Lesbian Folk and Bad Apples

Grace Petrie is a folk singer who has worked her way up from working the pub  scene to some of the top festivals in the UK. I met Grace Petrie several years ago when I was working at a festival. She was warm, funny and kind.

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Grace Petrie’s music is very much protest song. She sings a couple of non-protest songs such as Northbound (about travelling on the motorway). When Grace has her full band, the sound is something fantastic. Petrie is a good musician who can write a catchy tune and have you humming said catchy tune for days. Black Tie is the biggest earworm offender!

The track Emily Davison Blues is cleverly written. “If all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put this country back together again…”  Emily Wilding Davison was one of the most famous suffragettes in the UK. She died after throwing herself in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913, drawing worldwide attention to the issue of women having the right to vote.

My problem is the lyrics of Petrie’s songs. I was a frontline worker for 20 years. I know that Petrie does not have any experience in frontline work and her songs are basically the heavily biased bleatings of The Guardian put to music. I found this very frustrating. When I saw Petrie live, the band sounded amazing. The lyrics of each song were inaccurate to say the least.

Most of Petrie’s songs mention LGBT issues or are solely about LGBT issues. However, Petrie’s interpretation of these issues is hard left. Listening to her lyrics (“looking down the barrel of a gun”, “year eleven hell”) you would think that Petrie is a citizen of Afghanistan, not the most liberal country in the world, England. Yes, the UK is not perfect, it definitely is not. Yet Petrie speaks and sings as though she currently has a terribly persecuted life. She is a big name on the folk scene. The folk scene is firmly on the left and has several prominent performers who are butch lesbians. A lot of the straight women on the folk scene are butch. The festival I first saw Petrie at last summer was headlined by Chris While and Julie Matthews and their friends – two butch lesbians and more lesbians. Yet Petrie was complaining about how tough it is to be a woman who wears masculine clothes.

I wear both masculine and feminine clothes and most people don’t even think about it. Some do, but most don’t because what is deemed “masculine” is what a lot of working class women from all backgrounds wear. I am from the generation above Petrie, and we really did suffer – and many LGBT in normal, regular jobs still do suffer. Petrie – self employed on the folk scene and Gen Y – seems to repeat rhetoric rather than real life, “lived” experiences.

The line from Black Tie, “And the images that fucked you were a patriarchal structure” is a line Petrie declares she is proud of. Two years ago, it was found that 53% online misogynistic comments were made by women. Most men really don’t care if a woman is butch or feminine or anywhere in between. The people who uphold the stereotype of what women “should” look like are women and a proportion of gay men.

What also does not help Petrie’s likeability as a musician is that she introduces herself with a list of labels: “I’m a socialist, communist, lesbian…” This really does put people off her, unless they are hard leftists like a woman in the audience at the festival who said to her boyfriend, “She’s gay. I don’t know what her name is. This is what my course is all about!” She ignored the gay woman sat next to her (me) and got up and asked a straight person Petrie’s name.

Despite me being an ardent folkie, I also LOVE quality rap. I’m definitely not talking about Stormzy or Eminem. Last year, I fell head over heels with tracks laid down by Indigenous Australian rapper Briggs. I first heard of Briggs because he and Dr Gurrumul did the theme tune for the amazing Aboriginal sci fi drama Cleverman. Briggs said with him rapping and Gurrumul singing in his language, they were mixing modern Black music with traditional music. From watching that interview, I looked up Briggs on youtube, and he’s been firmly on my playlist since.

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Like Petrie, Briggs focuses on his group, indigenous Australians. However, unlike Petrie, Briggs does not blame the government and everyone else for indigenous people’s failings. In the track Bad Apples, he says, “They weren’t raised wrong, they weren’t raised at all. Where are their mothers huh? Where are their fathers huh?” Unlike Petrie, Briggs brings out my compassion. He says, “They call them good for nothing, I call them cousin. I call them brother and sister, I still love them.” The video shows Briggs sitting down with indigenous people and providing good apples for them to eat instead of the bad apples that lie rotting on the ground. As a former frontline worker, Briggs’ words make me ask myself what I can do for people in need. His words connect with my heart. Petrie’s words bounce off my brain and just annoy me.

