was suicidal.
I managed to get the help I needed to move forward with my life by finding a good therapist. This therapist offered me sessions on a ‘what I could afford’ basis, and they varied from £20, £10, £5 and free (I always tried to pay). I saw her twice a week almost for 2 years. At that time, I became interested in holistic practice and threw myself into the having reiki healing and also going to the gym. The gym has always kept me balanced, it releases endorphins and allows me to fight the anxieties out of my body myself- even now I find myself jogging until it leaves my body.
Over the years I found and made good use of the free services on offer for counselling. I visited a place in Picadilly called The Caravan - an organisation run by volunteers, which only requested a small donation- really helped me. I always felt ashamed of my depression and couldn't openly talk to anyone, for fear of the stigmas around mental health issues, but also the fear of the assumption I was not coping.
From the age of 17, I have used my artwork as an outlet, to express my feelings. Having been molested as a child, this was a massive way for me to release negative emotions.
In recent years, I seek out different therapists if I need too, I talk to my friends, I make art and I spend time with my family. If I am feeling low, I try to remove myself from the situation and catch a train somewhere different, listening to music is always a big help! I read self help books, watch ted talks, see clairvoyants, write my blog, go to the gym and swim. I find it really helps me to keep busy and focused.
You can see Suzie’s work at: www.thenakedartist.co.uk
COPING MECHANISM SPAGHETTI
When we are happy, we feast. With friends and family around us, we eat well. But when we feel sad, angry, lonely or useless, we more-often resort to things that are not so good for us – fags, booze and instant noodles.
This month, realising this habit wasn’t doing my mood any favours, I resolved to do something I love – cooking – at the times I feel least like doing it. Cooking for friends makes me happy, but it can be complicated, stressful and tiring too. Cooking just for me – for my hangover, my sadness, my helplessness – will only make me feel better.
Yesterday morning I woke up with a stinking cold and a desire for mackerel, boiled eggs and grapefruit. Twenty-four hours in bed and several cups of tea later, I walked myself to the corner shop for these ingredients, along with a few others. I won’t patronise you with an account of the citrus juice and eggs I had for breakfast, but I will share my second (and third) meal of the day.
Any blue mood, for me, means spaghetti. There is nothing so easy to shovel into your mouth by the forkful. It can be as simple (I have a friend who cooks hers with grated cheese and ketchup) or as complex as you can be bothered to muster, and you can engineer it so that the only thing you have to cook cook is the spaghetti itself. Best served with a poured-to-the-brim glass of wine. No judgment.
To make what I did:
Boil your spaghetti (plenty for one, not enough for two; lots of water, lots of salt)
Drain into a colander and use the same pan for the sauce.
Gently fry a few garlic cloves (crushed but whole, so you can take them out again) in a hefty glug of oil.
Take out the garlic, add chopped-up tomatoes (tinned or fresh), roughly chopped black olives (or whole! Who cares?) and chopped capers.
Next, a generous handful of torn rocket and the smoked mackerel (broken into pieces and meticulously checked for bones, if you’re anything like me).
Dump your spaghetti in the middle and use a fork-like implement to pull everything through the strands. Add another glug of olive oil so everything clings to the pasta.
Turn off the heat, add a squeeze of lemon and plenty of black pepper, and grate parmesan over the top if you’re like Nigel Slater and have it hanging around constantly (I stole it from my housemate).
Other things that I very easily could have added or substituted but didn’t: grilled onions and peppers (they come in jars! No actual grill necessary!), artichokes instead of mackerel, chilli (flakes or fresh), dill (probably not dried, but you’re the boss), a dollop of crème fraiche, mushrooms, chopped-gherkins. As long as you have something earthy, something salty and something zingy, you’ll end up with a terrific bowl of food. To be honest, cheese and ketchup tick those boxes just as well.
WRITTEN BY BETHANY GILLINGS
COPING: NICOLA GOLDSMITH
The theme we are looking at is COPING. As modern society seems to become less interested in being kind to one and other, the world can feel like a giant ball of self obsession. With mental health services stretched beyond belief, and a lack of resources available to us, people are going it alone. These women talk about how they cope and the forms of self care they use to get themselves through.
