To be bi…

…is to be a slut, but let’s unpick that a little more…

You must be greedy because you have all that choice of partners…but expect to be rejected by both straight and gay people, and prepared to experience biphobia from everyone. Something that’s somehow all the more painful when it comes from the queer community; you don’t experience oppression because you can pass for straight so you’re not really part of the LGBT+ community. Your life is easy cos you get to turn off the ‘gay’ part of ourselves and just be straight.

The LGBT+ community is right to reject you because you’re a) experimenting and using them, b) using queerness to be more interesting and/or c) you’re letting down the gay side of the team when you have ‘straight’ relationships.

You must be very indecisive, the only reason you’re bi is cos you can’t choose a side. And you’re probably indecisive because of being so greedy – why choose when you can have everything and everyone? Alternatively, you are just afraid to commit and settle down with one person… Probably because you’re selfish and unstable…

Another reason it’s so easy to be bi is all the choice! You never need to be without a partner or someone for a one night stand.

But it’s important to realise that bisexuality isn’t a real thing, you must be a lesbian and not wanting to admit it because you’re in denial or you’re confusing friendships with women for something more. You’re not attracted to her; you want to be her.

In fact, bisexuality (as much as it’s considered ‘real’) is all about attention seeking. You’re trying to get the attention of the men you’re so desperate to be with. If the man gets takes the bait, you might even bring the other woman into the bedroom for a threesome! Lucky guy!

As someone who’s bi, you inevitably have an insatiable sex drive (perhaps the real reason you won’t pick a side) and therefore you must be promiscuous and a terrible choice for a long term relationship. And when it comes to sex, you’re probably really kinky – after all sex is right there in the label! For the same reason, you can’t be a bisexual virgin, how do you know you’re into men and women if you’ve not had sex with both?

If you do end up in a long term relationship, you have finally chosen a side; you’re straight or a lesbian. And if you haven’t fully committed to the side you’ve picked, there’s a very high chance you’ll leave your partner for someone of the opposite gender eg, you may leave your female partner because you decide you really want a baby and as we all know, the only way to become a parent is when a man and a woman come together for ‘special time’. The only way you’ll be happy is if you’re in a relationship with a man and a woman (despite us all knowing bisexuality is just a social construct designed to arouse men).

To come out as bi involves demonstrating your bi-ness by getting out your logbook of past sexual partners. You then need to count up men and women you’ve had sex with (sex is important, a relationship that didn’t get sexual doesn’t count – remember sex is in the label) and they need to balance, or nearly balance. If they don’t, if you have more encounters of a different gender* then you’re straight and confused, if you’ve had more of the same gender, then you are gay and afraid.

*there’s more than two genders, for me bisexual means being attracted to people of the same gender, and other genders, not being attracted to men and women.


Obviously this is sarcastic.

I will soon be doing a post about how being bisexual means you’re more at risk of interpersonal abuse, being raped and more likely to experience things like depression and anxiety.

Kinkajou: Animal Spirit

The kinkajou: relative of the raccoon, that is easily mistaken for a primate and is sometimes called honey bears despite not being ursine.

Ok, I’m guessing you don’t know what a Kinkajou is, so let’s start there. I didn’t either until very recently and since that first encounter, they’ve cropped up a few times in my life so I felt drawn to find out more. That, and they are rather cute (which sadly means there is a horrific pet trade issue around them). They have short, woolly hair that’s golden brown on their backs and creamy yellow on their tummy’s.

A kinkajou on a branch

According to A-Z Animals, the name kinkajou comes from a native Algonquian word meaning wolverine that was taken by the French and applied to the kinkajou. A reminder to us that words aren’t neutral and can have their own, important history, in this case a history that feels like it’s probably linked to colonialism. Other names suggested by the A-Z Animals website include night ape and night walker as well as la Llorona which means crying woman and refers to their loud call.

A long, prehensile tail is probably the Kinkajou’s most defining feature but perhaps their second eye catching feature is their large eyes. As nocturnal creatures living in tropical forests in Central and South America, large eyes are beneficial. Often, nocturnal animals either have very small eyes or very large eyes depending on how much they use sight vs other senses.

During the day, they are often found sleeping in dens created in the hole of a tree with their social group, apparently using their tail as a snuggly blanket! Come dusk, time is spent grooming each other and socialising before heading out alone to search for food.

Their prehensile tail acts a lot like another arm, aiding their balance and they often hang from it, incredibly it can take the entire weight of the kinkajou! This is a unassumingly powerful creature with hidden skills. They are deliberate in their movement, carefully placing their legs and tail for good balance and their tail allows for reaching and grasping branches, or ideas if you’re thinking symbolically or metaphorically.

