Four things about men and women I’ve learnt from being neither

Byghan:

Almost everything I have learnt about feminism I learnt from trans* writers

Originally posted on a gentleman and a scholar:

I think part of it is a family trait, of being treated as a safe person to talk to – several relatives have had similar experiences – but part of it is most definitely being publicly genderqueer. Since I came out, nearly half a lifetime ago, I’ve found that so many of my interactions with women and men* have been marked by them designating me as something like safe territory. Someone they can talk to about gender, sex, sexuality, identity, who will both understand where they’re coming from and give them another perspective – like a gender translator and diplomat – and, crucially, listen and respond without judging them along strict binary lines. Because I’ve already transgressed those boundaries, and won’t try to punish them if it turns out that they’re transgressed them too.

This isn’t anything more than anecdotal evidence and personal experience – in generalized, anonymous terms and…

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Another Legal System

Content Warning: Rape.

Nothing about it is pretty.
And recently its been on my mind, especially what goes on when it happens when you aren’t in your home country.
Like many (most?) people (especially women) I know several people who have been raped and more who have been sexually assaulted – the circumstances vary, the responses even more so, but each and every one of them has dealt not only with the initial violation but also the decisions about who to tell and what steps to take. Most of the people I know talk about it very little and almost none of them have taken legal action.

But a couple of years ago some who I love dearly was working in France when she raped. She does not speak French but she chose to report the attack and undergo the interviews and medical procedures involved in that. Do not for a second stop believing that this takes a phenomenal amount of courage in any circumstance – but to face it, in the first instance, alone and without language assistance?
Eventually, there was support from colleagues, an interpreter and a lawyer and someone was called to court to answer the accusation. In France, parts of the investigation are overseen by the prosecutor/judge and they have several stages of court appearances in order to determine whether to continue with the case. The initial court appearance involved her being questioned by the judge but the rapist promptly skipped town and indeed the country and the matter was left hanging. She finished working her contract, came back to the UK and trained to be a teacher.

But a month or so ago the guy in question resurfaced in France and was arrested. Because of the laws about how long he could be detained without being brought before a judge she was given an urgent summons to re-give her evidence and the only concession to her being a different country was that she could give it by video from near Calais rather than travel to the actual town.
Again, I was impressed by the determination that led her to apply for (and get) emergency time off from her new job and travel across the country to answer gruelling questions which she had already done once before.
This 2nd court session led to the French authorities deciding that they could hold him long enough to have a 3rd session a couple of weeks later – this one where they would face each other personally across a court room.
Which again she chose to do.

The case has got no further.
After this further ordeal, the judge decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed to full trial. The victim was asked to contact the people she went out to the nightclub with (who were largely English & are now back in the UK) and ask them to send witness reports to her lawyer which may (or may not) be enough to open it again.
I was left horrified by the whole legal process. I knew it was bad, I knew it was hard. I know enough to know that actually the facts of her case mean that the odds were always against her but even with a level of vague professionalism the whole process was intensely painful even to me and I felt I had to share even though I cannot imagine what she felt.

Recently I heard it suggested that an inquisitorial system (which the French one is) might be more sensitive to women and children than the adversarial one (like UK) and I was hoping someone would explain to me in how…
I’d also like a little more clarification on why the repeated cross-examination of her statements in front of multiple court officials, different interpreters and the person who attacked her were necessary?

But most of all I still want to know how he could be so sure that he did nothing wrong?

I am not an Activist

I am not and never have been the person who goes to the rallies, I do not use my position of privilege to offer a platform for minority voices.
I have never started a petition or lobbied parliament. I don’t even blog about my politics very often.
I have to put my energy into being me and I don’t have the strength to do more but I have nothing but respect for the energy people put into that kind of fight (even when I don’t necessarily agree with their aims) and I am well aware that people with less resources than me, less physical and emotional stability than me try to make the world a better place and offer themselves up for causes I believe passionately in and a part of me is ashamed of my inactivity even as I know I can’t do it.

I am also not a person who shares much in the way of links to blog posts and petitions and political rants. The two are very much related.
Since I am not involved in the fight I do not know the path that it has taken to that step and whether that course of action is the right/better/only way forward. Since I am not involved in the fight I don’t want my voice to drown out the voices of those who are.
And most selfishly of all I don’t want to be that person – the kind of person who jumps on bandwagons without understanding all the issues, the kind of person who nags people to be do-gooders with the press of a button without standing up there doing it, the kind of person who thinks liking a page on facebook is all the effort that they need to put in.
I choose to try and lead by example in my sensitivity to other people’s needs and rights and I hope that my comparative silence means that people will take a moment to stop and listen when I feel I must speak out.

That shoulder thing

My left shoulder started causing me trouble quite a while ago now… about three years ago I guess… and intermittently I try to do something about it.

About Aug/Sept last year I got myself another referral to physio (my 3rd I think) and a promise of some more attention. The local policy appears to be approximately 6 sessions of physiotherapy before they need something new.

