Morning After the Munch

I managed a great and rare thing last night – which was to drag the boy s off his couch and with me to a local munch – a social gathering for people in the kink/poly community (there’s a fair overlap) not that far from us. He’s been saying he wanted to go for some time, as he hasn’t been to any in four years. Between moving, covid, and ill health he’s not felt up to it – while I’ve been making connections with the locals over the last year or so so I could introduce him properly. Its as much an element of peer support and presence for a community who are not particularly visible as anything else – and he was very very nervous.

Part of that was that he would also be meeting Lady T in person for the first time – they’ve chatting along with everyone else in our group chat, but just like introducing new cats to an existing household you hope that in person people get on.

Well, we got there and headed to the freezing beer garden that normally hosts this particular event and as you might expect he sat and shivered while people chatted a while and then the ice broke with the mishearing of a comment turning into a running gag that turned the air several shades of blue. We did then all retreat into the warmth of the bar as it was relatively empty. And I have to say that I was proud of him coming out of his shell and talking to people with more and more confidence. He came close to being overwhelmed by the auditory input for a while, but Lady T had some stress putty that distracted him – and so an autistic alliance was formed, and rollup cigarettes shared, and an evening passed well. All in all, the boy did well. Here’s to getting him out the house some more.

The boy s

We’ve had a lovely quiet Christmas break mostly piled round the flat with boy s and the cub – a gentle gathering of most of the polycule. I’ve been quietly carrying on with doing largely D&D-related posts in the meantime and pushing out concepts that may end up being in one or more games in the months to come.

The boy started catching up on posts yesterday and wanted to have one all about him – a “gushing” post as he put it. I, of course, then put up a new Map post yesterday because I wouldn’t want him to think that these things are just produced on demand whenever the brat asks for one.

However, he has been fighting colds, bugs, and plagues brought home from school by the cub more or less non-stop since September. He is also starting to show signs of brightness and recovery from a serious depression dip that has nigh-on crippled his capacity to engage with the outside world.

Even if that were all that he had achieved, he’d be worthy of praise and support – and yet on top of that he has continued to raise an amazing son who has a fierce intellect and curiosity and who very much sets the terms of his engagement with the world around him.

The cub has had his whole world turned upside down over the last couple of years and yet has formed both a strong network of new friends, and leapt forward in academic achievements despite not believing he had the capacity to do so.

And he fiercely and unconditionally loves his father

How can I not love and appreciate someone who has managed all that? The boy s doesn’t see how amazing he is, despite having a wide band of people around him who care and enjoy his presence. He is passionate about his interests, and cares deeply about causes and people alike. Even in the depths of depression, his humour is pointed and evokes belly laughs – the the things he gets upset about come from his own sense of wanting to do better for others.

As he reads this, I know there will be a little giggle as I tell him he’s a dreadful brat. He will protest that he is, in fact, a wonderful brat and if I’m there he’ll try and flutter his eyelids at me and paste a gormless grimacing smile on his face – and if that isn’t just the most lovable thing I challenge you to pick out something printable instead.

I’ll just leave here, that he is a good boy.

Late Night Rambling

It’s half past one in the morning and I can’t sleep, so I’m afraid you have to put up with some ramblings and idle musings for a bit. The good news at least is that I’m not coughing all the time now.

I’ve had covid before, and this time round was about the same. I think there was more coughing and actual headcold-style wooziness. The aches this time have been mostly in my arm bones, and noticeably sharp pains in my lower arms and wrists, which was odd. Somewhat ironically, given I can’t sleep at the moment, I’ve also got heavy fatigue.

So that’s all something I’m looking forward to leaving behind.

Mind you, I was already exhausted all the time before I had a positive covid test, so it’s a bit hard to tell if there’s any connection or overlap. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that nearly everyone in my life is similarly ill or falling apart, I might feel that I was being particularly targeted – because that’d the type of stupid egocentrism that I enjoy teasing and joking about.

