May 27, 2015

Women Speaking Up (and other things on my mind lately)

I didn’t intend to do a links post quite so soon after my last one, but a few things I read recently have been rattling around inside my head — and what are blogs for if not to document that?

  • Deborah Cameron, a feminist sociolinguistics professor and the author of the excellent The Myth of Mars and Venus, wrote a post titled Why Women Talk Less that offers an in-depth, systemic analysis of why women are marginalised in public arenas.

  • Cameron’s post resonated with a lot of thoughts I’ve been having lately, about gender and politics and wider inequality and essentially living a life I can bear, even if it’s not strictly about all of these things. The following passages in particular really spoke to me, in the same way Carol Tavris’ “but the point is to direct our attention to the straitjacket, not its dutiful wearer” did a few years ago:
    What happens when people talk is affected by group dynamics. The speakers who contribute most aren’t always the ones who behave most assertively; often they’re the ones who get most support from other people. They are able to gain and hold onto the floor—without needing to act like jerks—because others invite them to speak, listen attentively to what they say, ask them questions and make responses which encourage them to continue.
    A study of the performance evaluations given to men and women in the IT industry found that women’s evaluations, but not men’s, frequently included criticisms of their ‘abrasive’ manner. Like ‘bossy’ and ‘strident’ (also words which are rarely applied to men), ‘abrasive’ is code for ‘she talks too much/too forcefully’. It’s a clear double standard: what’s acceptable in men becomes a problem when women do it. This is one reason why advice to be more assertive can backfire. It also suggests that women who don’t speak up may not have a problem with assertiveness at all. Some may be choosing not to compete directly with men, because they think the costs outweigh the benefits.
    The way girls and women police their own and each other’s behaviour is another factor that contributes to the problem. Criticizing individuals is not the answer; what we need to do is address the conditions that make their behaviour a rational choice. [Emphasis mine.]
    It’s possible that the connection will only make sense in my head, but this is essentially what I was getting at the other day when I wrote about the film Pride and the importance of solidarity and support. Over the years I’ve come to resent hyper-individualised advice to “be assertive”, “try harder” and “put myself out there”, even if I know there are a few (fewer than is generally acknowledged) specific circumstances where it can be useful. I don’t know how to find a way to work towards meaningful change within a rigged social system while acknowledging that urging specific individuals (often quiet women like me) to go against the grain of their personality and risk social backlash isn’t really the answer. It becomes a double-bind: if we do it, there are consequences. If we don’t, suddenly the blame is shifted to us.

    I do know one thing, though: a systemic analysis helps, because it can potentially inoculate us against feelings of self-blame and inadequacy that can have a really damaging effect. I’ve been thinking a lot about different circumstances in my life when I felt I could or couldn’t speak up or take action — the dynamics were similar regardless of whether it was about engaging in activism, raising my hand at a meeting, finding the motivation to continue writing, or speaking up about harassment. I felt paralysed, small and ashamed whenever I internalised toxic messages that equated speaking up solely with prestigious individual traits like courage, strength or conviction, and which ignored that not doing so is very often a rational, sensible choice based on a careful analysis of costs and benefits that’s well-grounded in facts — in short, it’s a direct result of how vulnerable you are and how much you can afford to risk. I gave up whenever I was told it was me who was at fault and took that message to heart. Conversely, I felt empowered whenever I happened to have access to networks of support that counterbalanced or at the very least minimised such risks.

    I don’t know where to go from here except to try my best to be generous and consistent in offering encouragement to others and in amplifying their voices.

    Support is everything. This is my new life motto.

  • Other things: Ireland says yes to same-sex marriage – in pictures. These made me happy.

  • How “austerity” will exacerbate the effects of the digital divide.

  • No more austerity, please—and don’t forget about inequality, says Nobel Prize-winning economist.

  • This is not new, but I hadn’t come across it until last week. Malinda Lo recommends stories featuring lesbian/bisexual/queer female main characters. Many I love and many I want to read.

  • Judith Butler speaks out against her work being co-opted for transphobic purposes.

  • Books about women don’t win big awards: some data: Nicola Griffith does for adult awards what I did for YA a few year ago; unsurprisingly, the results are not dissimilar.

  • Angela Carter would have been 75 this year, and there’s a new edition of The Bloody Chamber (with a gorgeous cover) to mark the occasion. It’s been great to read pieces about her work by other writers I adore, namely Kelly Link and Laura Miller.

