Labels

Everyone’s first experience of a label is the one they are given at birth. The one about 99% of us carry with us for our entire lives: our sex and gender. Everything you do and anything you will ever be is determined by that label in a patriarchal society. Those of us who reject the label given to us at birth are shunned by society and subject to systemic discrimination, yet society at large doesn’t seem keen on labels as a whole.

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Fast forward to 1999. I’m 14 years old and I’ve just started a new school. (I had to leave/was expelled from my two previous schools due to being bullied.) I’m into heavy metal and punk, so obviously I gravitated towards that group of people. The other kids called them, “Greebos” or “Greebs” but the most popular of them decided that labels weren’t cool so we never used the term. It was the same with the widespread bisexuality. If we didn’t talk about it or label ourselves we weren’t really different. We were just the same as everyone else, but we wore black and slept with people of multiple genders. (Yes I was having sex at 14.)

This situation didn’t last long for me and I ended up hanging out with the kids in the year below. They embraced labels and were subsequently called losers by the people I used to hang out with in my year group. We were Greebos. We were lesbians, gays and bisexuals and we were proud, even if just within our friendship group. We went through the same struggles together and our bond and our labels kept us together and kept us strong. I fell in love for the first time in 2001 with one of these people. We called ourselves lesbians and that stuck with me for the next nine years, even if the Greebo label faded into metal-head as time went by.

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So what are my labels now at 32 and what do they mean to me?

Autistic

I’ve been using this label since Feb 2017, when I truly accepted that this was who I was. A year later I had an official diagnosis.

I don’t say I am someone with autism. Autism is me. I am autistic.

Realising I was autistic was super validating for me. It explained a lot of my past behaviour and allowed me to find friends who were similar to me.

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Transmasculine Nonbinary

I am transgender. I lean towards masculinity. My transition involves testosterone and masculinising surgeries.

I am however not a man. I’m also not a woman. My gender identity and subsequent presentation fluctuates and sits well out of the norms for binary genders.

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Metal-head

I love all music actually but my focus is definitely focused on metal, punk and hardcore. I often dress in what can be considered as metal-head attire.

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Queer

Truly I am pansexual, but I like queer as an identity.

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Why are labels important?

My labels have brought some of the best people into my life. We have bonded over similar struggles and we have stood strong in the face of transphobia, homophobia and ableism. They give me a blanket of safety I can run and hide under when the allistic, transphobic world gets too much and they understand exactly why I need to do that.

It means when I’m out at the pub with my friends I’m not gonna get misgendered or called aggressive because of my autistic style of communicating. It means I was encouraged to be my authentic self at Trans Pride by being topless . It was the safety of having these people around me which allowed me to work up the courage to medically transition.

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We can also help other marginalised groups. They define who they are and the systemic discrimination they face. We listen to them and lend our privilege to help where it is needed. Without labels, I don’t think we would be able to do this so effectively and this leads on to my next point;

Why doesn’t society like labels as a whole?

In my experience oppressors don’t like labels because for them it means they are not the norm and when we use them, we use them to empower ourselves against their oppression.

For example cis women who reject the use of cis, even though it is literally what they are. They don’t like it because they have always just seen themselves as normal women and that trans women and femme aligned people are deviant in some way. This is often combined with TERf rhetoric. (The F is small deliberately cuz ain’t nothing feminist about their tripe.)

Another example is allistic people. This just basically means you aren’t autistic. Allistic people hate it because they see autistic people as abnormal and they are just normal people. Wrong.

So let’s embrace our labels and the labels of others, banding together to empower one another and bring down systems of oppression.

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An Unexpected Liberation

I often walk my two rescue dogs up into the mountains here so they can have off lead time without people causing us hassle because of their breed. (It’s a massive problem.) When you’re up a mountain here, you are very unlikely to see or be seen by another human being.

Today happened to be really hot and I had my cis husband with me. He took his shirt off without a second thought. He looked at me and said I should do the same. I looked around, hesitating not because I was worried someone might see me, but because I’ve been scorned my entire life for participating in what is essentially nonbinary behaviour. My chest isn’t female, but society thinks it is. Should I do this? Is someone going to gender me?

It took me a good 10 minutes to work up the courage before finally saying, “FUCK IT” and slipping my Black Label Society vest over my head, leaving just my skin and ink exposed.