By that I mean that my facility to self-sabotage often fluctuates between perfectionism (in the sense of setting impossible targets and failure therefore confirming my own expectations), and self denigration that doesn’t always know when to stop .

Nothing particularly unusual there, many of us do it. That said, I don’t ever really recall fitting in many places. There’s always been a sense of being a bit ‘other’ and standing on the outside, looking in and not quite getting how I should be reacting.

Growing up in the shadow of Section 28 which banned teaching of anything LGBT+ also didn’t help. Looking back I can remember a number of teachers who struggled sometimes to rephrase or frame statements in certain careful ways. I had another teacher who hindsight suggests may have been trans but ill never know, or indeed enquire because it’s none of my business.

What it did all do though, and I see it happening again in the language used against trans people in particular, was to set a code of what was ‘normal’ and vigorously mocked anyone who did not conform to it.

It didn’t matter if you were lgbt or not, the very fear of being mocked or attacked if you stepped outside the poorly defined parameters had a chilling effect on everyone. Hate language is a matter of control.

If you’ve ever hesitated to do something or express something for fear of being seen as gay, or trans, or mentally ill – or anything regardless of whether you are or not – then you’ve been controlled by hate speech.

It’s why the slogan that trans rights are human rights is so important. Its the same arguments and language that’s been used by often far right groups time and time again. It leads to people being beaten for reading poetry, or singing their favourite song while exercising.

The ban on conversations and information while I was growing up kept me closeted without even knowing that was a thing. Any raising of the subject was either derogatory, or couched in terms of eliciting fear.

The news was full of people cheering the death of gay people as HIV appeared. I was told that gays didn’t do love or relationships, and that I would die alone and unloved. I could expect to be beaten up, or maybe if I was lucky and conformed enough I might be adopted as a token eccentric but would still have people whispering and removing children from the area “just in case”

I didn’t have the language to explore who I was becoming, or question things. I liked both boys and girls and was comfortably not a sports enthusiast – which in a boarding school which focused much of its identity around rugby and cricket competitions with other boarding schools, was a bit of a red flag.

Instead of worrying therefore about young people expressing themselves in a myriad of gender concepts and sexualities, I praise educators for giving people the vocabulary and concepts to see what fits them as they grow up and evolve along their life journeys.

I don’t subscribe to the “in my day we didn’t have this so why isn’t that good enough for them?” mantra. Isn’t the entire point of growing up to make sure that the people who come after us don’t have the struggles and pain we had if we can help it?

I’m still learning and evolving. I only sound like I know what’s going on or how it all works. As the strapline to this blog says, I’m making it up as I go along. I still feel like an outsider and rarely feel that I entirely fit. I compensate by being quirky and bold so that people give me mental headspace to squirm and reposition.

I am, as several people have told me, a Fool, and a Catalyst. I have a tshirt that encapsulates those concepts in a rather pithy statement: “My sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.”

I would hope that this means that you don’t waste as much time as I did fighting being the real me and being what I thought people wanted me to be. Do yourself a favour and be your own special weirdo – because there’s plenty of people who are only too happy to try and stop you. You can do it. I believe in you.

Long Days

I’m still, in some ways, processing the death of Queen Elizabeth and the change that brings to the sensation of what I’m calling the touchstones of normality. That said, my work has required me to be involved in making sure that protocols and agreements are rolled out effectively in how my libraries operate and communicate at this time.

There’s nothing outrageous, just a lot of communication and relaying of questions up and down the chain – and thanking everyone working for me for their hard work and resilience during some fast-changing times.

That’s partly why today I herded the polycule all into one place so we could just spend some time together at Geek Retreat to chat, gossip, and support each other. One touchstone may have gone, but we have each other and the affirmation of being in each other’s company as another touchstone.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day of recharging batteries and, for me at least, some prepping of options for the D&D game in the evening.

