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where stud meets femme a magazine for queers Issue 5 cover illustration by daniel tomlinson

lavender menace / museum of transology / joe black Liz Ridgway / Jules Haydon Guaitamacchi / QTIPOC Narratives


august 2018

Welcome... After an eventful summer of Pride celebrations, it’s fair to say the LGBTQ+ community in Brighton have really made a mark on 2018. If you missed the action, a group of Brighton activists took a stand against anti-trans groups. This came in the form of a peaceful protest against Woman’s Place UK, which is covered later in this issue of Stemme by writers Rachelle Foster and Liz Ridgway. Standing up for trans rights, this culminated in the activist group leading the Brighton Pride parade under the moniker LwiththeT - imploring the community and allies to stick together in these turbulent times. Activism holds a place in everyone’s hearts: trans women standing up to police brutality during the Stonewall Riots paved the way for our rights. Learn from our inspiring peers in these pages and support those who are standing up for our queer, trans, non-binary family. Welcome to the fifth edition of Stemme. Freya Hughes Editor

Stemme Magazine - we’re looking for contributors, get in touch! stemmemagazine@gmail.com @stemmemagazine

stemmemagazine.co.uk

Editor - Freya Hughes Design - Rosie Blackwell-Sutton Contributors - Christina Doyle, Rosie Blackwell-Sutton, Lucia Cardelli, Holly Parkinson, Millie Williams, Rachelle Foster, Rosie Gammon, Liz Ridgway, Jules Haydon Guaitamacchi, Nailor Swift Cover Art - Daniel Tomlinson With special thanks to everyone involved. We’re always looking for writers, artists and advertisers. Drop us an email at stemmemagazine@gmail.com

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From Lavender Menace to LwiththeT:

Brighton Pride and a the Start of a New Chapter of Queer Feminist Activism

by lucia cardelli

Fractures in activist groups do not always mean a loss of power, especially when these bring unprecedented visibility to the legitimate issues of individuals within a bigger movement. In the lesbian and queer feminist communities, fragmentation is a phenomenon that has historically brought exposure to causes ignored by the mainstream. In 1969, during a meeting of the American feminist group National Organization for Women, its leader Betty Friedan described lesbian women as “lavender menace”. With the colour being traditionally representative of the LGBTQ+ movement, gay women were defined as a threatening presence for heterosexual feminists because of the supposed distraction

they caused from the organisation’s goals. In long-established queer fashion, the phrase was reclaimed, becoming the name of one of the most influential lesbian activist groups of that decade. As one of the most powerful platforms for British LGBTQ+ activism, Brighton Pride was not impartial to London’s disruptive TERF protest. Through the same unifying power as that of Lavender Menace, the TERF phrase “Get the L Out” was turned into “Keep the L with the T”, separating trans-inclusive lesbian feminism from transphobic groups. With LGBTQ+ organisations MindOut and the Rainbow Fund expressing their support, an

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overwhelming number of cis and trans lesbian activists manifested a newly reinforced bond. Following a parade that brimmed with the effortless diversified harmony that distinguishes our town, the most outspoken members of LGBTQ+ groups could be found at the Community Village during Brighton Pride Festival.

carrying positive change in the treatment of trans people within LGBTQ+ movements. “No one outside the trans community has been speaking about the attacks to it over the years, so I think that [the anti-trans disruption] has worked in our benefit.” When asked about allies, Green held back tears of gratitude. She specifically thanked cis lesbian allies: “without [them] we’d be losing this battle. I think this is the first time that the LGB have come together [in our support]”.

Lesbian activists, both cis and trans, all shared a disapproval of trans-exclusionism and a willingness to separate their activism from that of TERFs, in a needed fracture of the movement paralleling that of Lavender Menace from mainstream feminism. Some of them, like the trans lesbian activist Christina Deaslove, witnessed the disruption in the London Pride parade first-hand. Being “ten groups from the front”, Deaslove highlighted that her LGBTQ+ group My Umbrella received a standing ovation by the public as they marched, contrarily to the trans-exclusionist protest: “[TERFS] are there, but they are not getting the coverage that they want”.

Another prominent queer activist at the Trans Tent was Sarah Savage, a Brighton-based writer and outspoken trans rights advocate. Savage shared her frustration with the media’s treatment of trans women during the past year, allowing a dangerous transphobic rhetoric to spread. While thanking “cis lesbians and queer allies for the outpouring of support over the last few months”, she invited the community to “stand up to transphobia and bigotry to create a visible presence against [trans-exclusionists]”. Her optimism was centred around unity: “trans women in particular feel like they’re in the eye of the storm at the moment, but I think that over the next year [our] communities will grow together and become a real force to be reckoned with”.

Despite many overwhelming words of hope, cis lesbian allies showed concern regarding the recent turmoil in the community. Jessica Borham, a volunteer for Stonewall identifying as a cis queer woman, stated that “[queer women], trans or not, have a responsibility to stand with [all of the] community”. Stephanie Lloyd, a lesbian activist speaking for LGBT Labour, voiced her awareness that “[the fragmentation] feels very similar to some of the tensions between lesbians and broad-stream feminism in the 70s-80s”, with noticeable similarities in the discrimination of lesbians during the years of Lavender Menace and the discrimination of trans women in some of today’s queer feminist movements.

All the solidarity of the local intersectional queer community in response to London’s transphobic incident was palpable, reinforcing the tenacity of the unity of the trans and lesbian communities. ‘LwiththeT’ and ‘Sisters not Cisters’ slogans were resonating throughout Brighton with street art, signs, chants, and a general sentiment of indivisible coexistence. With their activism constantly expanding its borders between online and physical expressions, Brighton’s queer women reinforced their separation from trans-exclusive groups, echoing Lavender Menace and historical gay activism by consolidating an essential fragmentation for the safety of trans lesbians.

