tribute to Marsha P Johnson .

This piece was written and published in June to best mark Pride Month.

Marsha ‘Pay it no mind’ Johnson was born on the year that WWII ended, 1945, in New Jersey. She was a Black revolutionary and drag artist who moved to Greenwich Village during early adulthood (where Audre Lorde and Sylvia Rivera also lived), in the city that enabled her to become involved with LGBTQ+ activism at a time when homosexuality was criminalised. This was reflected in her name choice; a direct response to mainstream hatred by fellow New Yorkers.

As Marsha turned 23, the New York Police Department (NYPD) raided the Stonewall Inn (a popular gay bar), forcing hundreds of innocent people onto the streets where they were subject to unprovoked police brutality. This event served as a major catalyst for protests orchestrated by trans people of colour to take place in defiance of systemic hatred, whereby, improved rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and minority ethnic groups were demanded. Moreover, organisations such as the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) were formed to protect the wellbeing of those marginalised, this one by Marsha and Sylvia, signalling a cultural change in New York.

It is evident that Marsha spent her life dedicated to supporting others alongside fellow activists of colour, ensuring that generations born after the American boomers could live their lives relatively free from oppression. Alongside her focus on homeless minorities (STAR), Marsha also advocated for those living with HIV and AIDS in opposition to media backlash and societal moral panics. This led to her gaining the nickname of the Saint of Christopher Street (the address of the Stonewall Inn) as a well-known and loved pioneer of social change.

However, at the age of 46, Marsha went missing for six days and was found dead by police. Though they ruled out murder, Marsha’s loved ones heavily disagreed with the verdict, arguing that she was likely attacked in the street as an LGBTQ+ person of colour, an event common at the time. Moreover, the failings of the NYPD were compounded by their reluctance to admit fault. In fact, it was not until 2019 that the NYPD head issued a public apology for their actions, something spearheaded by Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the modern world.

Hence, the lives of Marsha P Johnson (and fellow LGBTQ+ activists of colour) illustrate how, though rainbow capitalism prevents a sunny picture today, institutional racism and homophobia persist and continue to be reproduced. Elements of which are highlighted by protesters but unacknowledged by wider society.

barbies, builders & beyond . gender socialisation

Feature image is of me three years apart!

Gender socialisation is an ongoing process of social norm and value internalisation. In the West, this is typically based on individual assigned gender (determined at or prior to birth) that drives social behaviour, though it is critical to remember how biology affects the outcome, for instance, physiologically. Fundamentally, gender draws upon multiple influences, social and biological, that all play some role in development. And with knowledge around areas such as epigenetics growing each day, nothing can be discounted yet.

There has been a dominance in nurture theories in the contemporary world that cannot be ignored, however, with much sociological research centred around primary and secondary socialisation. For instance, effects on children and adults who fail to conform to stereotypes vary widely, though many still report ostracisation as the West has a wholly-binary mindset that fails to adequately encapsulate those residing beyond. In the modern-day, few countries legally recognise non-binary identities (I use this as an umbrella term as there are numerous forms of gender non-conformity), with the Netherlands and Canada being rare exceptions of countries that do. In the context of passports, anyway.

I talk about the system of gender socialisation as, coined in the mid-1900s, its archaic mindset lies stark. Though somewhat relevant to the realities of child development, its binary mindset lets it down. By reducing experience down to what toys, treatment and clothing colour is presented in early years, it highlights a dangerous implication; one that suggests those with conventional childhoods are fundamentally gender-congruent while the inverse betray the natural order of things. Hence, discourse around gender deviance, transvest*tism and abnormality lingered well into the twenty-first century. Whether it intended to or not, classical Functionalist socialisation theory reproduced the idea that there is a conventional way of doing things, and an abnormal. Which is inherently bigoted.

We know that conformity (and non-conformity) drive mental health as individual experience is shaped across one’s life. No wonder then does black-and-white ideology generate such rifts. Though there’s controversy in the exact age, the life expectancy of trans and non-binary folk is, nonetheless, decades less than those who are cisgender, amplified if also a person of colour. They are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness, unemployment, poverty, rape and suicidal inclination too. Which makes ideologies against the idea of fluidity and holistic gender all the more toxic.

intersectionality .