  • Speaking of Kelly Link, did you know she was recently interviewed by Helen Oyeyemi?

  • RIP Tanith Lee :(

  • The wonderful Christine Heppermann on retelling fairy tales:
    Writing the fairy tale–based poems in my collection Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty helped me make sense of the ugliness around and inside of me without losing hope. I plunged into the wolf’s belly and eventually emerged feeling…what? Not unscathed. Not triumphant. Not like I have all the answers. More like I’m glad I asked the questions and like I might just have the courage to keep asking.
  • We already know that Shaun Tan is amazing, but here’s further evidence: sculptural illustrations for the Grimms’ fairy tales.

  • Lastly, today I said goodbye to Lady Business — a very sad but necessarily step. You can find a fuller explanation and a retrospective of my contributions to the site by following the link.

    I’ll be back soon with actual bookish thoughts (and an excessively long post on The Wire, probably.)
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    May 25, 2015

    Reading Notes: Dipping My Toes Into the X-Verse

    Reading Notes: Dipping My Toes Into the X-Verse

    As you might remember from the last time I documented my adventures in the Marvel universe, reading the most recent Storm collection made me curious about the X-Men. As I usually do when in doubt, I turned to Memory: she reassured me that it was okay to start wherever (one of the key rules of the X-Verse, it turns out, is that chronology doesn’t matter because time travel), and, knowing my preferences, recommended Marjorie Liu’s excellent series about mutant girls.

    Three TPBs doesn’t make me an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but in case you’re wondering what I make of the X-Verse so far, here it goes: I really like the emphasis on stories about identity, belonging and inequality. The stories seem grittier than the ones surrounding the Avengers and friends — this isn’t a bad thing in itself, but I did miss the sense of fun I’ve come to enjoy about Marvel comics. On the other hand, their political subtext is generally closer to my sensibility. I liked the books below quite a lot, but I think that in the end they weren’t quite as strong as Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel, She-Hulk, and the rest of the lady-centric superhero comics I’ve been reading recently. Which is fine, of course — I still had fun with them, and I look forward to continuing to get acquainted with the X-Men.

    Here’s what I read:

    Generation Hope: The Future's a Four Letter Word by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Espin

    Generation Hope: The Future's a Four Letter Word by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Espin

    There was a character primer at the end of the first of these comics that allowed me to catch up with Hope Summers and her very complicated, time travel-filled backstory — this was a good and necessary thing. The Future is a Four-Letter Word is a mini-series penned by Kieron Gillen (the reason why I read it) with close connections to major events in the X-Verse. It’s not really a standalone, but the important Marvel lesson I’d learned previously was particularly useful here: as long as you’re okay with allowing context to fill in the gaps you’ll be just fine.

    Hope Summers, a mutant teenager, returns from the future and helps round up the first four x-men to be born since the day when all existing mutants were stripped of their powers. The members of this group, known as the Four Lights, need time and help and support so they can stop feeling like monsters, and so they can find somewhere where they belong. Throughout the mini-series, we watch them go through this process with varying degrees of success.

    ALL the ladies!

    I liked that this was a story about women helping other women and forming meaningful relationships (I’m nothing if not constant in my preferences, it seems), but in this particular case I was less sure about some of the political subtext. Take, for example, the panel below, where Hope says, “Thinking we’re the ‘gifted’ ones… we need to be able to get past that. We’re all just people. They’re all just people. And people who don’t see that, they’re part of the problem. The ‘gifted’ and the ‘ungifted’ is just ‘us and them’. That’s what’s wrong.” On the one hand, I’m in favour of appeals to common humanity and of challenging a specialness narrative with potentially damaging consequences. On the other hand, I believe this can be done while still acknowledging that identity is not necessarily divisive, and I’m very, very wary of narratives that veer in that direction. From what I gather about the X-Verse, mutants have been repeatedly discriminated against and violently persecuted. This means that the circumstances of their world do make them different, and there’s strength to be drawn from coming together and sharing these experiences. This can of course be done without defaulting to “actually, the majority that has turned on us are the ones who are inferior”, and I wish the story had done a better job of acknowledging this.

