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 15 Sep 2019

What have I read this week? Just one this time – but I am posting on time!

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This is a nonfiction book about parenting and communication. I found it interesting and I think it’ll be helpful for me in the future. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but I definitely feel the main principles are valuable.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 8 Sep 2019

What have I read this week? I swear I will actually start posting these on time again soon.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

This is a novel about a man called Eli, who is dating a woman called Lilia, who leaves him, and he searches for her. I didn’t like this: the motivations of the characters didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t enjoy the story.

Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock

This is a science fiction novel following three generations of two families. It explores themes about family, pregnancy and parenthood in a world where artificial wombs and genetic editing of embryos are reality. I didn’t like it. The characters didn’t interest me and neither did the story.

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, August 2019

This month’s word is pocket, meaning “a shaped piece of fabric attached inside or outside a garment and forming a pouch used especially for carrying small articles” or “any pouchlike receptacle, compartment, hollow, or cavity”.

————–

[start of file]

I put pockets in everything. Not just clothes, but in the sofa, in my mattress, in the curtains. I’m obsessed with them. It’s kind of like a magic trick: anything could be in there.

I like to fill them with random objects that I come across. Right now I have the following items in my right sofa pocket: a small pair of scissors, a penny, and two packs of chewing gum.

I spend a lot of time on my pockets: perfecting the size and shape, experimenting with different materials, trying out different types of closures. My favourite pocket at the moment is big enough to get my entire hand in up to the wrist, made of suede, and closes with a popper. It’s a curtain pocket, so I have to be careful what I put in it, otherwise it drags the curtain down on that side.

I spend a lot of time thinking about pockets, is what I’m saying. So it was inevitable that once I heard about the concept of pocket dimensions I would become obsessed with them. I kept wondering if it would be possible to put one into an actual pocket, so that you had infinite storage. Retrieval would be an issue, of course, but consider the possibilities!

I had many sleepless nights thinking about it. I repeatedly contacted cosmologists, astronomers and physicists with queries, to the extent that I’m banned from every university in the country. I tried, and failed, to create one on my own, but I did successfully cause a massive explosion, and that is why I’m now writing you from a secret government facility. It turns out that I somehow invented a new kind of explosive. Not as cool as a new pocket, or a workable pocket dimension, of course, but pretty good for someone who is entirely self-taught.

I will put this note in the portable waterproof, fireproof, unshreddable pocket and drop it in the bin so you can retrieve it from the incinerator, as arranged. This message will be the last; they’re moving me elsewhere tomorrow.

I hope all is well with you, and say hi to everyone for me. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. After all, they need me.

[end of file: text found on desk of [redacted] at [redacted] after sudden cardiac arrest. “pocket” referenced could not be found.]

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 25 Aug 2019

What have I read this week?

The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a science fiction novella about a woman named Ekaterin, who is working on a project to use insects to decontaminate a radioactive zone. This is part of the Vorkosigan series. I enjoyed this; I thought it was a good addition to the series.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

This is a fantasy novel about a girl called Amani who lives in a poor desert town and is desperate to escape. I quite enjoyed this. I liked the characters, and the story and world are interesting.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 18 Aug 2019

What have I read this week?

Sorry for late posting!

Prudence and Imprudence by Gail Carriger

These are the first two books of The Custard Protocol. They follow the adventures of a young woman called Prudence, and it’s set during the Victorian era, but with vampires, werewolves and steampunk. I liked the characters and the stories were interesting. I enjoyed this and would definitely read more in this series.

The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a fantasy novella, the sixth book in the Penric and Desdemona series. It follows Penric, a sorceror and priest, and Nikys, the woman he’s in love with. I enjoyed this. I like the characters and the world. I would definitely read more in the series.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

This is a science fiction novel about a woman named Jean living in an America where fundamentalist Christians have taken over and women are restricted to speaking no more than 100 words a day. I found this kind of horrifying, because it goes into a lot of detail about exactly how it could happen. I did think it was a good book, though.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 11 Aug 2019

What have I read this week?

Everless by Sara Holland

This is a fantasy novel about a young woman called Jules who lives in a kingdom where people can sell or buy time by giving or taking blood. I quite enjoyed this, although it was fairly obvious that Jules was trusting all the wrong people and jumping to all the wrong conclusions quite early on. I do want to read the next one, though.

Small World by Matt Beaumont

This is a novel following many different people who are all connected in some way. I didn’t like it and didn’t finish it. I found all the characters pretty unpleasant and didn’t really care about them.

Junkyard (a Fractured Stars novella) by Lindsay Buroker

This is a science fiction novella about a woman named McCall who is a ship’s captain and skip tracer. I enjoyed this: the characters are interesting and the story was good. I’d definitely read more in this series.

Run by Kody Keplinger

This is a YA novel about Bo and Agnes, two teenage girls who become friends. I enjoyed this: I liked the characters, and the fact that the story is about friendship rather than romance.

© bardofupton 2019