What am I coping with this week?
Work. One manager on holiday, one on sick leave, half term, busy shop, stocktake next week. My main coping mechanism is ‘do it myself’. All of it. I’ve often joked that I’d quite like a couple of clones of myself to give me a hand every now and then, a terrifying prospect to most I’m sure. Please understand, these clones would not be there in order that the real me avoids tasks that I view as unpleasant or menial, only that then, I wouldn't have to worry about how another person was doing something as I know it would be carried out to my own pedantic, exacting standards. I do not know how to delegate. It makes me uncomfortable.
What else? I have already failed miserably at being a vegetarian and getting back to running this year. I’m coping with that and the inevitable daily five (read fifty) minutes of wondering why my clothes feel slightly tighter and my skin looks grey.
I handed in my notice at my job, so I’m coping with that. Though at the moment that still feels like an excellent decision and therefore wildly off topic.
I cope by drinking and procrastinating. I like drinking, it is a good way to pass the time in that bit of the day between finishing work and going to bed as early as possible in order to avoid doing anything I really should. Going to bed is also an excellent means by which to literally defer life until a later date. There is never a better time to go for a drink than when I know I have a busy day at work tomorrow and never better time to hoover my bedroom floor/clean the kitchen/wipe down the skirting boards than when I should be applying for jobs.
Unfortunately all of the above have lead to my sleep patterns becoming more erratic than ever. I haven’t slept well for the past few years but could always guarantee drifting back off with the help of a radio show or podcast (Radio 4 comedies are particularly effective) Lately though, I have been less successful in my attempts to force myself back to sleep culminating this past Sunday when I woke up at 3am. Despite rolling out all my tried and tested tricks (go for a wee, drink some water, headphones in, podcast on, emergency wee cos I drank too much water) coupled with the knowledge I had to be at work at 8am I could not get back to sleep. As I got more frustrated the chance of sleep slipped further away. After changing my shift at work and dragging myself in an hour and a half later than scheduled I got as much as done as possible and left early as I was exhausted. I can admit that yesterday I was not coping.
The fact of the matter is I know many people that are going through a far worse time than anything I have encountered and that is why I cope. In comparison to most, I don’t have any right to complain and therefore keep my mouth shut. Not that I don’t have an army of friends ready to listen should I feel the need to spill some self-indulgent bile but I am positive they are bored to the back teeth of listening to me complain about having no money - I sure as hell am. For me coping goes hand in hand with procrastination. I have to be up at 5.30am tomorrow and couldn’t bare the idea of applying for jobs, hence this piece has been written. My bedroom floor is clear of clothes. I made three days worth of lunches yesterday. I’m just going to pop to the cinema after work tomorrow because it's only a fiver and I really want to see Black Panther.
INTERIOR STYLIST CASSIE DURNELL'S TIPS ON VEGAN PROOFING YOUR HOME
HOW TO VEGAN PROOF YOUR HOME
The new year is a great time for trying new things. Most people will tweak their diets, lifestyle, exercise regime or way of thinking, and occasionally that change will still be in place beyond the 31st January.
In 2015 I took on the challenge of doing Veganuary- eating as a vegan for a month to try it on for size. I ended up doing it for almost a year (until I found out I was pregnant), so for many people Veganuary can spark a permanent lifestyle change.
What most people don't know is that vegans don't just apply veganism to their diets, but also their clothing choices and beauty products they use, also including homewares. It can be a bit of a minefield to determine which products aren't animal friendly- and even if you're not giving veganism a try, you might not be aware of them- so below I've listed a few ways you can vegan proof yourself for the new year!
1.ARE YOU FUR REAL?
Even if you make a concious decision to buy faux as opposed to really fur for your home, or even your wardrobe, chances are you might still have some real fur masquerading as faux. You would usually think you could tell the difference as real would be much more expensive, but unfortunately fur can be more cheaply(and therefore cruelly) produced overseas. Also just because it isn't labelled as real fur, doesn't mean that it isn't!
