Back in November, a couple of days after the election, I was asked to take part in a spotlight series on Wrote Podcast about American politics under a Trump regime. I happily agreed (parts one and two are online now) and it’s going to be a monthly thing we do for the foreseeable future. Remember the Weasley’s Potterwatch pirate radio station? It’s like that but with angry queers. Continue reading →
So AJ and I started watching Hannibal recently. We literally devoured S1 and S2, but halfway through S3, it started to jump the shark. The reasons we said that were various, and included the mashed up timeline and the whole mess that was the European jaunt, but what most got our goat was the queerbaiting surrounding the relationship between Hannibal and Will. At the time (three days ago) fans of the show told us it wasn’t queerbaiting and to wait until we’d finished it completely to form a conclusion. Yesterday, we finished it. This is our conclusion.
BE WARNED: herein lie spoilers for Hannibal and Black Sails Continue reading →
I write gay romance. By which I mean, I write love stories. Boy meets boy (or occasionally, boys), there’s lots of angsty goodness, then they all live happily ever after. Sometimes there’s sex, but sometimes there’s not. Yet I am classified as an erotica writer with alarming regularity.
When AJ and I were trying to find a home for my numerous DVDs the other day, I introduced her to my rather anal system of organising them by rating and genre. Some of them, she noticed, had double ratings (12/15, or 15/18). That, I explained, was because Ireland has its own classification system and usually doles out higher ratings for LGBT-themed films. These weren’t explicit movies, you understand, but because they mentioned queerness they were deemed Not For Children. Continue reading →
Last week, a much abused and beleaguered equal rights ordinance failed to win public support in Houston. There’s plenty of background to HERO here, explaining how it seeks to protect LGBT individuals in a state which offers them no legal rights of employment, medical treatment, or housing. Without such protection, your landlord can evict you for being gay; your boss can fire you; you can’t use the appropriate restrooms if the wrong box is ticked on your birth certificate. Continue reading →
A year ago, I wrote a post about being closeted. Specifically, straight people being “closeted” about reading or writing LGBT fiction. I talked about the importance of being open about that one small thing, not hiding your ally status from the world like it’s something shameful, because we need all the allies we can get.
Today, I want to go further. You see, this language of being “in the closet” gets bandied around about all sorts of things, and is used frequently when allies and aficionados of LGBT fiction (romance, particularly) discuss how they represent themselves in their everyday lives. I can understand the appeal of using that vocabulary. It seems fitting, given the context. But here’s the thing: every time someone talks about “coming out of the closet” by telling a friend of relative they like LGBT fiction, they’re likening that experience to what a fifteen year old goes through telling his fundamentalist Christian parents he’s gay. One of those things is not like the other. I would go as far as to say it devalues and demeans our experiences of coming out as LGBT by comparison.
For those of us who are LGBT, the closet is not a safe space where we can hide from the jocular ribbing of friends and relatives. It’s a claustrophobic, stifling corner in which we hide the truest part of ourselves for fear of what would happen if we were ever found out. Some of us — too many of us — lose our friends and families, our homes and livelihoods, and sometimes even our lives, when we finally come out. Yet we come out, and we keep coming out, every day, to all sorts of people, because not to do so feels oppressive. It feels like living a lie.
Moreover, when our allies talk about being “closeted” about something as simple as reading/writing LGBT fiction, it reinforces the impression that anything LGBT-related is inherently shameful. That our allies are ashamed to be reading about queer lives. And how do you think that feels to those of us who are living queer lives?
Why does the word “gay” stick in your throat when you tell a friend or parent or sibling or spouse what kind of romance you read?
I’m not saying go into work and announce to your conservative boss that he should rethink his political position because two men getting it on is hot, but why can’t we use LGBT fiction to start a debate about LGBT equality? Perhaps if we heard the word “gay” a little more often, it wouldn’t stick in so many throats. It wouldn’t be synonymous with shame and guilt. If more people spoke up, perhaps the voices that sounded loudest wouldn’t be right-wing zealots spewing hate and lies.
Perhaps, if more people spoke up, we wouldn’t need closets at all.
So it’s that time of year again, International Day Against Homophobia, and we’re all hopping to show our support. Two years ago, I showed you what homophobia really was. Last year, I encouraged people to share their stories. This year, I want to talk about changing the world, one person at a time.
