Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith: Book Review and Analysis

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 ‘Girl Meets Boy‘ is a book I have never heard of until University (it was on my courses set reading list for the summer holidays). It is a retelling of classics – and what could be more classic than a book written in 8AD. For reference, it’s a retelling of the story of a poor family who cannot afford to have a female and therefore will kill their child upon birth should it be a girl. An intervention of the goddess Isis convinces the mum to somehow ‘go with the flow‘ – and raise the baby girl as a boy named Iphis. This continues until adolescence and is only feared to be discovered upon the marriage of Iphis to Ianthe. But another intervention means that Iphis is turned into a man and the story has a happy ending. 

But my favourite thing about this book is that it deals deals with the idea gender fluidity or transformation within the context of heteronormativity. What Smith does, however, is to tell the story, or rather a story playing with similar ideas, in the context of two sisters, Anthea and Imogen (“Midge”). This is my favourite aspect of the book purely because I am a MASSIVE gender and sexuality nerd. Due to the classic story that the book is retelling, it means with the idea of sexual orientation / gender identity, which is something I like to read about – especially since the title (‘Boy Meets Girl’), is ‘a tale as old as time‘, which obviously raises the issue that heteronormativity and cisnormativity are two major issues within society. So its a modern retelling for the modern, political world. 

Speaking of how it deals with gender, it deals with how the two genders and how they  mix up – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a boy and a girl or whether you fall in love with a boy or a girl, Ali Smith deals with the transparancy between the two binary sexes beautifully. 

However, the only minor criticism I have with the book is that it has a horrid sexist villain who is overcome and everything – but it’s a minor complaint (not the blatant sexism that exists within the villain) but the fact that the author, Ali Smith, has clearly retold the story with all the classic conventions that exist with classic stories and fairy tales (e.g. binary opposites like good and bad).  But I do like how the book deals with sexism within society – like one of the female characters works at a water bottle company, which automatically means that she gets less pay than her male counterparts – meaning they paid less for the same damn job (and hence why the line THIS MUST CHANGE.” is, in my opinion, so powerful). 

Finally, Ali Smith has a poignant writing style, which is another thing I liked seeing as this is a modern retelling of a classic story. I’m kinda curious to read more books from her in the future. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Bi Awareness Month!

15th annual Bi Pride Day to be celebrated worldwide - National LGBTQ Task Force

September is bisexual awareness month – and Bi Visibility Day is every 23 September (since 1999). So I just wanted to write a post about why I’m so proud to be a bisexual nonbinary person. But firstly, I want to provide a brief history of Bi visibility day at least. The day, also known as International Celebrate Bisexuality Day, has existed since each year since 1999 to highlight biphobia (both within the LGBTQ+ community and outside the community) and to help people find the bisexual community. 

Firstly, and in terms of politics I’m revolutionary just by existing. Unfortunately, people still recognise that bisexuality isn’t a legitimate sexual / romantic orientation – even in a mostly socially progressive political climate. Despite this, it’s really awesome being a bisexual – refusing to ‘pick a side’ or conform to peoples stereotypical expectations of what it is to be bisexual. Which is why I’m so proud to be both bisexual and nonbinary – because it means I can redefine what it means to be bisexual – because bisexuality isn’t binary (as in, anyone of any gender can be bisexual). 

Speaking of my attraction, I also love being bisexual because I never have to question my sexuality because I’m attracted to them. My bisexuality includes all genders, and while this technically makes me pansexual rather than bisexual, I prefer the term bi – so scoping out that attractive guy / girl / nonbinary  person should be easy – providing I don’t have a bisexual panic because of how attractive that person is. In addition, I can pursue a relationship with anyone you think is rad, regardless of gender. But if you’re going to take anything from this, I find people attractive. 

Furthermore, I know that I can’t assume someone’s orientation just by who they’re dating. This is because of straight / gay passing – which basically means a couple appears to be straight / gay relationship (e.g. A girl dating a girl isn’t always a lesbian. A man dating a woman isn’t necessarily straight). But one of those people could identify as something else (e.g. bisexual, acesxual, nonbinary). So when you have these unnecessary assumptions about someones relationship based on how you perceive them (and maybe on a regular basis), you can work on becoming a positive role model that inspires others.  

Bisexual Pride Flag 3 x 5 ft – Little Sister's Book & Art ...
The bisexual flag 

On a more positive note, another reason I love being bisexual is the flag. The flag consists of  pink (on the top), purple (in the middle), and blue (at the bottom) – which, if you ask me, is one of the best flag colour combinations (besides the design of the nonbinary flag). Personally, I love the design of both my flags because I just think the colours work well together. Furthermore, I really enjoyed researching the history of the bisexual flag and what each colour on the flag represents. 