Angela Green, one of the trustees for Trans Pride Brighton and a volunteer at the Trans Tent during Brighton Pride Festival perceived this newly found awareness as something

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Trans rights are in the spotlight, but who owns the stage? by rachelle foster

Significant changes in trans rights and representation are on the horizon, and debates on these rights have taken the main stage. Discussions about potential amendments to the Gender Recognition Act picked up momentum in October 2017. Then, Theresa May announced, at the Pink News awards dinner, that plans to streamline and de-medicalise the legislation would go ahead, because “being trans is not an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such”. She pledged that she will be pressing on with equalities minister Justine Greening’s suggestions made in July the same year to reform the legislation.

their website advising attendees on what to do in the event of an anti-trans protest. Instructions included keeping a distance from any anti-trans protesters and to not engage. This action was in light of the protest by Lesbian Rights Alliance who infiltrated and led this year’s Pride in London parade. The group’s banners read ‘trans-activism erases lesbians’ and in an open letter to Stonewall, they called to remove the ‘L’ out of LGBT. The Brighton LGBTQ+ community responded to this by supporting the trans community; launching an online video campaign called #LwiththeT — in which many LGB people shared messages of solidarity calling to keep the ‘L’ with the ‘T’, and similar.

Currently, the law demands applicants to submit reams of personal information to an anonymous panel, which is an expensive process, with almost no appeals procedure. The government’s suggested changes seek to streamline legislation and make it easier for transgender people to gain legal recognition of their gender, without having to jump through and over bureaucratic hoops and hurdles.

Historically, Brighton has been at the spearhead of the LGBTQ+ movement in the UK, having one of the largest queer communities in the country. So it comes as no surprise that the largest collection of artefacts representing UK trans people, the Museum of Transology, opened in the seaside city last year.

With such conversations taking place, exhibitions such as the Museum of Transology at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery opening, and programmes like Genderquake (essentially a Big Brother for queer folk) taking mainstream television by storm, there seems to be progress happening in the UK’s quality of gender politics discussions. But is it enough?

“There are absolutely trans voices in the past, they’re just very, very difficult to locate retrospectively,” says EJ Scott, curator of the Museum of Transology, which is on display until spring next year. “They’re missing because if you had what we call ‘passing privilege’ then you may have used that privilege not to stand out so that you didn’t put yourself in danger or in the face of violence, or have yourself not employed. You would live your life hidden, so we can’t locate those lives because

Other goings-on suggest not. This year, Trans Pride Brighton had to upload guidelines onto

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in their nature they are hidden, a lot of people weren’t trans all the time, 100% because you couldn’t be.” Representation of the LGBTQ+ community is notoriously missing from museums and art galleries. Scott explains this is because the background of the sector is typically heteronormative, white, male and privileged. He says when looking at the founding of most national galleries it’s apparent that they’re essentially built on colonial conquest.

Photo by sharon kilgallon - alonglines photography

“We’ve been written out quite simply because of homophobia and transphobia,” he added. So, does this new exhibition, along with Genderquake and possible new gender laws, represent a positive change in society’s acceptance of transgender people, or is Brighton just ahead of the curve? MindOut, a Brighton-based LGBTQ+ mental health service, runs a course called Trans 101. It provides training for organisations in responding to the needs of their trans and non-binary clients. The course gives people the opportunity to explore what we know about gender, what this means for trans and non-binary people, and how to best support trans clients and service users. Even if Brighton is ahead of the curve, it seems the city still can’t escape being affected by current national policies on legal gender recognition.

Ellis Johnson, a trans mental health advocate at MindOut, says: “The aim of the day is to increase confidence in supporting trans clients to access any and all services within the city and for these clients to be treated respectfully and equally.”

Neither can Brighton avoid having controversial groups like Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) inhabit the city to use the new law reform proposals as a political backdrop for discussion on the validity of trans identity and drive division between feminists.

This kind of work is essential and crucial, considering that MindOut’s own figures show that 90% of trans people that contact them have suicidal thoughts and feelings. Johnson says commonly sought after advice includes how to deal with transphobic treatment within the NHS or other health services. This could be situations like GPs refusing to change details, names, or gender markers.

What these groups don’t understand and will never have to experience, is the tribulation trans people go through in order to legally live freely as the gender they are — a right they are not granted with at birth.

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Scott says: “I don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate, I refuse to place myself within the medicalised mental health system. I have had to access that to get medical treatment in the past, but in so far as declaring myself trans within the legal system I don’t exist essentially. And yet I have a passport, I have a name, and I teach, and I have a national insurance number.” If adaptations to legislation go ahead the effect on the administrative procedures, which are currently stifling, would create an undeniable impact on various trans communities. WPUK argue that the more important impact will take its toll on female-only spaces, such as toilets and changing rooms, and compromise the safety of women using those facilities. They use this argument to actively campaign against progressive conversations in making gender policies more inclusive of trans people. The reality is that self-identifying gender has been protected by law since the Equality Act 2010 was implemented. Such groups as WPUK perpetuate a stigma against the trans community and detract from the more important consequences of a revised gender law. “Trans people are still sent to prisons with their birth identity unless they have a gender recognition certificate, which would mean someone like myself would go to a women’s prison - I don’t know how the women would feel about that, to tell you the truth,” says Scott. The changes new legislation would make to these types of circumstances are ones we should surely be supporting. Rather than worrying if toilets will be inhabited by “men who simply feel like women” - as said by Lucy Masoud, the London Fire Brigade’s LGBT union representative, during a debate on self-identification on Radio 4 with Emily Brothers, Labour’s first openly transgender

candidate to run for Westminster. Community work in advocation of trans rights is key to change, too. Daniel Cheesman, CEO of Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard charity, says: “We’ve done a lot of trans-specific work over the last few years and we were part of the Brighton & Hove City Council ‘Trans Needs Assessment’ that was done a couple of years ago.” The B&H LGBT Switchboard contributed to the council’s assessment in 2015 through their work done within the LGBT Health and Inclusion Project (HIP) and it subsequently led to initiatives like the pronoun badges being rolled out across the city. Local operations such as this do a massive service to the trans-rights movements, but communities can’t do it alone and engagement on a national scale is the only way in which real change can start to become tangible. “If you look on a national scale, it’s only in the last few years that Stonewall has embraced the T (in LGBT), up until the new CEO Ruth Hunt joined, they didn’t look at trans rights,” says Cheesman. So it’s been a long haul for the trans community to get to where it is today and finally it seems like local projects have helped to surge a national shift in the UK’s recognition of gender identity. However, while forward-thinking attitudes on inclusive gender recognition are demonstrated in the bubble of Brighton, the question we should be asking is: is it enough to shift ill-informed perspectives? Unfortunately, it looks like while the national stage for change grows, the more bigotry perspectives are voiced upon it. Find Rachelle on Twitter @rachellerfoster