The sun blessed my skin and I felt for the very first time, the wind rustle all the little hairs on my chest and belly.

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We walked for 2 kms before we were rudely interrupted by a family of sheep. They were cute though so I’ll let them off.

I’ve been on testosterone for approximately 3 weeks now and there are hairs where there wasn’t before and I’m noticing strength gains at the gym that I couldn’t have dreamed of previously. Today confirmed for me more than ever that I will be pursuing top surgery.

Queer Vegan is doing a masculinisation! 🙂

Too Much Information

Since February 22nd 2017 I have been acutely aware that I am autistic. It has opened up my world significantly and lifted the severe burden I’ve felt for my behaviour all my life.

I have a good friend of mine to thank for this awareness. Her name is Selena. She is also non-binary and autistic.

I struggle around people in general, but I don’t struggle around Selena so we tend to do social things together. Last night she invited me to a bit of a DIY, house party gig.

We got fairly wasted. Towards the end of the night, she got up and did this spoken word piece. The room was silent and enthralled by her every word, especially me because every word rang so true in my heart and in my head.

I’ve asked for her permission to share this here and she delightfully agreed.

Too Much Information

Aut…ism

Aut meaning self

An ism of oneself

A glass jar I live within

As I watch you all

Detached from your presence

I watch

I see you

I see your silver hooped earings

As you tick tock your head to the rhythm, they dance along

They snatch the light, bright

Like floodlights in my line of sight

 

I see you.

I see the gravelly knit of your sweater

Like volcanic pebbles

Tumbled and tossed for a million years

And for a moment I am there

Wading, my toes cold in the spring water

 

You, I see too

Your hands clasping the tight lens of your camera

Twisting your fingers around the dials

I see the grain of the wood

The dampness of the soil in the jars and the harp and the German stoneware

I dive into the pattern of the mandala-like tapestry behind me

I’m hypnotised and I count

Mandala, mandala

I like that word

I repeat

Mandala

Like a mantra

Mandala

Mandala

 

I obsess

In my head (mandala)

My head is tight

I’m taking in too much information (mandala)

The light from your earrings

They’re beautiful because

(Mandala), because

They match the solver of your hair

Is that ok to say?

I never really know you see

Do you like this pattern?

It reminds me of a mandala

Mandala

I love that word

She’s not answering me

Her earrings are so shiny

 

It’s loud in here

I can hear the people breathing

Their sleeves rustling as they lift their arms

Slurp of their lips on their cans of SA

My heart is racing

I look at the mandala

I want to be here in the room

But I’m not

I’m in a glass jar

I can see you

But I’m not really here

On my face is a smile and my tongue is rowdy

Yet inside I’m shrunken

Drunken with over stimulation

I’m curled up in a ball, small and tight as my fist

Shielding my brain from all the information

Cos it’s loud and inside I’m screaming

It hurts and it’s really, really uncomfortable

I may look like like I’m not paying attention

But I want to be here

It’s just too much information.

 

By Selena Caemawr

Deconstructed Sushi Salad

Be Funky 5

 

We’ve been living in South Wales for a year now. The culinary options in the valleys aren’t exactly amazing. It’s one of the only things I miss about London really. I used to have sushi on a regular basis because I’ve always been rubbish at making it. What’s not to love about sushi? Crisp nori, salty rice and a crunch in the middle topped off with some soy sauce, ginger or wasabi. I came up with this dish to satisfy my sushi craving.

Ingredients:

Half a pomegranate (Seeds only)

1 Avocado

A large handful of kale

2 servings of sushi rice or normal white rice

A dash of mirin

A dash of soy sauce

A sheet of shredded nori

Black pepper

Be funky 4

Method:

  • Cook the rice as per packet instructions. Drain and season with pepper, mirin and soy sauce.
  • Stir fry the kale in a hot pan for about a minute and then mix in with warm rice.
  • Plate up rice and kale mixture, then top with chopped avocado, nori and pomegranate.
  • Eat warm straight away or cold later on.
  • Eat with chop sticks if possible. 😉

Be Funky 2 Be Funky 1

Not only is this dish really delicious, it’s full of folate, good fats, vitamin C, iron, iodine and protein. It’s perfect for your post-workout recovery meal, especially with a hydrating green tea.

 

Enjoy. X