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Hot Coffee

Sometimes I feel like I should defend myself, and my decision to stop writing as much. A lot led me to that point.

I have a blog that, at last count, had over three thousand followers. Three thousand people like my content enough that they have committed to consuming it on a regular basis.
But here’s the kicker- not enough to pay me for it.

In the three years I have been running that blog, my net income from it has amounted to a grand total of £3.78.

As much as my comrades would have me believe that my boss is stealing out of my mouth to pay for his Mercedes- at least he pays me enough to survive. So I chose to put effort into the path that keeps me alive.

Writing is an undervalued skill. I don’t mean people don’t appreciate it. I mean they genuinely don’t place material value on it. Good writers become mediocre artists, because the commissions (while paltry) do at least exist.

With surgery coming up, this knowledge frightens me.

I know that surgery will produce very large, very visible scars. And that the only way to keep this to a minimum is for me to get a decent amount of rest.
I cannot afford the time off work that I need.

If I could survive on my writing, even for just one day a week, that would be a gamechanger. I could stay at home while I recovered, and rest when I needed to. The threat of anaesthetic-induced post-surgical depression would be mitigated.

So I’m taking another crack at it. I refuse to get pulled down by any kind of “X isn’t real writing” bullshit. I refuse to apologise for frequently producing utter bollocks. And I refuse to be conned into thinking that this is only worthy of a third of a penny a day in recompense.

I feel like an absolute shithouse asking for money. I fucking hate it. But honestly, if your attitude is that fanfiction authors, bloggers and people who write geeky jokes on the internet deserve absolutely nothing for their effort and ingenuity then tell me- why do I need you to read my blog?

If on the other hand you think I, or other writers and creators, deserve recompense but you just can’t afford it right now- you just donated me £5. And I donated it back cause you need it.

But do go out and spread that attitude- that content creators deserve recompense. Reblog from source. Post recommendations. And when you’re looking for a gift, maybe spend the money commissioning something truly special.

I have a ko-fi now if you do want to donate, and Patreon will be coming soon. Support the creators who give you something.

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Sacha Fourneau

This is going to seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but I’m publishing a book.

See, for the last few years, I have been writing children’s stories. Stories about sheep who are a bit too small. Stories about princesses who want to be king when they grow up. About children who are afraid of the noises from downstairs.

I had been commissioned to write bedtime stories for a parenting website, and I just never stopped.
But why would I tell anyone? None of my friends had children. I loved working with kids, but I was mistreated as an employee. I felt like my stories weren’t worthy- they weren’t full of long words. I didn’t even have the talent to give my stories pictures– and why would anyone want to read a book with no pictures?

So the years went by.

One day, I saw a comic drawn by a “mutual”, someone I had been quietly interacting with for years. It was a joyful little thing: two friends watching the sunset together and musing on their good fortune. I had been looking for something to decorate my flat with, and on impulse, I bought a print.

And once I got it home, I realised- I could pay her to illustrate the book. The more I thought about it, the less it seemed like it could go wrong. Of course I will probably make a loss on it, but it’s a present to myself and Sunshine*, so that’s already covered.

So it’s actually happening. I’m going to be looking for some people to write reviews, so if you want to, drop me a line. Otherwise, if you want to support me and see how things are getting on, I will be using the pen-name Sacha Fourneau. Follow me at sacha-fourneau.tumblr.com

*Don’t tell Sunshine.

Bad Blood

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I am proud to be a blood donor. Every three months, I walk to my local donation session and pump out a bag of the red stuff as quickly as I can. No, seriously. I try and beat my best time.

The NHS relies on 6000 blood transfusions a day to help treat cancer and sickle-cell, during surgery and after childbirth. So, I’m really proud to be a part of it. I’m on team A negative, who when I last checked had the highest blood stocks (because we’re awesome). That means my blood can be used to treat people with A positive, A negative, AB positive and AB negative typing.

In fact, I would urge you, if you can, to give blood. The NHSBTS hands out all sorts of freebies for giving blood, and you get video-game-style achievements for hitting certain targets. That’s a reward system I can get behind.

