In lieu of a Serious Business Post


Apologies for the lack of alt text! I’ve got 5 minutes before I’ve to get out of the house and to the gym- I’ll get it done this afternoon. 

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I’m Tired of Trans Days Of Remembrance.

I’ve been thinking all day about what I wanted to say for Transgender Day of Remembrance. When it comes to days like this, it can feel like we’re rehashing the same damn thing over and over again. Trans people are still getting murdered at a horrifyingly disproportionate rate. Trans women, particularly trans women of colour, even more so. Even in Ireland, where murder rates are far lower than places like the US (for everyone), my trans (especially transfeminine) friends face a constant undercurrent of violence.

Here’s what I said three years ago:

I guess that we’re all a little bit selfish. We all love who we love, and though we care for those outside that little group, it’s the loss of our family, friends and lovers that tears at our guts and rips our lives apart. So every year on November 20th I feel a little bit lucky. The people I love are still here.

It’s a cruel kind of luck, and one that nobody should have to feel.

Like most of us, I’ve said goodbye to people I love over the years. They’ve died in different circumstances. Some after long years of illness. Some after short months or weeks. Some expected, some unexpected. Some peacefully, some in pain. The loss of every single one of them tore- and tears- my heart apart. But there’s one thing that is common to every one of them that I will always take comfort from. Every one of them died knowing that they were dearly loved. Everything that we could do to ease their suffering was done. They didn’t want for a hand to hold. They were cherished as they died.

Nobody can tell how each of us will end our lives. But that one simple thing- that in our last moments we know that we are loved and cherished, and that if there is any way to ease our suffering it will be done- is something that we can hope for everyone we care for. It’s the one thing that we can do.

Too many of our trans community are denied that.

So every year on November 20th we gather and we take time to remember the trans people who didn’t make it this far. Whose last moments were hatred, violence, contempt. Whose deaths were nothing but sport for those for whom their lives meant less than nothing. The latest victims in our wars of privilege and oppression. The overwhelming numbers of, in particular, poor trans women of colour, caught in the crossfire of too many intersections of hate. We gather together in the cold. Send short-lived, brightly burning lights into the darkness.

And every year I hold my loved ones closer.

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What’s courage?

“You’re hurt and you want to stop? But we are just about to begin! Get up on your quads right now, you bunch of wimps!” Credit: Will Argunas.

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage in the last few days. A little over a year ago, I wrote about bravery. I said this:

I don’t think that brave feels brave. We imagine that bravery feels powerful- feels like facing your demons, overcoming them and triumphing.

I don’t think it’s supposed to feel strong. Not all the time, anyway. I think the bravest things we do are when we feel weak. Those times when you feel tiny and scared, when you don’t know how you’ll get through that thing you have to do, when you can’t look more than one step or moment ahead and in that tininess and shaking and nausea or whatever it is you somehow take that step and do a thing? When you’re a goddamn mess and the smallest thing is everything you can do?

That’s a hell of a lot braver than squared jaws, narrowed eyes and confident stares.

This feels relevant.

Murdering people who can’t fight back- even if you know you’ll give up your life for it in the end- isn’t brave. It’s cowardice. Pathetic, repugnant cowardice. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting people in a school or a movie theater or a concert hall or a summer camp. I don’t care if you’re doing it for notoriety, martyrdom or a twisted idea of politics. I don’t care if you strap a bomb to yourself or fire one out of a plane. If you kill people who can’t fight back, you’re a coward.

Daesh are cowards, hiding behind guns so they can pretend they matter. They want to make cowards of the rest of us.

It’s not hard to do. We already have our fair share. Even before last week, Europe was quaking in its boots at the prospect of finding homes for some of the bravest people on the planet. People who’ve endured incredible hardship fleeing their homes in hope of finding somewhere they could rebuild their lives. I hear that America’s doing the same.


You know what bravery is? It’s #PorteOuverte. It’s knowing that there are murderers on the streets of your city- they could be anyone- and opening your door anyway. Because for every murderer there are thousands of people who need a place to rest. It’s refusing to cancel your Paris gig because you know exactly what it’s like to grow up in a city that people are afraid of.

People in the West are afraid. I understand. I’m one of them. Any time I’ve been out in town this week, I’ve felt that vulnerability. It’s right there in the back of my skull, in between my shoulderblades. A part of me understands that nothing can really stop them from killing any of us at any time. We can punish them afterwards (if they give us the chance), but we can’t prevent it.

We’re all afraid. It’s okay to be afraid. Remember: bravery doesn’t feel powerful. We are at our most brave when we feel the weakest.

Whatever we do, Daesh will kill again. They’re doing it right now! It may not be happening where you are I are from (or it may be). But people are losing their lives every day to these people.

