Poetry, ponies, potpourri

Busy, busy, busy.

It’s coming up on a year since the knock to my health – the one that laid me out for a huge chunk of time, right into the early months of 2013. That’s a strange thought. I am very glad to be out of the woods, back on the horse, and all the other proverbial things. It’s hard not to feel like I’m still desperately playing catch-up. But even if that is what I’m doing, I think it’s gone pretty well so far. I’m living primarily in London again, which feels like a smart move – partway between Oxford and Brighton, my old home and my ‘adopted’ home, so I’m doing less of the suitcase-nomad thing.

Poster for 'Bifrost' - the Nine Worlds queer cabaret night!

Poster for ‘Bifrost’ – the Nine Worlds queer cabaret night!

I’m getting back onto the poetry performance circuit – a couple of open mic performances, some poems as part of Lashings sets, and (most excitingly) not only the fundraiser for Brighton’s first Trans Pride, but on the stage at Trans Pride itself. I’m heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe later this month, and I’m hoping to do some poetry sets as well as being in the Lashings show (follow it on @lashingsofgb and #FannyWhittington!). Oh, and then there’s the very exciting event depicted in the poster to the right – Bifröst! I’m super stoked to be performing at the cabaret night put on by the Queer Fandom track at Nine Worlds. And just look at that beautiful poster – all credit to Tori Truslow, track organiser.

Staying on the topic of Nine Worlds, I’ll be speaking at the convention proper as well as performing in the queer cabaret – I’m delivering a paper about Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World as part of the SF&F Academia track (Saturday, 10:00-10:30, Royal C&D), and participating in the ‘Better History = Better Fantasy: Writing Outside the Binary’ panel on the Queer Fandom track (Sunday, 10:00-11:15, Britannia).

I haven’t yet decided on all the panels and events I’ll be attending: it’s absolutely packed with amazing stuff, and I’m sure no matter what I choose I’ll be missing out on some brilliant discussions. The Nine Worlds programme pretty much defines ’embarrassment of riches’.

Queen Chrysalis - MLP villain and (IMO) goth style icon

Queen Chrysalis – MLP villain and (IMO) goth style icon

And after a little bit of worrying about whether I’ll still look like a Serious Academic or not, I’ve decided, to hell with it, I’m also going to cosplay. As a villain. From the My Little Pony reboot. Mostly because I love green-and-black outfits, and villainy – but also because damn it, artefacts of popular media and media aimed at children are interesting and just as worthy of critical engagement as more traditional/literary texts, and there’s nothing wrong with dressing up. (I’m taking inspiration from the brilliant Marta Wasik, who at Roles 2013 delivered her paper “Fairy-Tale Feminists? Interrogating the contemporary representation of girlhood though the figure of the Disney Princess” while wearing a glittery tiara.) So I’ll be spending Saturday looking like a humanoid approximation of this creature on the left. I need to get hold of some fangs.

What else has been going on? Well, speaking at the last Transpose (about two crypto-queer historical figures) went very well – in fact, it was on the strength of that talk that I was booked at Nine Worlds. I’m eagerly awaiting the next Transpose, where – if you’re very lucky – you may get to hear a new fairytale or two. The rest is pretty quotidian stuff – settling in to my new place, catching up with old friends, doing various things for my health, and so on. And as always there’s the thinking and writing – I’ve got quite a few half-written blog posts waiting to surface, and bits and pieces of poetry that are slowly taking shape. I’m looking forward to getting more things finished.

Flying update + last day to register for ‘Being Ourselves’

Hello, world!

A very quick thing – I’m speaking at ‘Being Ourselves’ in London next Saturday (June 1st), a free Albert Kennedy Trust event aimed at young trans and/or intersex people, and their friends and supporters. If you’d like to attend, today is the last day to register (which you can do by emailing studentlondon@akt.org.uk with the subject line “Being Ourselves”).

As a more general update, the gloriously hectic month continues – I’ve been to #roles2013, #qfpraxis, #transseminars, and #troublinggender – all academic conferences to do with gender and/or sexuality, where I’ve listened to some fascinating ideas and research, delivered papers of my own, performed radical queer feminist burlesque twice, and (in one particularly surreal instance) heard a paper which examined my project The Cutlery Drawer as an example of the “cut-and-paste” and “DIY” nature of the trans music scene (which, the paper, concludes “isn’t”, in the same way that punk “isn’t”). On top of this, I’m continuing with my very exciting internship working on All About Trans with On Road Media, and am in rehearsals for the premiere of Lashings’ newest endeavour, queer lefty pantomime Fanny Whittington. Oh, and I’m still writing, of course.