In addition, I absolutely adore bi culture. This isn’t to be confused with the negative stereotypes surrounding bisexual people (or anyone attracted to multiple genders). This refers to positive things that are associated bisexual people do – e.g. finger guns, the band Green Day (Billy Joe Armstrong is a gigantic bi), and the cherax pulcher.

New ‘Galaxy’ Crayfish Discovered In Indonesia Has A Nebula ...
 The Cherax Pulcher 

 

 

 

 

Nonbinary Pan Combo by Pride-Flags on DeviantArt
bisexual / nonbinary  flag combination

 

 

 

Why Remembering Queer History is Crucial

In the US at least, October is LGBTQ+ history month (and this happens during the month of February in the UK) – and like the name suggests, it is a month long celebration of queer history. It first occurred when when Rodney Wilson, a history from Missouri proposed that LGBTQ+ history should solely focus on the queer community. The sole aim of LGBTQ+ history month is to educate those who are not in our community – or those who may be unfamiliar with – the historical side of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also a time to encourage people to be open and honest about being queer – though, like with Pride and intersectionality, I think we should be having these discussions at all times of the year, not just for one month. It’s also important to celebrate queer history this year because it is the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. 

It is important, for any minority group to know their history – because while celebrating our history by showing how far we’ve come is important, it is ESPECIALLY crucial to know how far we still have to go. Though if you look back at our history, it is clear that we have made massive strides in terms of gaining rights -from same-sex marriage being legalised to LGBTQ+ characters on TV and the movies improving  – and like I mentioned earlier, though we’ve made progress, our fight isn’t over. So the most important reason why learning and remembering queer history is because it’s important. With events like Stonewall being the first Pride event, so it’s crucial to remember that the event was run by two (2) trans women of colour (Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera). We also need to remember all the people who came before us, so that we can continue to fight for the living. 

So by teaching people about these events we can get a better look at a). how far we’ve come and b). figure out we can do to move forward. In terms of moving forward we can raise the voices of places around the world who are extremely anti-LGBTQ+ – and while we must fight for rights the rights of queer folks all around the world, I believe that it won’t always be necessary to fight for equality. This can lead to a better conversation about we can make the world a more equal and inclusive – and as a result, your activism will improve. 

Finally, wherever you identify within the LGBTQ+ acronym, know that you are important and that your stories, experiences and history matter. 

Intersectionality Matters!

 

New colors being added to rainbow flag | globeslcc.com
The Philadelphia Pride Flag features two (2) new colours – black on the top and brown on the bottom. It was designed to represent QTPOC. Other than that, the flag remains the same – horizontal lines with the original colours of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple). 

This post was actually inspired by a badge I made from  Bristol Pride this year which said ‘intersectionality matters’ and featured the Philadelphia Progressive Flag, which was made in 2017 to include QTPOC (which stands for Queer / Trans People Of Colour). Which got me thinking a lot about the concept of intersectionality and why it matters so much. I touched on it a bit where I gave my identityinterectional look, but I want to talk about it more generally – in addition, I also wrote about the history of the original pride flag, where I briefly mentioned the new flag and its creator Gilbert Baker.

But if you aren’t aware of the situation, in 2017, the city of Philadelphia learnt that the  rainbow flag wasn’t as include everyone. So for the Pride, they added two (2) different colours – black and brown to existing flag to represent Queer and Trans people of colour. This obviously comes from a good place, because the more inclusive we can be, the better – right? Of course! But, unfortunately, this sparked controversy. This is because the flag has historically meant to represent the community as a whole, and those who have criticised Philly’s decision was unnecessary because the flag already represented unity. What’s even more ridiculous about this discussion surrounding the new flag is that some people had asked for a for a white stripe, because they thought that adding was disrespectful or even – and hear me out on this – racist for not  including white people. Now, as a white person (who therefore benefits from white privilege), I have no problem with including these new colours, and I don’t think it’s racist to not include the colour white on the flag – and this is just another way that some white people believe that reverse racism is a thing (which it isn’t – and if you look at the context, it is ethnic minority groups that are discriminated against – not white people). 

At first glance, fighting over what the flag should look like might seem like a ridiculous idea and seem like unnecessary thing to do. But here’s the problem – it represents a deeper divide within the community – because despite the LGBTQ+ communities fight for equality, POC have been left behind. This, as VICE magazine puts it, creates “the lack of intersectionality” within the community. What this means is that some LGBTQ+ individuals will fight for specific LGBTQ+ rights (e.g. same sex marriage), but may not do the same when it comes to other issues (e.g. the intersection between being a queer and a woman, or racism). Furthermore, one way that we can combat this issue by listening to QTPOC, as they may have first hand experience of this, and therefore have valuable knowledge and experience. 

