Category Archives: Random

Why Rights are Wrong

shootings-300x169 Why Rights are Wrong

Map showing location of all 352 mass shootings in the US in 2015 so far

It seems these days everybody has rights, and don’t we all know them? The right not to be offended, the right not to be upset, the right to have what you want, when you want it. The right of religion. The right to bear arms.

Who gave us these rights, exactly? Here I hear a cry of Americans shouting “The Constitution!” but that’s a document made up and written down by men who were claiming those rights for themselves. They weren’t naturally or intrinsically bestowed. Continue reading →

World AIDS Day: Looking Forward

HIV_Budding_Out_of_an_Immune_Cell_%286813326451%29 World AIDS Day: Looking Forward

Microscope image of HIV cell attaching to human immune cell

It’s been thirty-four years since the first patient was diagnosed with what we now know to be HIV/AIDS. Last week, UNICEF reported that AIDS-related infections are now the single biggest killer of adolescents (15-19) in Africa, and the second most common worldwide. Most were born with the virus, and are the last generation for which HIV-positive pregnant women didn’t receive anti-retrovirals to prevent transmission to their babies. Many won’t even have known they were HIV-positive until they fell sick.

When we think about HIV/AIDS, too often we forget that the pandemic is still ongoing. On World AIDS Day, people in the west usually look back to generations lost; to gay men in New York and San Francisco and London and Manchester; to those in their forties, fifties, and sixties who lived through the dark days when their friends were dying all around them, not knowing what was killing them, how it was transmitted, or who would be next. Continue reading →

The Cost of Immigration

An open letter to the man who said I should stay home because America has “enough foreigners” already.

immigrant-246x300 The Cost of Immigration

Dear Southern Man,

So you saw this blog post by my fiancee, excited I’ve finally (*finally* — we started this process last October) got the date for my visa interview, and you decided to piss on our parade with a fatuous remark about foreigners, like every immigrant to America is as ignorant as you are. I assume from your snide remark — with comments disabled, of course, so I couldn’t respond — that you think England is some sort of third world nation and I’m rocking up to suckle on Uncle Sam’s generous teats. Oh, how I laughed.

Just for giggles, here’s what moving to America has cost me so far:

  • Processing fee for relative immigration visa I-130, $420.00
  • UK police certificate (valid for 12 months), $70.00
  • Visa-standard photographs for police certificate, $15.00
  • Mandatory immunization shots, free (*smooches the NHS*)
  • Medical in Knightsbridge, London, $400.00
  • Visa-standard photographs for medical documents, $15.00
  • Train fare to London for medical, $120.00
  • Processing fee for visa interview, $265.00
  • Train fare to London for interview, $240.00
  • Visa-standard photographs for interview, $15.00
  • Courier fee to have visa shipped to me, $30.00

That’s almost $1600 just in processing fees, required documentation, and transport because there’s only one doctor in the whole of the UK the Embassy will accept a medical from, and it’s on the other side of the country to me. I haven’t even started on getting a last-minute flight to America (because from the moment the visa is granted, I’ve got six months in which to pack up my UK affairs, get Stateside, and get married) which is easily going to run me to another $1400 or so, the cost of shipping my belongings (bringing over only my books, clothes, and a PC is going to cost me approximately $1200), or considered the cost of all the flying back and forth I’ve done over the past couple of years, which adds several thousand more to what I’ve spent so far because I happened to fall in love with somebody from a different country.

And you know what? It’s worth it. She’s worth every last penny, and more besides. Once I arrive in America, we’ll have a marriage license to pay for, then application fees for me to get an Adjustment of Status (because all the visa means is I can enter America, not that I can stay) which costs another $1100 in filing fees alone. And until it’s all done and dusted, I am not permitted to get a job. Were it not for the fact I’m a writer earning royalties from around the world, I would be completely dependent on AJ to support me.

As a matter of fact, part of the visa application process was an Affidavit of Support AJ had to provide, giving the government permission to empty her bank accounts and take her house if I ever become a public burden. Not only am I not now or ever going to (be able to) sponge off the state, I’ve made America considerably richer just by applying to move there, all while expressly prohibited from attempting to support myself as the wheels of bureaucracy grind with soul-crushing slowness around us. We’ve joked more than once that I was financially solvent when we started this process, but by the time Uncle Sam expects me to prove it, he’ll have already drained my bank accounts.

I’ll also, of course, contribute to the American economy in other ways once I’m a resident. I’ll pay taxes, I’ll buy products, and the money I earn in royalties (the majority of which comes from America and at the moment get sent straight to the UK) will remain within the American economy, spent in American stores. I’ll have to buy a car and get a phone contract, pay bills, and maybe even feed and “cloth” myself as well.