As a teenager and young adult, as a gay person dealing with the regular threats and attacks in the street and hassle at work, I listened to Arrested Development. Arrested Development were a rap outfit from the Deep South who promoted education, hard work, religion and a good attitude, and they got out of rap when gangster rap emerged. They wanted nothing to do with the connotations that gangster rap brought. Twenty years later in Australia, Briggs and his friends have picked up the socially responsible rap baton and run with it.

The Hunt is about making the right choices. The video shows a young indigenous man walking away from gangs offering him drink and substance and rising above his situation. Gurrumul also sings on this track. The track Sheplife is a comedy track whose lyrics and video make fun of gangster rap as well as stereotypical behaviours: “hectic domestics out in the public view, does it look like I’m talking to you?!” and “your little sister’s got a bun in the oven. The baker that put it there is rocking your mother.” The video subverts gangster rap videos by making fun as well as the friendly gathering at the end showing people laughing and joking and writing messages for their family on the fridge.

Locked Up features an indigenous young women’s choir and Briggs giving the facts on the extremely high percentage of indigenous youth who are incarcerated in Australian prisons, along with the facts given by an official’s recorded speech. Above all, this is a banging choon.

That is the thing; Briggs makes banging choons. He has done a good critique of the Australian national anthem (I’m with him on the word “girt”). On a TV show, Briggs said of the national anthem, “It’s just not a good song.” All of Briggs’ tracks are fantastically put together, both in terms of music and lyrics. The videos clearly represent the songs. Briggs knows indigenous cultural history (he speaks the Yorta Yorta’s indigenous language and knows the cultural geography of indigenous peoples), Australian history, rap music and he is very, very funny. He makes fun of himself, he pokes fun at stereotypes of working class indigenous people, he makes fun of rap music and he is enjoyable to listen to and watch.

Unlike Petrie, Briggs really does exude pride in his group. Petrie has written a song called Pride, but all I hear in Petrie’s songs is a badly thought out intellectualisation of LGBT people and issues. Briggs’ music is bursting with pride and love. The track Here, which was the official track of the National Football League, Briggs raps the same words that are understood on two levels; pride in being indigenous and pride in football. The chorus is “When they ask me where I’m from I say “Here”, when they ask me where I belong I say “Here”, when they ask me where I’m going I say “Here”, when they ask me what I’m dreaming of I say “Here! You’ll never forget who we are!”

The first Briggs track I heard and watched on youtube was The Children Came Back which features singer-songwriter Dwayne EverettSmith and Gurrumul.

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It combines three types of indigenous music which is pure genius. Again, the pride exudes as Briggs raps about his family members and indigenous history and says, “a man should be applauded when he stands up.” While Petrie’s lyrics finger wag and berate, Briggs stirs an aspirational spirit in anyone who listens to his tracks.

I also like the way that Briggs combines traditional music with rap and shows indigenous people of all skin shades and hair types, from the blond boy with straight hair to the dark brown teenage boy with afro-like hair in the Bad Apples video. I don’t like the way Petrie puts across the view that there’s only one way to be gay, which is to be a paid up Guardian reader who has no questions over trans ideology. Petrie has come under fire for saying she as a lesbian has had no problems with transwomen, which is not the story for many lesbians who have been aggressively told by a small number of people claiming to be transwomen that they must be attracted to them and have sex with their “lady dick” or the lesbians are transphobic. Unfortunately, this does happen and Petrie’s lack of acknowledgement and empathy for other lesbians who have other experiences – or even other views – to her does not win her fans.

Right now, I find Petrie to be a one-trick pony. She is in good company because although I admire Akala and Benjamin Zephaniah, I think they are one-trick ponies. They are incredibly intelligent men, but by making race their main domain, they do not see the whole picture. For example Akala puts down the disproportionate numbers of young Black men in the criminal justice system down to institutional racism purely rather than considering (like Trevor Phillips has) that some racial groups disproportionately commit different crimes. Akala blames everyone but the incarcerated young Black men who are always gang members. While Briggs does focus on indigenous issues, he does widen out his concerns, and he also states that indigenous people are to blame for some of their own problems, and he both criticises indigenous people and inspires them to lift themselves up.

