Bi+ Ireland Upcoming Events

Hello, my lovely bisexual, pansexual and queer readers! If you’re in or around Ireland in the next week or two, Bi+ Ireland have been busy organising meetups in (literally) all four corners of the country. If you’re anywhere under the nonmonosexual/romantic umbrella and in this part of the world, we’d love to have you along. If you’re not, though? I’d appreciate it a ton if you could share the events and let people know about them.

And before I go, remember: Bi+ Ireland isn’t just our public page and events! We have a thriving worst-keptsecret FB discussion group as well- just send us a PM for an invite.

Here’s the details:

OCT 17: Bi+ Ireland October Meetup Dublin

Accents Cafe in Dublin, Ireland 19:00

(FB Event Page)

OCT 17: Bi+ Ireland October Meetup Galway

The Secret Garden Galway in Galway, Ireland 20:00

(FB Event Page)

OCT 18: Bi+ Ireland Belfast October meetup

Queen’s Arcade in Belfast, United Kingdom 15:30

(FB Event Page)

OCT 25: Bi+ Ireland October Cork meetup

Bodega Cork in Cork, Ireland 15:00

(FB Event Page)
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I Am Not Your 101: Sharing and Privacy

I had this experience recently.

I’m at a pub after a long week, (third) pint in hand, and a friend asks me to explain bi erasure to her. Right then and there. What is it? What does it mean? How is it a thing?

I ask her if we can’t please talk about this another time, but she insists- after all, I run a nationwide bi+ network and blog about this stuff all the time, don’t I? I ask her again if we can talk about this later, because I’m tired after my week and just want to kick back with a few beers and relax. She keeps insisting. Eventually I make my excuses, saying that I’ll pop to the bar for a second. By the time I get back she’s deep in another conversation. Phew.

A week or so before that: An acquaintance and me were at a party. Out of nowhere, they start asking me what felt like overly personal questions- why am I single? What about my orientation? What percent was I attracted to men and what to women? What percent was it physical and how much emotional?

I answered that this was none of his business, that besides, it wasn’t like that, and that I wasn’t going to answer and could he please stop. Of course, he went on. Where else is he supposed to find out about this stuff? It’s not like there’s any other bi people in the room.

I repeated that this was making me feel incredibly awkward and self conscious and could he please stop? His answer was that I write about this stuff on the internet, so I should be fine with talking about it at any time. Luckily at that moment a friend of mine (who is bi) was on her way through the kitchen and told him to knock it off. It worked. I excused myself for another room.

These things happen all the time. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

As a society, we have an idea about people who are partially visible to the public eye. We figure that if you’ve chosen to share something publicly, you’re fair game. If people can read or listen to or see you in one context, it feels, they should be able to demand access anytime, anywhere. In my case it’s at a very minor level- in a way I’m extremely lucky that my platform is a relatively modest one and I’m well aware that there are far worse things in life than being badgered by acquaintances and friends at parties. However, the interminable harassment experienced by people (particularly women, particularly POC, particularly queer) more widely known than I is a constant, nagging worry in the back of my mind. I can’t help but connect the two and think about how, if this weighs on my mind, I would handle something more severe.

I’ll bet that some of you reading this are thinking something along the lines of “if she can’t stand the heat, why the hell won’t she get out of the kitchen?”. But that doesn’t take away the fact that being open about my queer orientation is not a licence to demand information about my personal life. And blogging- or other kinds of sharing online- is not an abdication of a person’s right to privacy and to choose what conversations they do and do not have. Sharing things in one context does not imply blanket consent to share other things, or even the same things, in different spaces, with whoever asks. There are things that I’ll share with anyone who asks. There are things that I’ll share online and would be happy to have conversations about. There are things that I’ll talk about in one context but not another. This is true of all of us.

And another point for those of you who would ask that: There are people in this world who have a thick enough skin to stand constant harassment. And there are people in this world with interesting things to say. There is an overlap, of course, but the Venn diagram of these two groups is nothing like a circle. By demanding that those of us who speak publicly give up our privacy and our right to be treated decently, you create a space where it is the loudest and most brash, not the most insightful and interesting, who get to speak.