Although telling the difference can be tricky,you can generally tell by looking at the base. Faux fur generally has a mesh or threaded fabric backing. Real fur, on the other hand, will be attached to skin.
2. NONE OF YOUR BEESWAX
A component of wax called stearic acid is made from animal fat, about 10% of your candle will be made of this.
Your lovely expensive scented candles sometimes are even made with beeswax- not vegan I'm afraid. You'll also have to double check your old school style furniture polish if you use it, also contains beeswax!
I'm sure you'll know that silk is made by silkworms, but sadly those silkworms don't make it through this process alive, meaning you'll need an alternative to silk to properly veganize(not a real word) your home. Try products with nylon, milkweed seed pod fibers, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, polyester, and rayon instead - they all have a similar feel to them, and it'll save you some serious cash too.
4. BEAT DOWN
You may have heard about animal welfare groups condemning the brand Canada Goose for using goose down, but didn't spare much though about your pillows and bedding. Humane alternatives can be found easily from places such as Debenhams - who sells a Luxury "Feels like Down" bedding collection.
To find some amazing animal friendly homewares, check out PETA's Vegan Homeware Awards 2017 - Ikea make an amazing faux sheepskin, and Rockett St George don't compromise on style by using faux cowhide on this amazing sofa!
To read more click the link below:
WRITTEN BY CASSIE DURNELL - www.cassiedurnell.co.uk
WHAT'S YOUR BOYFRIEND'S NAME?
Lesbian. If I asked you to picture ‘a lesbian’, I wonder what you would see. Coming out, though now much easier and common than years gone by, is still something that many LGBTQ+ people spend years dreading before making the decision to tell their friends/family. Coming out for me was a fairly easy thing to do, I timed it perfectly, wrote my mum a note, left it on the side, and went to visit a friend in Connecticut for 2 weeks, as you do! I am very lucky and my family mainly joked about how long they’d suspected before I’d told them. So that was that, I’d told my family and some of my friends and now I could just be me.. Or so I thought.
Being what the mainstream opinion of ‘feminine’ in appearance is, meant that that was not the case. I didn’t realise that I would have to come out over and over again. Every time I started a new job, every friend of a friend that asked me my boyfriend’s name, every encounter where I’d have to correct someone for assuming that my partner was a ‘he’. Among my lesbian friends, this seems to be a common experience which is very annoying to put it mildly.
My confusion though, is this- the widely accepted idea of what a lesbian looks like; short hair, plaid shirt, Dr Martens- ‘butch’ is so very under represented in the media. Take programmes like The L Word, Eastenders, Coronation street, Waterloo Road, the lesbian characters are always what its described as ‘femme’ or feminine presenting. OITNB is mainly dominated by feminine lesbians, and even the 2015 film Freeheld, which I loved and am not disputing was a very important and well handled film, ‘femmed up’ the characters, which is clear as the film shows a photo of the real women, Laurel Hester & Stacey Andre at the end.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining at the representation of feminine lesbians on TV, but, if the mainstream media fails to represent ‘butch’ lesbian characters then what is this obsession within the general public? Unless you are Lea Delaria’s OITNB character Boo, then you are ‘too pretty to be a lesbian’ or ‘haven’t found the right man yet’. Another response I know that many women have received is the old favourite, ‘Oh, you don't look like a lesbian!’, which, if, even said in a naive way, is very insulting. Hopefully we will get to a time when no one has to ‘look’ like anything and people will realise that it really doesn’t matter either way, but until then, lesbians of all races, and all ‘styles’, what ever the length of their hair or whether they choose to wear make up or not (its laughable really!) should be represented widely in the media to help speed up the process.
WRITTEN BY AMY RIDLER.
THE GREAT MALARKEY'S ALEX & KAROLINE
"The Great Malarkey are eight musicians from around the globe – England, Canada, Portugal and Latvia – and they want you to join them on the multicultural train of fast beats and trembling slams of punk-folk spirit." - Rhythm Passport.
I sat down with Alex and Karoline from The Great Malarkey to talk musical influences, hilarious music videos and screaming fan girls!
So you 2 have known each other a long time, how long has it been?
