Writing project: index

This is a post to list the words I’ve used for this project. It will be updated monthly.

  • Inchoate – November 2018
  • Unicorn – December 2018
  • Improve – January 2019
  • Winged – February 2019
  • Scar – March 2019
  • Voice – April 2019
  • Truth – May 2019
  • Energy – June 2019
  • Grinding – July 2019
  • Pocket – August 2019
  • Doll – September 2019
  • Dark – October 2019
  • Wall – November 2019
  • Conversation – December 2019
  • Alien – January 2020
  • Hair – February 2020
  • Flight – March 2020
© bardofupton 2019

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 22 Mar 2020

What have I read this week?

Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven (Book 1) by Bella Forrest

This is a fantasy novel about a young woman named Harley who has magical abilities who finally meets someone else with similar powers. I quite enjoyed this; the story was fun although Harley could be annoying as a main character. I might read more in this series.

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

This is a science fiction novel about a security android that calls itself Murderbot and has hacked itself to have free will. I enjoyed this; Murderbot is an interesting character and the plot was interesting. I will definitely read more in this series.

American Ghosts and Old World Wonders by Angela Carter

This is a collection of short stories. I found this a bit of a mixed bag; I really liked some of the stories and didn’t like others.

Cyber-Killers edited by Ric Alexander

This is a collection of short stories by various authors on the theme of cyberspace and killing. I enjoyed this; most of the stories were interesting.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

This is a novel about an elderly woman named Janina Duszejko who lives in a small isolated village in Poland. I enjoyed this; the characters are interesting, although the main character’s viewpoint took a bit of getting used to. I’d read more by this author, though

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (A Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation) by Vaseem Khan

This is a detective novel about a man named Inspector Ashwin Chopra who inherits an elephant on the day he retires from the police force in Mumbai. I really enjoyed this; Inspector Chopra is an engaging protagonist and the story is interesting. I would definitely read more in this series.

© bardofupton 2020

Reading project, week ending 15 Mar 2020

What have I read this week?

Under the Hat: Tales from the Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan

This is a collection of short stories about witches by various authors. I enjoyed this: there were a lot of different takes on the basic concept, and they were all interesting.

The Lost Sisters: A Folk of the Air Novella by Holly Black

This is a fantasy story about three sisters who are living in Faerieland, and the different ways they deal with their situation. I enjoyed this; it was an interesting take on the fairy tale form, and I’d definitely read more in this series.

© bardofupton 2020

Reading project, week ending 8 Mar 2020

What have I read this week?

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

This is a superhero novel about a man named Victor who gains powers and the effect that has on his life. I enjoyed this; it’s well-written and the characters are interesting. I would definitely read more by this author.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

This is a science fiction novel about the religious nation of Gilead, and three women who are heavily involved in it. It took me a little while to get into it, but I ended up really enjoying it. I’d read more by this author.

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

This is a children’s book about African-American inventors. I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. As a children’s book, it’s written in a very simple style, but still engaging.

© bardofupton 2020

Writing project, February 2020

This month’s word is hair, meaning “any of the numerous fine, usually cylindrical, keratinous filaments growing from the skin of humans and animals; a pilus”.

It’s a little bit late, sorry.


Hair. It’s the first thing anyone notices when they meet me. Not the colour, although the rippling rainbow hues are noticeable. Not the length, despite it falling below my waist. No, what people notice about my hair is that it’s alive. It’s always in motion, and has a bit of a flair for the dramatic. Plus, it loves hugs. If I hug you, you get a bonus hair-hug too.

Nobody’s ever been able to explain it. I was born this way, apparently. The other kids nicknamed me Medusa, but that’s not right because my hair’s not snakes. Plus I’ve never turned anyone to stone. My hair did choke someone, but he attacked me first.

Sometimes I wish I had normal hair: I can’t style it, because it doesn’t like hairspray, or gel, or having pins or clips or even a fricking hairband. I can wash it, and that’s about it. It does have preferences in shampoo, though: it likes citrus scents.

What else can I say about it? It’s hard to explain what it’s like, since I’ve never known any different. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, like when it gets excited in a shop and knocks things over. Sometimes I get angry with it, like when everyone else has a cool new hairstyle and I can’t even put mine in a ponytail.

Overall it’s fine. I always feel like a bit of an alien, though. I can’t forget it’s there, not even for a minute, and it makes me self-conscious. I can’t forget that I’m different.

Would I change it? Yes, in a second. I just want to be like everyone else. I want to walk down the street without being stared at. I want to cut my hair into funky styles and dye it amazing colours. I want to wear hats, and have someone run their hands through my hair.

I want to be normal.


It’s okay, I know it could be a lot worse. After all, my brother is a magnet for insects. He can’t step out of his sealed room without being covered in clouds of bugs. I’d much rather have freaky hair.

I’d still rather be normal, though. If I had the choice.

© bardofupton 2020

Reading project, week ending 1 Mar 2020

What have I read this week?

Draykon (Book One of the Draykon Series) by Charlotte E. English

This is a fantasy novel about a young woman named Llandry who is a jeweller and finds an unusual type of stone that she uses in her jewelry. This sets off a whole series of events. I quite liked this, but not enough to read more in the series, as I found Llandry an annoying character.

Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

This is a detective novel about a young Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes investigating a series of murders. It is the third book in the series. I enjoyed this: it’s an interesting story and well-told. I would definitely read more in this series.

Born in Fire (Demon Days, Vampire Nights World Book 1) by K.F. Breene

This is a fantasy novel about a woman named Reagan Somerset who is a magical bounty hunter in New Orleans. I quite enjoyed this; she’s a pretty interesting protagonist and the story was quite fun. I would probably read more in this series.

The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy by David Graeber

This is a nonfiction book about bureaucracy from a leftist standpoint. It took me a while to get into it, but in the end I found it really interesting. I’d definitely read more by this author.

Favourite quote:

Perhaps the leftist sensibility was expressed in its purest form in the words of Marxist philosopher John Holloway, who once wanted to title a book, “Stop Making Capitalism.” Capitalism, he noted, is not something imposed on us by some outside force. It only exists because every day we wake up and continue to produce it. If we woke up one morning and all collectively decided to produce something else, then we wouldn’t have capitalism anymore. This is the ultimate revolutionary question: what are the conditions that would have to exist to enable us to do this – to just wake up and imagine and produce something else?

© bardofupton 2020

Reading project, week ending 23 Feb 2020

What have I read this week?

The Book of Deacon by Joseph R. Lallo

This is a fantasy novel about a young woman named Myranda, who lives in a country that has been at war for longer than she’s been alive. I liked the world and the magic system, but I found Myranda a little annoying as a character. I might read more in this series.

Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr

This is a fantasy novel about a young woman named Jill and an elderly man named Nevyn, whose fates are entwined due to events that happened in Jill’s previous incarnation. I quite enjoyed this; the characters are interesting and so is the plot. I will probably read more in this series.

© bardofupton 2020