Incredibly, they are able to turn their feet backwards to run easily in either direction along branches which puts me in mind of moving forward and backwards through time or journeys. This flexibility and manoeuvrability is enhanced by an extremely flexible spine and is perhaps a reminder that life is not always about moving forward. Sometimes you need to revisit the past or perhaps if you’re grieving, it’s a reminder that the so called stages of grief aren’t steps, they are a process and you may, will, move around within that process.

Their nimble claws are dexterous as as we’ve seen with the racoon, it helps them to manipulate food. They can feel more nuance than perhaps the average creature and that might be an encouragement to lean into nuance. Whilst we tend to view the world in very black and white terms, there is so so much greyscale that’s really worth looking into. So often two things can be true at once even if they seem like competeing ideas.

As we’ve seen from the opening statement, the kinkajou doesn’t have a solid image or identity as seen by others. But then nor do we, how people view us or define us depends partly on the lens that they are seeing us through and partly on how we are presenting at a particular point. This doesn’t mean you aren’t a fully integrated whole person, just that the self we show more of in the workplace is different to the self we show more of when we’re catching up with our best friend or on a night out.

Whilst originally thought to be solitary, they actually have complex social interactions with a social group often comprising of two males, one female and offspring. Dominant males mate with the females of their home group as well as females on the edge of the territory. Like with so many animals, scent marking is important for communication, including sexual communication, and kinkajous use scent glands to mark tree branches. They also communicate through grunting and growling, chattering and screaming and when they’re happy, they make a kissing noise! Maybe your communication could be clearer to others?

When it comes to parenting, it’s down to the mums but, as Animal Diversity said whilst “males do not provide any direct care [they] are not aggressive toward young and have been found to regularly share fruiting trees and day dens, and will occasionally play with the pups.” This seems like a key nudge around gender roles in your life – if the kinkajou has shown up for you, what might need rebalancing it terms of gendered work. Are you always the one in the relationship who’s keeping a mental track of upcoming birthdays? Do you wait until the night before the kids run out of clothes to do a wash? None of these are judgements, but if you are in a relationship, you may need to take some time to consider the roles that you’ve fallen into. If you’ve consciously chosen a role that fits your skills and interests (maybe you love to cook) does that mean that your partner is picking up a role that they don’t want (like taking out the bins).

As they eat a lot of seeds and pollinate when they feed on nectar, they are carrying out the role of forest gardener which is an important role to play in an environment. Further, they are food for predators such as birds of prey, jaguars and other predators. Both their roles as food and creating food are vital for the local environment they live in – how are you being benefited and benefiting the place you live?

Superstitions and beliefs

There is a Colombian superstition that if a kinkajou barks during the day, a family member will die. This is often the case with nocturnal animals.

There’s a really interesting link between the kinkajou and tobacco and I’m thinking perhaps I’ll dig into tobacco itself more separately. But for now, the kinkajou are seen by Yanomami people as the animal-person responsible for discovering tobacco and celebrating it.

With the South American Yanamomo people, there was a man who was crying as he walked through a forest. He was crying because there was something he needed, he dodn’t know what it was but his craving for it made him emotionally numb. He came across the ancestral tobacco god, kinkajou. Kinkajou knew just what the man needed – it was tobacco. Kinkajou gave it to the man who started chewing it and wherever he spat it’s juice, tobacco plants grew and flowered and hummingbirds came and sucked the nectar and this resulted in tobacco becoming widely spread.

Other myths expand on the addictiveness of tobacco and there are various versions of these myths, some involve the kinkajou spreading tobacco and some where an agouti was involved who taught the kinkajou how to cultivate the crop. In another version, it was Caterpillar who gave Kinkajou tobacco and there are various versions of man turning into Kinkajou and Kinkajou turning into man.

Regardless of which myth you lean towards, there are clear themes around intoxicating substances, addiction and transformation. How do these apply to where you are right now? Are you in need of a deeper, spiritual awakening through substances? Are you overdoing that use? Or are you in need of a personal transformation? Certain substances can change our perception of our realities, but it feels important to say that we can’t change our realities though our perceptions can make a huge difference.

Sources

Nature, Framed

So yesterday was my birthday and I spent it in a way that was very much me but sounds a bit weird to some people…!

I started the day by co-hosting a nature writing workshop with the wonderful Amanda Tuke. She had invited me to be part of a series of workshops she was co-hosting over a year and this one was the last in the series.

If you’ve been here long, you’ll be fully aware I’m disabled and for me that was a key way I wanted to approach the workshop. A lot of my nature is experienced through and from my flat and this naturally shapes my writing.