What do we do?

We’re being presented with a false dichotomy: we bomb Syria, or we do nothing. We raise the walls around Fortress Europe (and America), or we’re just standing by and letting it all happen.

That doesn’t sit right with me. Here’s what that feels like: people who are terrified and don’t know how to admit that, who want to lash out at the people who hurt them until they go away. It’s the reaction of a cornered animal.

I understand it. The scared part of me feels like that too.

But we know that it’s not going to do a bloody bit of good. You don’t stop weeds growing by covering them in compost. Sure, it looks pretty good the day you do it. Come back in a few weeks, though, and you’ve just fed the problem.

I don’t know how to fix that.

I do know this: Islamophobia won’t do a damn thing to fix this. Attacking mosques and Muslims, lumping millions of people in with murderers will only make things far worse. Refusing refuge to people fleeing the very same groups who attack us here is senseless- we are more than capable of growing our own Daesh terrorists. This is 2015. We can communicate across the globe in an instant, and you think that a border will stop people indoctrinating each other? And even if that weren’t the case: people have the right to refuge.

I know that we also need to defend ourselves. And that we have a responsibility to do that right. If we rage against the killing of innocents, we make damn sure that we don’t do the same thing to anyone else.

I know that we can’t solve cowardliness by being cowards ourselves. I know that the only way to stop the growth of a movement rooted in Western inhumanity is to start treating others like humans. Cut it off at the roots. Fight fire with some goddamn water for a change.

I love this:

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Paris, Beirut, all of it: I’ve no snappy title for you today.

I know that I should say something. I can’t think of anything else to say. My heart has felt heavy since Friday night. Since my friend went into the bathroom halfway through dinner and I popped open my phone to idle away the few minutes. As you do.

It feels like we have to have an opinion. We have to have the right opinion. We have to have it now. But I don’t know what opinions to have. I don’t know what the right thing to think is.

We keep hearing that it is wrong to grieve Paris more than Beirut. And yes, I understand that. Yes. I understand that a Lebanese life is every bit as valuable as a Parisian. I understand that deep, unjust wells of inequality and racism run through our responses to tragedy. I understand how blisteringly unfair it is that when hundreds of people die in one city the world stops in its tracks, but when hundreds are murdered in another we shake our head, sigh and move on.

But when I saw the news about Paris it wasn’t just a tragedy in a city far away. I wasn’t thinking about the world or our structures of power and unfairness. When I saw the news about Paris my stomach dropped. I picked up my phone.

Are you okay? I heard the news- are you safe?!”

A few minutes later, messages. They were safe. They’re safe. Relief. I could breathe again.

In the Bataclan, people were still being shot. Still dying. My friends aren’t worth an inch more than the people who died in that moment. But they are mine. And while I am not proud of the relief that felt like blood returning to my body, I am not ashamed of it either. [Read more…]

I Don’t Care About Being An Atheist (and maybe I should rethink that)

One of the many posts that has recently been percolating its way through my (terrifyingly overstuffed) drafts folder was going to be called I Don’t Care About Being An Atheist (And Neither Should You). Then- as happens fairly often- I read something that changed my mind.

Atheism used to feel important.

You see, atheism isn’t all that important to me, either in myself or others. It felt like a big deal for a while, when I had first admitted to myself that I had no belief in any supernatural force or entities at all. It was a transitional stage in my life. I’m sure many of you can relate! I’d spent years with a general sense that there was probably Something out there. As time went on, the Something became more and more vague. It felt like a revelation when I happened upon some atheist writers. This made sense! I started to think about it, read a ton more, and gradually realised that I couldn’t see a single reason to believe in anything supernatural at all.

For me, the process of becoming an atheist was inextricably intertwined with that of growing up. My atheism was one of many conclusions I came to when I started to look at the world as it is, instead of how I would like it to be. I learned to stand up and look at the world as it is with an unwavering gaze. I didn’t always like what I saw, but I know that the only way to live honestly in the world is to acknowledge what it true.

In short: for me, letting go of any gods was part of my process of becoming an adult. Like many transitional times, it felt big, important, freeing and sometimes downright terrifying.

Then it receded.

Life goes on. As important as becoming an atheist was to me, being one feels like nothing at all. [Read more…]

The Bogeyman Of The 38-Week Abortion

I keep on seeing interactions like this one:
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 15.53.31

When it comes to abortion, it seems like a certain number of anti-abortionists operate under quite a startling misunderstanding about what it actually is.

It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Especially since the same people tend to spend a lot of time salivating over graphic descriptions of (what they imagine) abortion to entail. None of which, by the way, involve someone who’s a handful of weeks pregnant taking a few pills over a few days, chasing them with some painkillers and curling up on the sofa with a hot water bottle for a day or so.

