How wonderful to see Meghan Markle in her first public appearance since the birth of little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. She looked beautiful – radiant, natural and just post-baby. Her still existent bump was refreshingly honest in a world of “perfect” celebs and their perfect figures.
Her tousled hair and fresh faced glow was very real. Her choice of outfit – belted and fitted and not designed to hide any post birth lumps and swellings – was lovely. The way she beamed at Harry as he cradled their newborn son was full of love and adoration.
I applaud her and Harry for taking the decision to appear publicly in their own time, when it suits them, rather than bowing to public pressure to do the traditional hospital steps photo call. Regardless of their status as royals and, as some would say, public property, they’re a young couple in love who’ve just welcomed their first child. It’s a special and precious time for them, and they shouldn’t have to stick to any timetable apart from one they’re comfortable with.
I also love the move away from tradition when it comes to baby Archie’s name. I don’t think anyone saw anything so “un-Royal” on the cards – especially the bookmakers who had the favourites down as Arthur or James. Not even a nod to royal tradition with the baby’s middle name either. I wonder if we’ll ever find out the reasoning behind Harrison? (I like to think Harry’s a secret Indiana Jones fan and has honoured Harrison Ford!)
Hopefully the press will leave them alone now to just be a family and enjoy these precious times.
What do you think of it all? Do you like the baby’s name Let me know in the comments.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
Bullying is bad. We all know that. It’s instilled into (most of) us as children. We’re told “if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all”. We read in the press about teens, young adults, people of all ages taking their own lives because they have been bullied. Online bullying – cyberbullying – can lead to criminal charges.
Why then is the media exempt from these “rules”? Why are they allowed to print nasty, jibing, critical things about people with no recourse?
The impetus for today’s blog comes from a post I saw on Twitter by TV presenter and entertainer Stacey Solomon.
What’s got Stacey so upset? This is what. This personal, unfounded, and blatantly rude magazine front cover.
How bloody horrible. Imagine reading that about yourself? Imagine seeing that on a news stand while you were queuing at the supermarket. Or your kids seeing it. Or your parents. Or the parents of your kids schoolfriends.
Why oh WHY is that considered acceptable “reporting”? And why are celebs deemed to be fair game, or without feeling? It’s obviously impacted Stacey enough for her to make a public comment about it. She doesn’t seem like the type to court the media and use them to further her own agenda, so it’s extra spiteful that they would turn on her.
Not long ago Scarlett Moffatt publicly tweeted about how upset she was by the headline on a woman’s magazine calling her “hefty and heartbroken” after her split with her boyfriend. Scarlett’s harsh reality is that she rose to fame as a normal young girl in Gogglebox, loved for her opinions and personality. She was voted Queen of the Jungle in I’m a Celebrity, because she was well liked. On the back of that, she was more in the public eye, where people felt it their right to comment on her appearance and dress sense. After her stint in bootcamp when she lost lots of weight, she was vilified for being “too thin”. Gaining weight after a break up led to the “hefty and heartbroken” headline. The poor girl can’t win, and nor should she. Being in the public eye is no excuse for the media to be so damn opinionated and rude about anyone (apart from Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins, they both deserve it).
This was how Scarlett reacted to the headline.
Good for her! Yet, just a few days later when she was attacked by the press again for her dress choice on an episode of Love Island, she revealed the real affect that such negative headlines can have, because they not only appear in print, they fuel online trolls who also think it’s ok to get involved in bullying people for their appearance.
Some people will always be mean. It’s in their nature, or they use putting other people down to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. We can’t do anything about everyone in the world. What we CAN do is start regulating the press so that damaging and bullying headlines like this are not allowed to be printed.
There’s so much public focus on suicide and mental health problems at the moment, with all sorts of people urging those affected to “just talk” or “reach out”. But how many of those people are also part of the problem, because of their ill thought observations and comments?
The media needs to lead by example. Build women up for being good kind people who do good kind things. Don’t beat them up and flog them publicly.
It’s pretty fair to say that Donald Trump’s visit to the UK has dominated the news over the past few days – from him holding hands with Theresa May again <<shudder>> to walking in front of our dear old Queen, and kiss arsing with Piers Morgan, there was more than enough hairy tangerine fodder for the media to report on. Also gaining column inches and airwaves were protests around the country; the frankly hilarious Trump Baby balloon, and marches across London and other major cities, continuing up into Scotland as he enjoyed a round of golf with his son at his Turnberry golf course before flying off to Finland.