Camberley Pride

I was wearing three metaphorical hats today and no physical ones as a sunny day dawned on Pride in Surrey at Camberley’s Recreation Grounds.

Eight in the morning saw me assembling the library stall as part of a wider group putting together stands in the Surrey County Council marquee and there was very little let up from that point.

My metaphorical hats were those of being one of the Library Group Managers, of being co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network, and part of my extended polycule as we coordinated various vehicles and modes of transport to get there. Somehow the plate spinning didn’t get out of control and I was able to slip between the competing roles with ease, which was helpful.

The whole day has been amazing – a much bigger site than last year at Godalming and thankfully all on a level rather than the entertaining slopes we coped with previously. The route of the parade was also far longer, weaving through the town and shopping centre before heading through residential streets to the park. Barring one very small group of teenage boys trying to be edgy we also had nothing but support and cheers from the crowds who had turned out. If there were counter-protestors (as had been threatened) they didn’t disrupt or dismay anyone.

Instead I was able to support colleagues, network with politicians and other organisations, mind our library mascot for their appearances, and still spend time with my loved ones and the assorted children we had with us.

We may even have persuaded our political portfolio holder to get his face painted with flowers and he very gamely let us decorate him in celebration of his being a fantastic ally both of libraries and the lgbtq+ community.

I’m home now, footsore, slightly sunburned, but fed and watered. Everyone has been delivered home to where they need to be, and I’m having my last cuppa to round out the day. It’s been a good one, and so’s the cuppa.

Bracelets

I’ve recently started wearing some bracelets made of wood, leather, and fabrics following our trip to Alton Towers. They’re similar to a similar set boy s is wearing addition should be no surprise therefore that there’s the link. In addition there’s a bracelet that was a gift during lockdown from Mre B that has a small reserve mental spoon attached to it.

We’ve talked about doing something like this for a while as a casual marker of our relationship – and the styles are eclectic enough to appeal on an aesthetic level but I’ve found it difficult to wear things on my wrist for years.

In large part it’s a holdover from when I was attacked – memories of wrists being held making it very uncomfortable – but the work I’ve been doing in therapy has contributed to putting some distance in recently.

I’m choosing instead to use the sensations at my wrist as a focus. On the one hand it’s a reminder of the boy. On another it helps to imagine all the skin crawling anxieties gathering there in one place rather than uncontrollable and everywhere. In effect it can be imagined as a shield

It’s a whimsy, it’s a way of focusing. It’s a distraction, and it’s a statement. I take them off at night before bed so I can settle, metaphorically removing the cares of the day. It’s a small and positive ritual that brings a measure of calm.

And I think they look good, and I enjoy seeing the counterparts on the boy

Approaching Pride

Even with having a part in preparations for work’s presence at Pride In Surrey this year I’m still feeling unready – but mostly because I’m not sure how I’m actually going to get there. There are train and bus disruptions so I suspect I may have to get a taxi, and this just considering me. Somehow we’ll get the whole Entourage there

In the meantime I have a stack of flags in my bag to use as table cloths on the day. So that’s useful. I need now to start thinking of what I’m going to wear on the day and use as props. To be fair if these are the biggest worried I need to deal with I’ll be fine.

Then next week starts my Leadership training, which I’ve gained access to with my Network Chair role as well as my managing and mentoring a group of managers in the day job. While I’m not expecting anything life changing, I am looking forward to it, and it is already opening doors.

Now, if the anxiety and depression could all nip off down the shops and not come back, that would be helpful.

Datavore

I came up with a new word to describe how Lady M interacts with the world: datavore. If there’s information, she has to have it – from reading the labels of parcels in the foyer, and peering over shoulders at social media or messages, she just can’t help herself.

Show her a message, and without thinking she scrolls up to see what came before. When challenged she says she’s looking for context, or “just in case it’s important”

As someone who has already filtered and positioned a piece of information for consumption, or who has put the start of the relevant information or story front and centre, it therefore never fails to make me clench my teeth.

