Brief thoughts of an absent blogger

  • One of the pet hates of anyone who lost a parent young “They would have been proud of you”
  • Omigod how is it possible for staring at a small child to take up so much time
  • isn’t it weird how you can love one tiny being so completely and yet so differently to ones lovers
  • i could never never be an accountant
  •   ….. but it bugs me when people dont log receipts properly

Is it normal…

Still on the topic of gender – Small has female external sex characteristics and as such we have, until Small is old enough to make the decision for themselves, chosen to identify her as female-gendered as well (since the majority of people match gender and sex) so why if She is normally she.. does my brain occsionally absent-mindedly refer to her as He.

On a different parenting note – currently Small sleeps in a moses basket beside me and feeds 2 or 3 times a night; despite sensible precautions and anxiety management inevitably the 1st time I wake after feeding her I panic about where she is, often wondering if I dropped or squashed her but also paranoid she is somewhere else entirely, before remembering putting her down and being able to hear her breathing.

Seriously, someone make small talk with me for more than 5 minutes about something that is not Baby…

Health visitors & Privilege

I’m a new mum.
One of the things that happen to us as we as individuals become defined by having a small child in the UK (aka become parents) is time is reconfigured according to its relationship with the child and especially the merry-go-round of Drs. appointments and visits by the community team. This includes check-ups, immunisations, clinics, weigh-ins and home visits…
Now don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the care and attention offered by the NHS in making sure Small has the best possble start in life but I have some issues with the system partly because of the assumptions it makes and the privileges it affords me.

Unlike many caregivers, I have the luxury of income and a stable roof over my head. More than anything else this prevents me from being categorised as an ‘at risk’ parent.

So our family set-up is unconventional (3 parent queer polyamorous relationship in 2 houses); so my mental health is ‘wobbly’ (as is that of my partners)… in other circumstances I might be deemed unfit but middle-class respectability shields us from that and thus from visits from a social worker and from the threat of Small being taken away.
I get that many people are likely to need extra support to feed and clothe their kids which is supposedly a cocern of this process. Furthermore I am grateful that I have had extra care lavished on my mental health (both in terms of speed of access and number of sessions) because of being a mother but I also see that the system places undue pressure on people.

I am acutely aware that health visitors visits are one of the ways that the state checks whether or not children are being cared for and considers whether they should be removed from their parents.
For example, my beloved wife grew up in a less economically stable home and the fear of not providing appropriate items haunts her – the threat that your child might be taken away because you dont have the new clothes or enough toys is terrifying and real when you are struggling in an area known for its deprivation and yet I grew up with no new clothes but without judgement from social services because my parents owned the house we lived in…
In a similar vein my therapist and I talked about how one might objectively judge being a ‘good enough’ mother and there on the list as used by social workers is ‘adequate gender-appropriate clothing’ …what is gender-appropriate for a month old baby or even a year old child? If someone in more economically deprived circumstances dresses there 2 children in the same clothing despite their different genitalia it might be assumed that they just can’t afford to differentiate between them or even bullying them and therefore to be watched whereas it is more likely that as a middle-class parent if I were to dress my child in neutral or “gender-deviant” clothing it would be assumed that I am merely being ‘non-conventional’ and even “politically correct” and it would be ignored.

Isn’t it amazing how when you do it with the semblance of money and respectability you automatically seem better? I feel very privileged.

A Mother’s Love: @Lewisfund’s struggle for support & a Christmas theft

bottomfacedotcom

Anyone who follows this blog will know that I’ve written in quite a lot of depth about my struggles as a disabled person, and about my son’s struggles as an autistic child with learning disabilities. In this blog I want to talk to you about another family I know, who have a disabled child. Their needs far surpass ours and they are my heroes.

When I was pregnant with my now 8 year old I joined an online antenatal group on Babyworld. It was for February babies. In the second half of my pregnancy we had a new member, Trish, she was supposed to have her baby in March but he had been born very prematurely so she had asked to join our group.