If the long list of academic conferences above has whetted your appetite for hearing people talk about transgender and/or genderqueer things, then you’re in luck: the videos from the Spotlight on Genderqueer conference are now appearing online! The YouTube playlist currently has Zowie Davy’s keynote speech, my own talk ‘Approaching Genderqueer Historiography’, and James Hooper on anachronism and ‘transvestite monks’. (I am, of course, desperately wanting to go through the video and correct all the little slip-ups, as well as add back in five minutes’ worth of the material that I excised to be sure of coming within the time-limit – but as a good friend informs me, unchanging perfection is the death of creation, so I should be glad that there’s an imperfect talk of mine up on the internet. 😉 ) For anyone who is interested in my work on Woolf, the Prezi from my more detailed discussion of Woolf at ‘Troubling Gender’ is available here.

That’s all for now – see you on the other side! (And perhaps either at ‘Being Ourselves’, or the opening night of Fanny Whittington at the Oxford Fringe…)

Adventures in trans advocacy

So, I’m suddenly doing a lot of speaking and writing about trans things, in new and exciting contexts – and here’s a blog about it!

In short: I went on the radio, met some BBC executives, spoke at a conference on genderqueer, and am participating in an online education project! For the longer version, read on…

I’ve started interning with On Road Media, with the remit of working on Phase Two of their ‘Trans Media Action‘ project. Phase One was hosting ‘Trans Camp’, where media professionals and trans people spent a day workshopping ideas on improving trans representation – one of the things that came out of it was the Trans Comedy Award, which is offering up to £5000 for a comic script that portrays trans people in a positive light. I know some really talented trans people who have submitted their scripts to this, and I’m excited to see what comes of it – the scripts are being judged by trans people, so I’m confident they won’t let anything hateful slip through the net.

Phase Two is titled ‘All About Trans’, and as such, there’s a new website (and the Twitter account has been renamed). ‘All About Trans’ involves facilitating interactions between media professionals and trans people, in a friendly and low-pressure environment, allowing them to collect on a human level.  So, I’ve been doing research and writing for the site, as well as some photography and design work. You can look at the site and see pictures I’ve taken! Also, you can see my face. (I did a double-take where there was a picture of me and other volunteers as one of the (cycling) header images. I’ve no idea how long it’ll be there, but… yes. There we go. I’m the one with the really long hair.)

As part of working with On Road Media, I’ve already had some amazing opportunities to talk about genderqueer identity. On my first day, I accompanied Alana (from On Road) and Jamie (from The Test Shot) to a radio interview on Resonance FM! We were interviewed by Rosie Wilby on ‘Out in South London’, and I answered some questions about genderqueer, language, and feminism. You can listen to it here on the Out in South London site, or directly on SoundCloud (we’re 37 minutes in). And last Tuesday, I went on the very first interaction – meeting BBC executives in the London Aquarium. It’s been written up on the On Road site, and I might write about it myself at some point. I feel really pleased that I got to speak about genderqueer to someone who’d never encountered the term before, and who was so willing to listen – and I think we also got along pretty well, chatting about poetry and mythmaking and the world of performance. (He quoted T.S. Eliot at me – I finished the line. That was probably my favourite non-trans-related moment.)

On Road Media work aside, I also was delighted to be a speaker at (and ad-hoc assistant organiser of) the ‘Spotlight on Genderqueer‘ conference at the University of Warwick. I gave my paper on genderqueer historiography as the first paper after the introduction and keynote (you can read the abstract here), and then spent the rest of the conference frantically live-tweeting, and doing tech support and organisation in the background, having been drafted in to help with setup and operation the day before (alongside Kat Gupta, who was an absolute hero). It was an utterly brilliant day, with some fascinating and thought-provoking papers – and if you wish you could have been there, despair not! There’s a comprehensive Storify put together by Dr Caroline Walters, and videos (recorded by Alex Drummond) with transcripts will eventually be available on the website. In the evening, we went straight into the  corresponding arts event ‘Fork the Binary‘, put together by me and conference organiser Ruth Pearce under the aegis of our various promoter labels, The Cutlery Drawer and Rolling Head. It was a night of diverse acts from trans, queer, and (predominantly) genderqueer artists, and I bloody loved it. (I did at one point nearly collapse from a combination of tiredness and a bump on the head, but still, it was excellent.)

Finally, I’m taking part in the next of CN Lester’s Q&A projects – this time, with questions being directed to a panel of people who identify in ways other than uncomplicatedly ‘male’ or ‘female’. Please go and ask us questions here – it closes on May 8th!

