Non-binary and disabled

This piece was previously published in September 2018 in the Disgender zine – you can see the zine here, and I encourage you to check it out. There’s lots of cool stuff in it, all themed around being trans/non-binary and disabled/chronically ill.

Becoming (realising I was) non-binary was a lifetime’s process, of fighting a femaleness (femininity) that never belonged to me; of hating the breasts and periods that life burdened me with; of not knowing who I was, what I was, only what I wasn’t, a confusion made worse by growing up in a place and time that barely acknowledged the L and G of LGBT+ (never mind the rest), and so left me bereft of words, of a name for my being, stranding me in a place of “well, female I guess, if I have to choose (but why do I have to choose?)” that never felt right or true; of always wondering why I wasn’t like everyone else, why calling myself female was unsettling, but calling myself male was definitely wrong.

Becoming disabled has been half a lifetime’s process, of injury and illness, of pain and cumulative slow failure of my body’s systems, and yet, I can love my non-binary disabled body in a way I never could love my abled, presumed female body; I can revel in what it can do, appreciate my non-binary self for what it is. Weirdly, it’s illness that taught me to love my body, to appreciate being alive – and it’s illness that finally gave me both the courage and the words to call myself both non-binary and disabled. After years of thinking (insisting) I wasn’t disabled enough to claim that as an identity (because I can x, because I can’t y, because I’m not z) I got cancer, and it was weirdly revelatory in some ways. I had to think about death, and about how having cancer means always having to think about cancer, at least a little bit, even though I’m now in remission, and I thought about what I wanted the rest of my life (however short or long) to look like. And the biggest part of that was I wanted the rest of my life to be mine, to stop being afraid of what people might think of me, and claim myself. And I looked at the mix of physical issues I have and thought, yeah, I’m disabled. I need to own it. I walk with a fucking stick, clearly I’m disabled. Being able to sometimes do without the stick doesn’t make me not disabled, any more than wearing a skirt makes me female. And it was having a mastectomy that made me realise that it’s not that I’m a woman who’s bad at being female, it’s that I’m not a woman at all – which was a deeply and profoundly liberating experience.

The first day I left the house as a newly-identified non-binary person I felt like I owned the world. All the anxiety of a lifetime of faking femaleness fell away from me, and I felt free. I felt like my body finally belonged to me and I could stop caring what other people thought of me; like I could look at myself and not see a failed woman, but see someone who was living on their own terms, someone who belonged not to the world, but to themself – someone who could build their identity from the ground up without any shoulds from society (how to dress, how to act, how to be), someone who could create their own norms – someone who wasn’t an imposter, but who belonged. Someone who could wear a dress if they wanted, or not – but either way it didn’t define them; someone who could be themself, whoever that might be. Someone who is (finally) happy to be themself.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 23 Jun 2019

What have I read this week?

Apologies for putting this up late; I’ve been ill.

Aftershocks (The Palladium Wars Book 1) by Marko Kloos

This is a science fiction novel set after the end of an interplanetary war. It follows several characters from both sides of the war. I enjoyed this. I liked the characters and the world. I’d probably read more in this series.

The Book of the New Sun Vol. 2: Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe

This is two science fiction novels set in the far future, The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch. They follow the further adventures of Severian. I still didn’t really enjoy these; I was mainly reading them for completeness having read volume 1.

Pale Guardian by Barbara Hambly

This is a vampire novel set during WWI. It follows James and Lydia Asher, a married couple. Lydia is working as as a radiographer at the front and James is back in England recovering from an illness. It didn’t really grab me; I’m not sure why. I think I liked the idea of it more than the reality, and I didn’t finish it.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 16 Jun 2019

What have I read this week?

The Heart of What Was Lost: A Novel of Osten Ard by Tad Williams

This is a fantasy novel set in the same world as the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series and occuring after the events of those books. It follows three characters: the Norn Viyeki, the human Duke Isgrimnur and the human soldier Porto. I quite enjoyed this, although I think it might have helped to have reread the original series.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This is a fantasy novel set in the African kingdom of Orïsha. It follows the three characters Zélie, Inan and Amari. I liked this a lot. The world is really interesting, and the characters are good.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 9 Jun 2019

What have I read this week?