When our babies were still little we met offline for the first time. Adam was a tiny little baby and they’d been through the mill. I…

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Not working & Social Worth

When (and where) I was growing up working was one of those things everyone did. Sure, there were unemployed people around me (largely out-of-work builders which are a special sub-category) but they were always between jobs or at least full-time single mothers looking forward to going back to work. People started working young, finished working late and people never failed to ask you what you did for a living or what you were going to do when you grew up. The rhetoric of benefit scroungers hadn’t begun – though everyone knew at least one person ‘doing the double’ – if you could afford to not work you were probably some rich layabout, toff slacker but in essence the idea was similar – if you weren’t working you weren’t contributing to your family or to society at large.
This attitude to working that categorised it as a) only being real if it was paid b) a defining part of your personality and c) a measure of your human and social worth snuck into my subconscious very young. Interestingly though, the amount one was paid was never considered an important factor and there was some kudos attached to working very hard for little pay to feed your family and see them or choosing vocational roles like nursing which traditionally are poorly paid. What it did was teach me that my value as a member of society and as a member of my family is based on the amount of time and energy I put into supporting them through paid employment.

By not working I have transformed myself from being slightly feckless to a burden on those around me. I immediately become a fundamentally lazy and thoughtless individual (doubly so because I have the physical capability to work); my opinion matters less; I forfeit my right to welfare; I am simply not trying hard enough.

The political landscape in this country has increasingly reinforced these ideas – idle benefit scroungers are a daily feature of the news, (Today: Freeze unemployment benefits – which only last a few months anyway – but not working tax credit…), there is an idea that people who don’t work only ever hang around in pubs and cause crime and that there is a right sort of work  [often ‘not pub work’]. This means that a graduate who refuses a job in a supermarket is a scrounging snob but ‘that kid over there with the brightly coloured tatts’ behind the counter at the supermarket twice a week is too lazy to get a full-time job… damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Oh and overlaying it more strongly now (and perhaps here – now I am in a town not the sticks) is an anxiety about spending enough to dress right, to have the appropriate gadgets but not to spend so much that you look profligate and reckless; about saving for a holiday but not necessarily a pension; about telling people you have no money so they won’t hate you but spending enough so you don’t seem stingy or like you really have none because you didn’t get paid very much/work hard enough to earn ‘enough’.  Work harder, spend less, prove you can support your family, work harder, don’t ‘look’ poor…

Its all reassuringly liberal-capitalist: work hard and you’ll go far; count your success with your pennies and your consumption; useful = worthwhile;  pay some taxes in (but not too much) don’t expect anything back; Earn it – Deserve it

As with many of these things I find myself stuck behind my own double standards – I fundamentally believe (intellectually) that one should be able to contribute to society and family in many ways, including voluntary work, political campaigning, house-keeping, etc. . I believe that I personally pay my taxes in order to provide schools and hospitals and nursing homes regardless of the work-status of families – I am proud to pay taxes to support people less fortunate than myself (though that doesn’t mean I don’t also believe that encouraging people to take responsibility for themselves and work towards an appropriate degree of self-sufficiency isn’t a goal of that support; or that some people do take the piss and don’t try to support themselves financially).
I also (emotionally) believe that I personally do not work hard enough and that by not being paid to work and therefore bringing money into our household I am of less use and thus worth. No amount of housework or emotional support or admin support or financial planning on my part will ever be as much of a contribution as being able to pay the bills and the mortgage and buy the food. Sad but true.

Brief Comment on Democracy

The UK did some electing recently and I was able to participate thanks to the postal voting system.

It might sound like a trite thing to say but it is worth drawing attention to; I don’t have a postal vote because I am frequently out of the country or live at two addresses – I use one because it means that I can be part of the democratic process no matter how my health is on polling day.

If you suffer from any kind of depression or social anxiety walking into the polling station and making any sort of decision is mind-blowingly intimidating and overwhelming for the cognitive processes. Not to mention you have to get your shit together enough to know which day it is and where you are going.
I managed it only once; stood in a booth sweating, shaking and crying whilst I tried to remember something relevant about the names in front of me and knew I would probably never do it again.

But.
With a postal vote, I receive my ballot papers in advance. It means I have a chance to look at the candidates, walk away, look again, let them sink in & even go away and read about them on the internet all over again; I have a chance to read the instructions 3 or 4 times so I don’t just spoil the ballot paper and to actually make a choice. A real informed democratic choice.
It also means I have about a week to remember to take it to the postbox whenever I feel confident without time-pressure.

So when we talk about all the people who don’t vote and wring our hands in wet liberal despair about disenfranchisement – just remember that a simple change of process meant that my mental health no longer gets in the way of my vote and it might help someone else too!

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

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

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?