Changing Rooms, Boundaries and Self-centredness

I have changed my mind on many things in the last two years. Before, I thought I knew some issues, but it turned out I didn’t. Two years ago, I had no problem with any person identifying as trans using a changing room for example in a gym. However, the more I have thought about others, the more my mind has changed.

I have known several people who have transitioned, and I based my thinking on them. I also thought about the fact many trans people are survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse, so I was very much in the camp of thinking of trans people as victims. My thinking was flawed.

What has also changed is the widening of self ID. More and more people “identify” as the opposite sex or no sex or both sexes but do not transition. Fewer transwomen are now having full surgery and very few transmen have full surgery.

I have friends who had surgeries. I know these people to be sweet and kind people, some even more conservative with a small c than me. I knew these people were good. I did not think about others.

I have moved temporarily from a small English town to a city. The city is very multicultural. The gym I go to in the city is huge. The women’s changing room alone is bigger than the gym itself in the small town. In the women’s changing room are women of all ages, races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, everything. We have obese women, we have women with deformities and disabilities. Many walk around naked. These women have been going to this gym for many years. They see their friends there. There is a sense of trust. Introducing someone with a male body into that changing room would completely change the balance the women there have worked on and reached over years. If someone with a male body began using this space, I know many women would stop using the gym. Their cultural or religious background or their feelings over their obesity or deformity would mean they would not be able to or would not feel comfortable using the facilities any longer.

My gym in the small town is multicultural but mostly white. Most of the men who use the gym and men’s changing room are wonderful men, who are married or have  longterm girlfriends. They walk around naked and they have friendships and trust with each other that they have built up over years. If someone with a female body walked into this changing room, the guys would assume the person had walked in by mistake. They would be kind, but gently tell the person they were in the wrong changing room and ask them to leave.

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In the USA, a school girl who competes in swimming competitions, meaning she has very quick changes in which she must be naked while quickly changing from one swimming costume to another, tried to stop her school from allowing students who identified as transwomen from using the changing facilities. She lost her case. The one trans student was triumphant and cheering. The swimmer was left crying and distressed. Pro trans activists ridiculed this girl, saying she has a problem with “cisgender men”. Maybe she has. And she has the right to have her feelings. I personally thought she came across as a sweet and intelligent girl who simply wanted her boundaries respected by her school. She has the right to have her personal boundaries – the very personal boundaries that schools have been teaching girls to have for decades.

Again, I return to the fact that trans people are encouraged by the trans charities and pro trans movements to think solely of themselves. Their rights matter. Everyone must change to accommodate them. It’s a selfish way of living.

We also have to think about where people are in their transition. At the start of a transition, a person will look a lot like their birth sex. This will especially affect schools and young people’s sports. The boys will still have a fully functioning penis. This means erections will happen as part of nature, jostling of the body during sporting activity and, yes, attraction.

Self ID would mean more people with no physical changes to their body could use the facilities of the opposite sex.

There are many reasons why for thousands of years, there has been segregations between the sexes. I would be OK with any of my friends changing next to me, but Michelle from the market who is about to do a zumba class doesn’t know my friends and so would probably not feel comfortable. Just like when I had gender dysphoria and wanted to be around my male friends rather than female friends in most situations including sleeping spaces, they did put some restrictions in place because they needed their space and their emotional comfort. They didn’t want me around when they had their early morning erections. At the time, I did not understand why I couldn’t sleep in the same dormitories as my male friends who preferred men’s bodies because I simply was not thinking on any level deeper than I wanted to spend time with my friends, but now I do understand.

Some people point to the fact LGB people use changing rooms, so why not trans folk? 

As a bisexual person, when I am in a changing room, I am very aware that there are women changing or walking around naked, and I do certain things to ensure I make no one feel uncomfortable or perved on, and I make sure there can be no way a woman can be inappropriate with me in a changing room.

First, I keep my eyes to the floor. Second, I  am careful about conversations I have in changing areas, the topic of conversation and again I make sure my eyes are looking at the floor if the woman I am talking with is changing. Third, if there is a woman who has behaved oddly towards me in any way, I do not use a changing room with her unless there is at least one other person there. I only change clothes. I never shower in gyms, simply because I prefer my privacy and I prefer a bath to a shower.

Two of my male friends who are gay do not use the changing facilities at all. They change and shower at home.

