I’m At Risk Of Homelessness And In Need Of A Laptop. Please Help

Today my iPad froze up on the startup screen. I got it just over a year ago on being hired to translate a book, and this was the first time it had happened. Small issues like this afflict gadgets now and then, and ordinarily, I’d have plugged it into iTunes and been back to normal in two minutes—but that was five hours ago. In September, the laptop I bought as an undergraduate finally upped and died, leaving no way to defibrilate the tablet, and nothing but a weather-beaten phone from 2011 on which to work tonight. (If anyone in central London has iTunes and a computer I can plug into, email me.)

Toward the start of September I became homeless. For most of that month and the next, I floated from one sofa to the next. I’ve now been in the same place, precariously and ruggedly housed but secure and rent-free, for just about five weeks. (This had a lot to do with why I was so much more productive last month.) While it’s a huge relief, I now rely on paying £18 for hotspot internet every five days, which makes a significant dent; seeking new work also means I’m facing the costs of travel and ordering documents, and lacking a laptop is now making a financial impact.

When I’m not writing—thanks to those who support me that way—graphic design provides a major part of my income. (Here’s a portfolio.) Although the iPad and tonight my phone are lifesavers, I can’t do that kind of work without a laptop—and without doing that work, I can’t afford one on my own. (The old one’s death also held up several already overdue projects, which I’ve committed to having complete by the new year.) Last week then, I set up a fundraiser at GoFundMe and asked Facebook friends to chip in who wanted to—thanks to a huge amount of generosity, it’s at £605.

I listed my initial target as £1000, which now looks within reach. In the blurb, I also mentioned the possibility I’d extend it to provide a cushion and meet fundraising costs. It turned out that, due to the oddities of Vodafone’s billing schedule, the three-figure phone bill I mentioned having put me in the red hadn’t actually gone through at the time. Thanks, once again, to everyone who’s donated, as the amount contributed so far means that I’ve still escaped my overdraft, but to compensate, I’ve now upped the target to £1200, a goal I think is achievable.

Since my current accommodation is temporary, I’m likely to become homeless again in the new year, or else to be facing the overheads that come with finding a real place to live, so it’s possible that once I have computer and Photoshop access again, I’ll keep the page alive as a jar I can rattle a little whenever things are tough. Prior to Christmas though, replacing the laptop is the priority. (A quick note, tech people: yes, the old one is irreparable. Yes, I’ve looked into it. Yes, I really do require a new one.) This being said, I’m going to ask people reading this to help out a bit.

Here’s the fundraising page. So far, wanting to give it a good start, I’ve held off on posting it here and sharing it aggressively—now I want to push it all the way.

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If you’ve chipped in already, all my thanks—it means the world. If you haven’t shared the page with people you know on social media (or have, but could again) please consider doing so. And if you’re able to help out a struggling blogger and feel like doing so, it means more than you can know.

(In case you’ve been sent this and don’t know me, I write about subjects as diverse as religious abuse, mental illness, racism in geek culture, queer politics and Doctor Who—here are all my posts from last month.)

What’s in it for you, you ask? Firstly, here are some perks.

Give any amount and you’ll have my undying thanks.

Give £10 and I’ll send a personalised ‘thank you’ email to the address listed with GoFundMe. If you’ve been lurking on this blog invisibly for an age, as it turns out several people who leant me a sofa during September and October had, now’s a good time to say hello. Let’s talk.

Give £25 and I’ll include your name and an optional link to your online profile below all posts in January, with a ‘Special thanks’ line. (People who’ve given already, feel free to claim this perk.)

Give £50 and I’ll devout a post to giving you a shoutout, together with whatever work you do or care about. If you have a developing blog or want to boost the visibility of activism close to your heart, then (provided it’s nothing I can’t stand) I’ll write a short feature on it for my not-inconsiderable audience.