A couple of incredible writers, Polly Atkin and Josie George, have similar ways of approaching nature and their nature writing. Indeed, Atkin has said:

“We dwell in our bodies; our bodies in the world. Everything we experience of the world we experience in and through and with our bodies. Our relationship with our body informs our relationship with the world. For some people this is easier to forget than for others”.

There are many reasons why it may be easier to forget for some people than others, in my case it’s around my disability but for others it might be around gender or race. I wanted the workshop to reflect that and to start from a place that was hopefully accessible to everyone, or almost everyone; their home.

A warm up exercise focused on what is through the window and I was pleased to be able to write a little whilst the participants did their own writing.

Through the window a car alarm pierces through my nature writing, cuts my reflections, brutally shatters my snail trail of thought.


Settling into my windowside chair, with it’s tarmacked street view, eyes flit over a discarded Double Decker wrapper caught on the winter bare bush. Eyes resolve image, releasing an iris, crocus, iris where the chocolate litter was. Spring crept by, left paint splatters in her hasty retreat. Dots of white on mud, tufts of lime on wet-black twigs. A season on the cusp of committing.


Out the window, nettles leaves wave, so fresh they’re more lemon than lime, but same tang. Browned grass stems drift wearily, remnants from last year, planted by overly zealous starlings as they squabbled for the feeder.

Inside the window, a snail hibernates, stuck itself to the apex of the frame. A gamble with it’s glue, a fall will shatter. I think it’s a male, self confidence borders on arrogance.


My birthday wasn’t just about nature writing though! There was wine and word games and friends and takeaway. That being said, starting it with a nature writing workshop was a great way to kick off the day!

Honey Badger

The honey badger, also known as a ratel, is not as sweet as the name suggests! It also isn’t that closely related to a badger, and is more akin to a weasel. So we’re already getting off to a deceptive start although it’s probably not fair to blame the honey badger for that, we are the ones who named it after all!

One explanation for it’s name comes from a relationship it allegedly has with the honeyguide bird. It is said that the birds can find honey and not get into the hive, so they fly close to the honey badger, calling and inviting it to follow. The bird then leads the honey badger to the hive where it uses it’s sharp claws to break in, eat the larva and leave the honey for the honeyguide. However, there is no evidence of this and the honey badger is nocturnal where the honeyguide is diurnal…

Now, let’s get a bit more familiar with this creature. You probably don’t know much about the honey badger, beyond it’s reputation on the internet…

They are about 60-70cm long, about 25cm tall and weigh between 8 and 12kg and are quite stocky. They have a large skull, a muscular neck and tend to be part black, part grey or white. Strong front feet feature large claws and they have a strange skin feature; it’s thick and loose which means when a predator gets hold of them, they can squirm and twist and bite the attacker. The skin is so tough that it is impervious to arrows and spears and even tough enough to resist a machete. The honey badger has definitely mastered it’s armour and whilst the honey badger does need this extreme version, do you? Of course, we don’t walk round in chain metal but we all have emotional armoury.

In terms of how they sense the world, they have poor eyesight but a very powerful sense of smell. To be fair, they are nocturnal so would have to have really good eyesight to make it a useful sense.

They are solitary and generally only come together to mate. Once mated, the male goes on his way, leaving the female to raise the cubs. Cubs are born blind and hairless, staying in the den for the first few months of life. Every few days the mum moves the cubs to a new den, which feels like a defensive and protective action. At about three months old, they start to forage with their mum and will move burrow every night. At about a year, year and a half, they go their own way.

As already hinted at, they are nomadic, self reliant creatures, not relying on anyone and not getting attached to anywhere. Does this sound familiar? If it does, maybe it’s time to reflect on that a little.

They sleep in burrows and are able to dig tunnels in hard ground quickly with those sharp, large claws but will also appropriate them from other animals. Being able to dig quickly helps them find food as well, uprooting it from a supposedly safe space… They are foragers with a broad diet including eggs and chicks but a lot of their diet is venomous snakes, which they are immune to, giving it a good supply of food as most animals can’t eat them.

However, snake venom is complex and they don’t get away without some effect. It is this that earns them the name nature’s zombies. They attack the snake, and in doing so can get bitten leading to venom getting into the honey badger’s veins. The snake dies and so, it appears, does the honey badger but a couple of hours later they ‘come back to life’ and eat the snake.

If you’ve pulled the honey badger card, perhaps you should be asking yourself if something is worth it, do you want it enough to take the hit that comes with it?