What would help is cubicles. I don’t do full changes in front of others, so I use the toilet cubicles. Having a number of changing cubicles in gym changing rooms would be beneficial to people of different backgrounds who need different levels of privacy. It would also give people transitioning their privacy instead of the risk of being stared at in a changing room. Many people transitioning feel uncomfortable with their body, so again changing cubicles would be helpful.

There are reasons why there has been separation between the sexes for thousands of years in every culture and country. Some of it has been paranoid, agreed, but some of it has been for good reasons. We need to listen to human history. We also need to listen to others.

If we believe all people are equal, then that means all people’s feelings about their personal boundaries are valid. A lot of pro trans rhetoric is self centred and encourages selfishness and even aggression. When we live in society, we need to compromise. We all give up small parts of ourselves when we leave our homes and interact with the world. We might tone down our language or tone down a dress sense so that other people will react positively towards us. When we live as equals with others in society, we make compromises so that we get along with others. When it comes to sharing changing rooms, sleeping spaces and even rape crisis centres, we need to be aware of the needs of others, and be prepared to understand others, appreciate others and do our best to honour the feelings and personal needs of others.

Who wants to be known as a selfish type?

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It’s Good To Talk

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Let’s spread some love!

How many times have we heard in recent years, “We don’t talk to people who want to deny our existence!” Or “My existence is not up for debate!”

Thank goodness we are not in the middle of a world war. People who are this overly dramatic, emotive and angry simply would not survive in any real life situation where the existence of people really was in question. Thinking of my friends who survived war and genocide, none of them are dramatic or angry people. They tend to be quiet, thankful and eager to get on with living life.

In reality, very few people are a threat to your existence. People may disagree with decisions you make, but in no way do they pose any threat. I have friends who smoke. I don’t think smoking is the best decision a person can make. I am not about to take smokers’ lives – but the cigarettes are.

When I was at university 20 years ago, I was the first out gay person most students had met. I was friends with international students, I was in the Christian Union, the LGB group (we had no T members) and I was on a course with international students and mature students. People wanted to know about gay, what it was, what it meant for me as a person, what it meant for me as a Christian and how they could learn from me.

Much of the rhetoric around trans rights and gay rights today is to not discuss anything because discussion mean some people’s lives were up for debate ie they could be murdered. I believe talking is good. How can people be won over and change their minds unless LGBT people sit down and talk?

When I say LGBT people should sit down and talk with people who want to understand or who are phobic, I do not mean the LGBT people should make statements and demand everyone else accepts and agrees to those statements. That is not a discussion, that is a dictatorship. I also mean have discussions with people who are acting in good faith. If someone is determined to find something bad in everything you say, they are committed to being against you. The aim in discussion is to find common ground and build on things that both sides agree on.

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What I did at university – and in many situations since – when I was surrounded by heterosexuals who had never met a gay person before was I formed genuine friendships with people. People felt comfortable to ask me questions because we went hill walking together, we studied together, we ate meals together, we prayed together and played rounders together.

I listened to people and I answered their questions. I listened to their fears and concerns. Each and every time, there was a positive outcome… with secure gays and heterosexuals. I was actually taken to one side by the university’s “lesbian officer” and told that other gay people said I had been making homophobic comments. I asked what on earth she was talking about! Apparently me answering questions honestly about why I don’t have a girlfriend – my religious beliefs – upset some people. How insecure do people have to be to feel threatened by me not getting laid?! Those are serious personal insecurities! I spoke to some straight and bi friends from the Christian Union and they said, “Next time you go to the LGB group, wear your dungarees and Doc Martens.” This was after they had fallen about laughing at someone calling me homophobic.

Thankfully, I met some sane gay people at university who I hung out with and had a lot of laughs with. The same with the Christian Union and other people on my course. My course mates were mainly mature students, we were a very tight knit group and there was no reference between us to each other’s racial backgrounds, ages, nothing like that. In the Christian Union, other gay and bi members became good friends with me, invited me to parties and hung out with me. From straight Christians, I had nothing but really positive and loving reactions. I got a letter thanking me for talking openly and anytime I wanted or needed anything, that person would be there for me. Two days after someone else had caused a confrontation, someone who had been quite upset by the confrontation quietly approached me and said to me, “You know I’m not really homophobic”. I said, “Yeah, I know.” They said again, “I’m really not homophobic.” I said, “Yes, I know.” And then I asked how their final essay was going. People really were very kind.

