Wednesday, 6 April 2016

NaPoWriMo 2016: Poem Six

Don't tell me I look better
when I come back to your world today,
where I must resort to the shorthand
of using words like 'girlfriend' to describe
the women whose presence means more to me
than the faded wedding photo on your desk;

where I am reminded that I am not one of you
in the simple act of buying coffee
when the girl on the till tells me
how amazing she thinks those like me are;

where I turn corners
and hear conversations
go silent.

Do not tell me I look better
because it makes you feel
less complicit in this.

Whatever my job here is,
it is not to help you hide
from what yours makes you.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

NaPoWriMo 2016: Poem One

You said I touched myself in the shower
and tears came to my eyes
and I nodded in a non-committal way,

but wanted to tell you about the night when I got high
on weed smoked through a tinfoil pipe
and worked my dick like it was being shoved inside
by someone fucking me as if it was a fight
they had no chance of winning on points,
and came so hard that that moment
I thought I might die:

sometimes the forces that make you feel joy
will hit you so hard
that you cry.

This year I am recording all my NaPoWriMo poems on my SoundCloud page. Listen to this one here.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Put On A Proper Suit

Don't weep for the seeds you were hoping to sow,
dead before you plant them:
just put on a proper suit, do up your tie
and sing the national anthem.

Don't ask why you're slapped with the bedroom tax
while robbers live in mansions:
just put on a proper suit, do up your tie
and sing the national anthem.

Don't express that you're vexed with security checks,
be assured: you are chosen at random,
so just put on a proper suit, do up your tie
and sing the national anthem.

And when we bring the charges we'll bring against you,
don't say you don't understand them:
put on a proper suit. Do up your tie.
Sing the national anthem.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Please, Take Some Diazepam (4)

I haven't written anything here in a while. Partly this is because I have, as longtime readers will be aware,  increasingly been writing for other sites (like my review of Transparent Season 2 for Bustle, for example). But there's another reason too, which is that, put bluntly, I have not been well for a while. Not since August, really, not since I admitted that what I wrote about in this post was sexual assault and not just an unfortunate lapse in sexual etiquette on the part of the person involved.

It is hard to find language accurate enough to describe this. This isn't something I didn't remember until August, I always remembered it had happened, I just wasn't able to put it in its proper context until then. And I can't say I accepted it or came to terms with it because I haven't. In fact, since that day I haven't been able to stop thinking about it, this event that happened over fifteen years ago but is now suddenly, startlingly, stupefyingly present in my life. I keep flashing back to it. It consumes much of my thinking. I am nervous and frightened and so, so depleted. Sometimes my arms feel weak in the way they feel after an epically heavy workout, and I haven't been to the gym in months. I'm terrified of the locker rooms, and not just because I'm trans. People tell me I still look like I've lost weight, but in all honesty this is probably because I'm eating on a semi-feral schedule.

Sometimes, sensory stimuli overwhelm me to the point of panic: a crowded tube train at rush hour on the way to a production meeting. A room full of partying friends. A Five Guys restaurant in Birmingham. Four people talking at once. A noisy office. Sometimes I can conceal the fact that these things make me want to run. Sometimes I can sit and breathe and focus through it somehow. Sometimes I just run.

It's tiring, going through all this every day, and at night it's hard to fall asleep. I feel as if there is only so long I can keep fighting this before I don't have the strength to continue. What I do then, I don't know. Part of me is just banking on me not having the energy to do a thing about it.

About a fortnight or so ago, on the train to my day job, I began crying uncontrollably. I was unable to do anything without the tears beginning again. I hated this. I was angry about it. To say I couldn't understand why it was happening would not quite be true. I knew why. But what I couldn't understand was why that day and not any other.

But there's a simple enough answer to that question. There was nothing special about that day. Nothing important about it. Other than the fact that I'd held out long enough. I'd had enough. I'd been coping, for over six months, or trying to, and suddenly I couldn't anymore.

It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to you that I've been diagnosed with PTSD, but I have. I'm on medication, and a waiting list for therapy. Writing, perhaps unsurprisingly, has not been much on my mind. I've tinkered with a few things, edited some older things, worked on research for a project which I'll talk about another time, but I haven't done much. This post is the longest thing I've written in weeks.

I would like to reassure you that I'm going to be okay. I would like to, but I don't know if I am. I know I want to be. I don't know if that's enough.

I want it to be.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Quit Y/N?