Give £100 and I’ll write a full article or essay-length blog post on a topic of your choice, whether it’s something you think the world needs to discuss more, something you’re looking for answers, advice or explanations on or just something you’d like me to discuss. (This is, of course, subject to my agreement—in the unlikely event I’m not down for your first-choice topic, we can still select one.) Since it’s something my readers tend to like, you can also choose to commission a snark-post, in which I’ll spend a few paragraphs being acerbic on any agreed subject of your choice.

A couple of other things: did I mention people hire me to design things for them? (Here’s that portfolio again—I’ve done blog banners, book covers, logos, t-shirts, promotional fliers and all things in between.) If you’re interested in employing me, drop me an email: I typically charge fifty percent on commission and the rest on completion of things, and in this case, that down-payment can go into the fundraiser.

Oh—and I’m an editor too. A pretty great one, actually. Last autumn an old friend hired me to edit the first article she ever wrote, which then went viral in the press and garnered millions of hits; a year back, another asked my advice for a note to a childhood bully, which gained just shy of twenty thousand Facebook likes and was reported in world news programmes. I copy edited Greta Christina’s well-received book Coming Out Atheist, have worked with a large number of other names from the secular blogosphere, and have spent 2015 editing a first-time author’s novel. If you’ve got a project you want to hire me for, just call.

Again: here’s the fundraiser. Again: if you can’t contribute but do want to help out, please consider sharing it far and wide. If you can donate to this and want to, it means more than I can tell you.

Everything I Wrote In November 2015

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You might have noticed that since June, I’ve been using Patreon to get paid for the writing I do. (Patreon, if you haven’t heard of it, lets readers pay content creators a sum of their choice per post, up to a monthly maximum—for example, $3 per post up to $15 in any given month.) When I first started using it, one of my pledges was to post at least twice a week, or eight times a month. For lots of reasons, including homelessness and a bout of ill mental health, it took me till November to make good on that, and now that I’m being as productive as I want to be, I’d like to do some self-promotion again.

One thing I’ve found with Patreon is that it pushes me to write longer, more serious posts I might not have otherwise: getting even a few dozen dollars per post from a small group of patrons has focused me on content I really care about. I mean to keep going in that vein, and for this blog to continue to grow—November was its biggest month ever, largely due to me getting paid enough to concentrate on it—I need to keep up the momentum, so I’m going to try and get into the habit of advertising. In case you missed any, this post is a recap of everything I wrote last month, and I’m hoping to publish a compendium like it every month, partly as a portfolio, partly to motivate myself. [Read more…]

Why I’m homeless and how you can help

So I’m kind of in a fix.

If you follow this blog, you’ll know I haven’t been as productive as planned over the last few months. In June I wrote about atheism and depression—some nights, as I say there, ‘I fight the urge to smash myself to bits’, but my brain has more effective ways of tripping me up. The worst, despondency, has immobilised me all summer long, and I’ve struggled to get much done.

A few factors fed into it. The last bout of drama on this network took the toll I assumed it would—I’m just starting to post regularly again—but more importantly, it was the latest in a series of things that have made 2015 rough so far. Until July I was dealing with a flatmate who made it hard to work from home, and since late last year I’ve been estranged from most members of my family. Although the latter’s done me good, it’s been a constant distraction from work and stripped me of any other source of support. Political despair, widespread among my friends in the UK, hasn’t helped—in short, I’ve been in a rut.

It turns out knowing you’re in a rut is the first part of climbing out. What my mental health needs, I’ve come to realise, is a change of scene—so a couple of weeks back, it struck me the time’s come for me to move back to England. I’ve written this blog from Berlin most of the last two years, and will never tire of the place, but for now, well, I’m tired of the place, and it’s clear to me I need to go elsewhere before I can fully knuckle back down again. On top of that, I’m long overdue for a health checkup in a country where I have access to medicine.