The question I was asked the most was, “How do you know you are bi if you’ve never done anything with a woman?” I never got offended at what is a silly question in my mind, but was a serious question in other people’s mind. So I said, “John is your boyfriend, but Andrew is your friend. That’s how I know.” I met people where they were at. I used language they understood. I never demanded people get with my programme, I never spoke down to anyone, I was never sniffy with anyone.

I put myself out. I wanted these really nice people to like me and be my friend. I wanted to be seen as normal. I wanted to end homophobia. These days, we don’t hear much about self-sacrifice or giving up one’s own rights temporarily for the greater good. Even in religious circles, we don’t hear much about giving up the need to be right in order to show love and bring love to others.

I met people where they were at emotionally, culturally, religiously and in terms of how they themselves coped with life. The thing about sharing instead of demanding and dictating is everyone else opened up to me about their problems in life; alcoholism, porn addiction, social anxiety, promiscuity, the death of a parent. Everyone has something they are battling with. No one’s life is perfect. When we sit down and talk with people as equals, we learn a lot more about them as individuals, and we learn more about life.

When I talked with people as equals, they learned that they could trust me. I became the go-to person to talk to in a crisis. People showed such trust in me because of how I behaved towards them. Whereas the media and many LGBT media outlets portray bisexual people as people with loose morals, a lack of focus and meaning in life, abusers of alcohol and illegal substances and sexually promiscuous, people learned from me that bisexual people are just normal people.

If I was 18 years old and at university now, imagine how different things could be. I could be expelled from university for telling people about my personal decision to not have same sex relationships because of my personal religious beliefs. I would be confronted by aggressive LGBT activists who would demand I see things the way they see them. I would be told to give up my religion if I really am gay. I would be called all sorts of names to my face and on social media. These sorts of things have happened to me in recent years, which is why I avoid LGBT groups now. Many LGBT people are so insecure. This is something that needs to be addressed by LGBT people or the individuals themselves will continue to suffer from all the problems in life that go hand in hand with insecurities and a lack of self-esteem, such as abusive relationships and a poor work life.

Imagine my university friends being at university now, and instead of meeting a gentle spoken person with a big sense of humour, they meet the aggressive LGBT activists such as the ones on twitter who threaten to slit the throat of anyone who misgenders them or uses the wrong pronouns. Imagine my friends who were able to ask me any question they wanted asking questions to someone who shouts them down saying, “I don’t debate anyone who threatens my existence!”

I put myself out to create understanding and to lessen homophobia. I put myself out because I wanted people to see me as a normal person. And they did.

I met people for breakfast. I went on night time walks. I sat with people in the university’s bar. I answered the tricky questions. I used my gentleness and my sense of humour, and I listened to the other person speak about their own lives.

I think the best reaction I had was when a male friend asked me why gay women like women’s breasts. He asked if it was about returning to the mother’s breast from infanthood. I said, “No! It’s cos breasts are yummy!” He spat half his drink out, swallowed the other half the wrong way, fell off his bar stool, was coughing violently for several minutes, and all I said was, “You did ask!”

It’s good to talk.

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That Starbucks Advert

Hello! Several days ago, I saw the advert for Starbucks in which a shaven headed young person wearing a hoody, called “Jemma” by a loving and proud father and by service providers. We are shown that “Jemma” is deeply unhappy and their life is arduous. “Jemma” only smiles when a Starbucks employee asks what name to write on the cup and “Jemma” says “My name is James” and the Starbucks employee writes “James” on the cup.

The mainstream media and gay media has said how wonderful this advert is, accepting a trans person for who they are.

Let’s unpack what to me looks like another cynical ploy by a multinational (with a dodgy tax record) to gain revenue by virtue signalling about trans rights.

I would question the mental stability of anyone who appreciates a total stranger who writes any name anyone gives them on a cup over the love and pride shown to them by a parent.

I also wonder if this advert is an attempt to cause further gulfs between trans youth and their parents. Parents report being actively pushed out of their child’s medical care when it comes to treatment for gender dysphoria. In the UK, children as young as 12 have been given puberty blockers on the NHS, and current guidelines state that this can be done on children aged 14 and above without the permission of the child’s parents.

In no other field of medicine is this acceptable. If we look at cancer treatments, the parents sign the consent forms, the parents together with the doctors make most of the decisions about what treatments the child should receive. The doctors and the parents talk about the longterm effects of any treatment; the positives and the negatives. They talk about what can go wrong and inform the child. This does not happen in a lot of cases where children are treated with the medical route for gender dysphoria in the UK. Parents say they were pushed out of consultations and decision making processes.