I’m sure when these people picture abortions and the people they have them, they imagine someone who can’t wait to tear apart the foetus growing inside them. It’s all about violence. It’s never about context: who the pregnant person is, what they want or need, and why.

Abortion isn’t about killing a foetus

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Six Abortion Movies I Want To See.

I’ve got a bone to pick with you, World. You see, I’ve seen a few movies about abortion in my time. And I’m getting tired of seeing the same old stories.

There’s the girl who gets pregnant, considers abortion, and then changes her mind at the last minute (Juno). There’s the tragic story set somewhere in a bleak, desaturated past where someone gets pregnant. Her cruel and backwards culture would never accept such a thing. So she has an abortion and it is terrible/painful/isolating/all of the above. She goes on with her life (or maybe dies) and everything looks like it’ll continue being bleak and secretive forever. And then there’s the story of the abortion provider- also living in Bleak, Desaturated Past- who does her work in hidden back rooms and probably something terrible happens to her too.

Not exactly light entertainment.

You could argue that this is to be expected, right? Abortion is a serious thing! We have to treat it as Serious Bizniz!

Bollocks to that, I say. Bollocks to it! People make fun stories about serious things all the time. Every summer we buy buckets of popcorn to watch the latest natural disaster or robots destroying cities in glorious technicolour. I’ll bet the people being torn apart by dinosaurs (they were exterminated by a huge asteroid, you guys) or crushed in a giant earthquake (people die in earthquakes every year. Doesn’t that mean it’s always too soon?) aren’t going to appreciate you all having fun at their expense.

If we can make truly ridiculous movies about space Nazis living on the far side of the moon (when genocides happen all the damn time), then why the hell should something that about 1/3 of uterus-bearing humans do in their lives be off limits?

If you can find me a reason that doesn’t boil down to 1) nobody wants to watch Women Things or 2) ew gross vagina cooties, I’m gonna be impressed. Also, I definitely want to watch Women Things and the only vagina cooties I believe in are ones that you could probably sort out with a trip to your local clinic (feel better soon!).

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have serious films about something that is a really big deal for many of the people who do it. Of course we should. But those shouldn’t be the only stories we hear. I want to hear stories of uterus-havers doing all sorts of things and for abortion to be right in there along with all the other stuff we get up to. Like the everyday, ordinary thing that it is.

To all the filmmakers out there: please make these. I will watch them tons and bring all my friends.


I would have illustrated the rest as well but it turns out that I am Slow and Unskilled in the art of, er, art.

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No such thing as straight women? The real danger behind this study.

A recent study claiming that there’s no such thing as a truly heterosexual woman has been doing the rounds this week. Dr Gerulf Rieger led the study- helped out, by the way, by none other than Dr Michael Bailey. Yep, that guy who decided a few years ago that bi men don’t exist. And that trans women are really gay men. Or, er, very straight men. Anything but women.

This latest offering involved measuring how women’s pupils dilated watching porn. The findings? Unless you’re a lesbian, your pupils dilate across the board. Doesn’t matter if the gender matches up to who you fancy, or if you report being aroused at the time.

They also looked into whether lesbians IDing as masculine or feminine correlated with whether they were sexually more masculine or feminine- that is, whether their pupils only dilated to women or to people regardless of gender. In a finding that will surprise precisely zero queer women? Not a connection in sight.

I’m not going to take pot-shots at the study design or the well-known biases of the researchers. That would be far too easy. Also, Autostraddle said it better than I ever could.

Let’s try some more conclusions.

Let’s take the results of this study and run with them. Half the headline-writers on the planet seem to be intent that this means that straight women don’t exist. Now, I’m no psychologist (hello, I did sociology, thank you very much) but I can come up with ideas like the best of them.  Here’s a few that me and some friends came up with last night: [Read more…]

A book for a blanket fort: The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet

I read this book and I fell in love with it and you could too.

Way back in January, I made a New Years’ Resolution. Unlike the vast majority of resolutions made in a post-t(of)urkey haze (and to January 2015-Me’s great surprise) I stuck to this one. It was this: for 2015, I don’t read any novels by white men. I’ve mostly kept the results of this to myself, but this book? Made me want to tell all of you about it.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet is delightful. It’s gloriously warm and rich: a book I want to read again when I’m curled up on a sofa with a giant mug of tea. Maybe in the winter. In front of a fire. With a blanket around me crocheted by an auntie. That kind of book.

Okay, so it’s not perfect

Then again, what is? Let’s get the drawbacks out of the way, so we can get on to the good stuff.