If someone speaks or writes in public, of course they should be subject to response and criticism. If someone writes or speaks about a topic, of course there are spaces to ask them more. But whatever we share, don’t we have the right to be spoken to and about with some basic respect? And shouldn’t we get to shut down our laptops, sign out of our accounts and pour ourselves a mug of whateveryourehaving at the end of the week?

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Some Advice For Being Come Out To

Belated happy coming out day! I’d have come out as something this weekend but.. I wracked my brains and I have no idea what I have left to come out as. I’m a pretty open book at this stage. That, and the weekend was spent on roller derby- have I mentioned I’m hopelessly devoted to derby? I’d say ‘consider me an out ‘n’ proud derby fanatic’, but if you didn’t already know that, you haven’t been paying attention.

However, my having reached the bottom of my (current) barrel of things to come out as does leave me with a wealth of experience as a coming-outer, as well as someone being come out to. With that, here’s my advice for those of you on the receiving end of a coming out. Particularly for those of you who might have some out yourself, who are now listening to others come out to you.

What’s coming out?

When we hear that someone has come out, what do we think? Our first assumption- almost our automatic one- is that they have just said that they’re gay. Contrary to what popular culture would have us believe, coming out isn’t about saying you’re gay. Sometimes it might involve saying that you’re gay, of course- if gayness is the particular thing a person is coming out about that day. But gay is by no means the only, or even the primary, thing that a person might come out about. If coming out, then, isn’t about saying that you’re gay, then how can we as coming out-ees, think about it in a better way?

Here’s my definition: coming out is about revealing something about yourself in the hope of living in a more authentic fashion. It is specifically about revealing something about yourself which goes against social norms and assumptions, in the hope of living more authentically. Coming out can be a specific thing you do, or it can be a deliberate decision to live openly. The options available to you for coming out depend on where you are, what you are coming out as, and your circumstances.

Take coming out as gay, for example. If you have a similar-gendered partner or a social life involving tons of time spent in gay venues, and assuming you live somewhere that isn’t too horribly homophobic, this one’s fairly straightforward. All you have to do is talk about your life, and the assumptions that people make following from that will be correct. This doesn’t imply that it’s easy to come out or be out as gay. I live in a country where LGBTQ teachers can be legally fired if their orientation is discovered. But while it’s not easy, the process is fairly straightforward.

If we define coming out in relation to being gay, we end up making several assumptions. Assumptions like:

  1. Coming out is something we need to do once to each person
  2. Coming out, while not always received well, is generally accurately understood
  3. The more open you are, the more authentically you can live your life

While these assumptions generally hold true for gay people, things get a little more complicated for the rest of us. Depending on where you are in your life and what your identity is, each of these may apply to a different degree or not at all.

Take bi+* people. In most cases, the third assumption works for us. Being open as bi+, if we are able, allows us to live our lives in a more authentic fashion. It helps us to build stronger relationships, to find community, and to live life without a nagging censor at the back of our minds. When it comes to the first two assumptions, though, things start to fall apart. The second- that our coming out is generally understood- is often not the case. When bi+ people come out, we’re frequently assumed to be either lying, confused or experimenting, and depending on what part of the bi+ umbrella we’re coming out as, there can be even more inaccurate stereotypes to contend with. Because of this, the first assumption crumbles as well. We come out to people all the time, only to have them assume that our orientation changes when our circumstances do. And we come out to people all the time, only to have them assume that our orientation implies untrue or unrelated things about our behaviour- and then to assume that our orientation is invalid when they discover that we don’t meet those stereotypes.

And take trans people. Depending on circumstances, the third assumption might have the opposite effect that it does with LGB people. Being generally out as trans might allow someone to live their life more authentically, or it might mean the denial of someone’s gender once their trans status is known. Add to that widespread lack of understanding about what being trans is. Choosing whether to be out as trans and to who is a hell of a lot more complicated than being out as LGB.

That’s two of the best-known things we can come out as that aren’t lesbian or gay. If there’s that much complication there, just imagine the diversity of experiences in people coming out as something else entirely. Words like ace or poly that meet with an abject lack of comprehension half the time.