I first came to folk music through the Levellers. The Levellers do protest songs, yes, but they also do songs about love, friendship, travelling, having fun and living the best life one can. Three members of the Levellers have mental health issues, three come from a the military, and while the Levellers support our troops and sing about the tragedy of war and the devastation it leaves in people’s lives, it is not all they do. I love singing and dancing and parting to the Levellers’ music. As a gay person, I find myself “represented” by the Levellers’ music, as do people from many different situations in life, even though none of the Levellers are LGBT and don’t sing expressly about LGBT people or issues. The same with other bands I love such as Ferocious Dog, Mad Dog McRea, 3 Daft Monkeys, Dreadzone and Afro-Celt Sound System. I find my life represented by their music, and by Briggs’ music, which I don’t find with Grace Petrie’s music.

On paper, I should be on Grace Petrie’s team music wise: I am a gay woman who is very into folk music. However, if it is a toss up between the music of Grace Petrie and Briggs, I am on Briggs’ team. Above everything, I find Petrie’s lyrics stressy and my life has enough stress, whereas Briggs’ lyrics connect with my heart, lift me up and make me laugh.

Petrie is in her first ten years of making music. She is a good hearted person and I believe she has a big future ahead of her. For now, I won’t be buying any of her albums. For now, Briggs remains on my playlist.

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What Is Drag?

Today, I want to look at the history of drag and why guys today (and some women) still do drag. I think there are much wider implications for gay men especially than just putting on some slap.

About one month ago, the Olympian Sharon Davies got into a bit of trouble on Twitter for saying drag is like blackface. Sharon Davies did a lot of anti-racist campaigning in the 90s at the height of her powers, so let’s bear that in mind. However, I do not think blackface and drag are the same things. From the very little I know of blackface, I can see the parallels and why Davies made her comment – the dumbing down of culture and the freakish appearance but I do not know enough about blackface to make any further comment.

So what is drag? The term “drag” comes from the 16th century when women were not allowed to perform on a stage, so Shakespeare plays had an all-male cast. The dresses the men wore were long and dragged across the floor. Hence the term “drag”.

During the Victorian era, women performing as men on stages for entertainment was widespread. This is part of the background of Sarah Water’s novel Tipping The Velvet. Fast forward to the late 20th century to the ball culture that we see in Pose where male drag was celebrated alongside Black gay men’s and transsexual women’s performances. It was seen as an outlet when the outside world was tough to live in.

Why do (mostly gay) men still do drag? Well, there are a multitude of reasons, but I will focus on three.

1) Finance. Get up on stage in a wig, make up and dress and lip synch to disco diva tracks and get paid. I’d do it!

2) All Eyes On Me. Drag is a way people – especially gay men – can be as visible as they like and either accentuate parts of their own personality or create a persona. It makes the man feel confident, which he may not be in his normal life. While he is on stage, he is boss. Often the drag queen or queens have total control of the room. I can see why that could be attractive to many people.

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3) Badge Of Honour. Drag comes at a cost. There is the financial cost of the wig, make up, dresses and duct tape. Then there is the social cost.

Gay men who perform in drag say that they are rejected by other gay men as possible partners because of their effeminacy. I would like to counter this with what I know about the average gay man. The average gay man is a normal man. He has standards and wants to be respected. Having a partner who says the most lewd things and behaves in a hypersexualised way is not conducive with having standards and being respected by others. I have known many effeminate men, some of whom are top surgeons in London and Dublin, or psychologists, addiction workers and probation officers. They are effeminate and they are respected. Why? Because of how they behave. Behaviour affects the way most people treat you. If you behave in a respectful way, most people will behave in a respectful way towards you. Hence I think men who do drag are mistaken. I do not think they are rejected because they are effeminate men. I think they are rejected because of the disgusting stuff they say and do on stage.

Why do men do drag if they know it is something that either causes them to be rejected or is part of the reason why they are rejected by other gay men? There is a big emphasis among LGBT people of being victims of persecution. While this is true in many cases, some LGBT people like to wallow in self pity. We see the same with some women’s rights campaigners. Poor persecuted women in England who can’t get their husband to push the hoover around so they take to social media to say how misogynistic the UK is.