Read on, there be prizes 😀 Continue reading →
Anyone who knows me, knows I love books. I was the child reading by torchlight under the covers when I was supposed to be asleep, I was the kid who took a personal library on camping trips and car journeys. I did two degrees in literature and listen to audiobooks in the car. I have been known to sit outside my destination with the engine running for many many minutes, until my friends send out search parties to find me, because “I’m just finishing this chapter.” I’m also a history geek, a data-sponge. I have the sort of mind which remembers that the fastest human ever recorded lived in Australia 17,000 years ago and could sprint through wet mud quicker than Usain Bolt can run the 100m, but can’t remember whether or not I turned the oven off.
If I could only read one type of book ever again, it would either be historical or non-fiction. Whether we’re talking Bronte and Renault, or Ellmann and Wildeblood, I don’t care. I’m as happy reading Wuthering Heights as I am Richard Ellmann’s lyrical biography of Oscar Wilde. One of my all-time favourite books is Peter Wildeblood’s Against the Law. Wildeblood is a name largely lost today, although if I ruled the world, there would be statues of him in every town square. He was the first man in modern history to stand up and state before a court and before the press that he was gay (actually, he used the word “invert”). This was in 1954, and it cost him eighteen months of his life.
My patience is wearing thin. I am done with the “reasonable” debate about the rights I “deserve,” if falling in love somehow makes me “less” than other people, if I’m safe to be around children. I’m done debating if my landlord has the right to evict me, if my boss has the right to fire me, if I have the right to be upset about people debating my rights.
I don’t care what your religion says, how grossed-out you are, how upset if someone calls you a homophobe. Fuck “reasonable,” “measured” debates. My life is not a problem other people have to solve.
Fuck the “same as you” arguments which pander to the fear of, and simultaneous fascination with, queer sex, fuck the way people try to “normalise” queerfolk. We were never abnormal to begin with.
Fuck wondering what jobs I’m capable of, what I’m safe to be allowed to do. I don’t need community rehabilitation, because I am part of the community already. We are legion. So fuck trying to keep us in the closet by threatening our livelihoods if we dare come out.
Fuck whitewashing us from history, from society, from the school and the street and the workplace. You have always lived alongside queerfolk, you have shared classrooms and changing rooms and office space and gym memberships with us your whole life. We are not shadowy strangers “out there,” we are here, beside you. Doing no harm.
Fuck the people who want us criminalised, who want us rounded up and gassed, who want us stripped of our rights to live and love, to lobby and assemble, to say fuck you to begin with. Fuck the president who let a plague go unchecked, and the people who hide behind false idols and fraudulent studies to strip us of our humanity.
Fuck those who say we can change, who prey on the fears of parents to torture and emotionally abuse their queer kids. Fuck every parent who has ever disowned a child. Fuck the families who come out of the woodwork after a death in order to loot the estate. Fuck the law which makes that possible.
Fuck the courts who hear the animus, fuck the “gay means stay” approach, fuck every pompous old man who feels uncomfortable acknowledging our existence. We will not go away, for we have nowhere else to go.
Fuck the mother scared of raising a “sissy,” who won’t let her son near anything pink or her daughter near blue, the father who tells his boy to “man up” and teaches his girl to be scared of men, the teacher who steers girls towards textiles and boys towards woodwork, the coach who calls a kid a “pussy” if he shows he’s hurt. Fuck gender normativity.
Fuck pink and blue, boys and girls, gay and straight. Fuck meaningless binaries and two-faced allies, every person who’s watched gay porn and turned against us in the privacy of the voting booth. Fuck delaying and denying our rights, fetishising our bodies, othering our lives, loves, desires. Fuck treating gay bars like zoo exhibits, gay men like predators, fuck the semantics of fear and loathing.
Fuck the closet, the word “partner,” fuck turning our marriages into business arrangements, forcing us to bind ourselves with powers of attorney and living wills and thousand-dollar pieces of paper to protect ourselves from our own flesh and blood when our hearts are no longer beating. Fuck smothering us, hiding us, pushing us away. We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.
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.
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.
I amused myself in nothing else.
But then — disaster!
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:
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~
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.
At the top right of your screen, click on the faded down arrow, then click ‘Settings’.
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.
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).