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 13 Oct 2019

What have I read this week?

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

This is a nonfiction book about the gender data gap (i.e. the way in which data is collected mainly on men, and women are simply assumed to be the same) and how it affects women and society. I found this really interesting: I was aware of some of it already, but didn’t realise how bad it was. I would definitely read other books by this author.

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence

This is the third (and I think final) book in the Book of the Ancestor series, which follows a young woman called Nona as she trains to be a martial nun. I enjoyed this: I like the world and Nona is a great character. I’d definitely read more by this author, or further books in the same world.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 6 Oct 2019

What have I read this week?

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith

This is a fantasy novel about a woman named Elena who is a vine witch: a witch who makes wine. She has just escaped from a curse which turned her into a toad and is seeking revenge. I enjoyed this: I liked the world-building, the plot was interesting and I managed to guess one of the villains before they were revealed. I would definitely read more by this author.

The Last Dance (The Near-Earth Mysteries) by Martin L Shoemaker

This is a science fiction novel about a spaceship captain, Nicolau Aames, accused of mutiny, and the inspector, Park Yerim, tasked with investigating his actions. I found this a little too macho for my taste, but the story was pretty interesting.

© bardofupton 2019

Writing project, September 2019

This month’s word is doll, meaning “a small figure representing a baby or other human being, especially for use as a child’s toy”.


I’m a floppy kind of thing, sprawled across the bedroom floor. Wool hair, button eyes, skin made of different scraps of fabric: I’m a unique creation.

I lie on the carpet, looking helpless, immobile. You think I’m inanimate, just an object to be moved around at your pleasure. But every night I crawl into your dreams and save you from monsters.

I’ve been with you since you were a baby. That was almost ten years ago. You think you’re too old for me, but somehow you never get round to throwing me away. I’ve been relegated to the floor, however, but it’s fine. I know how this will end: one day you’ll finally throw me out or give me away or, best case scenario, I’ll end up in a box somewhere. And you’ll wonder why your nightmares have gotten worse, but you’ll never put it together.

Humans never do.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 29 Sep 2019

What have I read this week?

Ferromancer: Iron Souls, Book One by Becca Andre

This is a fantasy novel about a woman named Briar who captains a canal boat. It’s set in an alternative version of the American Old West. I enjoyed this: Briar is an interesting hero, and I enjoyed the story. I like the world-building. I’d definitely read more in the series.

Archangel One by Evan Currie

This is a science fiction novel about a space war between Earth and the Empire. It follows various different characters. I quite enjoyed this and might read more in the series.

© bardofupton 2019

Reading project, week ending 22 Sep 2019

What have I read this week?

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This is a science fiction novel about a world terraformed by humans just before the human race falls into civil war. Several sapient or semi-sapient species develop on the planet, and the book follows the spiders as they develop intelligence. I enjoyed this; it really felt like I was exploring an alien point of view. And I liked the ending: it was not at all what I was expecting.

© 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