The drama Cucumber touched on this. At the funeral of Lance, the characters talked about whose life was the most “tragic” and they competed for tragedy points. The American version of Queer As Folk also brought up the subject of conversion parties. Conversion parties was a trend in America about ten years ago where young gay men would have unprotected sex with a number of HIV positive men so that they too would test positive. Why? For the badge of honour as the suffering gay man.

Is there a wider cost of drag? I believe so. I grew up in Blackpool and went back to live there with my family when I was quite ill. Funny Girls – the drag venue – had moved house to a bigger and glitzier home. I went once. As someone who did tap dancing until my neuro condition said “no”, I can say the quality of the tap dancing was really high. I was really surprised by that. However, not every night was tap dancing night. As many LGBT people said about Funny Girls, “It’s where straight people go to laugh at gay people.” An older bisexual man I knew said Funny Girls was the modern equivalent to the tours given around the old Bedlam Hospital where visitors would knock the bars of the cells and upset the mentally ill patients for fun.

Funny Girls was full of drunken people on stag and hen do’s, whose behaviour was not the most tolerant of LGBT people. LGBT people avoided Funny Girls.

Now we have a drag show on UK tele. On the BBC no less. A programme full of swearing, lewd comments and over the top sexual behaviour. I saw on Twitter one person saying they had learnt so much about LGBT people from watching this programme. Noooooooooooo!!!

The vast majority of us hate this sort of thing. We do not want to be “represented” by it. Drag puts gay men off gay men. I have no doubt drag puts straight people off gay men and LGBT people in general. Yes, there are straight women who fawn over drag queens, and it is nauseating to watch, as I did when I was working at an event in October. It is nauseating because of how patronising the comments are, and how they are all surface deep.

Mainstream drag is all about appearance and outrageous behaviour. It masks the pain some people are feeling. It leaves those people in pain and constantly yearning for affirmation. We need to ask ourselves if drag as the mainstream knows it should carry on or if we should drop something that is so costly to so many men.

It is time to ask what is drag?

 

 

 

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Drag Me To Love

I’ve never liked drag. Never. I think it’s absolutely appalling.

However, in the spirit of being open minded and ready to change my mind, and with RuPaul’s Drag Race coming to the UK, I took the plunge, went onto BBC iPlayer and pressed Play.

Within the first five minutes I heard several F words, along with other pleasantries such as “minge”, “twat”, “shag”, “fingered”, “head”, “total slag”, “pussy”, “I’m easy” and the contestants calling each other “bitch”.

I fast forwarded and heard more vulgarity. I fast forwarded again and heard yet more vulgarity. I gave up. RuPaul’s Drag Race UK reinforced my opinion that standard drag is crude, lewd and an utter embarrassment.

A recent survey of young people in the UK found they have less tolerance for LGBT people than other generations. The same survey also found that parents of heterosexual teens did not want their offspring knocking around with LGBT classmates.

This is something LGBT people need to wake up to. The behaviour of the most vocal and visible has an outcome. All those calling JK Rowling a TERF and trying to get her “cancelled”, all those who violently protest women’s meetings – and lesbian meetings – in the name of trans and LGBT rights are causing hatred to rise against us. I also think shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race show LGBT people in a negative light. If all straight people see of gay men is them using hypersexualised language and behaving hypersexually and calling each “bitch”, then of course no mother will want her son to be friends with gay boys. Of course.

I want to talk about alternative drag. I want to talk about someone called Jamie from the north east of England whose drag act is Jamie going through the headlines in mainstream media news. Jamie uses comedy rants à la Rhod Gilbert and their own flair to make several good points. Really entertaining and poignant stuff.

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Another act I’ve seen is Bonnie and the Bonnettes. I met B&B while rehearsing for a show and found them to be lovely people. On the back of watching their rehearsal, I took my bestie (a straight man) to see their show Drag Me To Love. Drag Me To Love is the story of how Bonnie (Cameron Sharp) came to be Bonnie, going from closeted drag princess to an adult queen performing with the Bonnettes. The disco diva tracks between the dialogue were well chosen, with Cher’s Do You Believe In Life After Love? sung by Bonette Hattie Eason literally stopped the show and turned it on its head. The second Bonnette Rebecca Glendenning has a real talent for physical comedy, sending up those who try a little bit too hard to perform. I saw B&B rehearse another show called Work And She. It is a celebration of the lives of their mothers and why the group love and honour their mothers.