A concept that most of society’s woke have come across, intersectionality is the relationship between two or more characteristics whereby, at the points where they meet, the effects of marginalisation are compounded. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality was first applied to the ethnicity-gender intersection as an academic critique of (white) liberal feminism, though it has since been applied to areas such as sexuality, disability and class, successfully emphasising the historical tendency of treating categories of inequality as one-dimensional entities.

Crenshaw recognised how the ever-growing field of identity politics fell into this same trap, thus, defined two sub-categories of intersectionality:

Firstly, political intersectionality argues that one’s subordinated group status directly influences which political agendas target them, meaning that, with limited energy to fight multiple forces, one group is focused upon at the expense of others. For instance, in a social experiment, Crenshaw discovered that Black women are less recognised than Black men in relation to murders by American police, highlighting the overlap between racism and sexism (injustice²).

Secondly, structural intersectionality relates to the way conditions in society, for instance, popularism encouraging the election of Republican Donald Trump in 2016, can worsen situations for oppressed people, accumulating to generate far-reaching effects. However, as Collins noted, people experience the world differently as liable to have privilege in some areas and not in others.

Meanwhile, Lorde discussed intersectionality as a Black lesbian in 1950s New York. Growing up around other women of colour, she used her (relative) class privilege to support those oppressed by apartheid in South Africa, developed communication with other Black lesbians and shared her strength with others following a mastectomy. Lorde discussed ideas around survival, safe spaces and Blackness in a society that deeply lacked understanding and shunned her existence, offering to many a role model, inspiration and source of representation.

So, information around intersectionality is now pervasive in activism, academia and literature. And so it should be when its significance is greater than ever. We live in a time where police brutality towards people of colour is strong, education is still heavily colonised and gender relations a cesspit of conflict. One that could improve or get worse depending on how we respond to it.

asexuality .

A topic that has remained wholly invisible to society, historic and modern.

Though part of the extended acronym LGBTQIA+, this and intersex identity have often taken a sideline in discourse. One that, in the case of asexuality, is often muddled with aromanticism. Though both asexuality and aromanticism exist as spectrums, they exist independent of one another, emphasising the breadth of experience between individuals similar on a surface level.

For many, sexual drive and romance exist side-by-side when part of a non-casual relationship, but for others, that is a gross simplification to a complex state of mind.

For instance, one thing worth thought about is the conception that sexual and romantic drives are affected by nurture factors. This is something wholly overlooked, with emphasis from the medical field in favour of the biological cause. This may indeed be the case for some, for instance, those consistently content with a life without sex and/or romantic relations. However, for others, external factors continually shift and revolve around them.

And at this point, I can draw upon personal experience. Like many undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and/or anti-depressant medication, my sex drive has drastically adapted to changes within the endocrine system. For example, my sex drive has extensively declined in the past six-or-so years, all of which by anti-depressants and three by a cocktail of oestrogen, anti-androgynes and progesterone. Albeit an essential cocktail for my wellbeing, these have nevertheless influenced me in re-assessing my sexuality. One that I am still uncertain of.

I was never especially interested in sex or pornography as an adolescent. I was sexually active from an average age, sure, but only out of a desire to follow social convention and respond to my then-partner’s desire. How much of that was a result of a strict Christian upbringing under the guise of being a cisgender man, I don’t know, but I was nonetheless socially awkward about the whole idea of performing masculinity in the bedroom. Which does beg the question of what extent nurture plays in the theatre of sex. In that, despite having transitioned, my lack of sex-thusiasm persists. I hope that you enjoy the pun.

Asexuality is something which a surprisingly high number question in themselves at some point in their lives, cis and trans alike. Some remain unresolved but many identify as such for the long-term. And why shouldn’t they if the conception applies well to their life and personal situation? Not everyone likes sex or romantic relations for themselves, and that’s okay. Individuals are inherently individual.

drag . a herstory

From Gottmik to Kim Chi, Bimini to Yvie, modern drag has been monumental in shaping both cishet and queer lives. But where did drag stem from? Shakespeare, obviously.

At a time of witches and tulle, the Globe reproduced early manifestations of drag. With theatres governed by the influence of the Church, patriarchy was rife. And as the stage was a male-only zone, female roles in plays were occupied by cross-dressing men. Incidentally, the term drag references how dresses worn by men would drag along the floor. Characterised by the creation of a persona. Exaggeration.