However, as of late I’ve been trying to change my details from female to male. Which puts me in a rather difficult situation.

Men who have had oral or anal sex with men in the last 12 months, with or without protection, are banned from giving blood.

I am in a committed, monogamous relationship with a man. We use condoms, gloves, and dams. My last HIV test was less than a month ago. In short, we practice some of the safest sex you’ll see outside convents.

Meanwhile, I had a friend who went three sexual partners without getting any kind of STD check, and had unprotected oral sex with at least two of them.

Her blood is fine and dandy. Mine is a biohazard.

I understand the theory. Statistically speaking, men who have sex with men are at higher risk of blood-borne STDs, and sometimes these can take a while to become detectable. However, in 2013 in the UK, less than 50% of new HIV infections in the UK were due to men having sex with other men.

The majority of those other cases? 36% were heterosexuals who contracted HIV from having sex with other heterosexuals.

In fact, I’m going to break down the numbers.

Year MSM Straights Drug users Mother-to-infant Other
2013 2947 (49.1%) 2135 (35.6%) 112 (1.9%) 83 (1.4%) 16 (0.3%)
2012 3037 (48.6%) 2569 (44.1%) 113 (1.8%) 77 (1.2%) 18 (0.3%)
2011 2839 (46.0%) 2815 (45.6%) 131 (2.1%) 105 (1.7%) 11 (0.2%)

You can prove anything you like with statistics. In fact, I chose these three years without looking at the data because I didn’t want to skew it. However, if intravenous drug users, who make up around about 2% of new HIV cases, are banned from giving blood for life, why on earth are straight people who have sex allowed?

I’m not arguing about IV drug users though. I’m arguing about responsible men who just happen to have sex with other men. My point is that although people pretend the blood ban is all about statistics, it actually doesn’t make a lot of sense when you look at them.

In fact, oral sex (which I am not allowed to give blood after having) has a lower rate of transmitting HIV and Hep B than penis-in-vagina sex (which I can do with a different person every night unprotected and still be good to go).

Men who have sex with men do have disproportionately high rates of blood-borne STDs, it’s true. But you know what would help with that? Regular screening and interaction with healthcare services. Two things you get by becoming a blood donor.

Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems, has proposed the Blood Donor (Equality) Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament. However, until it does, I, and thousands of others, have been put in a difficult position: stop giving blood, or give up the good stuff.

https://ratrust.org.uk/me-and-hiv/hiv-statistics?gclid=Cj0KEQiAuqC2BRDVxMSnpa-mhZoBEiQAFta8wabfCJfhuoVsuevWht0SKsjb5xEPIF2Gs1jvyr3Kbu8aApRc8P8HAQ#homosexual

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/blooddonorequality.html

Best Laid Plans and Car Doors

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On the 5th January, I made a minor miscalculation whilst getting into the car, and smacked my head. What followed was a night in A&E and three months of panic attacks, dizziness and vomiting. My memory was so poor, I lost all concept of how much time had passed. Left on my own for more than a few hours I would become incredibly lonely and frightened.

Post-it notes littered the walls of my flat. One above the kettle to remind me to put water in before I boiled it. One by my bed so that when I woke up in the morning I would remember why I was in pain. By the front door: “Phone, wallet, keys.”

I went out wearing odd shoes. I regularly forgot the code for my building. I went out for lunch and had to call a friend to take me home because I couldn’t walk.

Now, I’m all but better. I’m not anxious, I’m not confused, I just get a little dizzy from time to time. Brilliant.

What a shame my life isn’t where I left it.

Three months ago I was ready to resume teacher training. Now I’ve missed an entire term. Nobody from the university is responding to my emails. I’ve missed the deadline for filing my taxes. I have no job, no sick note, no clue.

Three months ago, I was overworked, overtired and under-appreciated, which is why a double concussion turned into a mess. But at least I had a plan.

Now what?

Social Media and Staying Apolitical

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Like many people, I use social media as a tool. It keeps me connected with those of a similar background, but also provides me with a platform to promote my work. So, how can I avoid alienating my readership while not making it seem like I’m ignoring the world around me?