These two acts are drag but not as the mainstream knows it. They are both fun, non-sexual, uplifting, funny, sweet and affirming. If you want a great night out, go and see Bonnie And The Bonnettes. You will not be disappointed.

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Disabling The Disability

As someone who was a frontline worker for 20 years, I have seen tragic circumstances and I have seen miracles. One of my besties is a frontline worker in the community earning less than £140 per week. He is 54 years old, he has a six pack and good all round health. He is now looking after people in their 40s who are ill and need care purely due to their lifestyle.

Today, I want to look at how we can lessen the impact of a disability. As someone who has several longterm disabilities, who has worked in five hospitals and frontline community care, I have seen a lot. Most people have no idea I have a neurological condition that affects all the muscles in my body, and have had since I was eight years old. I have worked full shifts on a busy brain injury ward with both knees bandaged tightly and none of my colleagues knew. When I was a teenager and saw more research, I cut out caffeine. I learned to layer up in the winter. My diet is mostly veg and rice. And chocolate, but that’s another issue. To keep my condition in check, I lift heavy weights most days and I do resistance training. This means I only use crutches for two or three weeks per year.

I have a 3 year old client who has cerebral palsy. Four months ago, the child spoke their national language and was able to sort of sit up, they had little control over their limbs and constantly drooled. Four months on, the child now asks me in English, “How are you?” and they love shouting “Banana!” The child now sits up straight, drools less and is able to use a pen to draw big circles and point to words in English. I know the child’s parents are taking the child to a lot of physio therapy, but also learning English seems to have made a difference, too. When we learn another language, brain cells that were not working are linked together and they start working. I saw that there was a correlation between me learning Dutch – my fourth language – and having less seizures, and the seizures were less serious, too. I still took all my medication and saw my doctors, and we all noticed the difference taking place in my life.

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If you have a condition of the brain, take your medication as directed, see your doctors, and take up learning a language. It won’t cure you, but it might make some improvement in your condition.

Having worked on a brain injury ward and several stroke wards, I have seen that there is no pattern to recovery. Every person’s brain is different, so every recovery is different. I have seen people trapped in horrible circumstances such as quadriplegia, and I have seen miracle recoveries.

One patient with a brain injury was given a bay to themselves because their brain injury meant they spent all their waking hours screaming and rolling around the floor. We put down gym mats, removed all furniture and lowered their bed to the floor to keep the patient as safe as possible while we tended to the other 33 patients.

I went on holiday for a week, I came back and the patient was sitting in an armchair, eating breakfast and they greeted me in a normal voice. Several months later, the patient walked out of the hospital. Yes, they had a limp, but they were able to go and live an almost normal life.

The consultants and nurses were absolutely amazing. We are so lucky in the UK to have the NHS. Going back to the situation I mentioned at the beginning, of a 54 year old with a six pack looking after people in their 40s who were ill through mistreating their own body with smoking, drinking and illegal substances, we can choose how we live and how we take care of ourselves. The care clients have been benefits recipients for many years, meaning they have had their housing costs paid for, and they have had at least £90 per week to spend on bills, food and whatever else. They could choose to pay £23 per month gym membership. They could choose to buy fruit and vegetables cheaply in the Aldi or Lidl in the area and they could choose to not smoke, drink too much alcohol and illegal substances. Many are on mental health medication, and so – even more than most people – should not be poisoning their body and brain. One of the keys to good mental health is a healthy diet, no alcohol and no illegal substances. These clients are simply not going to get better because of their own choices. Some also now are incontinent because of their use of alcohol and illegal substances, but they still choose to misuse alcohol and illegal substances.

The man caring for them has much less money than they do and he chooses to pay £23 per month for his gym membership which enables him to socialise as well as have a great level of fitness, he buys fruit and vegetables at Aldi and Lidl and he does not pollute his body or brain with cigarettes, alcohol or illegal substances. He is from the same streets as his clients and he has much less money than his clients, but his health and state of being are radically different because he has chosen to enhance his health rather than take the easy route.

Whatever condition we have, we can choose to read the research and work with our doctors to disable our disabilities. We can make wise choices and even in some cases improve our conditions due to the wise choices. Even though we are disabled, there is sometimes a lot we can do to control our conditions and be freer to live a more free life.