In addition, the Stonewall Riots, which was lead by two (2) trans women of colour, means that black (especially of colour) have, and to an extent continue to be, at the centre of the movement because of this intersection of racism, sexism, and transphobia. So I admit that I benefit from white privilege, and I know that being a white person is OK – and more importantly – grants me advantages within society. So therefore, it is crucial that a). that I (and any other white person), acknowledge this, b). speak out against all the discrimination that transfeminine people face, and c). raise up the voices of transfeminine people & share any work they do on social media.

In terms of protests however, I believe that not necessary to go to them, and that it doesn’t make you “any less of” an activist for not going to one. There are many different types of activism, and many activists may choose not to go to them for a number of valid reasons (e.g. inaccessibility, mental health, they are in a minority group). While I understand that going to protests is is an important way to make change, it doesn’t give you an excuse to “look down” on those individuals who can’t attend. Plus, like I mentioned, there are many different ways to be an activist – you could start writing a blog, make YouTube videos, or do art. By doing what you love as a form of activism, you are still contributing to the causes that you love and care about – and in my book, that makes you an activist. So if you are able to go to protests, then go ahead, but just be mindful of your privilege – and be sure to protest on behalf of those who can’t.  

However, unfortunately, isn’t the only problem within the community. Judgement based on race, or body type, gender, or mannerisms – specifically with gay men, mean that any gay man that doesn’t fit the “ideal” gay man is somehow is less. This is especially prominent on dating apps such as Grindr and Tindr. As a result, this means that despite the fact that the LGBTQ+ community is a minority group, it still discriminates (eg. black people, fat people), which shows that they are still more than capable of discriminating against other people. 

 In conclusion, PLEASE make sure that your activism is intersectional, because it really does matter, as you may get valuable knowledge and experiences that aren’t yours – plus it’ll make you a better ally to minority groups that you may not be a part of. I’m proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m just trying to be more aware of the problems of the many problems the community has – and by being aware of these problems, I’ll become a better activist and ally to other groups. Finally, the more inclusive our activism is, the better it will be. 

 

Why LGBTQ+ Social Spaces (that aren’t centred around nightlife!) are Crucial

Disclaimer – I am, by no means, trying to shame those who enjoy going to queer friendly clubs! In fact, alcohol within reason can lead to further enjoyment, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be more LGBTQ+ friendly social spaces that don’t centre around the nighttime. Also, in the UK at least, 18 is the age where someone becomes an adult. 

Having a safe space is important – especially if you are in a minority group. But I wanted to write about why safe spaces are crucial for LGBTQ+ people – especially if you are a young person under the age of 18.* This is because all to option, queer spaces for adults tend to be centred around alcohol and clubbing – and though this is all well and good, it is also crucial to remember that there may be queer people who don’t drink (like me), elderly LGBTQ+ people etc. This then, unfortunately, adds to another problem that LGBTQ+ people may face – increased loneliness which may be due to the fact that many queer spaces are centred around nightlife.  

Firstly, not everyone enjoys it – for someone like me, clubbing and alcohol aren’t really my thing, so by having a safe space like Freedom Youth is crucial for me because they allow for me to be in a queer friendly, non-alcoholic space where I can still be myself. It also means that I can socialise with other LGBTQ+ young people in a safe space, without the presence of alcohol. In addition, allowing people to social with other people without the presence of alcohol means that everyone there will have a good time. 

In addition, I feel as though social media can help with this. Sites have a messaging system people can talk to each other – I’m a part of a few groups, and by talking to other queer people has definitely improved my social life – and the same goes for Freedom Youth. It also means that you get to stay in the comfort of your own home, and for some, this can be a very safe space. 

Secondly, it’ll allow less people to meet new people. By possibly going to to places where there is the chance of there being no alcohol or loud music, it’ll allow individuals to meet and actually get to know other people – because you never know, you might find another person who share similar interests. You might even find someone with a shared experience, which is great because it’ll mean that you feel less isolated, and you might even learn something.

So here are some ideas for non-alcohol safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people:

  • Queer friendly cafes
  • Queer friendly bookstores (bonus; with LGBTQ+ books of all genres!) 
  • Queer friendly film, book, TV clubs and general social spaces. – also I’m aware that these will take a lot of time & money, but it nice to think about what type of places we could have. I’m also aware that these places will have to be accessible for queer / trans people who are disabled / are neurodivergent (or both). 