An array of offensive and defensive weapons mean they don’t really have many predators. Their thick skin is hard to grasp, their sharp claws strike a painful blow and then there is their reversible anal pouch… When threatened they can push it out their anus and it emits a foul smell (they are related to skunks). The honey badger is not afraid to attack though and appears to take a fearless approach to facing opponents. Do you need to follow suit? Or are you creating battles when they aren’t needed? If you go into a situation ready to attack, then everything becomes a war. Perhaps this card has appeared to remind you that you don’t need to fight, or that you should ensure you are fighting for the right cause.

Their vulnerable points, the eyes, ears and tail are small which reduces the vulnerability. This is an animal that really sets it’s boundaries. This, combined with all their attack and defence options, makes me ask, what are they afraid to show? In terms of the tarot card or oracle card, what are you guarding or hiding from the world? There’s a huge difference between being appropriately private or cautious about sharing something, and being so private and closed off that it is you that is hurting yourself. Many of us wonder how people will react when we share a facet of ourselves but if the other person is not accepting of it, you learn something about that relationship.

Recently on an episode of Queer Eye, one of the presenters rephrased ‘coming out’ as ‘letting someone in’, do you need to do more work on letting people in?

As well as being physically well adapted for their life, honey badgers are highly intelligent. Their brain is comparatively large and they are ingenious problem solvers, using flexible thinking and tools to break into hen houses, and out of zoos. If there’s something they want, they will get it.

Having an attitude as being scrappy and tenacious is great for keeping predators at bay, except when those predators are humans who want the honey badger for use in traditional medicine. It is believed that their fearlessness and bravery will be transferred to the human. Another human made danger for honey badgers are traps as farmers and bee keepers try to protect their livelihoods, in fact conflict between beekeepers and honey badgers has been documented since the early 1800s (International Journal of Avian & Wildlife Biology).

Being well adapted and also adaptable means honey badgers can cope with a lot of uncomfortable situations but being able to cope with something doesn’t always mean you should. When negative things come into our lives gradually, we can turn around and find ourselves in terrible scenarios that we don’t have the keep coping with, think of the boiling frog metaphor

Sources

Thumbnail Nature; Winter

I recently attended a nature writing workshop with Amanda Tuke and Rebecca Gibson; Song of ice and footprints. I’ve attended a couple of Amanda’s workshops now and I love that they get me writing, right there and then.

As the name suggests, we were looking at winter! As the last exercise is about thumbnail nature writing (40 to 50 words), I came out of it with something short and hopefully consise…!

Between barcode poplars, rose gold sun showcases seedhead’s architecture, glimmers the spider woven lace and glints off frost licked grass.

Cold air bites flesh; a price must be paid to witness Winter’s magic. A test is always required to enter a fairytale forest.

New Networks for Nature

A few years ago the New Networks for Nature meeting was held in York which was an incredible opportunity and I really enjoyed the whole event.

This year it’s being held in Bath which isn’t quite as convienient but streaming tickets have now been made available! You can get them for Saturday or Sunday, or a combined ticket, through the Eventbrite page. Click on Tickets and scroll to the bottom of the list for the online ones.

You’ll then be able to access an exclusive live video and audio feed of the event in Bath. Note this is not an interactive attendance, so you will not be able to ask questions or comment live, but the social media around the event was very active when it was in York. If you do get involved in social media use #NatureMatters21 to join in.

Saturday will kick off with an exciting sounding panal about art and environmental awareness. Other Saturday panals include the topic of plastics, young people and climate activism and the future of natural-history tv.

Sunday includes discussion around Nature and Spirituality, nature, health and wellbeing and ecotourism.

A full programme is available for you to find out more about the different panals and the many great speakers.

Whilst my life has been taken over by fighting for basic disability access to York city centre, I am very much looking forward to having a weekend to think about nature instead!

Despite the gushing of love about the event, I haven’t been sponsored in anyway. I just really enjoyed it when it was in York and am very pleased to be able to attend virtually!

Untitled

Six year old girl, blonde hair, green eyes, hovers over a dead body. Her first dead body. There is no rule book for this situation, there was no picture book to tell her what to do or prepare her for this.

My sister, two years younger, had run away at the sight of the rusted fur but something tied me to the fox. Its body lay sprawled at the base of a horse chestnut tree. One of many that made up our wood; the envy of classmates who dreamt of tree houses and conkers.

Above, in the protective canopy, white and pink candles proudly declared Spring’s presence. I remember the man we found in our driveway staring at the waxy peach cones, amazed, full of questions about this abnormality. Questions we had no answers for, this was just how they grew, with their darker, smaller leaves and empty spiny shells that disappointed our friends. They had expected the rich smooth gift of a conker.