Coming out isn’t one thing. The coming out narrative can’t be defined by the experiences of cis LG people. Not anymore.

What does this mean for being come out to?

The short version of this is simple: we need to listen, and we need to let go of our ownership of other people’s coming out.

A little longer: In order to hear what is being said, we have to not listen to our assumptions around what their words mean. Remember that this person is telling you about a part of their life that they have kept hidden from you until now. By definition, you don’t know exactly what they are going to say.

And you need to believe them. It doesn’t matter if their identity was a temporary one for you or someone you know. It doesn’t even matter if it turns out to be a temporary one for them. What matters is that this is their truth, here and now. If it changes, they’ll tell you.

If someone has come out to you as something you had never heard of? Respect that. Ask if it’s okay to ask questions, or if there are places you can read more. Nobody was born knowing about the labels we use for ourselves, but it’s not tough to find resources and information these days. Don’t expect the person who came out to you to answer all of your questions. If you’re curious, show some initiative and look it up- and then you’ll be in a far better place to discuss it with them, if they want to do so. But don’t assume that coming out is carte blanche to serve as everyone’s personal wikipedia.

Listen. Don’t make assumptions. Give the person coming out to you ownership of their experiences.

Good luck!

 

*Bi+ (or bi-plus) is an umbrella term referring to the nonmonosexual community as a whole- people who are bisexual, biromantic, pansexual, panromantic, heteroflexible, homoflexible, nonmonosexual queer and tons of other identities.

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A quick PSA

Just a quick update:

First: this week I’m working in a place a whole lot further away than my usual school, so I’ve no idea how much time I’ll have on my hands for blogging. Hopefully a bit!

And secondly: THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who’ve donated/subscribed since my last post. I’m more than a little bit overwhelmed, to be honest with ya. And I promise I’ll do my very best to make it worth your while.

(If you missed that whole bit, all the essential info is at that charming little doodle below)

And now? I have to be up at a painfully awful hour in the morning, so I’ve a hot date with a duvet and a hot water bottle (it’s cold here!).

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Why You Should Give Me All.. er, some of.. Your Money.

Time is money.

Here’s my situation. I have a day job, most of the time. It’s a lot of fun, but the area I work in (I teach English in a private language school) means that I don’t have work all year round and my income, while mostly sufficient to get by, is neither massive nor reliable. I never know how many hours I’ll be working or how much money I’ll be getting month-to-month. This means that I don’t really have a choice but to always prioritise teaching for as many hours as I can, when I can, because I simply don’t know if I’ll be working at all next month. The rent’s gotta be paid. Everything else takes second place.

Because writing has always been something I do more or less for free (FtB does pay a little ad revenue, but it’s not going to pay the bills), that means that it has to spend a lot of time on the back-burner. Right now I simply can’t afford to write as many posts or on as many topics as I’d like to.

This is, frankly, pants. There are so many things I want to write about here and a embarrassingly massive drafts folder full of things that I don’t have time to give justice to.

And that’s not all. As I’ve mentioned many times before, last November I founded the Bi+ Ireland Network, which has grown in less than a year to a group with almost 180 members from all over the country, a public presence that’s been noticed by loads of Ireland’s LGBT organisations, meetups in several different cities, and even some media representation– all of which has been done with precisely zero budget. This group has so much potential to become something even more, if there were only more time and resources. I want to create more spaces, to grow this network and do something about the crushing erasure and exclusion people are facing here.

And even that’s not all. Last year I ran a workshop at a student conference on creating consent cultures. What happened in that workshop made it incredibly clear to me that we need consent education in our universities and colleges- we need to teach people what it means and how we can incorporate it into our lives. I want to do that, and to do so I need time.

And there’s more, and more, and even more.

I would like your support

I haven’t ever really asked for money on an ongoing basis for the work I do in any of those spaces. In a way it’s because it feels so embarrassing to ask, doesn’t it? Isn’t it screwed up, though, that we see demanding money in return for something you would otherwise withhold- charging for something- as laudable, and yet simply asking for it in return for something you will provide anyway is seen as far less respectable?