Parents have feelings, too. When I attended LGBT conferences, I made sure parents’ views and feelings were heard. I spoke up for parents and parents thanked me because they felt forgotten and pushed out. Parents have feelings and they have the right to their feelings. The father in the Starbucks advert was a loving and proud father, yet he is portrayed a baddie for deadnaming his child.

When a child is born, parents often spend a lot of time and effort thinking of a name for their child. They often choose a name that means something deep. Some names are religious, some names are cultural. Some names are family names. When a child wants to change their name – for whatever reason – this can be difficult for the parents who gave their child a name that to them spoke of hope and everything they wished for their child’s future.

It is not easy for a parent to hear from their child that they are in the wrong body and want to go down the medical route to change their body. So much of the narrative we hear is that we must say “yes” to everything a trans person says. There is little or no consideration given to parents, siblings, grandparents or friends of the trans person. None of us live in a vacuum. We are all loved by someone; someone who wants us to be happy but also might struggle to cope with decisions we make.

Some of the advice given is to put all the attention on a child who has gender dysphoria. The parents are told they should be guided by their child and must align themselves to their child’s feelings and wishes. No. The parent must parent their child. Adults have more life experience than children. This is why all societies are built upon a family model in which adults teach children how to be human beings.

In no other field of medicine nor area of life are children given the reigns. We have an age of consent because we know that children do not possess the skills to think critically and they do not have enough knowledge about the world nor emotional intelligence to decide for themselves who touches their body. The laws around the age of consent are there to protect children because children cannot protect themselves and cannot consent to sex.

Yet in the field of gender dysphoria, children are told to make all decisions for themselves, and the adults in their life must simply say “yes”.

Many of us have seen where this thinking leads. It leads to an over diagnosis of a rare condition with to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young adults in the UK detransitioning, saying that they didn’t know fully what they were doing and that the medical professionals were negligent in treating them. We have one such case going through the courts at the moment.

We have also seen a rise in aggressive behaviours from some people identifying as trans or non-binary. We have all seen the threats on twitter to “slit your throat” or murder you in some other way if you misgender someone. We have seen the school swap fly on the wall in which the trans child was the most obnoxious child who refused to take part in many of the activities that all the other children took part in, was rude to people and abandoned their school swap partner when their partner was making a real effort to learn about LGBT people and understand.

In the last LGBT group I went to, there were quite a lot of trans people – most of whom now no longer identify as trans. Almost all the trans group members were decent people who were friendly and affable, just like the LGB members. However, when there was trouble in the group, it came from one trans member and one non-binary member. The trans member became more and more hostile and aggressive to everyone in the group and even went to physically attack the facilitator, meaning they are now banned from all LGBT groups in the surrounding area. The non-binary member is not welcome because of the amount of lies they told that hurt people and messed with their heads. They also isolated vulnerable people, used them sexually and then bullied them. Two more trans members (a couple) were quite dictatorial about what other people were “allowed” to think, believe and say.

Did these people behave badly because they are trans or non-binary? No. All the other trans and NB members of the group were sweet and wonderful people. However, if we follow through the “say yes to everything a trans child says” mantra, we create an echo chamber around young trans people. I can see parallels with Elvis Presley. He employed doctors who would tell him what he wanted and would prescribe him whatever he wanted. Elvis believed his own hype and died, obese and unloved on a toilet, having driven away his wife and all the people who had genuinely loved him.

Real life is not comfortable, and it shouldn’t be. We should all be reaching outside of our comfort zones to push ourselves to try new things, to reach for new goals and to improve ourselves. When we surround ourselves with people who love us, we find ourselves surrounded by people who do push back on bad behaviour or bad ideas. People who love us are not “yes men”.

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When I had gender dysphoria, I did not ever make it a focus. I dealt with it when it was a problem, and then I got back to living life. When a person goes down the medical route, they are encouraged to focus on themselves and their pain. In no other area of psychology is this recommended. When you focus on your pain – whatever it is – it magnifies the pain and makes the pain worse and the pain is with you 24/7. The narrative pushed at trans people is they should focus on the dysphoria. It does encourage people to become obsessed with gender and sex. I heard this same maxim from numerous people: “The first thing you notice about someone is their gender.” I had to break it to my friends that because of my eye sight problems, I sometimes can’t even tell if someone is Black or white until they are close to me, and the first thing I notice about someone is their height.