    Nyx: No Way Home by Marjorie Liu and Kalman Andrasofszky

    Nyx: No Way Home by Marjorie Liu and Kalman Abdrasofszky
    Nyx: No Way Home was my favourite of these comics. It has a far less epic scope than Hope Summers’ story: instead of being at the centre of things, this comic is concerned with kids who slip between the cracks; whose lives are lived outside all formal systems and institutions of the X-Verse. Kiden, Tatiana, Bobby and Lil’Bro may have powers, but they’ll never go to Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. They’ll never get to set foot in the X-Mansion. They’re four homeless kids trying to survive in New York City, forming a family of their own choosing, and doing their best to make it together.

    There are, of course, complications along the ways (like oh, say, being framed for murder), but Nyx: No Way Home is first and foremost a personal story. I loved all the characters and their careful negotiation of what’s expected of them, I was intrigued by Cecilia Reyes’ appearance, and I finished the book determined to read more Marjorie Liu.

    X-23: The Killing Dream by Marjorie Liu and Will Conrad

    X-23: The Killing Dream by Marjorie Liu and Will Conrad

    X-23: The Killing Dream was the darkest of these comics. It’s about Laura Kinney, a clone of Wolverine who was created to be an assassin. Laura has done a lot of horrific things in her short life; when we meet her in The Killing Dream, she’s struggling to live with them and to accept that she gets to be her own person from now on, with all the complications inherent to this.

    I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in stories about women who occupy the kind of terrain traditionally reserved for male characters: ethically ambiguous but still sympathetic, full of shades of grey, and in possession of both a conscience and a dark past. There aren’t enough stories about girls and women like Laura (at least not ones where they don’t end up horribly punished), so I’m always happy to come across a new one. If you like, say, Faith’s redemption arc in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, then X-23 is for you.

    I like what Marjorie Liu did with this material, and that makes me all the more excited for her upcoming Image Comics series, Monstress. It is, in Liu’s own words,
    …about an outsider, a young woman who belongs nowhere; it is about young women who fight, who tame, who are consumed—and who become monsters in their own right. I wanted to tell a story that encompasses all these things, and more. A story about women, young and old, picking up the pieces after surviving the horrors of war—and finding a home for themselves in a world that has otherwise exploited them.
    All the monstrous ladies: bring them on.

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    May 19, 2015

    First Quarter of 2015: Best Books I Didn't Blog About

    First Quarter of 2015: Best Books I Didn't Blog About

    As I was saying recently, I’m very happy with where my reading is taking me so far this year. However, between work, life, and general troubles and adventures, writing about said reading has kind of fallen by the wayside. With the first quarter of 2015 behind us (how?), I thought I’d give myself an amnesty: instead of making unrealistic plans to catch up, I’ll tell you, in approximately a hundred words per entry, about some of the most memorable books I read in the past four months. Here it goes:

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly:

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
    Calpurnia Tate, an eleven-year-girl in 1899 Texas, shares her grandfather’s fascination with the natural world. She longs to be a scientist and rebels against the strict domestic role she’s pushed into due to gendered expectations. I loved getting to know Callie: her intellectual curiosity and her passion for science really come alive in these pages. Additionally, I loved Calpurnia’s relationship with her reclusive grandfather, as well as the fact that her more traditionally “girly” best friend Lula is neither demonised nor dismissed. Similarly, Kelly is sensitive in her handling of Callie’s mother and her concerns about her daughter’s non-traditional interests.

    Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones:

    Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
    Two companion novels about the Magid, a group of sorcerers and sorceresses who more or less oversee the use of magic across different worlds: Deep Secret is about Rupert, a Magid in search of a new trainee; potential candidate Maree; an intergalactic conspiracy; and a hilarious fantasy convention where anything can and does happen. The Merlin Conspiracy is partially set in an Arthurian world, and it’s told from the point of view of Maree’s cousin Nick and of a teenage girl named Roddy, who becomes aware of an alarming conspiracy at the King’s travelling court. These novels are smart, satisfyingly complex, deeply embedded in myth, and immensely fun to read. They were a reminder of why I should stop hoarding unread DWJs and just plunge in: life is too short to keep delaying gratification like this.

    The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle:

    The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
    Wren and Charlie fall in love the summer after they graduate high school: their story is about the vulnerability that comes with real intimacy, both sexual and emotional, and the difficult process of opening yourself up to it. However, I felt that the novel also reinforced dubious ideas about relationship balance being tied to traditional gender roles. Wren’s best friend says at one point that the trouble with modern feminism is that it doesn’t acknowledge women want to be women and men want to be men; while fictional characters often say things narratives as a whole don’t support, I saw no challenge of that idea here. In short, I loved this novel and it touched me deeply, but there’s plenty to it that needs examining.