(As for NUS LGBT Conference – well, it had some very proud moments for trans people, and some very dark moments. I’ll leave that entry for another time!)

* I spent perhaps too long working out whether to say ‘advocacy’ or ‘activism’; I do consider myself a trans activist (and a queer activist, and a feminist activist), but I think the contents of this blog come more under ‘advocacy’.

2012: the (rest of the) year in review

It’s been quite a while since I used my ‘official’ writerly blog – but what with the new year and all, now seems like a good time to catch the world up on what I’ve been doing.

At the point of my last update, I was overcome with joy about my two magazine publications in Stone Telling and False Moustache. My poetry is now also in three books! All of which are actual, physical books that you can buy and hold and flip through and put bookmarks in and take with you on the train. I’m very excited. Pictures forthcoming – because yes, I am just that proud. ‘She Was’ was published in the anthology The Moment of Change (Aqueduct Press, May), ‘Hair’ in Here, We Cross (Stone Bird Press) and ‘Old Rhymes: A Hypothetical Interview’ was written specifically for and published in Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot (English PEN, October). This last one was also translated into Russian here, which is awesome – as well as being a fundraiser for Pussy Riot’s legal defence (and PEN’s Writers At Risk programme), the anthology is being translated into Russian with the aim of sending it to the imprisoned women as a gesture of solidarity.

I’ve performed my work at three gigs since the last update – Transpose (May) in London, Moulin Rage (June) in Cambridge, and Revolt (October) in Coventry. I’ve read at Transpose events before, but this one was a first for me: rather than doing a 20-minute poetry set, I read the full text of my deconstructive fairytale, ‘The Prince Who Loved A Monster’. I always love hearing from audience members who have been struck by my poetry, but this spoken tale seemed to strike a chord – or touch a nerve – with so many people that I couldn’t quite believe it. While it’s not a queer fairytale in the most obvious sense – there’s no same-sex couple, or even happy romantic ending – it seems to have resonated with many people’s experiences of social pressure towards ‘normal’ relationships, and the intense relief (and pain!) of breaking free of those strictures. There’s a lovely review of it here. Moulin Rage and Revolt were also very rewarding gigs – as an organiser of Moulin Rage I launched into a completely unplanned set which seemed to go down very well, and Revolt was similarly joyful and chaotic.

One thing that made me squeal with happiness this year was Brit Mandelo’s review of Here, We Cross on the official Tor website which identified my contribution as “a poem that struck me intimately on first reading, and on the second time around… still a powerful piece” – and goes on to dedicate a paragraph to discussing it. Mandelo edited the anthology Beyond Binary, which has been on my to-buy list for some time, so this review was an amazing moment for me.

Poetry aside, I’ve been working on a fantasy/horror novel set in my adopted hometown of Brighton – it was my NaNoWriMo project, aimed at encouraging me to write creative prose regularly, but I’m hoping that with enough hammering it will become something worth publishing. It’s already developed from a vehicle for creepy thrills into both a fantasy world with an ever-more-detailed mythos, and a serious meditation on the nature of grief and trauma. (Also, if you’ve ever wondered just how awkward it might be if your only allies against looming supernatural forces are your recent ex-girlfriend and a complete stranger, this book has the answer! Or an answer, anyway.)

I’ve also been continuing to run Cutlery Drawer fundraisers – one in Cambridge, one in Brighton – and (as I discuss in this recent blog entry) am gearing up to begin work in earnest on a sibling project, which aims to create a trustworthy database of accessibility information for venues across the UK. Semi-relatedly, I have been working more with the amazing queer-feminist collective Lashings of Ginger Beer Time! Because Lashings members primarily write and perform under psuedonyms, I’ll keep the mystery intact regarding my Lashings adventures – but do go and follow the Lashings blog, if you don’t already!

On the academic side of things (which has been one of two main reasons for my silence on here), I’ve finished my MA at Sussex now, and will soon be graduating with a Distinction. While writing my dissertation I was struck down with unfortunate illness (the second reason for the radio silence!) and am still recovering from what has ended up being a unpleasantly long period of poor health. I’ve managed to do some academia since finishing, though – presenting a paper on queer interventions in menstrual narratives at the the Warwick Centre for the Studies of Women and Gender seminar series, and a paper on Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing-World at the Mapping the Self symposium. Despite this, I’ve decided (after a lot of soul-searching) not to apply for a PhD – or at least, not this year.

That about wraps things up, in terms of what I’ve been doing. I’m hoping to blog a lot more frequently now my health is returning, so watch this space!