April 7, 2013

Okay guys, this post is now Ancient, but given that this is the month in which the cuts come into full force, it is also pretty important.


So I wrote this in 2010. And I’m still angry.


(I’ve tried to keep description non graphic, but the content is triggery- police violence, public spending cuts and some description of mental illness and povert

I am twenty one years old, in a country where most batchelors degrees last three years. I left secondary school in 2007. I have repeatedly tried to get a undergraduate qualification in that time, and am now having some success with the Open University. Today/yesterday I spent the day working on my coursework (on how the courage of children is portrayed in Treasure Island and Little Women) and checking the news on the protests and debates.

I am utterly furious.

Parliament voted for a threefold increase in tuition fees, making the maximum £9,000 per year. Many of the current graduates I know make something around £9000 as their total income. Add to that the proposals to axe the EMA (a weekly means tested payment of £10-30 paid to 16-18 year olds continuing education, in return for full attendance) and the £84 million in cuts to my university, which does open access university education, and is the only way many of their, myself included, have of getting back into the education system, because of work, or family, or illness, or poverty or any of the combined.

Oh, and the repeated violence and intimidation from police.

Earlier this year I read “Parable of The Talents” by Octavia Butler. The really scary society in that, which I found utterly terrifying and believable, starts with public services being cut, including schools, and replaced by privately funded ones. Butler said she wrote the novel after reading a proposal to ban the children of undocumented immigrants from receiving public education.

You know what I’ve been told, for years, when I got angry at political issues? That my tone was the problem, or that was just the way things are, that surely I can understand. But I’ve watched the government my parents voted in to change things betray their voters, and the party I did do the same. I’m still seeing the tired lie that these protests are just a spoilt minority who want a vacation from adulthood for three to four years.

And it makes me glad that so many of the people I know and care about are angry, are betrayed and are fighting back. But it also, really, really scares me. Because the people affected hardest by the cuts are those who are most vulnerable, and that’s even more true when it comes to the protests- school students, PWD, pregnant people, being attacked or denied medical attention (I will post later with links, I can’t). I haven’t been to the protests since the first big one (when I didn’t manage to get there owing to anxiety attack) because I am physically ill, have recently had a run in with mental health services and am approaching discharge. I’ve barely been able to go outside by myself for weeks because of the weather.

I’m going to post this now, and read or watch something. But I wanted to be somewhat articulate on the subject while I could.


Tom Ripley saved my life

April 7, 2013

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, in response to the YA lit being “too dark” scandal, and Gayle’s book posts from last year.

I was a bookish child from about… six onwards. Basically, once I realised I was allowed read without being tested (I’m dyspraxic and short sighted, and really, really hate reading levels in schools). I read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy aged 8, liked reading Shakespeare with a dictionary when I was about ten and read Catch 22 at the same age. My Dad always made clear that books weren’t “too old” or “too difficult” for me, but sometimes that it mightn’t be a good idea to read them now as they’d upset me too much.

The film “The Talented Mr Ripley” came out in 1999, I believe. I read the reviews of it, and was told that I’d really enjoy the books by my dad. I got to my secondary school in 2000, and found the omnibus in the library, read it sometime after the bullying had got pretty bad.

I’m pretty sure there were several points at which those books saved my life.

Tom Ripley is intelligent, able to “pass” very well in social situations to an extent, and working minimum wage jobs. He’s the guy who makes the same joke one time too many, who’s trying to fit an idea of a twenty something camp wit, but can’t. He’s offered an unexpected out- go to Europe, bring back an acquaintance (the acquaintance’s family think that he’s a friend). He get’s to Italy, meets Dicky Greenleaf and is smitten- this is someone who is incredibly fortunate, and incredibly confident. Incredibly arrogant in fact, with limitless resources, and tendency to use other people. He’s amused by Tom for a while, and then starts distancing himself and ridiculing Tom. Particularly, taunting him with homophobic insults, and his hanger on status. The climax to this happens while they’re out on a rowing boat- Dicky keeps on goading Ripley, and Ripley has a psychotic/rage filled break, and kills him. The rest of the book is what he does to cover this (including assuming Dicky’s identity), and his paranoia about being found out- the thing that has always been nebulously there, but is now turned up to 11.

And I should say now, to any cute wealthy boys who are bad at painting and live in Italy, I am only a bit like that. I avoid boats while being humiliatingly teased for a reason. And even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t do that. (The thing I love about Ripley, which is what makes him as a character, is that large parts of him are convinced that he would not do that).