The laws around protesting in the UK are pretty relaxed and, if you follow the right protocol and keep it peaceful, public protests are a valid part of democracy and exercising the right to demonstrate displeasure. Of course there’s the policing of such protests, which comes at a cost to the taxpayer, but it seems that sometimes the police are in agreement with the protestors (the picture below has been hailed as the photograph of the weekend).
What about in countries where protesting about something important to you isn’t as welcome though? In Russia, where the World Cup reached its grand finale yesterday, the country has a terrible reputation for supporting the rights of the LGBTQ community and ranks 45 out of 49 European countries for gay rights by the ILGA-Europe, a network of European LGBT groups.
You can imagine then that a public protest wouldn’t go down too well.
Undeterred a group of activists has been subtly sharing a Gay Pride message throughout the duration of the tournament. Project Hidden Flag has seen six people from six countries (Spain, Holland, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia) dressed in different coloured shirts – which together, form the Pride flag.
But what can the Russian authorities do? They’re just football fans enjoying a football tournament, right?
The brilliance of this is it’s absolute subtlety and creativity. Sometimes a handful of protestors can be just as effective as thousands. Well done those people!
70 years of bringing people into the world, looking after people in need, putting people back together again, fixing bones and scrapes, replacing internal organs, saving lives, making lives better, holding hands in times of need, saying nice things, delivering bad news, staring death in the face.
We should be forever grateful for our NHS, and forever protective of it to keep it as a free service for everyone who needs it. It will be a sad and socially dividing day if our NHS is ever privatised and we’re all forced to pay for care.
When we were in LA a few years back we made friends with a guy, Steve, who had no health insurance because he couldn’t afford to pay for it. He got sick and was put into a coma in order to recover; he was in hospital for 10 days all told. The doctors knew he had no insurance, so at that point they literally had to make a decision as to whether a man’s life was worth saving for “free”.
Steve recovered, thankfully for him. But the debt he accrued from his hospital stay was allocated against his name, his records, so that any time he earned any money, it was deducted at source as payment towards what he owed. Steve had an estimated $50,000 debt from that hospital stay and the treatment he received. He will never be able to fully pay it back and will never be able to get on his feet financially because of it. The treatment saved his life, but will also negatively affect the rest of his life too.
What a horrifying situation to be in.
Of course the NHS sometimes gets a bad rep; sometimes it’s deserved and sometimes it isn’t. People are always quick to point out the negatives, but less so the positives. However, knowing that in times of need there are highly trained doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and surgeons on hand to do whatever they can whether you’re living on the breadline or a millionaire is a comforting thought.
Here’s to everyone that is part of the NHS – not just the frontline treatment staff but the receptionists, the hospital porters, the cleaners. Nurses who go above and beyond to deliver not just medical care but hand holding, tissues, compassion and a shoulder to cry on. Surgeons who hold peoples’ lives in their hands. GPs with their extensive knowledge of a whole range of ailments; every day and otherwise, and can write us a prescription to make us better.
Share your NHS experiences with me in the comments!
I’m not into football at all but this is a World Cup related post. Don’t worry though, it’s not about the actual tournament, and it’s certainly not in support of Russia. Well, not in the traditional sense anyway…
All this media and public excitement about the players, the opening ceremony and the matches seems to have forgotten a very important thing – Russia’s antiquated and downright disgusting approach to LGBT people. But do you know who hasn’t forgotten about it? Paddy Power! Yep, the online betting giant – a perhaps unlikely source for human rights activism – has vowed to donate £10,000 to LGBT charity Foundation (created by Attitude magazine) for every goal Russia scores!
“[To] wind up a few gammon-headed Russian homophobes – perfect”
With the 8 goals scored so far that’s already a hefty £80,000 in the donations pot, and with the home nation already through to the final 16, let’s all get behind them and hope they hit the back of the net in the quarter finals to boost Paddy Power’s contribution even further.
There’s even a super duper hashtag you can use and follow – #RainbowRussians. A little bit of genuis!
Anyone else feeling slightly buoyed by the good results of the last couple of weeks?
Ireland overwhelmingly voted to Repeal the 8th amendment, meaning that women across the country have choice and freedom when it comes to their bodies and their pregnancies. It was positive to see the breakdown of voting numbers, and that people young and old voted in favour of change.