I need to know it's there: the escape
key, the toppled King,
the hand brought down three times,
the towel thrown in: it has to be
an option. Sure, quitters never win:
but if there's no way to end this thing
I don't want to begin.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The World She Saw

I built three walls around my heart,
'til you came, making me feel
the old fear again: someone colossal enough
to see the life I hid behind those stones,

to remind me of the limits
of my barricaded world,
to break through my defences.
Though I moved in all directions

but the one that led to you,
you caught me where I could no longer run,
and even though I swore no acquiescence
I was swallowed down so deep

you cut me off from light, from air,
from flight: and there, at last, in
the darkness of you, I felt
a red wet rush of recognition.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Last Thing We Can Learn From David Bowie

With the news this morning that he died at the age of 69, today is a difficult day to be a David Bowie fan. Like many of us, I grew up in a world where Bowie was just always there. He was like the weather: sometimes he’d be cheerful, sometimes he’d be moody, sometimes he’d be absolutely horrific  (that cover of 'God Only Knows' on Tonight, Jesus Christ…) but his actual existence was a constant.

It was a constant for me since I was old enough to talk. I’m heterochromic – my eyes are two different colours – and long before I ever heard any of Bowie’s music, long before I listened to one of his albums (for the record: Outside  was my first), one of the first things adults would say to me when they noticed was ‘Oh, you know who else has different coloured eyes?’

Except, of course, as any Bowie fan knows, he doesn’t. Bowie suffered a head injury as a young man which left him with one pupil larger than the other, which makes it look  like he has different coloured eyes, but he doesn’t.



I’m still adjusting to writing about him in the past tense.

But my grief, as a fan, as a queer person hugely influenced by Bowie, isn’t the only thing which makes today difficult. It’s become a cliché to say that all our faves are problematic, but the thing that complicates my grief for Bowie is the fact that, back in the 1970s, at the height of his fame, Bowie had sex with a thirteen-year-old girl.

That girl was Lori Mattix, a groupie who, before more famously becoming involved with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page,  lost her virginity to Bowie. It’s clear from interviews with Mattix that she doesn’t regard this as rape or assault, and considers herself to have consented to Bowie doing his thing with her, but it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and it’s a fact which many people, quite rightly, find distasteful. And we should. Older men having sex with teenage girls is abusive and exploitative because of the power dynamic involved. A thirteen-year-old can’t really give their informed consent to something like that, and people should know better than to exploit a young girl’s hero-worship just to get their jollies. It’s hard to think of a contemporary artist with the same stature as Bowie, but if any current celebrity were discovered to have been doing that there would, rightly, be an outcry.

That’s because the mechanism exists, today, to hold celebrities accountable. Right-wingers might decry tumblr activism, but social networking and the ubiquity of mobile recording devices has fundamentally shifted the balance of power between stars and fans. When we say that there will never again be a star like Bowie, this is part of what we mean.

Bowie, and Page, and all the other rock stars of that era, rose to fame at a very different time. Rape culture saturates our world even now, and the rock culture of the 70s was rotten with it. Young men like Bowie and Page were treated like God-Emperors, decadent overlords who could do what they wanted with whom they wanted, and who were protected by an entire apparatus of managers, minders and money-men who could make all their problems go away. A million eyes looked on them with lust and wonder, they were told they could take what they liked, and they did. And many, many young people, especially young women, were hurt as a result.

As a survivor of rape and sexual assault myself, it’s hard for me to listen to Bowie’s music knowing what he did. It's hard to listen to a lot  of music from that era for the same reason. But I still listen to Bowie, because years before I found out, those songs gave me the strength as a queer person to stand out, to be who I needed to be. I still listen to them because they’re an amazing example of what happens when an artistic mind with a pop sensibility is given full creative freedom. I just wish Bowie, and the stars of his era, hadn’t been given so much freedom in the areas where they should have been restrained.

Bowie’s entire career constituted a critique of rock and roll, of fame, of stardom, and – as distasteful as an argument is at a funeral – maybe it’s appropriate, in that sense, that we are  having this conversation today. Bowie was a superstar who seemed to be something more than human, something alien, something divine, and he played with that perception of himself as a messianic figure for much of his career, in public – and took advantage of it backstage. When you treat men like gods, when you give them carte blanche  with no oversight, and no accountability, you enable their abuse of power. There will never be a star with Bowie’s level of fame again, and we should be thankful such a thing’s no longer possible. The final lesson we can take from David Bowie is that never again should we treat a star like David Bowie.