Teaching trans awareness - part two by jules haydon guaitamacchi Three months after starting on testosterone, I had visible patches of chin hair, broader shoulders and a deeper voice. I received a call one day and it was one of my clients who wanted to book me for a school talk, I answered the phone “god Jules, you sound terrible - are you okay?” I had to explain to her that I wasn’t ill and that my voice was breaking. I’d been very transparent on Facebook which helped to break the ice with the majority of people I knew, but there were plenty of tiring conversations such as people asking me if I was going to go by ‘he’ soon, and surely I wouldn’t need to stick to the ‘they’ thing much longer. Whenever I called out any of these comments, people would defend their ignorance by insinuating that it was my responsibility to teach them, as if I wasn’t finding this whole process difficult and confusing enough.

easy way out’ even though it would eventually corrode away at my self-esteem. At the end of the day, I felt so ashamed, as if I’d let myself and the trans community down. I slowly started integrating my gender identity into my talks. I spoke to members of staff and I realised their complete lack of knowledge and awareness around gender diversity. I wondered how many transgender children must be struggling their way through school, feeling isolated and alone. The more openly I spoke about my transition, the more I’d learn that every school I attended had at least two transgender pupils. I began to encourage schools to book me to speak about trans awareness. I don’t think the teachers knew what to expect but they remained open to listening and seemed to absorb the information. It became clear that schools were dramatically under-resourced when dealing with the recent influx of LGBTQIA+ students that were coming out.

I decided to take the school booking not really considering what it would be like in my new skin. As I made my way to the school I felt the same anxiety I felt when I was 11 years old, on my way to school knowing I’d be tormented by classmates for looking like a ‘boy’. So, I anxiously picked out every hair on my chin before walking through the school gates. Teachers immediately introduced me as ‘Miss’ and I didn’t correct them. Instead, I took ‘the

I considered myself an educator, never really an activist but coming out as trans brought with it huge inequalities. The world around me changed. I lost privileges but gained others. It was bizarre. Identifying as non-binary caused a lot of confusion especially when my body started changing, I changed most of

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my identification to gender-neutral titles but couldn’t change the gender on my passport to anything other than ‘M’ or ‘F’.

All I could really do was to aim to improve these individuals’ school environment by educating their peers. Unfortunately, the school told me that many of the students’ parents thought the worst of trans people and even requested their children be kept away from them.

I received another phone call and this time it was two colleagues I spoke in schools with. I hadn’t come out to them. I felt another wave of fear come over me as they asked me to fly out with them to an international school abroad. This was one of my regular schools, I had spoken there every year for the last five years. I met my colleagues at the airport and put on a facade, desperately hoping they wouldn’t notice any of my physical changes, I even tried to make my voice sound higher. Like a chameleon, I adapted to every situation with the hope of being accepted. I guess I’d gone through so much abuse and bullying as a young person that what people thought about me was more important than staying true to myself. As I walked through security I beeped and was ushered through to the x-ray machine. Before I knew what was happening, a security guard put his hands on my chest and tucked his fingers around my binder. With an embarrassed look on his face, the security guard pointed straight to the exit to move me along. It took me a few minutes to realise what had just happened. I felt violated and validated at the same time. My colleagues had eventually gotten wind of what was going on. I came out to them both and they were incredibly supportive and curious as to why I felt afraid to tell them.

My addiction presentations became mental health and trans awareness talks. One student told me how her parents asked her to unfriend her trans friend but she refused. I looked into her eyes and told her how amazing she was to be able to look beyond her parents’ views and support her friend. My experience in schools all over the country and abroad has shown me that the younger generation is far more open to embracing diversity. As referrals to Gender Identity Clinics have increased, we have witnessed a backlash from movements such as Mum’s Net accusing trans activists of brainwashing their children into some kind of trend. Unfortunately, the education system is being targeted by these groups who are seeking to suppress transgender voices and prevent young people from exploring their gender identity. Having personally experienced how damaging it can be to remain in the closet for so long I recognise that the work extends far beyond the education system. We are dealing with people who aim to remove our right to live happy and fulfilling lives, just like everybody else. Transgender people are the strongest most inspiring people I have ever met. Surviving in a world where there is so much hate, prejudice and erasure directed at you is not an easy task. My hope is that we pave the way for future generations so that one day they have a place within our society and will be able to live their lives free from discrimination. Jules Haydon Guaitamacchi is a presenter, facilitator and coach. julesguaitamacchi.com Photo by Vicki Cook

We had the usual faculty meeting in the morning. My colleague highlighted the fact that I was able to speak on transgender related issues, which was music to the ears of the deputy head. He began telling me about several transgender students in the lower forms, one that was in the psychiatric ward. This was a school that boarded children from different cultures and backgrounds, from all over the world. I felt a sense of inadequacy and had to be realistic about my capabilities.

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activism, what is it good for? by liz ridgway Late summer 2017 I noticed the environment in the UK becoming more and more hostile towards people from the trans community with the development of a number of anti-trans groups such as Woman’s Place UK and their collusion with the mainstream media and powerful religious groups. These groups were mobilising and dressing up problematic, hateful language with words like ‘respectful discussion’ and gathering speakers that had previously made heinous statements about people on the fringes of society. From all sides of the media stories denigrating trans individuals became a weekly, in some cases daily tirade, portraying them as paedophiles, rapists and parasites that needed to be excised and sterilised from society. We’ve of course heard all this kind of language before, over time throughout history, whether it be the Civil Rights Movement, LGBT rights, Marriage Equality and Refugees. The unfettered media campaign and the knowledge of these anti-trans hate groups meeting began to take a personal toll on me. I began to consider that if I was feeling isolated and traumatised, then how would others be feeling. I began asking myself, what can be done to help people who are effectively locked away in fear, in their own homes, at the inevitable time when one of the anti-trans groups decides to organise a meeting in Brighton. It was early April that I was advised Woman’s Place UK would be meeting in Brighton. This wasn’t a time for passive activism, so I founded a group that would initially provide a safe space during the time of any anti-trans meeting. Through word of mouth, the numbers in the group increased. At the same time the

