Month: March 2019

Why I disagree with gender neutral parenting

Gender

Gender neutral parenting was in the press recently. More specifically, the press reported that Harry and Meghan, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are planning to raise their child gender neutral.

Of course this very probably isn’t what they’ve said at all. I’m sure they’ve said that they will raise their child without traditional gender constructs, which is what parents with any common sense do anyway. You know the thing – if they have a son and he wants to play with dolls that’s fine, and if their baby is a girl who wants to play with cars that’s also fine. That’s not gender neutral parenting at all. That’s just being a good parent. And a modern parent. Both of which Harry and Meghan are able to be, despite the fact that they’re royals.

He or she?

Gender neutral parenting is raising your child without acknowledging their gender. Not calling them he or she. Not referring to them as a boy or a girl. Allowing them to find their own way and decide on their gender as they grow up and experience life

Now I am neither a parent or ever have the intention of being one (regardless of the suggestions I mentioned in my last post!) so you may think my opinion is a moot one. That said, this is my blog and I pretty much have an opinion on everything, ergo I’ll proceed.

Bonkers

In a nutshell, I think that gender neutral parenting is absolutely bonkers. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll be aware that I have no issue with gender fluidity or changing gender. I very recently posted about an enlightening and heartwarming transgender documentary I’ve been watching. If you haven’t been following then let me make this statement – I very much believe that people can be and are born in the wrong body, and that they should be entitled to treatment to correct biology’s mistake. Science says it’s real, the experiences of actual humans say it’s real, and so, for me, it’s real.

But I’ll say it again, gender neutral parenting is, in my opinion, bonkers.

How are you supposed to know what you are, or more specifically what you aren’t, if you’re brought up without an identity? Surely transgender women know that they’re women, because they’ve been raised as a boy and know that doesn’t “fit”. And vice-versa, obviously. If you’re raised as “they” then what do you rebel against? You have nothing to identify with, and therefore nothing to compare yourself against, surely?

Special treatment

Imagine sending a child to nursery or childcare, and insisting they do not be referred to as he or she. Immediately you’re setting them apart as different; as deserving of special treatment. They get called a different pronoun to any of the other children, and the other children maybe want to know why? What toilet arrangements are made for them? Because, like it or not, male and female toilets are still a thing in life. Not everywhere, of course. But if a young child comes across male toilets and female toilets and no “they” toilet, what is that telling them? Isn’t that stripping them of an identity? Making them, from a young age, into something that doesn’t always exist?

The difference between adults and children

Gender neutral adults can handle situations like this – they’ve been around long enough to know that we live in a gendered society (even if they don’t agree with it). But young children don’t have that understanding. Why would you choose to set your child apart in such a way?

I’m no expert, obvs. Some would argue that starting with gender neutral parenting is the way to achieve a gender neutral society in the future. But, for now, I can’t help but think some parents are trying too hard to do the right thing, and in doing so they’re doing something very wrong.

Your child is born a girl or a boy. If at some point they tell you they’re the opposite of their assigned birth gender, listen to them. Support them. Be there for them. If they tell you they are neither male or female then the same applies.

That’s good parenting.

Gender issues

In the meantime, if your son wants to play with dolls and has a toy cooker, that doesn’t mean he has gender issues. If your daughter tells you she wants to be Superman instead of Superwoman, that doesn’t mean she’s transgender.

In trying to do the right thing, parents are going too far. They’re creating something that doesn’t need to exist at birth. Experience and research shows that children who are transgender will begin to self identify at a young age, regardless of what they have been labelled as in early months and years. Jazz Jennings is perhaps the most prevalent case of a boy knowing they’re a girl. Thankfully Jazz’s parents listened to her. Would gender neutral parenting from birth have helped? Who knows.

All I know is that if and when my nephew (due July this year) wants to try on my shoes, I’ll be right there suggesting the ones that look best with his outfit! Experiencing different things, with no restrictions because of what society might think is appropriate for your gender, is the best way to become a well rounded person.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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I’m not pregnant – it’s just how I’m standing!