This was Chambers’ first novel, and in some ways it can feel that way. This is a vivid book- it’s fun and warm, with the colour and contrast dialled way up. Most of the time this works well, but sometimes it feels like it’s gone a little too far. Some parts of our initial introductions- both to the characters and the universe they live in- feel a little overdone. Similarly, I felt that the characters could veer towards the clichéd. If this is the kind of thing that bugs you? You mightn’t like this one. But you can get past that, then grab yourself a large mug of something warm and find yourself something cushioned to curl up on. 

What’s it all about, then?

The basic premise is this: a messy bunch of plucky misfits with hearts of gold go travelling halfway across the galaxy. They have Adventures, they overcome Adversity, they discover Friendship and Family. Throw in a bit of Coming of Age for the protagonist (who has had to leave everything she knows and take a job on a ship going Far Away because Reasons) and you’ve got the idea. 

I hate spoilers, so you’re gonna have to find out the rest for yourself. 

Why should I read this one, if you’re not gonna tell me what happens in it?

I’m gonna tell you something, and I need you to bear with me: this is a gorgeously queer book. I don’t mean that it has characters who love other characters of the same gender. For one thing? Hello, aliens. This isn’t Star Trek (much as I love it). We’re not just sticking lumpy face bits onto humans, giving them a single Big Different Thing, and then giving them almost exactly the same gender and family structures that we have. Instead, Chambers plays with gender, family and love.The aliens are relatable without being human- their minds and emotions may not work the same way that ours do, but the crew’s wanting the best for each other gets through.

No, this book is queer for two big reasons: because the way that each of the characters does love and family is as unique as they are, and the different ways in which its characters created familial bonds were all valued for what they were. Identity and gender are constructed differently by each species on board. What does gender matter if you lay eggs to be cared for by groups of elderly people? What does it mean if everyone starts off in one sex and then grows into another? Or if you’re a symbiote with something entirely alien? Chambers’ universe is one where these differences are taken for granted. No big deal. And when it comes to family? Sure, romance and sex are one way to create a bond. But you’re as likely to find unlikely brothers, sisters, mentors, parents, and friends as you are lovers, and all of these things matter. Not in an after-school special kind of way. In an ordinary, everyday way that feels far more true.

It’s also queer- oh so queer in sensibility- because it’s about life on the margins. Sure, most of us can’t relate to hanging out with feathered-lizard aliens and tearing open holes in the universe to pay the bills. But what about knowing that the ways we do love, family and identity aren’t in line with our home planets (er, cultures) and going ahead and doing it anyway? Knowing that you’re unlikely to change anything or to ever be remembered. But figuring that what really matters is finding connection and warmth here and now, working out how to do that while being as you as you can be, and going with that? That feels familiar.

This book is about chosen families, love, who we are, and creating warmth out there in the void. It has wonderfully realised alien characters- both from a split humanity, multiple species, and created intelligences.

And that one idea- that we leave where we come from (or hold on to it) and that out in the world we find our family- is queer as all get-out.

Oh, and it’s also fun. Really, really fun. SO FUN.


If you’re looking for something that’ll change the world, or subtle and intricate plots that’ll have you puzzling for days? This probably isn’t the book for you. 

However, if you’d like a heartwarming story about a diverse cast of larger-than-life characters having an awfully good time? Then you might just love this one. 

Me, I’m planning a second read of this for sometime I’ve had a really bad day. There’s gonna be a big mug of hot chocolate involved. Maybe even a blanket and a hot water bottle. And it’s gonna be great.

Also, I here she’s working on a companion book to it. Hurray!

Pop over to Chambers’ website for all sorts of places you can buy it, wherever you live.

Even bloggers have to pay the bills! Monthly subscriptions- no matter how small- help give me the security to devote time to this place and keep a roof over my head. If you like what you read, please do help out:

Monthly subscription onetime donationWhy Donate?

A guide to abortion services and information for people in Ireland.

This post is inspired by and adapted from a post originally published  at Feminism and Tea. However: this is me saying all of it, and I take full responsibility for that.


Abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances in Ireland. In this post is information on the legal situation in the Republic, and how you can get the services you need. I’ll be sharing information on both legal and illegal methods of accessing safe abortions. If you need to use the latter, be careful! I’ll advise you on precautions that you can take to make sure everything goes smoothly and you get what you need.

Also: I am not a medical or a legal professional. I have a good layperson’s knowledge of the situation. I will update this post with any changes to circumstances or services, as and what I learn about them. So please do check this post for updates if you need to use this information. Similarly, because circumstances change: please link to this post instead of copying it, to avoid passing on out-of-date information.

I’m not writing this on behalf of any of the organisations I link to.

I’m writing this from the perspective of the Republic. The legal situation is different in Northern Ireland, and I’m not currently familiar enough with it to advise. However, much of the information here is also applicable to the North.

Best of luck. [Read more…]