This is another example of how trans people are encouraged to obsess and see the world through a certain filter, and it pushes a sense of one size fits all. This is not life as most people experience it. We all have different methods of interacting with the world, different opinions and individual ways that are unique to us.

My name is Catherine. I always introduce myself as “Catherine”. Yet so many times, I am called “Christine” or “Caroline”. Always Christine or Caroline. I was called “Caroline” at one work place until my last day when the manager asked everyone why they were calling me by a name different to my own. I have been called “Cat” by two people (ewwww) and “Katie” by a college tutor (yuk). If anyone, trans or otherwise, kills themselves because they are called a name other than the one they want to be known by, this person has much deeper problems than they know.

I can see the point that a trans person’s preferred name is tied to their identity and sense of self. Again, I ask how normal this is and how much of this comes about through being taught to obsess over gender. I am in a Nero’s now. I can’t see the baristas or any of the customers tying their sense of self and identity to their name. Bob, Shane, Jackie, Sandy. They have all built personalities, characters, memories, the people they love who love them and life experience. These things give them their sense of self, not their name.

Some of the friends I have had who went down the medical route to transition did build a full life for themselves: a full time job, foreign travel, spirituality, hobbies and friendships with people of all backgrounds. It is a real shame that so much of the advice given to young trans people seeks to isolate them and limit their lives.

When I watched the Starbucks advert, I did not find it “heartwarming” or “touching” as mainstream media and gay media did. I found is crass, shallow and callous. It promoted putting weight behind a stranger writing a stranger’s name on a throwaway cup and the belittlement of loving family members. It promotes selfishness and self-centred thinking.

In the real world, we all need to give and take. We need to understand the feelings of others while not negating our own. We need to take people along with us and forgive, just as we are forgiven. None of us are perfect. We all need each other.

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Gay Is Not Always Gay

The meaning of the word “gay” has changed over time. When “gay” is used to describe LGBT people, it stood for “Good As You”: equality. As most of us know, the word “gay” originally meant happy and carefree.

Unfortunately, “equality” and “happy and carefree” do not describe the lives of some gay men. As I have stated in a previous post, I had hoped that gay marriage would  bring about the expectation in young gay men that they will look for and find a long term partner and husband.

Fifteen years ago, I met men aged 35-45 who had spiralled down into depression and attempted suicide. The reason was they had had a lot of sex with a lot of strangers, with no one to call a friend let alone a partner. These men had turned to religion as the only way out of depression that they could find.

Several days ago, I read the words of a young man who in the past few weeks has tried to commit suicide. The reason was he thought he could make friends by having sex with strangers. None of the men he had sex with wanted to remain friends and he become desperately lonely.

We know the financial trickle down theory does not work in practice. None of us become rich because the Queen of England is rich. The same is true with sex. Very few people who have casual sex with strangers actually care about those strangers. As one man I knew said, “All we were doing was sharing an orgasm.” There was no emotion nor care for the other person. When people have casual sex with strangers, they often are not intent on making friends; they simply want sex with someone they find sexually attractive.

Those of us who are older or those of you who dig around on Channel 4’s app will know the infamous and spectacular drama Queer As Folk. The UK version was quite different to the USA version. The UK version – the original – was centred around three characters. The main character was Stuart Alan Jones, a physically attractive PR guy who lived near Canal Street. Stuart had everything; money, charisma and good looks. His best friend Vince was in love with him, yet Stuart played Vince continuously and Stuart had sex with strangers he met on the internet. Stuart shunned all meaningful relationships and pushed away his family and friends. He behaved in outrageous ways so that he could tell outrageous stories in the pub to be the centre of attention and the life of the party. He became more and more depressed until his family stepped in.

In Pose series 2, we saw Damon setting his bar higher with regards to his personal life, and we saw Mother Blanca encouraging her children to do better than she did.

I remember a religious friend who has same sex relationships telling me that she had had to explain to her straight friends that gay people have sex on the first date.

Er what?

Yes, for a lot of LGBT people this is true. And for many straight people these days. Why?

Why give so much of yourself to someone you might not have met before who you have only spent a couple of hours with? Why give so much of yourself to a stranger who does not care about you?