It isn’t a worry that anything compromising may be seen, it’s what my brain identifies as disregarding the effort made to consciously present information – like someone wanting to see the unpublished cards in your PowerPoint presentation while you’re in the middle of starting your presentation.

I know she can’t help it, and that her entire being is dedicated to gathering information at all times like a sponge – but I may have to start keeping an old copy of Private Eye rolled up and to hand to lovingly boop her on the nose next time it appears at my shoulder…

Either that or arrange to have something truly strange on my screen the next time she looks

Haven’t Melted Yet

It has felt a bit of a close-run thing, but the feeling of living in a blast furnace has retreated somewhat – and as I write this with the door open to the balcony I have a strong breeze ebbing and flowing in. I think there may be a storm on the way – or at least some bursts of rain. It has been interesting to point out to the cub that this evening’s temperature of 23C is nearly half what it was on Tuesday and before this week he would have been complaining that it was hot. He is still trying to wrap his imagination around the fact that Monday and Tuesday are the hottest that the United Kingdom has ever been since they started recording such things. I think he’s more used to reading about history than living through significant moments of it.

The cub has been staying the last couple of days as his school term finished yesterday about lunchtime, and boy s is working. With Lady M off the other side of London for work, I’ve therefore been balancing work with having a young lad around the house. He’s not quite old enough to be home alone, but the difference just this last term has made in how he’s growing up tells me he’ll be fine. For now he’s sat in the other room eating his supper before he goes to run around the estate a bit more to burn off some energy from being cooped up.

On the work front I’ve been getting more engaged with the new co-chair role for the LGBTQ+ Staff Network and meeting a number of stakeholders in the EDI work being developed by Surrey County Council. I’ve begun work drafting some training slides for an Allyship program we hope to roll out next year – on the basis that we need a starting point and I have the capacity and expertise to create some copy to begin the conversation. What has struck me is the enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of this work by so many people. It has been heartening to have level-headed positivity mixed with the pragmatic acknowledgement that there is no simple fix and there are a lot of hard conversations that need to take place.

I’m cautiously optimistic – and I hope that the need to be kind is something that can be nurtured and brought to bloom.

Post-Pride Month Thoughts

I’m tired. I don’t really feel like I’ve had a Pride month to speak of and I’m not sure if that’s down to being incredibly busy, being worn out in support of Trans partners and friends, or as a bi man not feeling particularly part of the community at the moment. Everything feels just that little bit more of a struggle this year – even as I acknowledge that good things are also happening, at least on the personal front.

I think in part, to be fair, this has been down to being focused on family and childcare – these have always got to take priority, and as an extended household that includes cover during half term for smaller people who aren’t quite old enough to be home alone for a couple of hours. It means I’ve been doing a lot of time slicing to help out. I’ve written about how supporting each other is a big part of the spirit of Pride – this year seems to have had that element land squarely on my shoulders – swings and roundabouts I suppose, at least in the microcosm of what my parents have called ‘The Entourage’

A lot of the public focus has also been focused on the Jubilee – a major public event across the nation – so it sounds petty to point fingers at that in any way because it has been a major unifier of communities. I think as I’ve been so involved in supporting my staff in setting up and running events related to it I’ve missed most of the holiday buzz that so many have enjoyed.

Plans on the work front are now focusing on Pride In Surrey, and on some work I’m doing for the libraries on Equalities, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). There’s a lot to do, especially balancing with the day job, but when isn’t there?

So – looking at my social media streams, people are generally enjoying their Pride Months and events – and I will no doubt enjoy the August event when it arrives in Camberley, but none of that buzz and excitement is currently swimming round either me or those immediately around me. As if to illustrate that, I just looked at my phone and saw a reminder that its London Pride tomorrow – and my internal response was a resounding “meh”. Maybe the burnout is coming from being so front and centre in being an active voice – the feeling of banging my head against a brick wall feels particularly ubiquitous at the moment.

I obviously need to get out much much more