KAROLINE: I think me and Alex have known each other for about 12 years now. We met in typical lesbian fashion – I was dating Alex’s ex-girlfriend…
The Great Malarkey had been around for about 5 years before I officially joined. I’d gone with the band to a festival in Denmark to guitar tech for them and their then fiddle player had to leave before the final show. Alex asked if I could fill in, we had a quick run through in the store room and it was then I was thankful I’d been to so many Malarkey shows. A few months later I went on tour with them to Denmark again and it was after that Alex asked me to join. I think we were both quite reluctant at first because neither of us wanted it to come between us. I can’t say it’s been a total smooth ride this past 2 years since I joined, but we’ll always be friends first and in some ways we keep each other quite grounded.
ALEX: 12 years bloody hell! We had to have a ‘chat’ beforehand, like a pre-nup. Friendship first etc. Which we’ve deffo upheld, but it’s deffo been challenged as we’ve become more like family, bands are just a bunch of small families.
What was your favourite album of your teenage years?
ALEX: Ooooooosh! Massive question, the one that gave me most of the feels was probably Nirvana Unplugged, closely followed by Nirvana Bleach.
KAROLINE: First album I ever bought was weezers blue album and the second album I owned was spice girls “spice”..... I mean... do I need to say any more?
You’ve got quite a big following in Denmark, and over here in the UK… Do you reckon your fans are predominantly gay?
ALEX: We are very fortunate to have a very diverse following. I don’t think they are predominately gay, but hopefully we are appealing to the community in some way.
KAROLINE: Yeah! We neither hide nor actively promote our sexuality and we’ve not really sought out playing gay events or venues. We have 6 other band members who aren’t LGBTQ so I guess we’ve not really wanted to pigeonhole ourselves. I don’t think our sexuality is why people come to see the great malarkey, but if it is then it’s just an added bonus for everyone.
Do you ever get girls throwing themselves/or their knickers on stage?
ALEX: Hahahaha, Kaz does!
KAROLINE: Despite what Alex says, not once have I had anyone throw themselves or their underwear at me! I can always see the bright eyes of the girls in the front row gazing towards Alex! She’s the front woman and that’s who they fall for! Although if I DID have girls throw themselves at me I’m sure I’d be fine....
ALEX: Marriage seems to de-equip you from handling attention in any way but a slight giggle and run!
You guys get more and more energetic every time I see you, do you ever get to a gig and just think…. I can’t do it tonight! Or does the adrenalin never fail to kick in?
ALEX: The adrenalin you are seeing has been building up since the last gig, on stage is the only release, I mean, I can’t be running round savers in dalston like that…
KAROLINE: Usually when you’re on tour and you’ve been in vans or cars for hours with very little sleep or hungover. But we’re in this band because we love playing music and if you can’t pull yourself together to give the crowd a good show there’s no point being in a band like TGM.
What are the biggest influences do you think, on your music with TGM?
ALEX: Musically, a band called the dead brothers are basically the reason we exist. Topically, there’s plenty, sadness writes good songs and when we are happy, London provides many a tale
Who thinks up the ideas behind your crazy and hilarious videos??
ALEX: 3am backstage after a gig, or in the van decides the vids, there is no actual talent here, just hyperactive drunkenness…
KAROLINE: I agree. Most of our ideas come from really random, ridiculous moments in studios or vans. Most probably something that’s spiralled out of control....
Who is your dream musician to do a collaboration with…. TGM featuring….?
ALEX: Tom Waits or PJ Harvey straight up, no messin’!
Whats next for TGM?
ALEX: After my tea and biscuits? We will keep doing what we are doing until there is no adrenalin left for it.
KAROLINE: Next year is going to be fun! 2018 is full of local shows in London and the UK but we’re hopefully heading to Denmark, Czech Republic and Greece (for the first time) too!
ALEX: We will be gigging all over Europe and the UK, potentially another album, but mostly singing loudly with strangers in dirty bars, like the end of the world is tomorrow.
You can listen to The Great Malarkey’s most recent album Doghouse, here- www.thegreatmalarkey.com/listen
WRITTEN BY AMY RIDLER