Harvey Weinstein was arrested in relation to the sexual abuse and rape allegations made against him. OK, so he hasn’t admitted to them, but with the overwhelming number of women who have come forward it’s surely only a matter of time until his guilt is confirmed by law.
The British justice system, so often accused (and rightly so) of being too soft on certain criminals, acted swiftly to bring bigoted EDL hate speaker Tommy Robinson to justice; trialling and sentencing him quickly for his blatant law breaking whilst serving a suspended sentence. It’s alarming to see blind and ignorant support for him across social media – people wrongly believing he’s been robbed of freedom of speech while trying to brig paedophiles to justice – but at least putting him behind bars sends out the right message.
Roseanne Barr was immediately held account for her very public racist comments on Twitter about a former aide of Barack Obama. Her TV show was canned by the network who actively denounced her views and any connection to her. Again a great warning that hateful language and beliefs is becoming less and less tolerated, and there will be consequences. Hold those views if you will, but don’t expect them to be tolerated.
Of course there’s still heaps of shit going on in the world (isn’t there always?) but small victories for minority groups must always be celebrated, and often have a domino effect to bigger things.
Today Irish nationals go to the polls in a referendum about legalising abortion. Under the 8th amendment, apart from in very few circumstances, it’s illegal for a woman to abort a pregnancy in Ireland. This includes if she is the victim of rape, if the foetus has life limiting disabilities detected in the womb or if the mother herself develops life threatening illnesses for which the treatment will harm the foetus.
That’s right – Ireland puts the rights of an nonviable collection of cells above the rights and welfare, both physical and mental, of a woman.
I’ve made my thoughts on abortion perfectly clear on this blog in the past. I believe that a woman should have autonomy over her body. Not just in cases like those outlined above. But in all cases. Because mistakes do happen. You can be as careful as you like with contraception and you may still get pregnant, even though you don’t want a child. It’s wrong to punish people into a life of parenthood when it’s not what they want. It’s not good for a woman, and not good for a resulting child.
I feel nervous today. “Why?” you might ask. “You’re not Irish, why should you care?”. I care because I’m a woman, and we should all care about women’s rights. It’s abhorrent to me to think of the hoops Irish women have to go through to have an abortion for whatever reason.
I’ve been following the #Repealthe8th hashtag on Twitter all week, and some of the stories I’ve read have been emotionally disturbing, draining and downright disgusting. Women who, short of money to make the trip, have tried to self abort with alcohol, hot baths and hitting themselves in the stomach out of sheer desperation. A woman who found out she was pregnant at 5 weeks but couldn’t get to the UK for an abortion until she was 12 weeks because she had to save up the money to afford it. Women who lied to their families and employer as to their whereabouts. A woman who couldn’t afford the extra cash for an anaesthetic so underwent the procedure with no pain relief. Women making the journey from Ireland to the UK and back in one day, with no rest or recovery time, because they didn’t want to arouse suspicion as to where they were. The fear of sitting in the airport waiting for a flight and praying that they didn’t see anyone they knew. Women who have ended up with a post abortion infection because they were too scared to go to their own doctor when back on Irish soil.
It’s an astonishing and unacceptable truth that a rape victim could receive a longer prison sentence for aborting an unwanted pregnancy than the rapist who sexually attacked her.
These are the reasons that the law needs to be changed.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom. For every sad story I’ve been buoyed by tweets from people intent on being part of the movement for change. People who live outside of Ireland travelling home to make their vote count (it’s not possible to vote by post or proxy, which the cynic in me thinks is a deliberate move by the government to try and skew the vote). Irish nationals are travelling from far and wide; the UK, obviously, but America, Asia and Australia too – spending their time and money to contribute to the right result for women. People who live in Ireland, not content in just voting themselves, but in helping others to do so – offering free taxi journeys from the airport, lifts to the polling station and donating to Crowdfunding resources who are using financial donations to pay travel costs for people living out side of the country who are eligible to vote but can’t afford to get there. I even saw an individual on Twitter who said, because she couldn’t make the journey herself due to other commitments, she would personally pay, in full, the airfare of anyone who could go in her place.
And then there’s the humorous – a Twitter user’s Dad who was out walking his dog and given a leaflet by someone from the “No” campaign, who replied with “oh good, I’ve run out of bags”, and proceeded to pick up dog poo with the propaganda.