This time we were able to make some progress on the underlying issues – above and beyond any basic hypermobility (which was not discussed) the possibility of impingement was raised for the first time (not sure why it wasn’t considered before).
Although I did have a course of acupuncture again, I found that the deep tissue massage and heat treatment were more effective for pain relief and for the first time the suggested strengthening exercises seemed to make a difference – although it was only at the end of the course of physio that they suggested a resistance band to work with.
I was pleased then that I was taking less painkillers and feeling less stiff but determined that this time I would not simply wait another year for another course of physio to prescribed when inevitably all my coping mechanisms broke down and delighted that the physiotherapist was in a position to refer me to a shoulder consultant.
Yup after 3 years I actually went to see someone who specialises in shoulders!

The clinic was clearly quite full of people; some having the rehabilitation after breakages examined, some with sports injuries and a few who probably had arthritis but all cranky and bemused by the self-assessment forms we had to fill in and all sat waiting in the over-hot, loud seating by a hospital cafe.
They sent me (and I think everyone) for an x-ray before letting us see the consultant. The only other time I have had an x-ray that hurt was when I broke my collarbone aged 12 & everything hurt – but putting my arm in that position hurts that is one of the reasons I was there! Then after a series of mobility and strength tests they also did an ultrasound and I was offered something approaching diagnosis.
I was rather troubled by the mobility tests – my range of motion is quite good (its not like the knee that just wouldn’t straighten) but a) that is largely down to extensive physiotherapy and regular exercise and b) it hurts.
I understand that they need to check whether there appears to be some kind of blockage etc but I wonder at what point I am supposed to say ‘please the more of these we do the worse it gets’, I didn’t get the impression that he heard me when I said yes I can get my arm into this position but in my daily life I would avoid it wholeheartedly because it really hurts. And yes, I know it was excruciatingly hot in there, but some of that sweat was from tension and pain.

Still, there was something visible in the ultrasound – I liked the ultrasound; the gel was cooling, the process was not painful and the machine looked pretty nifty. I would really have like to have seen the pictures though.
But, what the consultants could see were lesions from an impingement (which sounds like they are infectious – they aren’t) and what it means is that the bones are essentially rubbing together – hence physio is supposed to strengthen the muscles which hold them apart. They sent me a letter with the technical details which in theory tell a Dr which bits are causing the trouble but didn’t entirely help me work out quite what my shoulder was doing to itself even with the wonders of Google.

So after several hours of waiting and prodding and poking I was offered some ways forward. The plan went as follows: a steroid injection, more physio, a check-up a couple of months down the line, and then possibly another steroid injection and possibly surgery or both…

Steroid injections hurt!

Actually I might stress that some more they really really hurt! According to my letter, there was anaesthetic in the mix as well as the steroids which might explain why I was able to walk home but were definitely not noticeable enough.  [Warning: do not read this next paragraph if you are squeamish about needles]
Part of the problem is that when you stick a needle into a joint you can feel it go in and then you can feel it move around. It honestly felt like it was grinding. I am not a wimp, I am ok with giving blood and getting injections generally, I am used to being in pain but this pain was enough to make me think I was going to pass out. The nurse brought me water and I sat with my head down for ten minutes or so – waiting I guess for the anaesthetic to kick in – at which point the consultant checked I could move my arm (and yes moving it over my shoulder was at that point easier) and sent me home.
Gradually, the stiffness set in. I definitely had a steroid flare up and co-codamol was not touching it. By the following morning I couldn’t raise my arm at all, I could only dress myself in small stages to recover from the intense pain, I couldn’t carry anything, I couldn’t even sit quietly without pain. I was a mess.
Still this too passed and two days later the pain had subsided enough for me to feel normal again. I’d like to think that the following two weeks were noticeably better in terms of ease of pain-free movement but I’m not convinced. To be brutally honest they are going to have to offer me some better improvement than that to make the injection worth going through again… As I type the shoulder is aching and complaining and I am still waiting for the referral for more physio to be acted on.
Sigh.

 

2013: A Recap.

2013 – the year I was kissed by Floella Benjamin
Or to put it another way, got my doctorate.

2013 – the year I embraced being middle-aged
Or to put it another way, turned 30 & put up built-in shelves.

It would be fair to say that 2013 was not all I might have dreamed of – my plans for publishing something were a woeful failure and nor did I find a new job.
I settled into a pattern of dismal depression and our family pottered on doing what it needed, making time and space for me to do housework and look at pub proposals without getting anywhere and without complaint.

I meant to write more but it’ll be what it’ll be. …

Hanging on the Telephone

Byghan:

So very nearly my feelings that its a little bit scary

Originally posted on Listful Thinking:

Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes clicking my way deeper and deeper into a company’s website, looking for someone’s email address. Unless you’re looking for an incredibly specific, possibly illegal item that’s only sold by a tiny curio shop in the Ukraine, that’s a stupid amount of time to spend looking for anything online. I was determined to find the address or die trying, though, because my only other option was calling her.