objectives did too, which were to include providing specific reports and notation of the discussion in the meeting, peacefully show opposition to the meeting from outside any venue and to lobby organisations with research we had collected to clearly demonstrate these groups should be, despite the ‘respectful discussion’ language, regarded as hate groups. As predicted, a date was announced by Woman’s Place UK for Brighton, we weren’t fully prepared, but incredibly close, then the hijacking Pride in London by a small group associated with Woman’s Place UK shocked us all. I was about to participate in a feminist demonstration when my closest friend called me and instructed me to look at various social media, “Pride in London has been hijacked”. I rushed to the broadcasts and my heart sank to unmeasurable depths with the sight of an anti-trans group leading Pride in London Parade with the collusion of the event organisers. It was a moment of great despair for so many people of brilliance that I know and love. This despair quickly turned to imagination and as it is consistently for those who choose to navigate towards the sun, the community mobilised and began a counter Photo by Kaleido Shoots


response and #LwiththeT was born. The hashtag including a short video made by cis lesbians and queer women has been viewed over 30k times and continues to give hope to those across the LGBTQIA+ community for a greater show of love and solidarity. A further achievement came a few days later with the agreement to participate as a leading group for the Brighton Pride Parade. To see the faces and the reactions of so many thousands of supportive people who understood why we were there, was as one participant said, “one of the greatest moments of my life”. The Woman’s Place UK meeting did go ahead on the 16th July. Our group of individuals that volunteered to attend the meeting reported a mob mentality with heckling and jeering that included jibes such as “piss off, lady boy” and

“so can we identify as black now”, clearly a sign there was nothing respectful about the debate. Outside the meeting our peaceful demonstration was heckled by Woman’s Place UK attendees with one being led away by police for violently thrusting a fist towards the face of a demonstrator. In a much more secluded beachside private safe space, 60 individuals came to share in solidarity and were treated to music, poetry, spoken word, love and amazing food. It was the Sunday of Brighton Pride, the sun was shining, I was amongst friends, my closest friend was beside me and I asked them, “What have we just done over the last few weeks and months?” They replied, “We just changed the world a little and most of all we gave some people hope.” Love it or not, that’s what activism is good for.


GIRLS IN CLUBS By Holly Parkinson

I thought we were more than just girls in clubs A pastel pink cigarette I stole from your lips Payment of my candied kiss, blown into smoke curls and pools A picture of want Want, need The feeling a penny with no shoulders or head, but feathers filigree. We were models that night, Feet sticky on the seats of culture Lights and neurones syncopated Beats and thunder, hypnotised. You understood the etiquette and took the catwalk clean, Shook hands with liquor, his woman and hers As if bolted skyward, Polaris in view Skunk, spit and gasoline With only my eyes to breathe. The classical, velvetine girl that you are shouldn’t fasten your hands to my waist like that, my mind shouted over the waves My mouth wide and silent to let saltwater in. If the lights had been brighter, would you have been kinder? As I’m screaming NO would you falter? Toxic, intoxicated TOXIC You are inching, inching, bristled Medusa, And I am ITCHING, itching. You wanted all I owned Perhaps I needed you, but I didn’t want a thing. I thought you were home but you were daggers and needles and disease down my spine and the bruises on my lips. p.s- I am living now, darling, And I see what you mean. I am mine to adore, and was never yours to keep. Even the most breathtaking building is scuffed at the edges.


- what’s on -

chocolate box

QUEER AS FVCK

3rd September, 7.15pm, £12 The Marlborough Theatre

20th September, 7pm, £6 Caroline of Brunswick

This is the debut of what is set to be a bi-monthly celebration of the fiercest POC artists the scene has to offer. With Tayris Mongardi taking the reigns. She said: “I am absolutely delighted to not only be taking the reigns, but alongside a killer cast featuring Zayn Phallic, Roxie Cleopatra and Sea Sharp!

Brighton’s newest alternative, queer comedy night. Following on from the success of the first sell-out show, Queer as Fvck returns with an award winning line-up. Fresh from their critically acclaimed shows at Edinburgh Fringe, Oxford’s rising stars Dragprov Revue make their Brighton debut with a special set consisting of improv comedy, songs and mime. We’ll also be welcoming this year’s Drag Idol winner Felix Le Freak and crowd favourite, Lydia Eastslope will be joining us again to regale us with more of her anecdotal tales. As ever, host and creator Hans Euff will be guiding you through the evening.

The Chocolate Box takes place at The Marlborough Theatre in Brighton on the first Monday of every other month starting on September 3rd. Let’s give it up for these huge C.O.C.s...Champions of Colour!


A Stolen Life – How Opioid Addiction Robbed My Identity by millie williams I’ve just opened my eyes and I’m sick. I slept too late and my withdrawal is kicking in. Nausea, headache, and muscle cramping. I use the bathroom then immediately find my pain meds. My pain is worse today. The opiates no longer work but I’m not sick anymore. This has been my ritual for nearly a decade. I know what some of you might be thinking. That I’m just another drug addict looking for sympathy or making excuses for why I no longer work. Take a moment to read my story because this could be you. I worked as a nurse’s assistant for over 20 years. During that time, I had developed chronic back pain related to injuries sustained on the job. Even though I suffered in agony, it was the only job that I knew how to do, and I loved it. Most people in this field suffer, but you can’t allow your employer to know you have pain because, chances are, they will terminate your employment. I went through therapy, acupuncture, electric muscle stimulation, steroid injections, and nothing worked. I finally found a pain management doctor and she prescribed Percocet. That made me terribly ill, but I took it anyway. Eventually, my dosage of medicine substantially increased and over time my pain got worse. The pain meds did nothing so I decided to stop taking them. I woke up sick. Stomach cramps, muscle cramps, headache, sweats, cold and clammy skin, diarrhoea. It was horrible. I’ve heard people describe withdrawal as if it was the flu. Well, I’ve had

the flu and this felt nothing like it. I knew then I was addicted to my pain meds and I needed them just to work and function. I told my doctor I wanted off these toxic pills. She replied, “You will never succeed in getting off them completely. You have been on them too long.” I was a lifer. I tried several ways to stop, but I always had to go back to them. They invade your mind, body, and soul. Without realising it you become a slave to something more powerful than life itself – opiates. I eventually had to stop working all together because my pain was too much. I tried different jobs and even one-on-one patient care, but I just couldn’t do it. I became depressed after I stopped working. I receive a monthly cheque from the government, but it isn’t good enough to feed, clothe and house a dog. My wife has been with me almost 12 years and she is my rock. Most of my so-called friends faded away when I stopped working. I can honestly say I have one friend that would do anything for me and two others that run a close second. I love people and I loved being a part of society. I had loads of friends, or so I thought, which can be hard sometimes growing up as a lesbian with a Jehovah’s witness mother who already doesn’t want you to have “worldly” friends. Eventually I found my way and I picked up a camera and am now a photographer after 5 years of practice and, well, more practice.