    Funny Girl by Nick Hornby:
    Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
    Hornby’s historical novel about the creative team behind a 1960s sitcom made me first very happy and then very sad. I loved heroine Sophie Straw and her determination to be taken seriously as a comic actress. I loved the smart ideas about pop culture and its meaningfulness — they’ll be familiar to readers of Hornby’s non-fiction, but they’re brought to life beautifully in this story. And I loved the writing too. However, I dearly wish Bill Gardiner had been allowed an ending that didn’t reinforce ideas about lgbtq lives being inherently tragic. It’s not, as I always say, each individual story that’s the issue, but the pattern is unmissable and it grates.

    Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky:

    Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky
    The sequel of Anatomy of a Boyfriend does an even better job than Snadowsky’s first novel of validating teen girls’ right to experience and act on their desire. Dominique, newly single after a breakup with her first boyfriend, gets involved with a cute boy for the summer and learns about a different side of her sexuality. While her previous relationship was about emotional intimacy, this one is about discovering pleasure. The novel also emphasises safe sex, trust, consent and communication, and it puts Dominque’s decisions (including to say no and walk away) at the centre of the story.

    The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones:

    The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones
    More DWJ wonderfulness: this one’s a dark novel about four sisters, a creepy doll cult, and a (maybe) ghost. I was unsure to begin with because I remembered how many attempts it took Jenny until she got into it properly, but I’m thrilled to report it worked for me. The plot, which is hazy at first, eventually falls into place, and the family dynamics and perceptive portrayal of childhood disempowerment grabbed me from the start. The book made me sad too, but not in a bad way — it’s mostly that, having read DWJ’s essays, I couldn’t help but think that there was plenty about the Melford sisters’ lives that was probably familiar to her.

    March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell:

    March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
    You’ll be unsurprised to hear I loved this for all the same reasons why I loved March: Book One. Lately I’ve been particularly interested in stories about the circumstances that allow people to get involved in transformative social movements, and John Lewis’ account of his activism examines the matter thoughtfully and perceptively. It also taught me a lot about the history of the Civil Rights movement, plenty of which I hadn’t come across before. It gave me context for these images, which I’m very grateful to have. I can’t wait for the third and final installment of this story.

    Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens:

    Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens
    Just as good as the first Wells & Wong mystery, Murder Most Unladylike. This time, Daisy and Hazel investigate a murder mystery at Fallingford, Daisy’s family’s manor house, rather than at school; but there’s just as much period detail, friendship and tension, intrigue, danger, and devious plotting to uncover. There’s also a group of children trying to make sense of the unspoken rules of adult behaviour and of all the scary, upsetting things even adults close to them might be up to: this layer of emotional resonance and perceptiveness is what makes Stevens’ writing stand out for me.

    Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein:

    White Raven Black Dove by Elizabeth Wein
    What Maureen said. I greatly enjoyed Black Dove, White Raven, a novel about the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia by Mussolini’s regime, but I need to acknowledge that I read it from a position of privilege. Wein’s characterisation was excellent as always, the writing was incredible, and the ties between her characters were vivid and moving. I fell for siblings Theo and Emilia, and also for their mothers, pilots Delia and Rhoda. Additionally, the novel brought a previously unexplored pocked of history to life for me. Yet the fact remains that I’m a white reader reading a novel about African history by a white writer: as much as Wein’s research may seem careful and respectful to me, there’s plenty of context that I lack.

    Infandous by Elana K. Arnold:

    Infandous by Elana K. Arnold
    This one is for fans of books like Poisoned Apples, Bone Gap or All Our Pretty Songs. Infandous has a plot that reads a bit like a Greek myth; additionally, the main storyline, about teenage artist Sephora Golding, is interweaved with brief retellings of myths and fairy tales centred around violence against women. This novel examines the chilling consequences of an unthinking act of carelessness which is deeply steeped in male privilege and unequal gendered power dynamics. I’m not easily shaken, but the revelation at the heart of this novel did it. It’s dark and difficult, but beautifully written and (for me) well worth reading.

    Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken:

    Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken
    This book is part of Aiken’s delightful alternate history Wolves chronicles, and it proved one of my favourites so far. Whenever I read Aiken, I’m reminded of why I should do so more often: there’s something about her bold and playful use of language that fills me with pure readerly glee. The same goes for resourceful heroine Dido Twite, and for the twists and turns of Aiken’s plots. I especially enjoyed that Limbo Lodge is set on a colonised island and clearly sides with women and native peoples against the patriarchal and imperialist Angrians. This isn’t to say it’s flawless in terms of representation, but its sensibility spoke to me all the same.


    Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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    May 17, 2015

    When in doubt, links

    When in doubt, links

    The scarcity of posts around these parts is likely to continue for a little bit longer; in the meantime, have some links:

  • I’m trying not to make this into a long collection of terrifying political links, so I’ll limit myself to two news pieces. This is the stuff keeping me up at night these days. Also, it was only a matter of time until someone came up with this.

  • Okay, just one more. This one’s about higher education, but it seems to me it applies to libraries just as much:
    These are not economic terms; they are aesthetic, ideological and value-laden. The idea that life should be harsh, bitter, severe and strictly disciplined is, I think, key to what we are up against. Even when there is plenty of money in objective terms, the austerity agenda values punitive and repressive policies because it is based on an inherent, if sometimes unconscious, antipathy to the very services it purports to be managing. Academic management motivated by austerity frankly dislikes, and therefore aims to diminish, the democratic, emancipatory and transformative essence of our universities and colleges.
  • Before we all fall into a pit of despair, here’s some good news: Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life, about a midwife who practiced abortions in 19th century New York, might become an HBO period mini-series starring Anna Paquin. I really need to read the novel, and I look forward to watching this if and when it comes out.

  • More exciting things: upcoming DC comics series Bombshells sounds right up my alley. It’s about Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl fighting on the front lines of WW2 in an alternative timeline — yes, please.

  • At Panels, the always wonderful Andi recommends comics by all-female creative teams. Nimona and Lumberjanes (which I pre-ordered ages ago) will be in my hands very soon and I absolutely can’t wait to read them.

  • Cheryl Strayed being her customary brilliant self:
    There’s been nary a day in the past decade that I haven’t had to set someone straight about the fact that I wrote my books for people, not women. My female colleagues report much of the same. We swap stories and shake our heads and laugh, but it isn’t funny. Because when an artist has to assert that her intended audience is all humans rather than those who happen to be of her particular gender or race, what she’s actually having to assert is the breadth and depth of her own humanity.

  • Lastly, I came across Howard Zinn’s “Against Discouragement” by chance this week and it was absolutely what I needed to read:
    I learned something about democracy: that it does not come from the government, from on high, it comes from people getting together and struggling for justice.

  • I’ll leave you with a few pictures from a day children’s books festival I worked last weekend because it cheered me up considerably, at least for the day:

  • May we long have things like this.

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    May 13, 2015

    “Solidarity Forever”: Pride (2014)

    Pride BBC 2014
    “Solidarity Forever”: Pride (2014)
    Pride (2014) tells the true story of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign: in 1984, when Thatcher was in power and mining communities across the UK went on strike for a period of nearly a year, a group of gay and lesbian activists in London began to fundraise to support their efforts. After being rejected by unions and local groups that feared association with the gay and lesbian community, LGSM focused on supporting miners in South Wales, particularly the Dulais Valley. Pride focuses on the London group, but by the end of the miners’ strike there were eleven LGSM and Lesbians Against Pit Closures groups across the UK.

    As the film shows, the LGSM campaign helped forge closer ties between labour rights groups and gay and lesbian activists, with historical ramifications. Pride ends at the 1985 Lesbian and Gay Pride day in London, when large numbers of miners and their families repaid the support shown to them by marching in favour of equal rights. These acts of mutual solidarity helped entrench lgbtq rights in the Labour party: three years later, a motion of support was passed at their National Conference largely due to a block yes vote from the National Union of Mineworkers.