Sex is amazing. Sex is important. Study after study has shown women particularly have better sex in marriage, namely more orgasms. There have been less similar studies on men, and most studies looking at gay men assume that gay men will have open relationships, which flies in the face of many gay men who hope to have a monogamous marriage.

Sex is a way to connect emotionally with someone who is important to you. It is a way of giving pleasure to another person and also letting your whole self be visible to another person – including your vulnerable side. Sex is about love.

Having lots of sex with strangers will leave you unsatisfied.

There are great ways to make friends using the internet. Meetup.com is a fantastic way of finding new people to socialise with. Simply type in your post code or area, and all the groups in your area and the surrounding areas will come up. Everything from mountain climbing to foreign languages, from pub nights to theatre trips, there is something for everyone. Facebook also is a great way to find a socialising group in your local area. The internet is a great tool to use.

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And who knows? A man might meet the man of his dreams at a pottery class or while playing a game of football or zorbing down a hill.

While I have concentrated on gay men, over the last fifteen years gay women have gone against the old trend. In the past, same sex relationships between women were the longest lasting relationships. Women in relationships with women tended to stay together for life. However, in recent years, some gay women have adopted a more casual approach to sex. So although I have concentrated on gay men because it is gay men I have heard talk about these problems, I am sure some gay women will face the same problems.

I remember the advice columns in magazines that heterosexual teenage girls read – my classmates read. The advice column always told fifteen year old girls that if their boyfriend loved them, he would wait until they were sixteen. If you find someone you like, who appears to like you, hold off with the sex. Hold off for a couple of weeks or more. Hold off until you know the person more, until you know if they care about you and want the best for you. Hold off until you know if you care about them and can help them be the best they can be.

I’m religious. I believe sex is for marriage. You decide what is best for you.

Friendships are supposed to be happy and carefree and make you feel happy and carefree. Friends bring out the best in you and help you be the best you can be.

Make “gay” mean “gay”.

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A Quick Hello!

I want to say a quick hello and thank you to everyone who has started following me on wordpress and twitter.

All my clients are Chinese, so with everyone being quarantined in their homes with the internet at their disposal, my schedule is now rammed. My thoughts are with my clients and their families and right now, my priorities must be with them hence my output is a little slow at the moment.

I am trying to use this blog to cover issues that are not being covered elsewhere, particularly lgbt issues; everything from mental health and well being to employment to domestic violence. We have specific issues that the lgbt media are simply not addressing. If issues are addressed, it is only at a surface deep level, and is always in line with dogma. I also hope to provide answers and ways out of problems.

I will also look at issues around me such as the terrible state of left behind towns such as the one I live in and was born in.

We have a lot of work to do. We need to talk about it and then take action in our own lives as well as look out for our brothers and sisters.

Thank you to everyone around the world who has shown interest in this blog so far.  People in the UK, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia, and then people in Saudi Arabia, Ghana, India, Honduras, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and more. Thank you so much.

If you know of an issue you think I am qualified and able to cover, please send me a Direct Message on twitter. Much love to everyone xxx

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Stand By Your Men

I have given women some attention, so as a good bisexual I am going to give some attention to men now. Our menfolk need some TLC, and I don’t mean temazepam, lorazepam and chlorpromazine. (Old nurse’s joke)

In the UK, suicide among men has soared while healthcare has been cut. Both Prince William and Prince Harry have spoken about their struggles following the death of their mother, and TV adverts show blokes down the pub being there for each other in a blokey way.

As I stated in my post Make Women Great Again, there are real employment problems in the small towns around England, Wales and Scotland. The traditional industries such as steel work, coal mining and to some extent farming and fishing have been greatly reduced. The villages where mining was the main form of employment for example in County Durham, the town’s men either commute to work in other towns or they work in the care sector. The same in areas like Teesside where the steelworks closed after the UK government sold the historic sites to companies in India and Thailand. Teesside is an utter mess. In the area I live in it is said there is a suicide or an attempted suicide in every street.

The traditional industries did not only provide a decent income for the men who worked in them – so good that the families could afford for the women to stay at home and pay close attention to the children, but the traditional industries also provided a sense of pride for the men.

Men’s bodies and hormones require them to be physically active. Men’s brains are more wires up to expect physical activity. The traditional industries were physically demanding jobs, using a pick axe to cleave coal from a seam or carrying steel buckets full of molten metal. Skill was required, and knowledge. Fathers and sons worked together. Friendships for life were forged.