 

 

 

The Power of Positive LGBTQ+ Representation

The positive representation, of any minority group (e.g. LGBTQ+ people, women, or people with disabilities) is crucial, especially with the power that the media holds. But I don’t want to talk  about negative topics such as queerbaiting, because I’ve already covered it. Instead, I want to talk about the positive impact and power of positive queer representation. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe that the media (especially media forms such as films and TV shows) can provide a positive outlook on underrepresented groups within society – and this is even better if these stories are told within those groups.

First and foremost, finding positive representation can massively help with normalisation. By normalising LGBTQ+ content, it can help any queer or trans person feel OK with being ‘different.’  Not only can normalising be a massive factor with positive representation, it can also be used as a educational tool – I believe that education is the most important tool for a person’s activism (especially for someone who might be just be starting out). 

But how do we positively represent the LGBTQ+ community? Well firstly, we have to avoid negative stereotypes and tropes surrounding – because while diversity has increased (and this is a positive in itself), many LGBTQ+ characters are still plagued with negative characteristics or storylines (especially queer female characters). For example, according to the Huffington Post, in 2016, at least 25 LGBTQ+ characters were killed off in TV shows – and the vast majority of them were either lesbian or bisexual female characters, and this only served the purpose of advancing the plot of a cishet male character. The plot can still be advanced WITHOUT these queer female characters dying, so this negative trope needs to go in order for genuine, positive representation to move forward. 

In addition, if this continues, it’ll also do more harm than good – because in order for representation to move forward, queer characters NEED to have more positive outcomes for their storylines, because if cishet people can have positive storylines with happy endings, then so do queer characters. This is ESPECIALLY crucial for questioning people because if they only see the negative outcomes, then it will only make the situation worse for them. So in order to combat these negative tropes in the media, we need to emphasise more positive outcomes and representation – especially in media aimed at children and young people.  

Secondly, we need more LGBTQ+ stories told from actual LGBTQ+ people – this can have a powerful impact on how we view the queer community. If we allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to share their work, it’ll hopefully help people (both within the community and outside the community) to better understand each others experiences. It also allows space for people who are in more minority groups to share their experiences. So as a result, we are brought closer together – and that’s the whole point of ANY community, right? 

 

 

 

Bristol Pride 2019

Yesterday was Bristol Pride, and it’s the day in the year that I always look forward to! I had a lovely day filled with lots of flags and good people (and walking). I first went to Pride in 2017 – and that was my first official Pride event. I couldn’t go last year because I was on holiday with family and we didn’t get back until the day after (woe is me). But this made me more excited about Bristol Pride this year – and I had a lovely day! 

Here are some things I loved about this years Pride: 

  • The atmosphere: Bristol Pride had a lovely atmosphere, and I felt so safe during Pride because I had a whole community behind me (plus I was marching with my youth group, so I know they would have my back if anything bad happened to me).
  • All the flags: What I love about Pride is seeing all the flags, and that’s mostly because I’m a massive flag nerd. 
  • The people: All the people I saw / met / interacted with at Pride were lovely, so it added to my enjoyment of the event, because I love seeing complete strangers and friends showing pride. 
  • Togetherness: Pride is about supporting all members of the LGBTQ+ – not just during Pride season, but all year – because pride is all year round.  The chance to be my authentic, queer self around other members of the LGBTQ+ community added to my sense of Pride, which I also try and practice everyday. 
  • The signs / chants: I did see some signs and partake in some chants, because we still have a long way to go in terms of having rights. Because by equality takes standing up to people who are actively and openly homophobic / transphobic etc, we are reminding ourselves that Pride was originally a riot. The chants I did at Bristol Pride created a real sense of togetherness and community, which is a nice reminder given the current political climate surrounding our community.  
  • The Location: To celebrate 10 years of Bristol Pride (and 50 years since the Stonewall Riots), Bristol Pride was located at The Downs. Besides being a convenient spot for leaving (for me at least, since I can walk home from there), it is just a lovely location – and it really added to the overall atmosphere. 

What I’m trying to say is that Bristol Pride was a blast, and it’ll continue to be my favourite event of the year. It’s such a great event for the reason listed above – but the biggest reason for my enjoyment was the people I spent time with. I’m already looking forward to the next Bristol Pride event because I really enjoyed this year, and I’ve already planned for what I’m doing next year for Pride season. Here’s to the next season of Pride!

Happy #InternationalNonBinaryDay!

