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.

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.

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.

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

An Achievement

It’s finally official: I have just been voted to be co-chair of my work LGBTQ+ Staff Network which is a great honour, and one I aim to lift and use to help promote and celebrate EDI improvements. There’s a lot to do, but it dovetails with other similar roles and groups I’m working with so I’m expecting this all to be very fulfilling.

It’s not something I ever thought I’d do, or be considered for but I guess all my standing up to be counted and advocating for people in recent years has set my feet wandering this direction.

Interesting times. I hope I can live up to it.

What Does Pride Mean To Me?

I got asked to contribute to a thread on the work forum about what significance Pride has for me – either as an event or a way of living and working. It didn’t take me long to put together the following, so I thought I’d share it here too:

Pride for me – is having the support and acceptance to be my true self, not the facade I constructed for so many years to fit in with family and societal expectations. Its only since coming out and living life authentically that I realise just how exhausting carrying that mask at all times was. Pride is representing each other – supporting those who are actively suppressed, or who may not be free to speak up, or who may be overwhelmed – raising common voices so that no one has to feel that they are alone. Pride is acknowledging our history that is often unseen, and working together to move forward so that no one is left behind. Pride is curiosity, recognising that we evolve and grow over time. Pride is a challenge – facing those who would divide us or oppose us and speaking our truths. Pride is found family, the people we come to know and cherish along the way especially in the face of adversity.

And Pride is fun. Its a celebration of positivity despite everything thrown at us (sometimes literally). It is holding our heads high and being as loud or as quiet as we are comfortable with because sometimes just the act of being visible is rebellion and inspiration enough for people we’ll never know.

Half Term, oh and that Pride thing too

Being utterly awful people we all forgot it was half term this week until the cub reminded us. Fortunately Lady M and I had already booked some time off to take advantage of the bank holidays so we’ve taken him in while boy s continues to work.

Being myself I immediately booked tickets for myself and the cub to visit boy s at his work place and caused all kinds of merry havoc while we were there. The rest of the week has seen us take the cub to Go Ape, and a variety of other activities away from his usual computer screen.

We’re having a quiet day today – I can hear YouTube videos from the other room, I’ve gone shopping for groceries, and I may even have a nap to make up for a broken night for a while.

Meanwhile, its June. Happy Pride Month alongside all the other things taking place. Its as important as ever, because its impossible to understate how much of a difference it makes for people to be able to live as themselves.

I’ve been asked to put my name forward at work for a position with the LGBTQ+ Staff Network which will be hard work alongside the day job but well worth it if I can help facilitate positive changes. The AGM isn’t for a few weeks so I’ll talk more about that when the dust settles.

And yes, the autism referral stuff continues in the background. I’m not expecting to hear anything on that front for quite some time as it doesn’t seem to be something that BUPA covers and the NHS is overwhelmed. Patience, and all that.

Another Anniversary?

Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of collaring boy s – in kink terms a form of commitment not unlike marriage – it was just a shame that both of us were too unwell to celebrate much of anything. I was staying over anyway so it was largely a day of napping in between doing the school run and doing some more work on the Amazon store.

We’ve decided instead to try and have a date night in the next week or so once payday has arrived and we’re in better health.

What we do all have to anticipate however is that we’ve got tickets for the Thorpe Park preview day on Saturday thanks to his working there. We’ve not been on any rollercoaster since before the first lockdown. Lady M has had her eye surgery since then too, so this will be the first time on them without glasses or contact lenses.

So, highs and lows and literal rollercoasters to come. Can’t wait.

More Visibility Musings

I was talking with a colleague today to – as they put it – be a common sense and reality check. The situation they wanted to check in about was one that any one of my various hats was applicable to but as part of the context for their decision making process they made a confidential disclosure about their personal life that they didn’t want to share with their staff.

As they said, it’s their private life, and even if they were minded to disclose it, this wasn’t a context in which they would want to disclose the information.

Being trusted with this disclosure was humbling. It immediately also reminded me of why I both respect these personal boundaries and am also glad that I live the way I do. Admittedly, it has meant that I’m now a very visible EDI advocate, but that has in its own way opened more doors than it has inhibited.

I am a very visible and talkative person in my workplace, and the confidence to be that person has in part coming from recognising, acknowledging, and embracing the evolution of who I am. It’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders. It also allows me to be visible on behalf of others who do not feel safe or comfortable to do the same.

There’s a responsibility there that I feel keenly.