I'm not pregnant - lots of different bowls full of food

The first time (to my knowledge) anyone assumed I was pregnant we were in Chicago. It was almost 9 years ago, for the husband’s 40th birthday. We were on a 3 night city break before going to LA. It was June and it was hot. We’d spent the evening at Dick’s Last Resort, a bar overlooking the Chicago River, eating and drinking with gay abandon. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (a big deal in ice hockey terms, I believe). We were caught up in the excitement of the city, of our holiday, and…well…life!

I remember I was wearing a fairly figure hugging halter neck maxi dress from Jane Norman. It was white with an oversized black and taupe palm print all over. And, as we walked across the bridge back to our hotel, an old seemingly homeless dude shouted “hey Mama!”

Did he think I was pregnant? I don’t know for sure. It made us laugh at the time because I was full of American sized portion fried food and drink from Dick’s Last Resort. I was a walking food baby. “Hey Mama!” became part of our vocabulary when I overate and looked like I was having twins. It was funny.

8 years later

Fast forward 8 years to last summer. We went to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena (side note, the obnoxious drunk wee throwing crowd spoilt it). As we approached security, after the LONGEST walk, the guy with the body scanner asked if I was pregnant. I feigned mock outrage. He said he has to ask everyone because of the scanning machinery (this was a lie, I asked my friends in other queues). In his defence I was wearing a really loose fitting smock dress. I was also clearly already “Saturday happy” (tipsy A.F) so I was either not preggers or a shit Mom-to-Be.

No human growing here

Although 8 years apart, these events both stuck in my mind. Partially because I think it’s kinda funny (I’m the least maternal person I know, so the very thought of me being with child is cause for mirth!) Obviously being pregnant is wonderful. But being mistaken for it isn’t the best. It’s not horrible, it means I have a full tummy and a day/evening of enjoyment behind me. But it kinda means it’s OK my tummy is protruding if there’s a human growing inside it, but not OK if not.

Here’s the deal. I have the Rose tum. That’s not a romanticised way of referring to my middle section. Rose is my Mom’s maiden name. My Nan, my Grandad, my Mom, they all carried or carry weight around their waist. I inherited my Dad’s dark hair and skin, and height. For a while it looked like I inherited his metabolism. I could eat and eat and EAT and not gain weight. But the Rose gene has caught up with me..

Most recently, in Athens, the husband and I had talked and laughed about the two pregnancy “occasions”. And, whilst we were sightseeing, he reticently (I hope!) told me he could see why it had been said. I’m so aware of my posture and being upright that, in standing up very straight, my tummy pushes out.

There’s also a photo that I love, taken in Santorini last year as I jumped off a catamaran into the sea, and the first thing I notice when I look at it is my rounded middle.

Fuck it

It’s such a shame that society has made us feel we have to explain being anything other than stick then with a flat stomach. It doesn’t make us more or less of a person. And I wish I could say “fuck it” and not care. There are, after all, WAY bigger things to care about in life. But I do. I do care. Mainly because I love clothes, and gaining weight means that some of my clothes no longer fit me as well as they used to, and I don’t feel comfortable in styles I would like to wear.

Funny how “Dad-bods” are celebrated, yet women’s bodies of all types are still insulted and commented upon!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Travel plans for 2019

Travel plans 2019 - hand holding small globe

I’m the kind of person who is pretty much always a year ahead with travel plans, because there are so many places I want to see. It’s rare to start a new year with no clue of where we’re going – the bones are usually in place and I’m already thinking ahead to the following year. When your “to visit” list is long and your annual leave is short (in comparison), it’s inevitable you’ll think ahead.

This year was quite the exception

With the shambles that is Brexit I’ve felt wary of European travel. Neither the husband or I had any concrete “let’s do this” feelings as a result. The original front runner was our favourite place in Greece, but with rumours that Thomas Cook airlines are in some trouble, which is our only way to get there, that seemed a bit risky.

Also, as it’s my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June, I thought we should plan a trip with her. There’s nothing we could buy her that she doesn’t already have, and memories are so much more valuable than stuff. I know that in years to come we’ll look back happily on time together exploring a new destination. And of course we’ll have a great time while we’re there!

So, without further ado, here’s what we decided on.

March – 5 days in Lanzarote

Not a “to visit” list destination but the thought of a few days in the sun while the UK is struggling to make it’s way into Spring was very appealing! Food, drink, sleep, reading books, seafront walks and sunshine; what’s not to like? We’re going to head out into the island for the day too and visit Timanfaya National Park to see the volcanic landscape.