A glassy eye blinked. A muscle reaction I would later find out.

I stood watch over the body; chestnut tail, russet body, milky ruff and charcoal tipped ears.

There was no blood. The small creature lay seemingly as peaceful as a cat basking in the sun. It was not the fox I feared, it was not the death I feared, but I did fear leaving it alone. It felt wrong to witness death and walk away.

We buried it, my Dad and I, under a beech tree. Near the family pets but not so close that the fox would terrorise the guinea pigs, the chickens or the cats in the afterlife.

Thumbnail Nature

At a recent workshop with Amanda Tuke, I was introduced to the wonderful phrase Thumbnail Nature. Essentially, something about 50 words long that is nature themed!

A forest glade thick with honeyed sun beams. Bees lazily hum and bob on the breeze. A deer and her fawn rest softly amongst moss cushions…

NatureTM. Yours from £29.99 a month1.

Not actual footage.

1. Terms and conditions apply. 

Boxing Day Floods

One of the tasks from the Wild Words course I did was to write about flooding. In York, in 2015, there were awful floods which affected many people and areas that aren’t usually flooded. York does flood regularly but this was the worst I’ve seen in.

Boxing Day Floods, York

Source: York Flood Inquiry

December 2015
wettest month
since records began
Ouse and Foss catchment
saturated

Boxing Day:
unprecedented situation on the Foss

                       weekend Bank Holiday
                       middle of Christmas

challenge escalates

27th BT exchange
flooded

loss of landlines internet
mobile phones
no electronic communication
                        misinformation can take hold

four hundred and fifty three
residential properties
one hundred and seventy four
businesses
flooded

remarkable efforts
generosity community spirit
assistance offered quickly
unstintingly. Donations
                       local, national
                       international

spontaneous volunteers
‘unwavering response from responders’
praised for dedication and contribution

thirteen thousand sandbags
                       builders’ merchants very helpful
                       opened depots on request

voluntary sector:
                        evacuation-meals-shelter-warmth-assisting with clean up-warehousing and distributing donated goods-practical emotional recovery support

disruption
evacuated
no warning
upheaval
traumatic

‘Recovery from flooding does not simply end
when people move back into their homes.’

problems with insurance claims
managing builders
living in a state of disrepair

long-term issues identified:
                       respiratory problems made worse- mental health problems exacerbated-disruption to home-lost personal possessions-strain of moving in with family-strain of being separated from family-breakdown of relationships-financial pressures-lost ability to earn-went out of business

problems do not recede as quickly as water

York will flood again
an inevitability

‘York as a community would benefit from becoming more resilient
and better prepared for an emergency situation.’

QUIZ: Are you an ally to disabled people?

Unfortunately it doesn’t go without saying, but this is entirely tongue in cheek, it is not meant to be taken seriously.

  1. Do you know a disabled person? If yes, skip all other questions, you are clearly an ally to disabled people. You know one after all. Don’t worry if you don’t know them well, or haven’t discussed disability issues with them, it’s knowing one of them that matters.
  2. Have you ever spoken to a disabled person? This could be in the street, in a shop, when you attended a charity event, it doesn’t matter where, just that you spoke to one of them. Give yourself five points for each occasion, and you can double those points if you actually paid attention to what they were saying.
  3. Have you ever made a disabled person smile or laugh by joking about the speed of their wheelchair or how they’re too pretty to be disabled? Well, that’s essentially charity work right there! 10 points for each smile, 20 points for each laugh.
  4. Have you ever asked a disabled person to take a selfie with you so the world knows how inclusive and caring you are? 20 points per selfie
  5. Have you ever asked a disabled person what was wrong with them and then been able to offer advice on a cure? It could be that a juice diet was the way forward to get them back on their feet, or perhaps prayer could help them see again. Whatever the method, telling someone how they can get out of their miserable, pityful, hell of an existance makes you an ally. Heck, it makes you more than an ally, it makes you a healer of disability – get out there and spread your message!

Obviously there are other ways to become an ally, but they require a bit more effort.

If you scored:

  • 50+ Congratulations, you are a certified ally! Pat yourself on the back and get back to your life, no need to think about disabled people any more. Phew!
  • 30-50 Excellent progress. Sure, you’re not quite there but you are well on your way! Just one more selfie or a couple more smiles and you can claim your status as an ally.
  • Under 30 Could do better… If you want to call yourself an ally, you’re going to have to put in a bit more effort… But it’ll be worth it. Not only will you look good to others, once you’ve done the work and got the status, you’ll never have to look at a disabled person again. Now that’s some great motivation right there!