The work I do for money absolutely has value- people leave my classroom a little bit more able to communicate in this language than they entered it in the morning, and that is one hell of a lovely thing. But I believe that any of the other work that I do- either here on the blog, or in creating and maintaining communities where none were before, or in the workshops I run and the ones I’d love to develop- is also valuable.

And it is work. Work that I want to develop. Work I want to do more of. And work that I really want to help to pay at least some of my bills. I don’t want my work to be anything other then freely available. But I would love if those of you with the ability and inclination could support this work that I do, so I can do more of it.

Here is what I would love: I would love to know each month what I have to work with. While once-off donations are marvellously appreciated, I would appreciate even more if some of you chose to subscribe to support me and my work. A smaller amount every month would go a long way towards that security that would allow me the freedom to prioritise this work, instead of constantly having to leave it in second place.

How and Why?

I’ve spent some time researching different options for this, and have decided that for now at least, instead of working with a fundraising site like Patreon, I’m going to go the simpler route of advertising the presence of my Paypal once-off donation and monthly subscription buttons. There are two major reasons for this:

  • Patreon and similar sites encourage you to have subscriber-only content. I don’t want to put anything behind a paywall. I want the work I do to be accessible to as many people as possible, whether or not they can pay for it. I’ve spent enough of my own time too broke to financially support the people whose work I follow- I’m not going to penalise anyone else for that.
  • Privacy. Again, fundraising sites tell you who is donating and how much, and how much a person receives every month. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, maybe it’s my being an only child, or maybe just a personal quirk- but that feels to me like the online equivalent of a live webcam of my laundry or the inside of my sock drawer. To be blunt, it squicks me out, and I strongly believe that sharing writing or other creative work is not an abdication of one’s right to privacy. This also feels a lot to me like justifying asking for support. I don’t think someone should have to be on the verge of starvation before it becomes okay to support their work. It’s always okay.

I can’t afford to support you with delicious eurodollars, is there anything I can do?

Of course! I’m in a rather similar boat myself at the moment. Financial support is marvellous but so is everything else you lovely readers do. So keep commenting and keep linking to the Tea Cosy. I appreciate it all. A lot.

But you’ll give us something back, right?

Of course!

In the long run, having financial support from my readers will mean more and better-researched articles covering more topics in more depth. I’ll also update you all regularly on how this is going- while I am squicked out by sharing exact numbers, I’m only too happy to talk in general about what this means practically in my life.

In the short run, supporters will have two things: my genuine appreciation, and the opportunity to ask me to blog on a topic they choose. This will be up for discussion between us, but if there’s a burning question you’ve always wanted me to talk about? Now you can make it happen.

And that’s it.

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Let’s talk tea: An essential guide for visitors to Ireland.

As I am every bit as busy this week as expected, have this wee snippet for your reading entertainment:

Descartes had it all wrong. I think, therefore I am? Whatever. Round these parts, I prefer: I drink tea, therefore I am. Or even: I am Irish, therefore I drink tea.

It has become clear to me recently that some people not from around here (I’m looking at you, Americans) have a misconception or six about my country’s beverage of choice. This cannot be allowed to continue, so let’s put the kettle on and sort this out, shall we?

Misconception the First: Irish People Drink Guinness

Stereotypes would have you believe that Irish people look askance at those who don’t drink alcohol. While this may be the case, it’s nothing in comparison to the suspicion levelled on someone who doesn’t drink tea. What kind of person doesn’t drink tea? What is this not drinking tea? How does that even work?

Tea is ubiquitous. We drink tea in the morning for breakfast, we take a cuppa into the office, have a mug after lunch. If you’re looking sad, I’ll pop the kettle on. Good news requires tea to celebrate. Nervous or worried about something? Tea. Working hard? Tea. Need to relax? Tea. Visit someone’s house? Tea- and nothing matches the consternation of a host who’s just been told that their visitor doesn’t fancy a cup. What are we supposed to do now?! Better brew up a nice soothing cup mug just to take the edge off.

There Are No Teas. There is Tea.