Travel plans 2019 Timanfaya National Park
Image from https://www.hellocanaryislands.com/

Late May – Bergen, Norway

Technically June, as we arrive at Bergen airport just after midnight on the 1st for 3 days of exploring with my Mother in Law. She mentioned to me many years ago that she would love to visit the Fjords, but was resigned to the fact she never would because the friends she goes on holiday with wouldn’t be interested. Step in the husband with her 80th birthday present! Bergen looks very pretty, with coloured wooden houses surrounding the old harbour, and a funicular railway up to Mount Floyen from where you can view the whole city below.

Travel plans 2019 - Bergen coloured houses

We’ll take the Bergen railway, considered to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque train journeys in the world, connecting with the Flam railway which holds the same accolade. We’ll do a couple of fjord cruises (details yet to be finalised) and probably get very confused by the midnight sun! I have to say that Norway has never been on my agenda. But once I started investigating it looks absolutely beautiful so I’m really looking forward to this.

September – New York baby!

Well, this one came completely out of the blue. Not that we haven’t talked about it – New York is on everyone’s list, surely? It’s just never quite made it to the top, for me, because of the cost, and the vast amount of stuff to see in a short space of time. You see, I always thought of New York as being a city break. Maybe 3-4 nights, running around like a loon, feeling the pressure from jet lag and perhaps not quite doing it justice in one trip.

But then, an email from Jack’s Flight Club advertising return Virgin flights for under £300 (not a typo) and a quick Airbnb search offering up an apartment in Greenwich Village at a very reasonable cost started the rudiments of a plan. The husband has been before and always said he’d love to go back. He wanted a slightly longer trip instead of a just a quick break. So we settled on 6 nights/7 days and that was that! I sent him a text about the flight offer at around 10.30am. By 8pm that same day we were booked!

Travel plans 2019 New York skyline
Image from TripAdvisor

We’ll do all the tourist stuff, obvs. It’s been 20 years since the husband was there, so he’ll benefit from a refresher!! Those extra couple of days will allow us the time to just hang out, eat (I’m excited for a reuben sandwich at Katz’s deli, which is right in our neighbourhood), chill, and soak up the atmosphere. Preferable to just running round like headless chickens ticking off places we need to see.

Oh, and it’s my first ever foray into the world of Airbnb, which I think could be travel-changing!

So there you have it!

Our planned and booked travels for the year 2019. None of which I would have predicted if you’d asked me this time last year. But all of which I’m super chuffed with.

Hoping to sneak in a couple of UK visits too. Every year I talk about Cornwall. So, if we get another amazing summer like last year, that may be a long weekend contender.

And then it’s time to start thinking about 2020!

Have you finalised any travel plans for 2019 yet? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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The Making of Me on Channel 4

If you’ve seen The Making of Me it needs no introduction. If you haven’t, here’s a precis. The 3 episodes follow 9 transgender individuals in their journey from man to woman, woman to man, or in one case woman to non-binary.

There’s no way I can think of to phrase this without it sounding condescending, so I’m just going to come right out with it and hope anyone reading doesn’t misconstrue what I’m saying. I find the whole concept of transgender fascinating. I find transgender people fascinating. And that’s not in a rude way, at all. I can’t emphasise that enough. I don’t look at people with gender issues as freaks, or weird, or anything negative at all. I just find it incredible that a person can be born into a gender and realise that it’s completely wrong.

Maybe that’s why transgender people get such a bad rap. The average person on the street can’t comprehend not being who they are. Most men have never thought about wearing a dress, much less hating their penis to the point of feeling like an alien in their own body. Most women can’t imagine wishing they didn’t have breasts to the point of wanting them surgically removed.

It’s an alien feeling to most people

That doesn’t make it an unreal feeling though.

I’m a great believer that if science says something is real, then it’s real. I’m an atheist who doesn’t believe in god. I trust that the moon landings happened, and I know that the Earth isn’t flat (if you think that, then stop reading now).

So the fact that science says people can be born in the wrong body, is fact for me.

What harm is it doing anyone else?

Back to the TV program. It’s wonderfully done. Sensitively filmed. There are no gratuitous surgery or genital shots. The focus is very much on real people with real feelings. How they feel at the beginning of the process, and how they feel at the end.