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Then all that went. I remember when the steelworks closed at Redcar two years ago. One steelworker was interviewed for the local news. He said, “All that’s left now is retail work or care work.”

There’s not much retail work. Due to the fact employers can pay people under 21 half the minimum wage while claiming the booklets the young adults fill in are a real apprenticeship – which they are not. So employers from Pizza Hut to New Look employ young staff – in some cases almost all young staff – because it is legal to pay them less than £4 per hour. Kerching.

So care work. I am going to do much more writing on care work, so this is the shortened version: care work on Teesside is rarely looking after sweet little old ladies with arthritis or hard working people who developed MS. It is more like a cross between probation work and prison work. Many care clients in the community are receiving care calls because care calls are a cheap way of monitoring violent offenders and sex offenders. Oh yes. On Teesside, sex offenders are being monitored by care workers who don’t possess a GCSE and have no training at all on how to work with sex offenders.

Women have been sucking up for years the verbal, physical and sexual assaults that are a daily part of care work in abandoned towns. Now men are sucking these things up, too. On top of being punched in the groin by someone who “doesn’t know what they are doing” and called all the names under the sun, they know they have all their qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience and all that now counts for nothing. On top of that, they are now earning the minimum wage, unless they work in the community and then they will earn less than the minimum wage. On top of that, most jobs are zero hours contracts.

Of course men are struggling.

76% suicides are men.

8.7% men are alcohol dependent.

73% “missing persons” are men.

36% mental health referrals are for

men.

What sort of job men have affects their risk of suicide. 44% suicides in men – the biggest group – are men in working class jobs like retail work and care work.

Men’s mental health is also affected by relationship breakdown, separation and divorce. As well as that, physical health problems, employment problems, money problems and social isolation affect the mental well being of men.

Four years ago, I also managed to complete two whole days in a secondary (high) school. Both the boys and girls were utterly horrendous. There were CCTV cameras in classes for 12 year olds. Most kids didn’t want to learn. They didn’t see the point in learning because their parents were care workers or on welfare benefits, and so the teenagers imagined their future was in care work or welfare benefits. Heap some media fury around “toxic masculinity” onto the boys’ low expectations, the inference that all men are rapists at heart and sprinkle on some “all working class men are thick racists” and you’ve got the perfect recipe for disaster for boys and men. At that secondary school, four boys committed suicide that year due to bullying. Four.

What can we do?

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Men like to do stuff. Women (beware: generalised comment) are happy to go for coffee and discuss their woes with sympathetic friends. Men in general hate that. Hence the popping up of woodwork sheds for men with depression, anxiety and other related conditions. These groups now operate in most towns and cities and your local volunteers’ hub, mental health team or community centre should have details of the woodwork group in your area. Social groups – that can be found on facebook and Meetup.com are great ways to meet new friends. I use these groups a lot. Walking groups are also fantastic for mental health. As well as the being around green spaces, there is also the old adage that two men go up a mountain strangers and come down best friends. Walkers are usually talkers.

Your GP, school nurse, health visitor – anyone like that – will be able to put men in touch with suitable services. And if they do need temazepam, lorazepam or chlorpromazine for a period of time, that’s cool. As long as the guys get the help they need… and a strategy for either changing their situation or making it bearable. The reality is the UK does not have a great job market right now. Two of my friends on Teesside are moving to Europe or Asia where they will have much better jobs, pay and quality of life. That isn’t an option for everyone, but it is the option two of my friends are taking.

My best wishes to everyone who is standing by men or boys who are struggling.

 

 

 

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Make Women Great Again?

I have been semi amused and semi thoughtful over this new storm in a tea cup. A conference where women will be told by men how to be better women. If you want to go, it is in Orlando, Florida and one ticket will cost you $999 – unless you work in the emergency services or military, or are aged 18-25, in which case you can get a 25% discount.

So $749.75. A month’s wage in most parts of the UK for a working class woman. There’s no gender paygap, the conference just won’t allow men in. I think partly because they have already had an event for men, focussing on boys and fathers.

My opinion is ignore them and they will probably go away. They have sold “dozens of tickets”, so they are not about to tear down society and rebuild it in a day.

I am not going to look at the political background, or the work or private lives of the guys running the show. News outlets have already done that. I’m going to look at their three main claims that women are more unhappy than ever, that single parenthood is not good for women or children and that women are being cheated by the feminist movement.