The obvious solution, of course, is to take a line that everyone agrees on. We’re all reasonable people here, so we all believe in the same things. One side to every story. No grey area. Lovely.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the world doesn’t work like that. The world is full of contentious issues where 55% of people believe one thing and 45% believe the exact opposite. For me, those are numbers I don’t want to be playing with.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s quite a messy situation somewhere in the Middle East. That bit next to Egypt. Yes. I know, I put it lightly.

In my personal life, I have an opinion on this matter. In my personal life, if I come up against someone with a view that I find troubling, I speak. Or rather, I should say- in my personal life, I have come up against people with troubling views, and I have spoken. I am proud of this.

Which makes it all the harder to remain impartial publicly.

It is very easy to assume, that just because my view is not “extreme”, it will not be taken as such. I have seen friends and strangers make similar mistakes.

One man assumes that, because he browses social media at work, regardless of the intention, he should not have to scroll past distressing images of the conflict. He is an educated man who has taken the time to research the conflict for himself, knows what is gong on, and worries that his coworkers may be distressed or angered to find him looking through such images.

So, he makes an open request, on social media, for the sharing of such images to end.

This is read by another man. He is also troubled by these images. Their content is shocking, certainly, but what makes him more concerned is that he has not seen such images in mainstream media. He feels like people are being blinkered against the realities of the conflict, and the suffering caused by it.

He is as rightfully indignant as the first man was rightfully troubled.

By remaining impartial, I feel guilty. I have an audience. Not a substantial one, but a noticeable one. I have a chance to share my opinion, which, because it is my opinion, I believe to be the best opinion a person could have.

In my mind, the more people who think like me, the greater the chance for the conflict to come to the correct conclusion. My political mind thinks that, by not speaking up, I am wasting the chance to use my platform for good.

It would be social media suicide. All it would take is one slip of the keyboard, and I would be branded an extremist, dragged into a comments-battle until all credibility was stripped from me as my words were twisted my indignant strangers.

I must be content to remain apolitical in public. Yes, it’s cowardly, yes, it’s cynical. But I don’t have the luxury of being otherwise.

However, in private, I know who I am. Ask me on the street, and I will say proudly. Ask me on here, and I will say nothing.

Out of my Comfort Zone

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So, this Saturday, I was bored. So, I decided to completely run against my instincts and do something I would never ordinarily do.

You might assume, me being trans, that I’m some sort of super-sexually empowered person who is gender-blind, totally up on being politically correct and can tell a person to check their privilege at fifty paces.

Not so.

As a teenager, I hated being bisexual because it left me in a position of uncertainty. If being gay was a choice, I’d have bloody well heard about it. I was brought up fairly conservatively, so you should have seen the stick I gave myself for being “between genders”.

If I hadn’t lived it, I wouldn’t have believed it existed.

So, deciding, on impulse, to spend the afternoon with a group of strangers who enjoy BDSM was not exactly in-character, I mean, I enjoy cricket and tea and books and knitting. BDSM definitely doesn’t enter into it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t realise it was excellent writing fodder. The most boring man in the world suddenly wakes up one morning and decides to have a couple of pints with some kink enthusiasts. I still can’t quite believe I did it.

If you’d met me, you wouldn’t believe it either.

I can’t see this particular episode making its way into my current novel, but I have it. That particular life experience is checked off, in the bank, mine to exploit as I wish. But you know what else? I had fun.

Me. In a bar full of strangers who had mostly seen each other naked, and asked me such questions as whether I was interested in tying knots or being tied. I had an amazing time.

So. Do something on impulse. Say “yes” to life. I mean, I spent the first fifteen minutes of the meet hiding in the lavs, but I eventually found my balls, and actually said “Hello” like I’m the sort of person who walks up to random people and says “Hello”.

I’m not getting much writing done. But I’m confident that I will, now.

A Bad Writing Day

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Sometimes everything I write is awful, and the mere act of writing it is like trying to swim through custard.

I had such a good writing day yesterday, and it’s so irritating to follow it up with such a feebl effort, but it’s the way these things go. This is why I can’t afford to stop writing on the good days just because I’ve hit my word count.