But just… when I started reading those books, back in 2000 or 2001, there was such a moment of “ohthankthegodsotherpeoplefeelthistoo”. My school was posh, and I am basically an autodidact. (God, at 24, a full lifetime from when I first met him in the new library, I am worryingly like Ripley. Down to the lack of degree, and the fact that I love borrowing university blazers). And here is a thing, which I will, occasionally admit: I actually know how intelligent and awesome I am. It doesn’t really come out on paper, really, but I am an intellectual Adonis in interviews. (and also, at lunch). But yes, shy, quite bookish 12 year old surrounded by all these girls who just… got things.  I mean, they knew how to write an exam which would get 99% without caring so much it hurt. They understood the arcane mysteries of the hairbrush and blowdryer. And it made me furious that this got you much further in life, aged twelve, than my amazing abilities to have lunch and talk about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

So, for much of the next decade (from that point of view) and the last one (from mine), I spent a lot of time telling people, at length, how The Talented Mr Ripley explained something vital about the human condition and also, more importantly, me. And getting slightly odd looks, or patted on the head, or teased.

And sometimes I’ll get really worried that from a social justice perspective the books are abhorrent, and really fucked up, and then go, yes, they are. Sort of. Ripley’s actions are awful. The nearly destroy him. They are the reaction to decades of the kyriarchy being a really, really annoying thing, to the point that it’s twisted and broken your still whole bones and sinews, til a mispoken, slightly patronising word will suddenly unleash the burning power of a thousand suns from your eyes, and how terrifying it is.

So, Tom Ripley and Pat Highsmith, I would like to thank you both today. Because, I’m 24 and nearly 2 months now, and I never really thought I’d get past sixteen, and I really never thought I’d be this confident with it.

Gender Euphoria (bodies can be really cool)

August 17, 2010

(Warning for mention of genitals, artificial genitals and talk of nudity)

I’ve been feeling pretty good about my body lately. I seem to be able to master androgyny while fat at least some of the time, which makes me happy, because I’ve thought for years it was impossible. At my handfasting a couple of weeks ago I both managed to wear a sort of femme outfit while feeling confidently male (binder underneath, ridiculous kaftan type garment with fish on it, underbust corset and pick docs) and get naked in a non sexual context  around people while feeling okay with my body. During this, I made a discovery.

I have been binding for about 9/10 months now, pretty regularly. It’s kind of flattened out my breasts, and made them sag a bit. Basically, they look considerably more like large man boobs than like my breasts a year ago. I have witnesses to agree.

This is SO AWESOME. It makes me feel like my body belongs to me more. It makes me think that maybe, since testerone changes fat distribution, I might not want to get top surgery, because I like having sensation in my nipples.

I do really, really want to medically transition, the fact that I may not be able to scares me. I want male orgasm patterns, and facial hair, and different skin and fat and a foreskin and a deep voice. But I am feeling more okay with that being relatively far away.

A couple of weeks ago I’d gone out without binding and some twelve year old boys in a stretch hummer were heckling me. Which sucked. But one of the things they said was “is that a boy or a girl”, because I’ve got to grips with male body language enough for it to be a question.

Yesterday I bought a dildo that I can actually use (I have an XS Funfactory Share, but they forgot to make it small for the wearer, and I’ve had issues with sexual pain for a while now) Pretty much the first thing I did was put it on and put clothes on on top of it, to experience the feeling and look of having an erection under clothes. It was like binding for the first time, a feeling of a click and things being right. One of my early memories of wanting a male body was being furiously envious when hearing about erections in early puberty, and just really, really wanting one. I’m not planning on phalloplasty at the moment (even if I was it would be very, very far away) and while if I get hormones I will be able to have more distinct erections, they’ll probably never be that visible. But I think I am okay with that.

Also Roland has pointed out that when I’m not wearing it it looks like a ray gun (it’s a strapless strap on) and I am overcome with the urge to make an Ed Wood style low budget sci fi epic.

“But maybe it would be good for your self esteem”

August 17, 2010

I am feeling really good, you guys. Good enough to… get back into blogging. Good enough to go to a kink event wearing very little and genderfucking. And to actually cook rather than just putting stuff in the oven. And to tell my mother about the potential physical effects of testosterone on my genitals.