Back in 2003, I had the pleasure of working in a fairground. In our training week, we were taught how to deal with aggressive customers. Within two months of working there, I realised how deeply unhappy British people were. They were on holiday, at a fairground, and they looked miserable and shouted and sniped at their family members, friends and significant others.

After working at the fairground, I went back to working with people with longterm mental health conditions and I caught up on my social science research. A lot of research had been done around boys not having fathers in the home. Boys without a father were more likely to fail at school, get involved with criminality and be violent in a relationship with a woman. It was found that fatherless boys got into gangs to feel loved and appreciated by older males. It was also found that without a loving male-female relationship in the home, boys did not know how to relate healthily and lovingly towards women. Even if they were not physically violent, boys without fathers in the home were more likely to be verbally aggressive and controlling towards women. No mother likes seeing her boy become an aggressor, criminal or failure. I am focussing on opposite-sex households because that is where the majority of the research has been done.

Unlike many, I do believe that women can have it all; a successful career and a stable family life. It takes the father of the children to step up and play his role in every way, being a true 50/50 partner with  the woman in their life. Women have been having it all since humans first existed. The outward signs looked different, but the reality was there. Whether facing wild animals or wars or natural disasters, women have raised children and had a full and fulfilling life.

The problem with “woke” is that it completely ignores the working classes. As a working class person who lives in a working class area who has had working class jobs, I have seen how amazing women are. Women who raise a family and keep the house running and do a full time and extremely demanding job in a care home while their husband is working away on the oil rigs or on continuous night shifts. Women who survived wars and genocide, who have raised a family while working as nurses in the NHS, doing their best despite the racism and their own traumas. Women who had rubbish parents but have decided that they will have a better life, caring for the vulnerable in society while they receive the minimum wage or less and raising a family.

“Woke” and everything around it and against it sees people as bad. Woke culture pits “good” people against “evil” people (people who are different from you). The guys who want to make women great again assume that women are feckless and in uncommitted relationships, with lots of friends with benefits, and I don’t mean chums on Universal Credit. They assume women are immoral, and moreover choosing to be immoral.

I would like to start on the premise most people are decent people doing their best each day to live their life the best way they know how. I get this from both my religion as an Orthodox Celtic Christian – God created people therefore all people are good at their core, and from working alongside normal, every day people. Most people are really very nice.

And most people in the UK are struggling and are unhappy. Depression, anxiety and suicide have sky rocketed among the working classes. The cost of housing – whether rent or mortgage – is high. Work contracts are now almost non-existent in small towns. In their place zero hours “contracts” have come in. Instead of a contract, you are given terms and conditions of employment. You may be work for two hours today, twelve hours tomorrow, four hours the next day and then not work for the next two weeks. No one can build a stable life on these terms with these conditions. Most households in small towns have personal debt. The use of foodbanks has increased by 23% in the last year. Of course women aren’t happy. Very few working class people are happy.

As for divorce and single parenthood, in 2018, Moneywise stated that financial difficulties had caused divorce rates to spike.

Feminism? Douglas Murray has been saying for a while that feminism has never sufficiently dealt with the issue of motherhood. However, I would say that outside of the chattering classes, working class women have been getting on with things. Under the most difficult circumstances since the Second World War, working class women have been doing it all; raising a family while working full time. They have had to. The financial strains on UK people at this time are tremendous. The suicide rate in UK men has shot up.

The truth in the UK is that most people are struggling. Graduates are leaving the UK because of the lack of graduate jobs. Most people are trapped in low wage jobs and no working class woman or man can afford to be a stay at home parent. The stress of meeting the rent or mortgage and paying bills each month is all consuming for some people.

We do need real change in the UK. I don’t know how that will come about, but what I do know is that we need to stop thinking so negatively about our fellow citizens, whether they are men or women. We need to stop assuming the negative and criticising people for making different choices. We do not know other people’s personal situations.

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What we can do is appreciate the people around us; our work colleagues, our family members and our neighbours. And if we can, give a hand up from time to time. It is time to stop focussing on immutable characteristics and instead focus on people and help people to get into a better situation in life. In 1992, a friend of my mother’s brought us a box of tea bags and a packet of biscuits each week. Something as small as that helped us. We can all do something for our friends and family and neighbours in these difficult times. I want all people to be happy, in financially secure, stable, loving families, emotionally and mentally well and fulfilled. That is the UK I want to see.

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