From this emerged Drag Kings, a less discussed but ever-present counterpart. These were women who dressed as men and performed in London’s scene. Their under-acknowledgement a product of reverse-patriarchy. After all, public attention is liable to scrutinise exaggerated femininity, not the other way around.

With homosexuality criminal in much of the West prior to the 1970s, drag served to enable deviance, with individuality developing over time to reinforce flamboyancy and competition. Public astonishment to staged gender reveals transitioned into reactionary climates against lesbian, gay and trans folk alike, some of these drag artists, that catalysed riots, persecution and further criminalisation of those living their lives. Not forgetting that drag queens of colour were disproportionally affected by these implications, for instance, Marsha P Johnson, as within intersections of prejudice. All this simultaneous to New York Drag Balls (where drag artists competed), the development of drag families and the Gay Liberation Front. An era of intense social change that ended in mass policy and legislative changes.

So now we reach the present day. RuPaul. Drag bars across the globe. International competition. Drag artists within the precariat, where some rise to untold fame and riches and others float. A highly saturated market of talent, that thanks to capitalism, benefits a thin minority, whether performers based in present-day London, San Francisco or Bangkok. Capitalism enables some and hinders the rest.

With the mainstream generating pages of terminology that appears on the Twitter trending tab each day a new episode of Drag Race airs, bystanders are quick to throw shade, comment on whose runway has the most realness or watch the artists spill tea on the screen. I should know, discussing each week’s runway looks with my best friend over Snapchat. For some, drag provides entertainment and a distraction from reality. For others, fashion inspiration or queer role models. Me, I root for the trans drag artists on each season. And those who appear as authentically nice people. Not the arrogant ones, then.

Which begs some distinctions to be established. Some artists are look queens and others comedy, with the most successful often those who can utilise both. Moreover, while white, gay men dominate the drag mainstream, people of colour exist too. As do trans and non-binary folk. Bringing me to the next topic of discussion.

Conceptual drag. An art form that I adore, and one that is often practiced by non-binary folk. One example that is strong in my mind was from one of the later series of American drag race, where Yvie Oddly walked the walk as a bacterium. One of the most memorable looks since the show began fifteen-or-so years ago. I love the experimental, dynamic nature of conceptual drag. The way that styles morph, shift and contract with one another. Similar to the way that gender can be subverted and transformed.

One last thing. Drag is futuristic yet timeless, yes, but will it thrive in years to come? A breach from cis- and heteronormativity in many countries remains illegal. Historic laws imposed by colonialists on the global south persevere today and are likely to remain for a while yet. And though some parts of the globe can freely express themselves through drag, others could be sentenced to death for it. Progress can be reversed with a signature, so it is critical to advocate for freedom of expression regardless of which country you reside in. While we can.

intercourse beyond the binary .

Please avoid reading this article if you are under eighteen.

Sex, regardless of your gender, is complicated. Messy and mediocre or just straight-up amazing. But for folx that don’t fit within the traditional male-female binary, additional obstacles exist.

For instance, in addition to dysphoria (in some but not all cases) and performance anxiety, people outside the binary often face misunderstanding and/or stigmatisation from others. Out of those who accept binary trans folk, some fail to understand non-binary identities, creating further issues for this group.

Having been raised in a society that perpetuates gender stereotype and binary in almost all of its elements, many fail to comprehend the truth of the matter; that non-binary folk exist and deserve as much acceptance and recognition as any other gender. Not to mention that agender folk deserve to be socially and legally recognised as being genderless, too, rather than being forced into tight, segregated boxes of normative expression.

Turning to intercourse, then. As an advocate of sex positivity, an avid listener of non-binary friendly podcasts such as ‘f*cks given’ and an appreciator of beauty in all its forms, I welcome the right for all people to explore their bodies as they see fit and have relations with those of legal age. Sixteen, anyway, as I question why the age of consent is so terrifyingly low in other countries, for instance, Spain (13 prior to 2013) as it raises so much opportunity for child exploitation and sexual abuse.

Many misconceptions exist around queer sex, especially in relation to non-binary folk. I for one had no idea how lesbian sex worked until I was seventeen or so. Ironically too as someone who is LGBTQ+. However, the explosion of resources, toys and discussion around these areas, online and in-person, offers those seeking an explanation or information perspective from people of similar backgrounds and/or identities, providing them solidarity.