Yep. I had her phone number the whole time. When it comes down to it, I would rather fly a rickety, snake-infested plane to the Ukraine to hunt down an incredibly specific, possibly illegal item that’s only sold by a tiny curio shop there than pick up the phone and call someone.

More like Alexander Graham HELL, am I right?

More like Alexander Graham HELL, am I right?

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Samhain

This pagan threshold of the living and the dead is my marker of a New Year begun.
It is also the date that marks the very first vows my wife and I exchanged.  The words of our handfasting were for a year and a day to give ourselves time to reconsider – but I knew as clearly then (11 years ago) as I do now that they are for the remainder of our lives.
I don’t earn as much money as I should, I don’t keep the house as clean and tidy as I could, I recklessly fell in love with someone else, I often cry for no good reason, regularly eat all the cheese and rarely cook but still she loves me.
She spends on fripperies for others and skimps on her own needs, is always losing something about the house, is hopelessly forgiving of her demanding family, has dreadful PMT and steals my chocolate but still I love her.

And so I say again:
I promise to take you as my best friend, and as my lover; to be yours and to keep you in my heart and soul through whatever we may yet live through; to support you, and to protect you – since we are one. I promise to learn to have faith in myself and to not falter in my trust of you and I promise to listen, and to give, so that together we can be strong. Lastly, I vow to live every day in consciousness of this gift and to remember and thank-you for our love.
And 
everyday I choose you, choose to spend the rest of my life with you. I take you as my wife, my friend and my lover, through the bad times and the good- through every twist of our lives. I promise you my respect and my trust, I promise to share my hopes and my dreams and to offer you my strength and my care.

Darling wife, you have ridden with me through the storms of our depressions and put aside your fear to live with my polyamory and I feel so privileged and so humbled by your love – tell me how to show you my joy and trust in you, how to demonstrate my love and trust in you. Together we are stronger than any storms, together we can face the unknown and build our dreams, even if we have to leap into the unknown. I will always be yours. Ta ghra agam duit my wolf

Outside the sanctuary I would pray for her, and to the last I shall continue to seek her.
From her blossoming to the ripening of her grape my heart has taken its delight in her. My foot has pursued a straight path, I have sought her ever since my youth.
By bowing my ear a little, I have received her, and have found much instruction.
Thanks to her I have advanced; glory be to Him who has given me wisdom!
For I was determined to put her into practice, have earnestly pursued the good, and shall not be put to shame.
My soul has fought to possess her, I have been scrupulous in keeping the Law; I have stretched out my hands to heaven and bewailed how little I knew of her;
I have directed my soul towards her, and in purity I have found her; having my heart fixed on her from the outset, I shall never be deserted;
my very core having yearned to discover her, I have now acquired a good possession.

What do you Want?

I read a very perceptive blog post recently in which the author commented:
“Wanting something, getting my hopes up, expressing a preference, letting desire creep in–that makes me vulnerable. To deprivation, to loss, to mockery, to pain. Not wanting feels safe. Ultimately, though, all it gets me is preemptive deprivation. There’s a lot of emptiness in not wanting.”

It would be fair to say that I am not very good about wanting stuff for precisely the reasons outlined above and because there is a little bit of my depressive brain that tells me that I do not deserve to want. I have not trained myself into the habit of creating a series of goals from the mundane to the fantastical and I am even more terrified of asking for things. In general I have got away with faking these things for most of my life – pick something that sounds a bit like what everyone else wants and amble towards it without commitment and/or work your life around aiming for the things that those nearest and dearest to you want.

It all falls apart somewhat when the expectations of normal life fall away (in my case through lifestyle and relationship choices) and those nearest and dearest to you are even worse than you are at picking things that they want.
B is actually a little more open about what he desires unless his mood has dipped significantly but whilst he does talk about dreams he is a little more conservative and often unclear about his plans. On the other hand, my dearly beloved wife, W, couldn’t admit to herself wanting even so much as a steak dinner for fear of imploding (and believe me she nearly always wants a steak dinner). Wanting is anathema to her being; it involves a consideration of the self (where only others are acceptable), it suggests a striving against the status quo (which might be non-catholic), it potentially involves conflict with those she has been taught to defer to such as her parents and the social order. In short getting her to admit to wanting to be my wife was a miracle & wanting  a lifestyle or even a holiday is beyond impossible.
I believe there are secret fantasies lurking there in her sub-conscious surrounding grandchildren and cake and deer-stalking but I can’t begin to coax something out of her that I can use to create a life-plan and this means I have to try and work on my own desires.

And what do I want?
A family, a little small-holding and a steady source of income.
I want my family to be happy and I want to help make it that way

Drat!

So apparently depression has properly been biting my backside the last month or so.
Best laid plans have not come to fruition and I haven’t really been able to see where I am going or why. Mostly I have slept, felt tired and complained about how much shoulder hurts (apparently the new physio exercises are very uncomfortable and not making the days easier), and all i have wanted to do is sleep and curl up in the dark.

So.. um. Sorry