I started this article going through self-imposed withdrawal. I have lost my health, my mind, my soul, and my independence. I didn’t know if I would be able to finish this on time or at all, but I need people to know that opioids are the devil. If I could go back in time, I would have never filled my first prescription.

been suicidal. What was the answer for that? More meds to help with my depression. My body has gotten weaker. I used to be able to walk around a market as long as I had a trolley to hold onto. Now, I can barely do that. I want my life back. I don’t want to die an early death from organ failure or heart attack due to lack of movement. I never leave the house. I never visit family and no one visits me. I am a shell of my former self. There’s nothing left to take but my life.

I know many of you reading this probably think I misused them. And you would be correct. In the first years, I did take more than prescribed. That is the nature of the beast. Then, I would be sick and have to buy them off the streets. However, I stopped that 10 years ago and have taken them as prescribed ever since. As soon as my eyes open, I’m sick until I take my pills. If I want to go on vacation, I have to work around my pill delivery date. I can’t leave the house for too long unless I have my meds because I will start to go through withdrawal without them. What kind of life is that? I’ve

I survived cancer and, by God, I will survive this demon. I am writing this as a cautionary tale. I implore anyone reading this who has chronic pain, seek other alternatives. Holistic medicine. Meditation. Do your research before you find yourself like me.

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QTIPOC Narratives Collective superficial reform and diverse participation. Now we challenge white supremacy in the queer community with token people of colour. How many QTIPOC can we use to enhance our image and deflect from critical self-reflection?

On Queer Politics and Community By Channy Nguyen The corporate-sponsored gentrification of Pride has led to increased feelings of alienation and disillusionment in LGBTQIA communities and queer people are reminded once more that Pride was a protest. But what exactly are we protesting? Is it really such a surprise that a liberation movement, once absorbed into the system is sanitised, depoliticised, and turned into a parade-spectacle of homocapitalism, awash with rainbow stamps of approval by queer-friendly mortgages, deodorant, and hamburgers? Now that more of us are out of the closet, those with the financial mobility become just another marketable demographic - I guess that is the real meaning behind ‘equality’ in capitalism. Diversify the market, expand your capital base. In the neoliberal state, the prescriptive solution is inclusion. Queer the military, queer marriage and queer your corporation. Enhance harmful structures and institutions with membership,

Depoliticisation breeds demobilisation and individualisation of responsibility. We are the products that we buy, the votes that we cast and our chosen charity donations. Our civic responsibility ends there. A package of easy morality brought to you by local and transnational NGOs and their professionalised career activists - at a 9-5 desk job doing admin, treating the communities they nurture as ‘clients’ and ‘patients’. And it is to those people we are led to for support, when austerity cuts and structural inequalities affect our communities, deflecting the state’s responsibility towards its citizens - processing what should be birth rights (sustenance, access to housing, education, healthcare etc) as acts of charity. Brighton QTIPOC Narratives Collective started as a space for queer people of colour to gather and process their place in a whitewashed, normative world and is steadily constructing a social imaginary based on communal spirit and collective responsibility amidst the incessant messages of self-help, self-care, and self-inadequacy issued by neoliberalism’s pundits.

‘Organising’ like an Ecosystem By Ven Paldano Being the new kids on the block, we did not expect to be grappling so soon with how to


convert radical politics and ‘wokeness’ into a movement hell-bent on collapsing systems of domination, like capitalism, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. It has been quite a journey since forming our collective in April; the events and collaborations have made many of us question the meaning of ‘community organising’ and if a wad of cash is truly a necessity. All too often we can be hypnotised by messages of slick homogenised marketing, into believing that only corporate-type ventures have the stamina to create change. In reality it takes our focus away from spreading a message and allowing us to share responsibility to enact the changes we want to see. Maybe the solution is much simpler than ‘the man’ would have us believe; possibly to learn from nature and how it handles its own communities as ecosystems. Organising as an ecosystem where every being is relevant and equal, in order to create a fluid dynamic centered on wellbeing.

Resisting Tokenism and Assimilationist Practices By Lazy Raine There are many barriers in grassroots organising, especially for QTIPOC. A huge barrier is funding. Although money is a difficult topic in community organising, it’s no secret that living is expensive, and accessibility, in particular, costs. Adequately serving your communities means not just meeting their varied needs, but truly enriching their lives; this usually necessitates funding. Obtaining funds is something QTIPOC frequently struggle with, for a multitude of reasons and we often feel we need to turn to monied governing bodies, bodies which are overwhelmingly white. This can ultimately mean having to shrink yourself so as not to upset their (don’t panic! Only racist in private) decision makers.

Liberal groups with somewhat similar aims have offered funding/space to sell our zine. But these offers routinely turn out to simply be an exercise in tokenisation or an effort to advance their own position as pioneers in social thought, rather than helping members of our community. Protracted contact with more powerful others, reveals disingenuous efforts to use us as a ‘brown-but-silent-and-compliant’ image booster. There is the illusion of being valued, but the illusion is all that is being offered, and we are expected to be grateful. In reality there is a huge space between speaking and being heard. Permitting people of colour to speak but not valuing our words is a pacification tool. We do not just need to talk. We need what we say to count; to matter and move and be heard. That will never happen while we are viewed as a convenient tick on a checklist and not treated as people who are trying to create and change; whilst fighting to keep our own heads above water and mend those of us who are breaking. We are not a queer, genderfucking, brown face to tick all of those diversity boxes. Our work is important, whether or not we receive recognition from white society. It takes a lot of our labour, but we are capable of networking and building sustainable movements. We do ourselves a disservice when we bend beyond recognition for others. Ultimately, it is our own community connections and determination to thrive for ourselves and our siblings that sustains our activism. QTIPOC Narratives Collective demands more than performative allyship, we do not dance for dollars, or smile on cue, we do not exist to boost other’s social currency; we are beautifully and exclusively ours.