Moreover, the multi-faceted and dynamic nature of humans emphasises how the diversity of options in sex is nothing short of rational. Like how some sex toys suit some people but not others, the same applies to intercourse (or lack thereof). It’s okay to avoid conforming to the normative if that suits you.

Hence, one does not need to discount, submerge or sacrifice their gender to be sexual, and shouldn’t have to either. Though gender performance in sex to some is important, it is unessential for others. And by debunking the idea that there are only two fixed identities, human experience can be embraced in its most authentic form.

birthdays . a trans perspective

A day that can mean so much, or little, to different people. The passing of time, being one year older, can seem pretty neat when you’re young. Assuming past birthdays have been pleasant for you, anyway. The gifts, attention, time with friends and family, new memories. Or, for those with a darker memory of childhood, a site of trauma. Being trans can make them problematic, too. And as it so happens, this post comes out on mine.

My experience of birthdays was mixed. Being a trans person from a working-class background with a mother who tries her best has been mostly positive, though with challenges. I was never acutely aware of others’ financial privilege at the time, and as someone who was closeted, my childhood birthdays were fairly positive. I subconsciously opted for gender-neutral presents, with a few exceptions. A few barbies and plenty of LEGO across the early years. As someone not stereotypically boyish or sporty, I avoided football and guns.

As my identity mentally solidified into something I could begin to verbalise, birthdays became harder to process. A site of demonstration where every card or gift appeared to have a masculine edge; the imposition of malestream colours, deadnames and values. The introduction of suits, off-brand lynx & heteronormative relationships. The untaught realm of sex. Lots of confusion areas.

And like many trans folk, as a bid to understand who I was, I jumped into sex and dating reasonably early, ignoring the gender bits as much as possible, wondering if it was just part of being bi. Alas, I soon discovered unbridgeable differences between myself and cis, bisexual men.

So, where does that leave my birthday? A constant reminder of gender misassignment at birth? Of years that had passed where I was not authentically me

But what if I can re-create that? Yes, my legal birthday will always exist in some contexts. But that doesn’t have to be the one I automatically celebrate with loved ones.

How does one choose a new date? For me, it was the date that my first deed poll, when I legally became Megan, was certified by the court in those days before knowing a deed poll could be made without the faff of solicitors and HMCTS. February 28th. A day that brings me happiness as the birthday of, well, me.

So, my birthdays since, despite the minor annoyance of being a year older, have been lovely.

tribute to SOPHIE .

SEP  1986 – JAN 2021

A queer icon, visionary and liberator, Sophie Xeon continues to inspire many. 

Glasgow-born, Sophie was so much more than a trans token in a cisgender-dominant industry. Instead, Sophie’s words continue to encourage queer folk to leave the closet, embrace authentic selves and pursue creative work to shine more light into the world. 

Someone who actively opposed sexism, transphobia and enslavement in all forms. Someone who challenged everything we know about gender through re-invention, distortion and rebellion.

Following Sophie’s death, numerous people spoke out with messages of love, hope and profound authenticity. And I along with them wish Sophie’s loved ones my condolences though with a reminder that legacy lives on.

transphobia & trauma .

Disclaimer: This is a sequel to an older post (, so it’s worth reading that one first if you haven’t already! Content warning-wise, this article has similar themes based on my experiences, so please don’t continue reading if you feel uncomfortable with those, which is valid!

In my autobiographical piece I went into a lot of detail about transphobia within a specific six-month period at a certain sixth form. It goes beyond that, though. Beyond the confines of the school is the rest of the world and plenty of it is dangerous to trans folk. 

Whether its antagonistic, armed gang members by the canal basin I used to pass every week to get to the local LGBT group, or someone in a passing car, or a dodgy bloke at a bus stop who tries to grope you. One time its verbal abuse and the next a stranger is approaching you with a knife. Or a paedophile on a quiet train. Date-rape. Spiking. Manipulative relationships. Sexual assault. All things verbal, emotional, physical and technological. Close friends, partners or strangers.