A writer-friend and I are looking at renting somewhere in the New Year, as grown-ups seem to do, and before then I’ll need to sort various things—accounts, application forms and so on—which can only be taken care of while in the country. With that in mind, having sold off what furniture I owned and reduced my possessions to a rucksack’s worth, my plan is to fly into Gatwick in the next week or two. From September 24 through to November, I have friends’ floors and sofas to sleep on, and I’ll find temporary places for December during that time.

I’m getting back to work as is, and drawing plans to finance the next few months. Now that I’m Patreon-equipped and no longer being strangled by Weltschmerz, I’m going to start writing the two posts a week my page on there pledges. (Thanks to assorted patrons’ generosity, I already make $30 per post, more than I earn from adverts in a month.) In addition, I’m going to seek more paid writing elsewhere, and have one publishing house listening to book ideas. Other projects are in the works: I’m currently editing one book, am likely to edit another before year’s end and am looking to take more on. Similarly, I’m finishing work now on redesigned graphics for Miri’s blog Brute Reason, and am in search of other gigs.

There’s a plan in place here—the trouble is, I can’t start executing it until I’ve left Berlin, and right now I can’t afford to do that. A year ago, when I was in monetary meltdown below the bottom of my overdraft, people who read this blog came to my aid, and as a result of projects they hired me to carry out—as a translator, editor, graphic designer—I haven’t been in the red since. I’m pretty proud of that, for the same reason I’m proud to have reached 24 without having had a credit card, and the aim is to reach December 31 having stayed in the black all year. Debt is a trap, and I’m determined to remain responsible with finances—so I’m going to do the responsible thing and ask for help.

If I fly into London next weekend, several friends’ sofas are waiting for me, but for now I’m stuck floating around Berlin, temporary-homeless, on my last £80 following a depressed couple of months. Making that one way trip is much less pricey than finding a new place here, and will enable me to get back to work properly, but without taking my bank account subzero and facing the resultant fees, not something I can do right now.

If you enjoy the things I write—about queer issues, atheism, pop culture, mental health, geekery—or if you’ve never followed what I do, but have been sent this post and want to help, there are four things you can do for me if you feel like it.

1) Tip me

Now that this blog’s Patreon-supported, I rely less on one-off donations from readers leaving me tips. On the whole this an enormous help, and one of the reasons I’m in the black right now—but since I only get paid that way on the fifth of each month, it’s not going to do me any good till October.

If you’re a patron, I can’t say how much your support means, and I won’t ask anything more of you. For everybody else—and in case any patrons actively want to leave a one-off donation too, I’m going to declare my tip jar open. Here it is.

GitTipJar

I’m not going to turn down anything I get or set a target amount—every bit helps, and by definition, I don’t know what surprise costs might attack me in the coming month—but if ten people each give me ten pounds, I’ll likely be able to leave Berlin without sinking into the red, and of twenty people do, I’ll have room left for food and public transport.

Here, again, is my donation page—everyone who leaves any amount has my thanks.

2) House me

If you’re in London, or in Berlin during the next week, and have a free sofa or (somewhat long) stretch of floor, and you want to help in some other way, I’m looking for places to sleep before the 24th. (Several friends have already offered theirs, but not such that the whole period is covered, and having a plan B always reassures me.) In return for your hospitality, I’ll be more than happy to cook and wash up for you. Here are some of the things I like to make.

3) Patronise me

As I said, Patreon is of limited immediate help—but I’ll still be getting back to writing regularly over the next few weeks, and will still have things I need to pay for during October, November and December—as well as after that. Renting somewhere new in England incurs all kinds of costs, and in the medium-to-long-term future, I’ll still need earn a living. If you like how and what I write and want to support it—examples on my page there—becoming a patron is the most effective way, and as you’ll see, all kinds of perks are on offer.

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4) Hire me

And if you want to help me get paid for something else—consider this an advertisement—there are other strings to my bow.

For one thing, I design visuals, including but not limited to ones for bloggers and activists. Here are some of the things I’ve made.