BRIGHTON QTIPOC NARRATIVES

@qtipocnarratives


being bi+ at pride by rosie gammon It’s the most wonderful time of the year… For a lot of queer people, Brighton Pride is like Christmas. It’s the one of the biggest (and, some will say, the best) Pride event in the country. This year, estimated numbers of attendees ranged from 300,000 to 450,000. With so many people flocking to our small city, it was impossible to escape the revelry. But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For bi people, and people of other marginalised queer identities, Pride events can sometimes feel isolating. I’m a bisexual woman, and this year I attended Pride with my girlfriend. I always feel welcome and valid when I attend queer events with her, but I know that this is because most people will assume I’m a lesbian. I never attended Pride while dating my ex - a cis, straight man - but I often wonder how different that experience would have been. Bi and pan people are the largest group within the LGBTQIA+ community, and yet we are one of the most invisible. The fact that so many people still insist on calling it ‘Gay Pride’ is just one example of how marginalised queer identities continue to be erased.

I wasn’t very included in the celebration”. Catherine, who was visiting Brighton Pride for the first time this year, said, “I’m pan, but at Pride I sometimes feel like I’m just there as an ally”.

With this in mind, I took to social media to ask bi+ people: ‘What was your experience of Brighton Pride 2018?’ Many of the people I spoke to mentioned the huge lack of visibility. Faye, who grew up in Hassocks, felt “very under represented”. She said, “I couldn’t find anywhere to buy [a bi flag] and it made me really sad that

Brighton resident, Jess, told me that she “experienced moments of proper erasure” both during and after the festival. She marched with LwiththeT, a pro-trans activist

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group who led the Brighton Pride parade in response to the transphobic protestors who hijacked the London parade a month previously. When a popular queer media outlet reported on it afterwards, they described LwiththeT as a group of “trans women, trans men, non-binary people, lesbians, and gay men,” failing to include bi people in the list. The error was quickly fixed after Jess complained. However, the omission is demonstrative of general attitudes that bi+ people face from within the community.

self-conscious that other LGBTQ+ people will perceive us as cis/het tourists who are just at Pride to get smashed,” he said. “It feels like my experiences as an LGBTQ+ person are being disregarded because I don’t have a male partner”. It’s impossible to guess someone’s gender identity or sexuality just by looking at them, and yet these assumptions are always being made. Despite all this, there were some pockets of positive bi+ representation at Pride this year. Bi Pride UK marched in the Brighton Parade this year, providing some much needed representation. There were also some brilliant and inclusive community-led events at venues like The Marlborough. Nem, who was born in Brighton and describes herself as “queer on both the gender and sexuality spectrums”, said, “Pride this year beautifully helped me celebrate both those parts of me… I am proud of our city in general!”

Jess also commented on how the increasing depoliticisation of pride is hurting our community’s most vulnerable members. “A lot of the issues I faced during Pride as a bi person were about the wider shift away from LGBTQIA+ politics and towards commercialisation and pinkwashing,” she said. “I saw rainbow flags in every window and felt alienated, not welcomed, because I know to them it meant gay and possibly lesbian, but never bi or trans.”

CJ Jessup, who came down from London, said the place they felt “most welcome and seen” was at Gal Pals’ Queer Pride event at Komedia: “They had clearly made an effort to make it inclusive in certain ways: providing wheelchair access, having gender-neutral toilets, not overcrowding the venue,” they said. “Also I just heard great music that I associate with being queer myself, which I sometimes don’t find with ‘traditional’ gay bars.” Nights like this offer some respite from the constant lack of inclusivity at the official Pride events.

Like other big Pride festivals across the world, Brighton Pride has faced criticism in recent years for becoming increasingly commercialised. Most controversially, this year’s sponsors included British Airways, who are currently involved in the deportation of queer asylum seekers. What began as a political protest is now a corporate-funded party with an incoherent ideology. One side effect of this is that Pride has become increasingly more attractive to cis/het people. These visitors don’t always act respectfully whilst in our spaces, which understandably makes many members of our community feel frustrated and angry.

Considering that bi+ people face higher rates of domestic violence and mental health issues, big LGBTQIA+ events like Brighton Pride should be providing a necessary safe space for us. Pride should be a space for us to heal and to connect with our community. Unfortunately, however, we still have a long way to go before it feels like a space that’s designed for us too.

However, this anger can often be misdirected at queer people. Brighton resident Reuben is “a bisexual trans man in a relationship with a bi/pan woman”, but he and his partner do not always feel welcome at Pride. “I’m always

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the forgotten b by christina doyle How good is your gaydar? How brilliant is your Bi-Fi? Do you ever meet someone and wonder whether they are gay or straight?

communities because of my sexuality: biphobia is real. I’ve been asked, ‘Why be gay when you can be straight?’ and even been told that I don’t exist. Society has consistently maintained there’s something wrong with me for not ‘choosing a side’. I know for sure that I’ve never been ‘confused’, the problem lies with a society that won’t accept me for who I am.

I never really wanted a label or felt the need to label anyone else, but I find bisexual best defines me. I never had the coming out experience that others talk of; I guess I was lucky enough to be born already out of the closet. Both friends and family have always been accepting. Benefiting from straight privilege and times of having heterosexual relationships, maybe meant it was probably a bit easier for them to deal with. I know how fortunate I am to have this experience.

Bisexuals have been discriminated against in the mainstream media for decades now. Just two years ago on Big Brother, Christopher Biggins declared that the following was the reason for the spread of the AIDS virus:

From a young age, I’ve dealt with the stigma and discrimination that goes alongside my bisexuality and repeatedly been perceived as ‘confused’. The notion that I can never be happy, as I’ll always want to be with both sexes is completely untrue - and extremely hurtful.

‘I think it was a bisexual disease…and what they didn’t realise is that a lot of bisexuals went to those countries and had sex with those people and then brought it back to their own families in America. And that’s how it became such a worldwide disease.’ This sort of hate speech is extremely damaging.

Throughout my single life, I often felt like the straight girl at gay bar, or the gay girl in straight bar.

I appreciate that the biphobia battle is perhaps considered the least important in our LGBTQ+ community. After all, us bisexuals have usually benefitted from straight privileges for at least some of our lifetimes. The benefit we have is that we know what it’s like to be pigeonholed on either side of the sexuality spectrum. This puts us in a strong position to understand homophobia as both a victim and someone often assumed to be straight. Bi-visibility is important. Contrary to popular belief, I haven’t spent my life flitting between gay and straight, I’ve always been both. I’ve always been bi.