As appealing as the idea of shuffling hordes in rags turning up with outstretched hands ready to grasp and take might be to your xenophobic little mind, the reality is far different. People don’t up and leave their place of birth and everything they’ve known unless they’re searching for a better life. Immigrants want to work, they want to contribute, and America was founded and became great off the back of them. I guarantee that’s why your ancestors moved there.

native-immigrant-223x300 The Cost of Immigration

Unless you’re full-blood native, you’ve really got no room to talk. Especially not to make vacuous assumptions that the only reason people would emigrate in America is to be supported by people like you. Rather, my taxes will go towards paying for welfare that I as a non-citizen will be prohibited from claiming. We are supporting you, not the reverse. And this in a country where net migration is relatively tiny — 2.45 immigrants per 1,000 in 2014 (compared to 2.56 in the UK, and all the way up to 83.82 in little ole Lebanon). The UAE is almost 84% foreign-born, and even Australia is pushing a third of its population, compared to less than 15% in the US. This in a country with a population density less than most of Europe, Africa, and Asia (85 people per square mile, compared to 660 for the UK, for example).

Whichever way you cut it, America has got the room for thousands more immigrants, and the result would be a benefit for all: a UCLA study estimated that overhauling the immigration system to allow currently undocumented workers to be validated would add $1.5 trillion to the US GDP over the next ten years. The DREAM Act alone would add $329 billion to the economy. Rather than telling us to stay at home, you should be welcoming us with open arms.

Waxing Lyrical

If you’re interested to hear my opinion on self-publishing, I’m over at Jay Northcote’s blog today, talking about how and why I do that thing I do.

And don’t forget the LGBT Push Back Fundraiser is still happening! We’re creeping up on 100 entrants, and there’s still plenty of time to lend your support to this wonderful charity initiative. Follow the link for a free, exclusive story by AJ Rose.

LGBTQBannerFB-300x118 Waxing Lyrical

A Taxing Time

So I’m seeing a lot of discontent from readers about the impact the new EU tax laws are having on the price of ebooks. These rules came into effect on the 1st January this year, and for many readers, the first they knew of them was when they tried to buy a book and found the cost had increased by somewhere in the region of 20%. Authors should be less surprised, because we all had warning weeks or even months ago that this was going to happen.

So for those who don’t know, here’s the skinny on what went down. Continue reading →

Something in the #Facebook Water #MyNameIs

So this all began a week or two ago, when Facebook deleted a ton of accounts en masse, all belonging to drag performers, all for contravening a ‘real name’ clause in their terms. Basically, they can all use their full legal names (and Facebook is requiring legal ID to evidence them), switch their existing profiles to ‘fan pages’, or get off Facebook completely.

mynameis-300x273 Something in the #Facebook Water #MyNameIs

Source: Unkle Mikey, Facebook

Continue reading →

Facebook, Redux #Namegate

Following on from yesterday’s saga…

The email I sent bounced back with a generic “We don’t deal with this, go to the Help pages” response. I found a page that let me file a dispute to an account being disabled. Hurrah! Except… they want me to scan my ID (drivers’ licence, passport) and upload it as a JPEG. I decided to send this instead.

KA-ID Facebook, Redux #Namegate

 

I amused myself in nothing else.

But then — disaster!

disabled-account-screenprint-300x199 Facebook, Redux #Namegate

 

So apparently the account I’m blocked from isn’t actually disabled, meaning I have precisely zero ways of resolving this issue, because clearly finding a human being at Facebook is less likely than finding a baboon picking its arse on Mars. In fact, I’m inclined to think there are no people at Facebook, just cyborg overlords, and arse-picking baboons.

So, fine, I decided to go back, and was greeted with this:

login-to-continue-300x47 Facebook, Redux #Namegate

Yeah, if only I could log in, there would be no drama. Oy.

Then, on a whim, I decided to see what would happen if I entered a false name.

~cue choirs of angelic cherubs singing aaaaaaaah-aaaaaaah-ah~

katrina-300x140 Facebook, Redux #Namegate

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Katrina Aaron has entered the building.

No, I don’t know who she is, either.

The bot then scolded me for telling porkies in the past, and informed me that I can never, ever change my name on Facebook again. So. Apparently they prefer the pet name my high school art teacher gave me over the name my parents chose. There is a delicious irony to this that, being English, I adore.

No doubt next week Facebook will inform me that I’m actually Norwegian and I’ll stop being amused.

So I am back, although FSM knows for how long, but during my 24-hours without my lord and master, without sanctuary and security, when I was just a lone voice crying in the wilderness, I did at least learn a few lessons.

1. I am way too dependent on Facebook.

I advocate diversity in ebook distribution because I recognise that a monopoly is A Bad Thing, so why not with social media?

2. I’d miss you guys if I couldn’t get back on there.

I have over 700 Facebook friends. I don’t interact with all of them, but I do with a startling number, many of whom I don’t know/follow anywhere else. Finding you again would become my lifelong quest if I lost you.

3. Facebook is about more than my online friends.

My school friends are on there, and people I used to work with. I like seeing what they’re up to. There’s also photos on there, of me and my friends, of big occasions in our lives, which I’d be devastated to lose. For the past nineteen months, AJ and I have spoken on Facebook messenger every single day. Usually for hours on end. From the moment she got up in the morning to the moment I went to bed, if our timezones were in sync we were talking. We fell in love on Facebook. Our whole history was there. And now it’s gone. It might not be a real-life tragedy, but I’m genuinely gutted.