For another, I edit books and writing of all other kinds, and I’m pretty good at it. If you’re a writer or communicator and want to clean up your copy, I’m all yours. In Greta Christina’s words:

If Alex is offering you his services, TAKE HIM UP ON IT. Alex did two extensive rounds of copy editing on [my book] Coming Out Atheist, and he is one of the best copy editors I’ve ever worked with. I can’t recommend him highly enough. Seriously. Hire him.

I also translate into and (especially) from German: the secularist book I spent last winter translating for its US edition goes to print early next year, and was a Spiegel.de bestseller in Germany.

My rates for all these things are negotiable, and I like being employed by friends and strangers equally. If you feel like hiring me or might be interested in doing so, drop me an email.

And if you can’t do any of those things, but want to be of assistance, share this post.

A I said, I’m no longer in a rut—but I am in a fix. If you can help me fix my fix and feel like doing so, this is your chance. With any luck, it’ll be another year before I need help again.

Cameron’s Britain: this property-owning democracy is no place for queer youth

When Margaret Thatcher died this April, ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ reached number two on the UK singles chart. Campaigns on social networks all but swept the song to the top spot, but the BBC, citing concerns of propriety, offense and taste, refused to play the song in its official countdown. Instead, a five second clip was shown in a news item. The socialist left and liberal right, of course, bristled at this while conservatives applauded, but the real joke was on Thatcher: her Cold War rhetoric sold us the notion high capitalism enfranchised us – that purchasing power was people power, and property-owning democracy the only kind. Could there be a better rebuttal? To send a message, Britons spent tens of thousands downloading the song, embodying the commerce-as-democracy narrative, but in an instant, Britain’s state media defused their action.

Current Prime Minister David Cameron, recently praised for his Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s signing gay marriage into law, has cultivated an image cuddlier by far than Thatcher’s. On personal approval ratings, he is easily his party’s greatest asset, and marketed himself from his leadership’s outset as ‘a modern, compassionate conservative’, declaring in his first conference speech that marriage means something ‘whether you’re a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man’. This isn’t the Tory Party of Section 28, the law that banned ‘public promotion of homosexuality‘ – and subsequently, Conservative support among LGBTs rose from 11 percent at the 2010 election to 30 percent at the end of last year. Yet Cameron is at least a Thatcherite. Inflicting spending cuts unrivalled since World War Two, his government makes hers look virtually left wing. His early statement, ‘There is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state’ was pitched to distance him from her, but reified in fact her central axiom that aiding the poor or homeless lay outside government’s purview. In 2011, he even promised us the ‘new presumption’ all public services would by default be at least part-privatised.

That the Daily Telegraph column in which he wrote this glossed private takeovers as ‘diversity’, liberal byword for LGBT inclusion, says much of Cameron: he’s a man for whom, like Thatcher, all logic returns to that of the market. In the ninety minutes following Barack Obama’s statement, ‘Same-sex couples should be able to get married’, a million dollars went to his re-election campaign, and as a media executive before his time in parliament (who, only two years prior to his leadership, voted to keep Section 28), it’s conceivable the PM’s ‘pro-gay’ stances are more about profit than principle – I believe, though, that deep Thatcherite impulses drive them. His earliest support for civil partnerships came in the context of an argument the nation needed more marriage and less divorce; it’s no surprise he wishes to give married couples tax breaks, because for him, marital and family ‘commitment’ means personal responsibility – an alternative, that is, to public provision. Cameron’s political rhetoric, too, blames ‘family breakdown’ on overindulgent spending, slashing welfare to keep husbands and wives together. Behind the PM’s love of gay marriage, and marriage in general, hangs this bleak backdrop.

When he said he supported gay marriage due to, and not despite, being a Conservative, he wasn’t lying; as it did for Andrew Sullivan before him, gay marriage serves a regressive agenda for Cameron, informed by the same marketising Thatcherism he’s worked to purge from his public image. Elsewhere, that Thatcherism embattles queer Britons, and especially queer youth. What fate, in a property-owning democracy, befalls those who own least or stand themselves to be disowned?

Read the rest at {Young}ist.