So, yeah. My mum was here today, and it was mostly very good. We talked of many things, including transition and elements of physical transition I think I want and why I’m seeing a psych until my GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) appointment. And we got, a couple of times, to the really shitty doctor’s appointment I had last week- I went in asking for something recommended to me by another doctor at the same practice, and was treated with the patented doctor disdain of anyone ever mentioning the words “I looked it up” or “online” to a doctor (the phrase mentioned was “online CBT”- I was asking for an NHS created programme of online CBT). I had a couple of other questions, he spent most of the time doing a “health review” which seemed to consist of  checking my weight and making inaccurate assumptions about my diet from this and telling me to exercise more EVEN when I said that I hadn’t been able to because of depression. Which is unsuprising.

So, I’d got onto it with mum while talking about the CBT stuff, and we started talking about Health At Every Size. And as an illustrative example, I used this doctor making assumptions, and tried to explain that while I do want to get more exercise this year, I don’t want to lose weight for losing weight’s sake as it will probably have very either no impact on my health, or a negative one.

The response was: “But maybe it would help your self esteem”

My mum thinks or has thought many odd things about my self esteem. She has thought I’m transitioning because of low self esteem. She has thought that telling me that if I got pregnant, social services would take the baby away was the best way to react to the fact that I was having sex. Oh yeah, and she’s thought that when I gained a vast amount of weight after two years of disordered eating the best thing to do was to keep on telling me I should eat less.

Here are some lists:

Things that would probably not help Melusin with his self esteem by themselves:

  1. Losing weight

Things that would or do help Melusin with his self esteem:

  • Transition
  • Changing thought patterns/some form of therapy
  • Being recognised as his gender
  • Bodily autonomy

Things that definitely would not and have not helped Melusin with his self esteem:

  1. Having it assumed that he is lying whenever he talks about eating healthily or doing exercise
  2. Having it assumed he is a weak or bad person
  3. Catcalling, especially people’s responses to him eating in public
  4. Food policing
  5. Being encouraged to hate his body, and having it assumed he does.
  6. Being encourage to lose weight by any means necessary.
  7. That thing that he does (and has been conditioned into doing) where he doesn’t eat all day until he’s incredibly hungry and dizzy and unhappy, because he doesn’t feel he deserves food and the idea that he should eat less has been suggested to him so many times, which leads to him not enjoying the food he’s eating because he’s just so hungry.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mad Men Season Three open thread

July 26, 2010

Despite living on the wrong continent, I am catching up on Season Three ahead of the new season of Mad Men. So, despite only being up to episode twelve, can I say the following thing:

I don’t think I’ve ever hated Don more than when he was letting Sal go. Scenes like that, how quickly he goes from privileged guy with a conscience to talking about “you people” are the reason I politely smile and not every time my Dad starts going on about how he’s actually decent.

Will update this as things occur to me:

ETA: Moment that really hit me: Carla sitting down to watch the news of the Kennedy assassination and the kids going to hug Betty instead, and Betty not asking after Carla. It’s not remotely suprising, but a really good snapshot of a privileged person ignoring someone who has more at stake.

Every time I watch Mad Men I like Trudy more. Also, I don’t know why I’m suprised by Pete being a rapist because the background has been set for that since episode one, I guess I’d just deluded myself that he was actually becoming a decent human being somewhere in season two. I was wrong.

I am about to watch episode thirteen and then see if I can get hold of season 4

Okay, I have just got to the point where I hate Don even more. He’s just found out about Henry Francis, and he is a nasty, petty bully. I’ve just been emailing Gayle about the dance of Don being a jerk and then the audience coming back to like him again, I’m not sure I will come back to that again.

Guest post at The Deviated Norm

July 21, 2010

I have a guest post up at The Deviated Norm, in the “Today: Meet a Poly Person” series.

Hi, I’m Melusin, blogger at And What Was Ze … I’m a pansexal trans man, a newbie activist, poet, playwright and director for a small theatre company. I live with my fiance, Roland, in the English Midlands, and we’re polyamorous.

There is an old friend of mine for whom I had feelings for a long time. She is the first person I ever fell in love with, causing all sorts of angst and drama in my late teens. She’s still a very good friend and every now and then I realise I’m still attracted to her, still sometimes have romantic feelings towards her. (She’s made it very clear she isn’t interested, and as such I wouldn’t act on them”

Read more

Blogging Against Disablism Day: The problems of having an acknowleged problem.

May 4, 2010

I had a bad weekend so this is a couple of days late. I hope it’s not all stuff that’s been said before.