There are three little words you’ll never hear in Ireland- and no, I’m not talking about our nationwide inability to talk about our feelings when we haven’t had a brace of pints to loosen us up. I’m talking about this: Irish Breakfast Tea.

We do not have Breakfast Tea in Ireland. We have Tea.

Likewise, I’ve been asked all sorts of questions about teas by people from outside here, with the assumption that I’ll have some kind of insider knowledge into the latest herbal or fruity hot water concoction. NOPE. Herbal teas may be lovely, but they are not Tea.

You Are Your Tea. Your Tea Is You.

There are three kinds of Tea. There is Barry’s Tea. There is Lyons Tea. And there is That Other Own-Brand Shite You Bought Because You Thought It Would Be A Good Idea To Save Money, What Were You Even Thinking Though?

Outsiders might have trouble distinguishing these three. You might think that they all taste the same. You might even think that the own-brand stuff is perfectly good and maybe even a little nicer.

Do not say this out loud in Ireland. To an Irish person, our brand of tea- Barry’s or Lyons?- is not simply a beverage. It is who we are. You pick a side, and you stick with it. We defend our tea with the kind of loyalty and partisanship normally reserved for major sporting events or centuries-old religious differences. Non-Irish would have you believe that the major divisions in our country are, in fact, on sporting, religious and political grounds. Those people have never seen a Barry’s drinker offered a cup of Lyons.

This, of course, does not mean it’s okay to refuse a cup of your least favourite brand of tea when offered it. Irish etiquette demands that you drink that tea while silently judging your host and making no outward sign of anything other than appreciation, before badmouthing their complete lack of taste behind their back. It’s only polite.

How Do You Take It?

Okay. You’ve arrived in Ireland having fully researched which brand of tea you are going to stick to like glue for your time here. Or maybe you just flipped a coin to decide your future loyalty. You think that armed with a rock-solid belief that Lyons is the only thing worth drinking and everything else is mud and shite (you filthy Lyons-drinking blasphemer, you), you can earn the respect of the locals.

Wrong.

If you still think that “how do you take your tea?” is a perfectly innocuous question, then I wonder if you’ve been reading this at all. A nation that divides itself along nigh-identical brands of black tea is not going to be deterred from judging you based on every other aspect of your cuppa.

Strength

My old Nana used to take her tea weak. She had style. She had grace.  She was a classy lady (who knew that there was only one way to get through the dozen or so cups of an average day).

I take my tea strong. I’m a straight-talkin’ woman who takes no crap from nobody, and so is my cuppa.

Strong tea is nurses and builders tea- the stuff gulped down by people who work with their hands in between driving trucks, carrying giant slabs of concrete with their bare hands or lifting patients. Strong tea powers the working wo/man and doesn’t have time to muck about.

Weak tea is for classy ladies and gents who have the time to sip.

Sugar

Sugar is not simply sugar. Sugar is a sign of your constitution- are you someone with an iron will who cares nothing for such fripperies as pleasure and sees all kinds of enjoyment as vaguely decadent? You’ll want to drink your tea without, then. Do you see yourself as a balanced, responsible person who enjoys a treat now and then? That’ll be a single spoon for you. Have you reached the stage of your life where you couldn’t give a rat’s ass what people think? Pile on the spoons and watch eyes widen as you go beyond the respectable-yet-indulgent two spoons and into the land of ultimate sweetness. People will gasp. There will be disbelief. People will talk- if you take four spoons, then what else do you do? What do you get up to behind closed doors? Take four or more spoons, and people will definitely want to come to your parties.

Milk

You may think that strength and sugar were bizarrely loaded topics. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Did you know that ’round these parts, we can tell a person’s class background simply by observing when they add the milk to their tea?

To look at me, you would think that I am a fairly (culturally) middle-class individual. I have the MA under my belt, work in a job that requires a degree, am the child of two academics, and when I am broke I grow my own strawberries. And yet, if you give me a pot of tea and a jug of milk, when I pour my cup I put in the milk first.