I am often referred to as a lesbian these days, as I’m settled in a same sex relationship and fully intend on being with my partner forever. However, this is not my authentic self. As proud as I am to be with my female partner, I do not want my previous feelings, relationships or partners dismissed as meaningless. I’m also faced with judgement from the gay community, as I’m open about the fact I am still attracted to men. I’ve been hissed at, dismissed from conversations and insulted by people in both straight and gay

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Someday, I like to think that we’ll live in a world where we don’t assume people’s sexualities or genders. If we want to know, ask the individual. My sexuality is part of me, but this is not the essence of who I am. I could never choose to be gay or straight, but if I did get to choose who I was attracted to, why wouldn’t I pick the best of both worlds? I wouldn’t want to be anything other than who I am. Please can we work towards allowing people to be who they are without this black and white notion of sexuality? We really need to start talking more about how to support all the letters in the LGBTQ+ community, ‘B’s included! The worlds needs to accept me, alongside my lesbian, gay, trans and other friends. Let’s all stop comparing ourselves to others and remember we are all people. We all want to be visible.

Photo by Kaleido Shoots

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joe black drag you under the bus How long have you been performing and how did you get started? I originally started performing as a street performer, as a living statue and also performing songs on the accordion. It’ll be 11 years this year. In one of my first ‘big’ gigs back in 2007, I entered an annual battle of the bands event at The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth. The Wedgewood Rooms was the place in Portsmouth to see the touring acts and I have such special memories of it as a teenager. I did my 10-year celebration there last year and it was wonderful to go back as a fully fledged adult/cabaret person to have my own show there. Rather than a mixed bill of acts all competing for… well, I don’t even remember the prize! How have you developed your signature style? I’ve developed and changed a lot over the years, all completely organically. I’m not massively interested in pop culture and it doesn’t really have an effect on what I do (it probably does, I’m just happy to live in denial). I’m sort of stubborn and like what I like, you know? There’s this ongoing joke with friends that whenever they mention a current pop act they always explain who it is to me and what they do - Grandmother Joe! I’m interested in aesthetics and what they say to me. So, I’ve developed what I do from what I see and how it makes me feel. I like paintings and images of old Berlin cabaret bars, they make me wonder, “what would that ACTUALLY be like?” Is cabaret your life’s work, or do you have other ambitions you’d like to explore?

Photo by Greg Bailey

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Cabaret, probably unhealthily, is my life’s work. I love the art form so much. I love the scope and depth and literally anything it can be. I do also love making hats, though. Which ultimately I make a way to tie in! I started learning millinery which was a great side project for me. Not to do professionally, just for my own head and heads of friends. Is the Joe Black we see on stage similar to your personality off stage? To a degree, it has to be. Once the makeup and costume are on I feel I can get away with a lot more than I could get away with without it. I’ve been doing this for 11 years, so eventually, it seeps in and you end up just becoming that person all the time. We’ve heard you like snakes and reptiles. What’s it all about? Snakes have always been my favourite animal, ever since I was a little kid. My mum has this photo of me on her fridge, I must be about six years old. With this GIANT snake on me. It could have eaten me no problem. The story goes that they tried to hand me a smaller snake and I threw a bit of a hissy fit and insisted on having the biggest one they had. They tried to get me not to but apparently, I wouldn’t listen (nothing has changed), and it took two adult men to hold the snake either side of me to get this photo opportunity. I look SO happy. It doesn’t influence my work at all. Being the proud mother of two snakes, I can tell you they really don’t do anything. Unless I decide to do an act where I stare at a plastic plant for four hours or am surprised at a water bowl being changed. Maybe a performance art piece where I eat something the size of the widest part of my body every two weeks and I strip out of my clothes to reveal the exact same clothes underneath. Then I just get longer and longer, until eventually whoever is looking after me realises they weren’t ready for that kind of commitment so sends me to the RSPCA

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reptile place in Brighton! Where they do amazing work with no main RSPCA help. Give them some money. Adopt an adorable Royal Python (if you can commit!), they stay reasonably small and look like wide-eyed children and the most docile little angels in the snake world. ANYWAY. Snakes. They’re just beautiful and fascinating and they make me very happy. Drag You Under The Bus is a very weird show. What we might expect from your performance? Weird is subjective. I think commuters are weird. I’ll be singing a selection of my favourite songs from my back catalogue, joined by my hapless assistant Friederich Hollandaise on piano. Which other performers in Brighton do you admire? Alfie Ordinary, Lydia L’scabies, Rococo Chanel, Cherry Shakewell, Missy Macabre. The list could go on! All for very different but entirely valid and special reasons! What do you have coming up in your diary? I’m spending the whole of December in America. Though I can’t say what for yet! I was invited to Drag World in London in August as one of their headline UK guests, which was very nice. Lots of bits here and there. October is always jam-packed, what with Halloween on the horizon that month! Drag You Under The Bus is exciting too, of course. Come to that whoever is reading this. I’ll sing in incoherent German and sit on your lap. Can you share any advice for up and coming performers who want to get noticed? Don’t do what everyone else is doing because someone else is already doing it. Do what genuinely excites you and that translates to an audience. What’s better to watch than someone having the best time and being amazing at it? You can see Joe Black at Drag You Under The Bus Cabaret at Komedia on 26 October misterjoeblack.com


array apparel the future is fluid

Unapologetically gender-fluid fashion company Array Apparel has just launched its Spring/ Summer 2018 collection with a controversial message that calls out big brands for failing freedom of expression. Directors Paige Garvey and Stephanie Bridge claim that the fashion industry is failing consumers by not being progressive enough in the marketing of gendered clothing. They argue that decisions to ditch gendered labels on children’s ranges by John Lewis and Abercrombie Kids are “a step in the right direction, albeit an ironic baby-step”, adding that “if these companies were really serious about ending gender stereotypes, this would have been a top-down approach from the adult collections”. In their Mission Statement, Array Apparel champion the fact that there is an “array of genders”. They go on to explain that their brand aims to end gender stereotypes and promote the social tolerance of fluidity. With a minimalist look and long-line cuts offering a gender-neutral urban style, Array Apparel is attempting to challenge the binary status quo and has launched three clothing ranges in the first instance. The first is their Signature range, sporting the brand name and their slogan ‘Love, Not Labels’. The second is a graphic statement t-shirt range called Diversi-tee, with designs such as ‘The Future Is Fluid’ and ‘Being Straight Was My Phase’. Lastly, they have an Array range which includes items baring their diamond-style logo. Array Apparel’s launch photo shoot includes models from the LGBTQ+ community, with a