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Albums Of The Year!

It’s that time of year when TV programmes, radio shows and Great Aunt Hilda tell you who they think were the musical stars of this year. Add me to that list.

We start with the stunning album by Hannah James and the Jigdoll Ensemble, The Woman And Her Words. I saw this album performed live, and I cried at the title track. My editor got me to review the album and I cried another four times at the same title track. Art has not made me cry since Bambi’s mother met her Maker, so Hannah James has pulled off something truly extraordinary.

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The Woman And Her Words (the song) is a song about gender stereotyping. When I heard HJ say this, I cringed inwardly while keeping a big smile on my face – I was in the fourth row at the gig – because I feared the track was going to be a hashtag in twitter storm. Knowing HJ’s previous work, I should not have jumped to that conclusion. This song is incredibly mature, its characters full of good intentions that go badly wrong. Wow!

Next up is Ferocious Dog’s album Fake News And Propaganda. I am so fortunate to have seen FD go from a decent cover band with the backing of Mark Chadwick to record breaking phenomenon. This album has a track written by Jeremy Cunningham and another by Nick Burbridge. Big hitters writing for and about their friends. It’s all good.

Fake News is like every FD album; it mixes all folk and roots styles, from punk to acoustic, from ska to folk. The guys are fully versed in Celtic music and lore, with mentions of Cú Chullain, warriors and nature getting us back to what is important.

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I thanked front man Ken Bonsall for his writing into Up All Night of “muslamic ray guns”. If you haven’t been party to this wonderous knowledge, put “muslamic ray guns” into a search engine, sit back and enjoy.

Each FD gig is a charity do, with a bucket out for donations to the Lee Bonsall Memorial Trust. Ken and his wife have been honoured by the Queen for their ongoing work with people in pain. Also, each gig sees audience members bringing tins and cartons of food because post-gig, the band bypass the pub and go straight to the local foodbank to drop off what everyone has brought. Total decent fellas with totally decent music.

The third album to tick all my boxes this year was Suntrap’s Northern Lights. I have never heard Suntrap before. Wow! Wow! Sooooo beautiful. The whole album is dreamy, like The Imagined Village’s version of The Handweaver And The Factory Maid or Rónan O’Snodaigh’s Sarah’s Prayer.

With sumptuous harmonies to rival Lady Maisery or The Moulettes, accompanied by bodhran, handbells, mandolin and uke, the track Night Flying really sums up the whole album.

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On this album, Suntrap cover everyone from Bob Dylan to Nancy Kerr, and put to song the words of poet laureate John Masefield. You may recognise some of these words because they were quoted – out of their time line – by Russell Crowe in Master And Commander. With this album,  you need to make a fire, sit back and allow yourself to be taken into a magical land where you yourself may indeed end up night flying.

Enjoy 2020 everyone!

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Posing Questions: What Can We Do?

The tenth and final episode of Pose series 2 brings us into 1991. Some of the writing and blatant whacking us over the head with identity politics has annoyed me.

Blanca and Pray make up, but Blanca gets ill. She has been fighting AIDS throughout this series, and now has developed bronchitis. Judy tells Blanca that her work materials contributed to her condition, and that she can qualify for disability benefits. Blanca says she is only 30 – what sort of life is this for her?

Frederica is jailed for arson, and makes a grand speech about being persecuted for being a woman. She says the only thing she regrets is damaging the success of another woman (Blanca) “and for that I will do time”. This is totally out of character. Totally.

Then Judy is telling Blanca that Blanca being on the AIDS ward has given all the other patients strength and happiness. To me, all this Blanca adoration was just too saccharin and unrealistic.

Angel makes a speech about being knocked down many times. This also makes me feel that the writing could have been better. We know that Angel has been knocked down many times. We don’t need to hear Angel say it. To be told the obvious treats the viewer as stupid.

The Council have decided that to stand in solidarity of the transwomen at the balls, they will dress in drag. The women have been feeling judged by the men. What could have happened is the whole judging people based on appearance could have been changed to judging an actual ability such as singing. More women could have become judges or council members. Long term plans could have been put in place. Maybe the women could have found something else to do with their spare time to build up real self esteem and skills? The balls are all about being judged on appearance. It seems sad and counter productive to me.