Adding the milk first when you drink tea from a pot, you see, is a sure sign that one comes from the lower socioeconomic echelons of society. People from the more privileged classes would never do such a thing- it’s tea first, milk after (or maybe not at all- a sign that one can truly afford the most delicate blends, and also that you’re not afraid to point that fact out without a word).

The question of tea-milk order is not solely one of class, though. To add the tea first shows that you are a careful individual. You need to know precisely how strong the tea is coming out of the teapot, to determine exactly how much milk you require. You don’t want to risk having too little milk and needing to add more- or, worse still, drinking tea with too much milk. As for the milk-firsters? Milk first shows a devil may care attitude, throwing caution to the wind and taking what life throws at you with a grin.

There’s one thing that tea-first and milk-first people can all agree on, though. Is is blasphemy of the worst kind to add the milk to a cup before the teabag. There is actually a practical reason for this: tea brews best at the highest temperatures possible. The closest you can get that water to 100 degrees, the more delicious your tea will be. This is, by the way, why tea brewed in the cosy, insulated environment of a pot (perhaps covered with a nice tea cosy) is the best. Brewing tea in a cup is less delicious, but far more practical if you’re just making it for yourself, but it’s important to take care to keep everything as hot as it can be. Adding the milk to a mug first creates a pathetic, lukewarm environment and terrible tea. Adding the milk first when you’re making tea for a guest? You’ll be glad to know we outlawed capital punishment in this country decades ago, cause otherwise you might want to start worrying.

 

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Some Guidelines on the Proper Placement of Water Meters

Sometimes you’re there, bemoaning the fact that you don’t have enough hours in the week to write about all the things you want to, and then someone else expresses your feelings perfectly in one succinct sentence.

If you’re curious as to how a country that receives over 200 days of rainfall a year has reached the stage of having to pay for that rainfall per litre, Oireachtas Retort have a brilliant, scathing summary of the situation and its likely fallout.

Edited to add:
A lot of people in the comments here are showing some very different perspectives on this. I feel a bit embarrassed, as it’s pretty clear I was impulsively posting fairly strongly on something I don’t actually know terribly much about. I’m gonna take a step back, do some more reading and talking on this one, and STFU with the big public statements until I know enough to have a perspective with a bit of real nuance to it.

And thank you, commenters, for calling me on it.

We Are Bisexualised: Wherein I was wrong.

Kanika Ameerah left what I feel is a really important comment on last week’s post Boundaries, thresholds and love: why it’s time to take back ‘bi’Here’s what she had to say:

I personally don’t identify as bisexual, and find the word problematic not because of the gender binary issue, but because I find it too simplistic to encompass the various types of orientations, identities and experiences in one neat term.

There are some people who are biromantic, and can love either gender, while others are more fluid in orientation. Then there are many people who strongly prefer one gender for relationships, while their attraction to the other is more physical. I believe that the aforementioned scenarios are all completely different orientations, and should be seen as such.

I responded in comments, but I want to bring it up here because it’s related to an incredibly important point that I hadn’t thought of until I read it. I think, you see, that I was wrong. [Read more...]

Ask A Bisexual podcast is up!

If you didn’t catch it earlier, here’s the podcast of myself and two other members of Bi+ Ireland talking bisexuality with the absolutely lovely people at PrideTime on NearFM. And answering forever the question of what I actually sound like in real life ;)

I’m so damn proud of what we’re doing with this group.

#BiVisibility – A panel discussion on bisexuality by Pride Time @ Nearfm on Mixcloud

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Ask A Bisexual: Coming to a radio near (er, probably far from) you!

Got a burning question about bisexuality? Or just want to hear some devastatingly sexy Irish accents saying incredibly clever things? Myself and two other Irish bi+ activists, Janet Ní Shuilleabháin and Danny Pio Murphy, will be on Dublin’s NearFM later today- 5.30pm GMT- talking all things bi+.

If you’ve a question you’d like us to answer or if you just want to send gloriously effusive fanmail*, pop Near FM a tweet or an FB message. And if you’re somehow too far from Dublin to get NearFM on your radio, here’s the livestream.

 

*you should probably leave the fanmail until after we’ve started talking, though.

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