    Pride BBc 2014 Miners march in Gay and Lesbian Pride parade

    The most moving moment of Pride to me comes when Dai Donovan, a miner from the Dulais Valley who (wrongly) believed he had never met a gay man or a lesbian before coming into contact with LGSM, gives a speech thanking the group for their support:
    What I’d really like to say to you tonight is thank you. If you’re one of the people that’s put money in these buckets, if you’ve supported LGSM, then thank you, because what you’ve given us is more than money. It’s friendship. When you’re in a battle against an enemy so much bigger, so much stronger than you, well, to find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well, that’s the best feeling in the world. So, thank you.
    These are simple words, but to me they — and the story Pride tells as a whole — get to the heart of what solidarity is about. In the past few years I’ve seen its practice be examined and complicated, and understandably so. It’s possible and far too easy to make mistakes along the way. It doesn’t take much for attempts to help people whose experiences are different from our own to end up putting us in a position where we’re listened to while they continue to be ignored: that’s how systemic inequality works. It’s possible, too, to perpetuate harmful myths even if we have the very best of intentions, and to cause hurt when we genuinely meant to help. I understand this, and I believe in always being mindful of it. But I believe just as strongly in not letting the knowledge that we won’t always get it right paralyse us. I absolutely believe in the concept of solidarity itself, even if the practice can be improved. I believe in coming together when our help will make a difference: it’s essential, and it’s often all we have.

    I called Dais’ speech above the most moving moment for me, but to be honest I cried through pretty much all of Pride. It was in part a matter of timing: I watched it the weekend after an election result that made me fear for everything that’s important to me. I spent last Thursday evening in tears, and then the whole of the next day in a terrified and shocked state. There’s a lot at stake for me over the next five years: as a woman; as an immigrant; as a low-income worker in an increasingly expensive city; as someone who works in, loves, and genuinely believes in public libraries. It’s no exaggeration to say that I don’t know how much of what I care about, how much of the life it took me so long to put together, will survive the political landscape ahead.

    What got me through the day last Friday was refusing to be miserable and afraid in silence. There is, of course, a lot to this refusal, but I’ll get to that in time. I talked to kind colleagues at work who share my fears as public sector workers, and who understand my specific vulnerabilities as an immigrant. I shared my feelings on Twitter and received support from old friends, new friends, passing acquaintances and near strangers — all of whom made a real, tangible difference. I likewise offered my support to those whose fears are and aren’t the same as my own, those who have even more to lose and even less to fall back on. And as the hours passed, I realised that no matter what happens, I need to keep these ties in my life.

    Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly interested in making sense of the circumstances that allow people to take a stance against or for something, both in stories and in life. I’ve been thinking a lot about activism and exhaustion and hope. I don’t think bravery as an individual character trait accounts for much; instead I’ve come to believe that, as Dais put it, we draw strength from the knowledge that we’re not alone, that we have more friends than we imagined. Some of you might remember that I devoted a disproportionate amount of space in my discussion of Rita Williams-Garcia’s excellent Civil Rights era children’s novels to this very question: it was gnawing at me then and it’s still gnawing at me now. I believe in being compassionate when people decide they have too much to lose to be able to speak up, while at the same time creating circumstances that might allow them to make a different decision next time. I believe in valuing different forms of action and support rather than a single model. Solidarity and unity are crucial to this effort.

    I can’t speak for miners and I can’t speak for lgbtq activists; but I engage with stories partially to make sense of and learn to navigate my own life, and this was my takeaway from Pride: support is everything. Solidarity is as essential as oxygen. I found it early on in my life when it comes to gender thanks to the wonderful communities I’ve come across online, but now it needs to happen for the other sides of who I am, both locally and globally. I am, I say again, a woman and an immigrant and a public sector worker without much of a safety net. There are challenges associated with each of these things, which interact in some ways but are unique in others. I need to speak up about them, and to listen when others speak about how the years to come will make their lives harder. I need to hold their hands and allow them to hold mine.

    Back in 2011 I made a bad decision that I hope I’ll be able to write about someday. I’m not at a point where I can do so just yet, but I do want to take note of how its absurdity is starting to hit me, and how it took an uphill climb over a period of many years for me to get to this point. I particularly want to acknowledge that this bad, fear-fuelled decision was the result of a sense of absolute isolation that was as much political as it was personal. It was the result of toxic ideology getting inside my head at a moment of vulnerability. The things I would never believe about others, I started to believe about myself. Just as harmfully, I started to believe that even those I love and who love me back would believe them about me, because how could they not? I can’t go back to that, not ever. My life has become better, infinitely better, because of networks of solidarity and support and hope. This is how we dismantle isolation. This is how we challenge the narratives that make us question our very right to exist. It’s a life project and a political project.

    Pride is about how such networks come to be established, and it was an absolute inspiration at this point in time. I’m grateful that this hidden pocket of history was revealed to me. We desperately need more of this.

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