Experiences that hurt. On my self-esteem, on my dysphoria, on my mental health. Experiences that, in combination to transphobia in education, and indeed, toxic relationships, have shaped trauma and influence how EUPD (though you may know it as Borderline Personality Disorder) affects my future ability to form healthy relationships. Experiences that have affected my relationship to gambling, drugs and eating behaviours. 

Thankfully, lots of that is in the past. Art therapy especially has been beneficial to processing events. Talking, too. But there’s still the constant reminders, painful flashbacks and mental scarring. The anxiety within sex, relationships and public spaces. The persistent, unhealthy coping mechanisms. The challenge of trying to cut out smoking and drinking entirely. Avoiding certain social media platforms and dating sites. 

I don’t need to spout statistics though. We know that transphobia is an issue in the modern world. The BBC may have stopped t-slurring in their programmes, but hate crime is still on the rise year-on-year. Plus, though trauma disproportionally affects trans folx more than those cisgender, it’s still something that can affect everyone. We can’t control the experiences we have in the future. No one is immune, and that’s pretty scary. But at least we can talk about them.

polyamory .

When I think about polyamory, it brings me back to one of my old classes, three years ago, when I was taught about how the (post) modern family is ‘fluid, dynamic and unresolved’. I don’t know why, but those last three adjectives really stuck with me.

They seem to describe polyamory just as well as they do the modern family. The neo-relationsh1p. The biggest sexual revolution since the Stonewall Riots. The gen-Z (or millennial), polyam Twitter user of the 2020s. And I’m one of them. A nineties kid from the colonial west; wannabe full-time blogger; possibly polyamorous?

Polyamory as an entire subject is so broad. Personally, I have no idea what part of it I fit into. I’m in a poly-mono relationship, my partner being the monogamous-ish one, but both of us as ‘open’. I’m engaged to them, too. I love them. They are physically separate to my ongoing connection to other sexual partners, poly and mono alike. We’re no polycule or triad. I haven’t been in one of those in nearly a year. They do get complicated, after all.

It may be the safest time in human history to be polyamorous in the west, but it’s hardly under legal protection. Unlike being a woman, LGBTQ+ or a person of colour, there isn’t a sub-category on the modern Equality Act for polyamorous folk to be legally protected from discrimination in the workplace or child custody court. Not that people of ethnic minorities don’t experience discrimination anyway. Or queer folx. Or women. But legal protection is always nice.

Polyamory is as ‘pro-choice’ as most relationships get. Unlike monogamy, its definition explicitly centres around consent. Otherwise, it’s not polyamory. And that’s pretty beautiful. That doesn’t mean that it can’t have ethical issues, though.

Hierarchy-based polyamorous relationships are tricky to navigate, especially in the context of a pre-established couple and a ‘third’. Feelings get complicated. Attachments develop. People can be harmed. Egalitarian polyamory addresses this issue to an extent; but can the bond ever be equal? Measuring ‘closeness’ or ‘love’ is impossible. It’s incomparable but true egalitarianism is hard to come by.

Sexual jealousy is something to consider too. A feeling that, to some extent, is natural in all relationships. But it can definitely be awkward to navigate when more individuals with unique feelings are added into the mix. Ignoring the monogamy model is healthy for a lot of couples, but it isn’t easy when they have to face social disapproval, ignorance and assumptions from a world that, for the most part, doesn’t agree with ‘their way of life’. Also, it sucks that there is a lack of polyamorous role models beyond the ‘TV drama’ genre. It’s improving, but progress is slow. 

A subject not really discussed beyond a niche circle of Gen-Z’ers and millennials, there’s the kink assumption held by anyone and everyone outside the group. Well, most people. That polyamory and open relationships are a sexual ‘cesspit’ for BDSM, chem parties, sexual jealousy and STIs.

Conveniently they forget that sexual jealousy at a base level is natural, with it existing in monogamous relationships too. That modern sexual health clinics and online resources allow the 2020 couple agency to make their own, well-informed decisions about their sex lives. That polyamorous people and open relationship-ers alike can be ‘cishet’ or asexual. That, alike monogamous and closed relationships, both love and lust can exist there.

What makes a relationship ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ isn’t whether or not its polyamorous. If anything, polyamory has the advantage of individual power-matching. Introducing more people to a relationship generally promotes egalitarian decision-making whilst reducing domestic violence risk.

At the end of the day, you are you, so you do you. Whether polyam or mono.

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