I am a proud bisexual nonbinary person who uses they / them pronouns – I’m lucky to be allowed to be my authentic self, but I’m aware that some people may not be able to be out and proud, so it’s crucial for those of us who can be out to talk about our experiences (if you want to, of course). But if you want to take a small step and support trans / binary people, you can start by putting your pronouns in your social media bios

In addition, please take the time to be proud of your nonbinary identity today, and everyday by using their pronouns and remind them of their validity – this could be by correcting people who misgender them, or by complimenting their outfit.  

May your outfits continue to be awesome (both today and everyday) and remember that I’ve written a piece on the brief history of the nonbinary flag here. But for my cisgender / binary trans readers, you can read about how to be a good trans ally here – you can also read my post on pronouns here.

 

My Pride Plans for 2020 (yes, I’m already planning ahead..)

Pride, as many of you may be aware, is my favourite time of the year – so I wanted to write about my plans for next Pride season. It’s a time where you can hopefully celebrate your identity (though you can do that throughout the year if you can). So I wanted to write about what I want to do for next Pride season, because it’s fun to think about – and because why not?

In terms of pride parades, I’ll obviously be attending Bristol Pride because I live in Bristol – so it seems like a no brainer. I also might go to Trans Pride Brighton (but it’ll depend on how my first one goes – more on that when I actually attend my first trans pride event!) – and as much I would like to go to London Pride, I’ll have to sit it out due to expenses. In terms of other events, it’ll heavily depend on what’s on and when I’m aviable, so I’ll have to see! 

I also want to try and support more LGBTQ+ artists etc – since I’m currently unemployed (finding a job is proving to be difficult), I’m worried about spending all my money. But if I do get a job (anything within reason will do), I’ll hopefully have a bit to spend on patches and pins, as well as other pride related things. I also want to support more LGBTQ+ creators, especially those in other minority groups (e.g. disabled people within the LGBTQ+ community) so that I can help them get their work out there. 

But I’ve still got some Pride events to go to (e.g. Bristol Pride this weekend and Trans Pride Brighton next weekend) – and even then, I’ll be doing lots of things at those pride events! So here’s to next Pride season! 

 

Pride Is All Year Round, not just June

Since Pride month has come to an end, I wanted to remind you that you should (if you are able), to be proud of yourself during the rest of the year. But don’t get me wrong, I look forward to Pride month every year as much the next queer person – its the one month of the year where you can celebrate diversity, self-acceptance, and inclusivity within the community (hopefully in spite of all the discourse). But Pride means lots of different things to lots of different people – and you don’t even have to celebrate that during Pride month. For some, it might be a time to celebrate how far they’ve come (for example, in terms of their transition), or it might be a time to reflect on how to support more marginalised members of the LGBTQ+ community – but no matter how you choose to celebrate, its correct.

However, I wanted to acknowledge about the fact that we’ve still got a long way to go, and that we should be celebrating our complex identities all year round – because pride is still crucial. Now, I’m very vocal about being  visibly queer, because by being yourself is the most radical thing you can do, and it is a way that you can be an activist. By being yourself, you may allow someone to come out, or at least give them the courage to be comfortable in their identity. Now I’ve been out and proud for a while, so I’m aware of the process, but I understand that not everyone can come out, so I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. 

We still have a long way to go however. It’s crucial that we support the trans community (especially since Pride was started by two trans women of colour) – but it’s still stands that we support the trans community because a). the media isn’t great on reporting on trans issues (at least in the UK)  and b). trans people still face a lot of discrimination. It’s also crucial that we support transfeminie people of colour, because they are the most marginalised members of our community – so it would be a massive disservice if we don’t support and raise up their voices. I’d recommend finding LGBTQ+ people in other minority groups and listening to them and raising their voices – because they know best about their experiences, so by sharing a thread on Twitter of theirs, or a blog of theirs for example,  you are using your privilege to give a voice to less privileged members of the LGBTQ+ people. 

Thirdly, and simple put, we still need to fight for our rights – even in 2019. Though we have made great strides in the UK for example (e.g. marriage between same sex in the UK has been legalised) – we still have a lot of rights to fight for (e.g. its still illegal to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community in many parts of the world). Even if you can’t help directly, you are not powerless – you can use your voice to share about it on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. 

You can continue to support queer creators year round, not just during Pride Month – especially since rainbow capitalism  unfortunately exists – so support actual LGBTQ+ creators, bloggers, film makers etc, rather than big corporations who take advantage of Pride month. 

Finally, try and balance partying and protesting – because whether you believe pride is a protest or a party– find a balance. I personally believe both can coexist, because it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come,  but I also understand that we still have a long way to go.

I hope you’ve had a fabulous pride month, and remember that you should be proud to be yourself throughout the year, and not just June.