Cairo – female to male transgender; previously a very attractive female model – proof that “being pretty” doesn’t make you a woman.

Andrew – female to male transgender who couldn’t wait to get a mastectomy to remove his breasts.

Karen – male to female transgender who felt so strongly about being born in the wrong body that they were willing to put their professional career on the line.

And that, for me, is the crux of all this. Being transgender isn’t easy. It’s probably the most difficult thing any of these individuals have ever done. They risk being ostracised by their family, friends and work colleagues. And yet it’s still worth it. If that doesn’t tell you that trans is real, then I don’t know what will.

Imagine everything you hold dear in life

Your career. Your partner. Your children. Then imagine telling them something that might make them turn against you. Would you risk it? Could you risk it?

In episode 2, Pete comes out to his wife as trans. She’s filmed as saying that “transitioning is very selfish”. Is it though? Isn’t it more selfish to insist that someone live a lie to satisfy the image you have of your life and future?

I don’t know. You could argue that they should never have entered into a marriage if they weren’t the person they purported to be. But, for people transitioning later in life, today’s more open, more accepting society is their chance to be who they are. And don’t we all deserve that?

For anyone who doesn’t believe in, or doesn’t agree with, people transitioning into the gender they should have been born in, I leave you with this. Jackie, previously Simon, who signs off episode one with “I can just be me all the time. I can be happy.”

And the smile of every one of the 9 brave people who took part in this filming. Compare their before and after smiles. Compare their stance and their eyes. Look at how they hold themselves.

Then tell me that transgenderism is wrong.

Go on…I dare you.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A week in Oia, Santorini

It turns out that, for the 13 years I talked about going to Santorini, what I actually wanted was to go to Oia (pronounced Ee-a).

Of course I didn’t realise that when our plane landed on the runway at Thira airport after a busy few days in Athens. I was still full of the notion that we’d get a bus to the capital Fira. Maybe visit the ancient ruins at Akrotiri. See something of the island.

Nor did I realise it during the first afternoon we headed into the village to explore. In fact, based on how busy Oia was with cruise ship tourists and day visitors, the idea of getting out of the village seemed even more appealing. We retreated to our hotel, with it’s secluded pool and traditional restaurant, and indulged in some much needed R&R following a full itinerary on the mainland.

But, as I talked about in a previous post, first impressions don’t always count.

Thanks to checking out the cruise ship schedule (all hail Tripadvisor reviews for that piece of knowledge) we knew that on day 2 there would be fewer visitors to the island, so we headed out once again and that’s when we both knew we wouldn’t be leaving this beautiful cliff top vision until it was time to go home.

Oia is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to

Ever. It’s almost beyond belief. When you’re not dodging selfie sticks and crowds and arrogant wannabe models, it’s absolutely breathtaking. There’s no white sandy beach, no uninterrupted view of the horizon and no sound of the waves breaking on the coastline. Oia is built high up on a cliff, and looks out to the caldera which is dotted with islands created when the volcano erupted in 1646 BC.

The curved white Cycladic architecture is both retro and futuristic, all at once. The black lava rocks contrast dramatically with the blue sea and sky and the pink bougainvillea. The elevated position on the cliff face means you can actually see the currents in the sea below, while the sun glistens on the water like thousands of diamonds.

We ate breakfast overlooking buildings seemingly tumbling down the cliff face. Over the course of the week I never tired of the views once. I took multiple pictures of the same spots every day, because I couldn’t get enough of them. The whole village was a sight to behold.

See for yourself!

The best thing to do, surely, must be to share some photos with you? I can’t say this emphatically enough – NONE of these pictures have been changed in any way. No filters, no photoshop, just pure point and click on my camera phone.

See what I mean? Looking at these photos now just brings it all back!

At dusk twinkling lights start to appear as buildings are illuminated.

And even in the black of night the same view was illuminated by hundreds of lights giving the white architecture an ethereal glow and the plunge pools and hot tubs a bright blue hue.

I don’t think anyone could fail to be wowed by Oia. From an aesthetic point of view it’s incredible, but also from a logistical point of view – the way everything is built almost beggars belief!

Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Also yes.

If I’d only been visiting Oia rather than staying there I would have been very sorely disappointed.

Have you ever been to Oia, or Santorini? Let me know in the comments!

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