Blogging Against Disablism Day

I have a mental health condition. And it’s proved practical for me to tell people this, especially if I’m going to be living or working with them. I have mood swings, I have days on which I can’t do anything, I react oddly to certain things which seem minor, I use hyperbolic language as a coping mechanism. And if someone’s going to be in close quarters with me, then it can help for them to know that.

So I have an acknowledged mental health condition. Which often seems to mean that it’s open season on my character and behaviour. I know I’m ill, so do my Able friends and acquaintances, and therefore they pass comment.

Often it’s the helpful analyses of my behaviour.  If there’s a personality clash of some sort, everyone feels free to examine my behaviour, explain how I’m ill. People tell me about discussions they’ve had about personality traits (“you seem too quick to condemn people, and decide they’re bad people”). Oh, and there’s the crying: “[X thing] would probably go better if you didn’t burst into tears”. My behaviour almost always needs to change, and Able friends don’t realise the things that I just can’t change, can’t stop, like the crying. I’ve cried uncontrollably in certain situations for years, and if there was any way to stop it I would, because it makes me a focus of attention in all the ways I don’t want to be.

Quite often people do this without examining their own behaviour. I was recently subjected to a long, “reasonable discussion” of how difficult and unpredictable I’ve been to live with this year, during a depressive spell. Whenever I attempted to explain how my depression had made things difficult to live here, and how other people may have contributed to that, it turned into how my interlocutor understood really well, because I’d caused the “exact same” feelings in him, and then into analysis of my “problems”.

It’s been worse at other times this year, when there have been clashes with people who might, also, possibly have similar problems to me. But who, officially, don’t. By which I mean, people who will appropriate mental illness in discussions of it, but who “don’t really have a problem” or “aren’t that ill”. I’m open, with my friends at least, about my hospitalisations, my continuing problems with anxiety and depression. I kind of have to be, owing to my tendency to burst into tears. But people who are convinced that they understand mental illness, who indeed, probably do, use my diagnosis and my openness against me. Because, in their minds, of course Melusin’s behaviour is problematic, Melusin has a Problem.

This is ableism, and it’s pervasive, and I find it in a great many situations. It’s enough to make me want to stop being open about my condition and symptoms, (which I’m not in all situations) but I still think that’s one of the biggest things I can do to reduce stigma.

Explanation for hiatus

May 2, 2010

I feel I should apologise for the rather significant break in blogging. Following the Tiger Beatdown post I came out to my family, following which I was subjected to several lengthy explanations of how this is because I’m ill, and would it not just be easier for my partner and I to live and get married as a straight couple, and lots of cliched stuff that still hurts. So I’ve been dealing with the mental health fallout from that.

I’m hoping to start posting again today, with a Mountain Goats reference.

And what has Melusin been doing?

April 9, 2010

I have been writing a guest post, for Tiger Beatdown, in the Visions of Manliness series. It is on street harassment, and male privelege, and transition:

Some things, though, I do notice. For instance, the difference between going out in the exact same outfit (jeans, shirt, cord jacket) depending on whether or not I’ve bound my chest. When people read me as male, street harassment is much less of an issue. It tends to be limited to a) bolshy teens and pre-teens attempting to establish my gender, and b) comments on my more obvious hair and body modification choices. When I don’t bind, and am read as female, comments are made by strange men about almost everything, ranging from my gait (if I’m walking oddly owing to ill fitting shoes, I apparently resemble a pogo stick) to the cries of disgust if I’m eating in public (I’m fat) to the familiar assumption that being in public and in possession of breasts means that I must be waiting to have my attractiveness judged by a man.

More: here

New Blog

April 6, 2010

I have a new blog home, therefore I should probably reintroduce myself.

I’m Melusin. I’m a playwright, poet and writer of short stories who lives in a drafty and temperamental house in the English Midlands, with a Roland, who is a poet boy (my fiance), a lot of fake weapons (larper), a lot of books and some housemates.

In the past year I’ve started taking activism and feminism seriously, got engaged, decided to move city, started living polyamorously, moved city, got a job, come out as genderqueer, lost a job (because of depression), started writing and performing poetry, been very deeply depressed, been hypomanic, come out as trans, started social transition to male and had my first two professional productions as a playwright, one of which I co-directed and co-produced and failed to complete NaNoWriMo.

In case you haven’t gathered from that I’m poly, a genderqueer trans man and queer. And that, I think, is enough for tonight.