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teaser advert starring Cambell Kenneford; a transgender model as seen in Channel 4’s two-part reality television programme Genderquake, which aired in May earlier this year. The video also includes professional contemporary dancer Jordan Bridge (Company Wayne McGregor) and former Lion King West End dancer Connor Williams. In a unique style, all models at the photo shoot were encouraged to bring their own clothes to pair with Array Apparel’s collection and given “complete and unrestricted creative expression”. We spoke to one of the directors, Stephanie Bridge, on the reasons for such flexibility; she said “we wanted our models to actually express their true gender identity and to wear what they would genuinely feel comfortable in. If you are non-binary, this can be extremely fluid… hence why some of our models wear thigh-highs in one shot, but trousers and boots in the next”. Array Apparel are Manchester-based and planning a second photo shoot to launch their Autumn Winter collection. “We will be putting out another model call on our Instagram soon”, she added. Whilst taking the time to launch their campaign effectively, Array Apparel are also planning partnerships with local LGBT charities and trusts in an effort to promote social tolerance and respect for those who identify “outside of the binary status quo”. In the spirit of the Pride Season, the brand will be offering special discounts on their website and corresponding social media pages to all first-time buyers. arrayapparel.co.uk


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trans enough by samuel allan All trans people, whether they’re on hormones or not, whether they’ve had surgery or not, are valid. Neither one of us is more trans or less trans than the other. There is a toxicity that I have noticed from people both in and out of the LGBTQIA community, which is the belief that if you have not medically transitioned then your ‘transness’ is invalid. This is an incredibly negative and absurd view as it reinforces sexist ideals and stereotypes and reduces people’s identity and value to their genitals. I am a 25 year old transgendered man, who has socially transitioned and not medically. I came out as trans about two years ago and whether I will take hormones or not is something that I ask myself everyday. However, whatever decision I come to, the fact remains: I am absolutely 100% trans enough. Often, when meeting new people and in conversation, I say I am trans and my pronouns are he/him. I then usually get asked ‘How long have you been transitioning?’ To which, I simply say, ‘Well, I have transitioned,’ Or another question, I frequently get asked is, ‘How long have you been a man?’ To


this I reply, ‘All my life.’ Both of these responses usually get met with puzzled expressions. I observe that these people’s brains are slowly imploding.

person, they do not take our identities seriously. This, of course, is incredibly dangerous and damaging to our lives and this is made clear by the trans murders and suicides forever on the rise.

Another incident was after I did a public presentation at an event on this very matter. I explained my journey and how my transness is not invalidated just because I’m not currently on hormones. I was approached by a cis woman who then lectured me saying that my message was too forward thinking and that ‘actual’ trans people need to have the medical procedures. She said she worked with a trans charity and helped a lot of trans people get the medical care they wanted and needed. There is no doubt that hormones and surgeries can be life changing and life saving and I support any organisation that helps trans people get them. However, this was a classic case of a cis person policing a trans person’s identity and she made an awful lot of assumptions about me. She had worked with a few trans people, and therefore assumed she knew everything there is to know about being transgender. Unfortunately, there are plenty more people out there who think like this.

We must understand that not all trans folk prioritise or desire procedures, such as hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgeries. While many of us do undergo medical transitions for cosmetic, psychological, and/or health reasons, many of us also do not for whatever personal reasons. As mentioned earlier, I am undecided about whether to undergo medical transition. And if I do, I know that too comes along with my many struggles and challenges. Being trans in a cisnormative world is certainly not easy. So, that’s my story. That is one story from one trans person out of the millions and millions of other stories there are in the world from other trans folk. All are stories are different and just as important as each other. We are not going to be all on the same journey, not all of us are going to go through the same experiences. There is no mathematical equation, no rule book, no step by step guide on being trans.

It is going to sound perhaps a little cliché, but we, as a society, are so hooked on people’s appearances. Maybe because I, and many other trans men, may not look like what someone’s idea of a man is (whatever that is meant to be anyway), they continue to misgender us. Even after we have told people tirelessly our correct pronouns. It is bizarre, and I speak from personal experience here, that it seems unless there are any significant physical changes that people can see on a trans

I think when people can finally see and understand that knowing one story from one trans person does not mean that all of a sudden they know all of our stories, then we may have some more hope of transphobia being completely erased. Until then, educate yourself because no-one is going to do it for you.

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DRAGONY UNClE nailor swift Nailor Swift is the host of Kingdom and now Stemme’s very own Dragony Uncle. He sits down to tackle your questions, dishing out advice on everything from love, dating and sex to addiction and depression.

If you need some advice, Nailor is here to help. Submit your questions to stemmemagazine@gmail.com. As a bisexual woman I’m worried about being excluded from the queer community due to perceived straight privilege. How can I overcome this? I am saddened that this issue even exists within the queer community and I’m sorry you’re feeling you may be excluded. Bisexual visibility is increasing but it still less than it should be.

I’d love to get involved in local activism but I don’t want to say the wrong things or get in trouble. What should I do? First of all I’d look at what issues you feel passionate about and remember that educating others is one of the best activism tools that we all have. So research, learn, and know the history and maybe even laws behind your chosen activism.

I’ve personally experienced a lot of content that’s been useful in educating people and normalising the bisexual narrative. Perhaps finding such sources may help you feel more validated and see how others have experienced and handled this issue.

As for joining a local activism group; have a look online, or talk with others and see what is going on in your area. It may be worth going to a few group meet ups, and see which ones feel most aligned to your values. Starting off by listening and getting a sense of the group can also be helpful in finding your voice.

I would also say that this exclusionary perception is not one shared by the whole queer community, so I would find spaces and people who will accept you for exactly who you are.

It’s important to remember that you can choose to leave if you feel uncomfortable. Do not feel pressured into taking part in activities that do not feel safe for you.

You are valid, and others shouldn’t wish struggle on you in order to ‘earn’ you place in a community.

Also be sure to keep an open mind, and a attitude of compassion, as these enable discourse that creates change, in a way that attack and defensiveness never can.

And know that there a number of places you can reach out to such as MindOut.org.uk who can offer more support and resources.

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Stemme issue 5  
Stemme issue 5  
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