With that last point in mind, there is something we can all do — download our Facebook data.

print1-300x286 Facebook, Redux #Namegate

At the top right of your screen, click on the faded down arrow, then click ‘Settings’.

print2-300x134 Facebook, Redux #Namegate

That will bring up your General Account Settings. At the bottom, click ‘Download a Copy’ of your Facebook data. You’ll be taken through setting up an archive, then they’ll email you when the file is ready and you download it as a zip. It will contain all your contacts, all your conversations, all your pictures, and also some bonus goodies like the ads you’ve clicked on, the time you’ve spent online, and your security details. All stuff worth knowing and keeping, because you don’t want conversations you’d prefer to keep for ever and ever to end up like this.

pms-300x231 Facebook, Redux #Namegate

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read my wall posts from 2007.


 

TL;DR. In future, I will be on Facebook. There are people and groups there I don’t want to lose contact with. I will, however, be less dependent on any single network. I’m active on Twitter and Tumblr as well as Facebook and this blog, and I’ve just entered the murky waters of G+. I hope to see some of you on those other platforms, too. And don’t forget you can always sign up to my mailing list if you’d prefer that I contact you about new releases and special promotions (I promise, no spam, not ever).

WTF, Facebook?

So, I’m sure you’ve heard how certain trans* performers and drag artists have recently fallen victim to Facebook’s sudden insistence that everybody on its site uses their full, legal name. I’m sure you’ve read all about the potential pitfalls and repercussions attendant with such a stipulation, especially in a country where in most states you can still be dismissed from your job and evicted from your home for being LGBT. Plus, y’know, the very real risk some people face of being physically harmed, were their identities known.

Authors, too, have many good reasons to use pen names. Again with the LGBT firing/eviction thing, but also because *whisper it* there are some crazies out there, and maybe we don’t all want our fans googling where we live and stalking us outside our homes, mmmkay?

Now I knew all of this, in an intellectual, it-doesn’t-affect-me kinda way. See, I use my real name on facebook. That’s because I was born and raised in a civilised country where I have certain legal protections which mean my boss can’t fire me for writing m/m, and nor can my landlord evict me. I know, I know, a glut of luxuries — right?

So my personal facebook page became my business facebook page. Fans and authors brush shoulders with ex-colleagues from my last day job, and people I went to school and college and uni with. You’d think, with so many different people knowing me, sharing and tagging pictures of me, and stipulating from whence they knew me, facebook would understand that I’m actually who I say I am.

Apparently not.

update-name-300x173 WTF, Facebook?

Huh.

I wasn’t expecting that.

So now I’ve got to give facebook my real name, otherwise I’ll be locked out of my account for ever and ever and ever. No problem, right? I’ll just put in my real name — i.e., the one I was using all along — and things will be fine. Right?

approved-300x104 WTF, Facebook?

Huh.

I kinda was expecting that.

But this raises some interesting questions. Who approved my name (or didn’t, in this case)? What information do they think they hold on me that they think they know, without asking me for confirmation, what my “real name” actually is? What database are they accessing, who gave them access to it, and how are they using it? They haven’t asked me to provide any evidence of my name (but if they think they’re getting a scan of my passport, they can think again), they’re telling me outright, “Nope, we know that’s not your name. Try again!”

Well, bullshit. Firstly, that is my name. Secondly, how do they think they know that it isn’t, anyway?

Honestly, I’m past trying to get my account back.  Now I want to know what information they’re accessing about me.

Also, I’m a little bit pissed at the sheer inanity of the process. “Enter Name.” “Wrong Name. Enter Name.” Well who the fuck do I contact if you think the right name is the wrong name? There’s no support link. I go to facebook Help and under “suspended accounts” they tell me to follow the instructions on screen to unsuspend it. “Enter Name.” And round we go again.

So. I’m on Twitter, I’m on tumblr, I’m on my blog. I might or might not get a response to the shirty email I finally sent to disabled@facebook.com. Given I was asking more questions about their information source than getting my account back, I’m not holding my breath.

If they do respond, the next question I’ll be asking is why it’s only LGBT people I’m hearing that are affected by this move. Again, I won’t hold my breath for an answer.

Why the Hobby Lobby Ruling Should Worry Us All

I blogged about the Hobby Lobby case while it was being heard in the US Supreme Court. Back then, I was annoyed that it had even got that far, but I had faith. Faith in a Constitution which guaranteed the separation of church and state, and faith in the nine Justices who almost a year ago to the day handed down two massive human rights rulings concerning Prop8 and DOMA. It was utterly ludicrous for a company to claim any sort of religious right, and even crazier to think that right would supersede the medical needs of its employees. Yet that is exactly what SCOTUS just ruled.

aclu-300x91 Why the Hobby Lobby Ruling Should Worry Us All

Continue reading →