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

This is a nonfiction book about Elizabeth Holmes and the company she founded, Theranos. I found it really interesting, but there was some ableist language and connotations that I found jarring, and which tended to throw me out of my immersion in the book.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 2 Jun 2019

What have I read this week?

Blood Upon The Sand by Bradley Beaulieu

This is the sequel to Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, and continues the adventures of Çeda. I enjoyed this. I like the world and the characters. It did drag a little for me, until about the last third of the book, where it got very exciting.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

This is the story of Stan and Charmaine, a married couple who become homeless during a huge economic crash in the United States. I didn’t really like this. I didn’t like the characters or the plot. It just didn’t work for me at all.

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, May 2019

This month’s word is truth, meaning “the true or actual state of a matter” or “conformity with fact or reality; verity”.


I always speak the truth; they always lie.

The two of us guard two doors: one leads to death, the other to your heart’s greatest desire. You know this story: the hero comes up to us and tries to ask the one question that will tell them which door to take.

Of course, rumours got around quickly about the right question to ask*, so it got pretty boring for us. And our boss had to grant loads of wishes; she hated that. So she came up with a twist: the correct door changes randomly, and when it changes, only one of us is told. This lends a certain randomness to our answers, and an element of confusion, sometimes. For example, if door A is now death, and I know that, but they don’t, then my answer to the question should be whichever the death door was on the last occasion that they knew the answer. This is extremely hard for me to keep track of, because I actually have a terrible memory. I usually go with the correct answer for what the doors are at now, but sometimes that means I’m not telling the truth.

This is causing me a lot of stress. If I’ve told a lie, even inadvertently, then I am not who I always thought I was. I’m not the one who always tells the truth, but neither am I the one who lies. I’m just somewhere in the middle, like one of you. And if I’m not the one who tells the truth, then who am I? Why am I here?

I’ve tried asking the one who lies about this, but they don’t seem to care. I shouldn’t care; I never used to. But something about the new rules unsettles me. I keep thinking that it’s not right. I don’t even understand the point of it now. We’re just randomly killing people. The boss should just replace us with a random number generator. Or come up with a different test. Maybe this is just outdated.

In any case, it might all be over soon. I heard that someone is suing the boss. Apparently their betrothed asked the right question, but got the wrong answer. So we might have to shut down. I don’t know how I feel about that. What does an archetype do when they’ve lost their function? I asked the one who lies, but of course their answer only ever tells me what they don’t think. And I’m realising now that some questions have more than one right answer.

I don’t know what to hope for. I don’t want to do this any more, but I don’t know if there’s anything else I can do. I have to stop talking now; the boss is coming. If you don’t hear from me again, assume the worst.

*The right question is: “if I asked the other person which door to take, what would they say?” and then you take the other door.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 19 May 2019

What have I read this week? Quite a few, this time.

The Book of the New Sun: Vol 1: Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe

This book consists of the science fiction novels The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator. They are about a man called Severian who is a torturer. He lives in the far future. I didn’t particularly like or dislike this. I enjoyed the world, but it didn’t really click for me. I probably will read the last two books, just to find out how what happens, happens.

Archer’s Goon by Dianna Wynne Jones

This is a children’s fantasy novel about a boy called Howard. He comes home one day to find a very large man there waiting for Howard’s father to write something. I enjoyed this. The characters are interesting and the world is fascinating.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

This is a time travel novel about a man called Doyle who is an expert on Coleridge. He is asked to do a job for a rich man and it ends up being far more complicated than he anticipated. I enjoyed this. I like the plot and the characters, and it managed to do time travel without a bunch of loopholes, which I appreciate.

Where We Land by Abigail Barnette

This is a romance novel about Daniel and Lauren, who end up becoming roommates. I liked it. It’s very sweet and I liked the characters, even though romance novels are not really my thing.

© bardofupton 2019