Ireland is in the spotlight right now, just like it was when it held the referendum on gay marriage. It has the chance to do something great; the chance to respect and honour it’s women, the chance to believe that a woman knows what’s right for her.
Abortions will continue, whether the law is changed or not. But a yes vote means that women don’t have to travel unneccessarily, don’t have to lie, don’t have to face financial upheaval and can recover in their own home with professionals on hand should things go wrong.
Also, let’s not forget, the sexual freedom that comes with legal abortion. I’m not talking about screwing around with no contraception. I’m talking about not having the fear that a sexual encounter that goes wrong – whether the condom splits, or the pill doesn’t work – won’t end up in a clandestine visit to the UK or an unwanted baby born as a result of lack of money or information. When I lost my virginity at 17 I felt safe in the knowledge that, if the worst happened, my life wouldn’t be changed in a way I didn’t want and that there would be a legal and safe way out of an unwanted pregnancy. Women should be free to enjoy sex without worrying. Let’s not make sex something to potentially be scared of any longer.
I hope with every fibre of my being that the antiquated anti abortion supporters are outnumbered and that sense prevails.
Now? I’m not depressed. At all. I have a happy marriage, a beautiful home, a settled job with great work colleagues and an understanding manager. I get to go on plenty of holidays and trips, I have a loving and supportive family and a network of friends who know and accept me for who I am, warts and all.
But do I still have depression?
Is depression like an infection, where you take tablets and then it’s cured? Or is it like diabetes (for example) where it will probably need to be managed for the rest of your life? Everyone is different, I guess. Some people fully recover. Some people will relapse or have recurring episodes throughout their life. Me? I’m scared to find out. After afore-mentioned wobble, which put a deep – if temporary – chasm in my marriage, I’m not really in the market for testing my mental health by coming off my tablets. Maybe that’s irresponsible. I don’t care. I’ve been on them for long enough now that they’re part of me, and I’ve never noticed any effects (apart from the obvious and much wanted positive ones) that have made me feel a need to stop taking them (apart from that one fated time, I know I mention it a lot but it was horrible). Not everyone is so lucky, and I appreciate that. For some people, the side effects of anti-depressants can be worse than the reason for taking them. A lot of people have to trial different variants before they find one that suits them. Not me. Prozac and I got along very well right from the beginning.
But, as I said, I’m not depressed. I can’t imagine ever feeling so desolate and bleak as I did when I first started taking tablets. Sometimes I even wonder “was it that bad?” – it’s such a long time ago, literally and figuratively. But of course it was that bad, at the time. You don’t take 3 weeks off work unable to face real life if you’re just feeling a bit low. You don’t think that it would be quite a relief to not be around anymore as long as you get to say your I love yous and goodbyes to people first.
And yes I still have low days, days where I feel shitty and I want the world to stop so I can get off, days where everything is an effort, days where I’m so caught up in my own thoughts that I want to just be left alone. I don’t class those days as part of my depression. I class them as just rough days, that everybody has, right? Or do they? I also blogged recently about not really knowing who I am because I’ve been on Prozac and the contraceptive pill for such a long time. So is a sad day, a flat day, a can’t be fucking arsed day simply a controlled by pills depression day?
Who knows?! (it’s bloody complex, being a human.)
So, if I’m not depressed but I still take a daily tablet for fear of returning to that space, how do I class myself? And because I’m not actively living it, and haven’t for a long time, is it even worth me participating in the conversation? There are people with much worse experiences than me, in the here and now.
My conclusion is that I don’t need to label myself. It doesn’t matter, right now, to have a category to fit into. The important thing is that I’m mentally stable (in the most part). I had my diagnosis, a long time ago, which put me on a treatment path which levelled me out. Long may that path continue, whatever it’s called.
PS. The lovely Tina from T is for Tina has written a very apt post in relation to MHAW. As she correctly states, “we all have a mental health, and we all need to look after ourselves and learn to put ourselves first sometimes.” Regardless of whether or not you have a diagnosed mental illness or condition, it’s important for everyone to to look after their own mental wellbeing. MHAW isn’t just to acknowledge people who’s brains are a bit wonky (I’m being flippant, not rude). It should also exist to remind everyone to take care of themselves. Say no when you want to, create some me time and indulge in things that make you happy. Your brain deserves it.