So the men are dressing up in heels. Pray tries to walk in heels but doesn’t take to it. He tells Ricky that his father used to hit him for being a “sissy”. Ricky tells Pray to embrace his feminine side. There’s no problem with Pray embracing his feminine side! He’s effeminate and flamboyant.

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What this episode highlights is how ridiculous high heels are. The preacher Si Rogers who lived for many years as a woman said that high heels are misogynistic and made by a man who wants to hurt women. We know that high heels hurt women when they wear them. We also know that frequent wearing of high heels contributes hugely to longterm serious and very painful conditions such as osteo arthritis, as well as other conditions of the feet, knees and hips. The wearing of high heels throws out the entire natural alignment of the body. The fact women are frowned on – by gay men as well as a minority of heterosexual men and other women – for not wearing high heels is a true example of discrimination against women. Many women also believe that wearing high heels is a good thing, and their main focus in this is how high heels make them appear to others.

At the end of this episode, Blanca meets two more youngsters who are living on the streets. She and Pray take them home. Blanca has new children to look after.

There are always more people for us to help, sadly. If we are here and doing OK, it’s probably because someone gave us a hand up. If our parents didn’t give us a decent home and decent start to life, then other people have helped us. We can pay it forward by giving others a hand up.

There are campaigns run by All Out. We can do the very little most of us are capable of doing to help our LGBT siblings in other countries by joining All Out and signing their petitions and donating money to fund safe houses and solicitors. We can donate money to homeless people’s services. In the UK, we can sponsor a room at Centre Point for 39p per day. We can do so much in this way, but we can also give our time in our local community.

What are you interested in? What do you enjoy doing? Can you find a group for which you can volunteer your time? Can you find a job that interests you in such a way?

I worked in frontline services for twenty years, so I do need a break from face-to-face work. However, I sponsor children from the developing world, give to different charities and I have just started to volunteer on a farm.

What can we do in 2020 to “be the change we want to see”?

In our current climate of cancelling people for having a slightly different opinion and pile ons, remember, as Elektra said, be kind to yourself, but also be kind to others. It is nice to be nice.

Have a great 2020.

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Posing Questions: Appreciating Beauty

Episode Nine of the second series of Pose sees the women going off to the beach for a holiday. It’s an upbeat and positive episode that brings us up for air after the row and the breaking down of friendships in the last episode.

Blanca does not want to wear swimsuits because of her body shape. She is worried she will be judged for her bone structure which is more obviously male than Angel’s or Lulu’s.

Here comes the identity politics to ruin a decent point: Angel says, “People are always going to have opinions. That’s part of being a woman in a man’s world.”

Most women will tell you that women are far more judgemental about other women’s appearance than men. It was found that 53% online misogynistic abuse against women – name calling, including “fat” and “ugly” – was made by women.

Let’s get real. Most men love and appreciate women. There is a minority, who can be vocal, of men who have a problem with women. Most men love women and men love all different kinds of women.

In this episode, Blanca says she has never seen the sea. Despite the fact that Blanca lives one hour from the sea, she has never seen it before. In the UK, we have children who have never seen the sea, or a cow or anything outside of their city. There are initiatives to get children into the countryside. I am lucky I went to Brownies and Guides because at least every two months, we went to camp on a farm or at a big Scout camp. We fed cows and sheep and did hill walking, and made fires and saw the natural world.

I wonder why Blanca has never thought to go to see the sea before. I wonder why she spends her money on the balls whereas she could sometimes take a break from the balls and use her time and money to do something different such as go to the beach.

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I think we all get stuck in ruts. It’s important to experience new things to keep life fresh and exciting. It is important to spend time in the natural world. We know that spending time in green spaces improve mental health and emotional well being.

Although it is winter, consider the amount of time you spend surrounded by natural beauty. Consider joining a walking group, a snow boarding group or a photography group. Youth hostels are very cheap to stay at and many in the UK have modern interiors, beds, bathrooms and internet facilities. The Megabus is very cheap and gets to most main locations around the UK. The internet allows us to book accommodation, rail and bus tickets cheaply.

There is a big and beautiful world out there. Let’s go and see it!

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