Summer in the City

Well, September is here at last and summer is officially over. I haven’t really blogged as much as I hoped to (I just didn’t get the chance) but that’s something that will change now – promise!

Just like every other year, I had grand plans for this summer. I was going to learn how to juggle, pick up bass guitar again (it’s the one instrument I’ve been fairly consistently neglecting since about two months after I started to play – oops), play endless guitar, teach my scouts as much as possible, paint the house, write some letters, maybe learn to swim – a whole heap of stuff. Admittedly, I never ACTUALLY do all of the things I plan to do over summer. If half of my plans happen, I’m doing pretty damned well. This summer, however, I got absolutely none of these things done.

“Why?!” come the cries of my hundreds of concerned readers. (only not really)

Here’s the thing.

A couple of years ago, it became clear to me that my original home back in Donegal was not overly safe for me. I’m not going to get caught up in the details of it because these things happen, but basically when I moved out last year at the ripe old age of 17, that was me out for good. This didn’t pose too much of an issue to me for the first while as I was working on starting a new and improved life on this side of the border. In fact, it didn’t really become a problem at all until May, when I discovered that the lease for my current flat wouldn’t begin until September, while I would have to move out of my room in Elms Village in early June.

So my summer didn’t exactly go according to plan: while nothing terrible happened (like being disowned by my family or, you know, death or something), and while I still had regular online contact with plenty of loving relatives, this summer marked my first true experience of what could turn out to be my life once again when this lease runs out: moving from place to place, sleeping on mattresses, sofas and kitchen floors, in baths and hedges and pretty much anywhere where I wouldn’t get attacked or soaked in the rain. This summer, I spent time in my sister’s spare room, but I also spent time walking through Belfast with a bundle of blankets and no idea where I was meant to be going. I’ve been hired and fired, stuffed and starving, and have been in WAY too many conversations which started with the words “I don’t want to kick you out, BUT…”

The lowest point of my summer was walking out on the last day of my second job in 2 months and realising that I had no job, only 40p to my name which I couldn’t even access because it was in the bank, and no idea where I was going to sleep that night.

The past few months could easily be interpreted as one great kick in the teeth after the next, but I don’t regret anything that I did over the past year. I feel like the whole experience has taught me the true meaning of “it gets better”. Less than a month ago, I was sitting under a bridge on a rolled-up blanket and hoping that someone would call me up to offer me a bed for the night. Today, I am sitting writing this in my new bedroom, in my new flat. I can hear my friends and new flatmates laughing and chattering in the next room. Tonight, I will have a hot meal for dinner. Tomorrow, I will get up and go to work at one of my new jobs and when I finish work, I will return to MY flat and go to sleep in MY bed.

And you know what? This summer has probably been the best summer of my life so far. It’s been unpredictable and stressful and extremely unstable, but I have never felt so free. In the space of a year, I went from this stuttering little punchbag to a king with a key to the city. So much went wrong this year. If I had seen it coming, I probably would have given up because I wouldn’t have believed that I could deal with so much all at once. With the summer behind me, however, and with it the uncertainty, the sickness and the cold, I will look you in the eyes and tell you that this is my year. 2014 is Tab’s year, and it is only going to get better from here.

Just you watch this space.

Belfast Pride 2014

Belfast Pride finally took place on Saturday, quite some time after Pride Week for some reason! It was my first ever pride, and I had the pleasure of volunteering at it. One thing I’d say to anyone else who gets the opportunity to be in or volunteer at a parade: Do it.

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My role as a volunteer consisted of walking alongside the parade and making sure nobody was drinking or doing anything which would hurt themselves, somebody else, or pride as a whole. I was also instructed to try and prevent conflict with protesters by advising people to avoid them where necessary. To be absolutely honest, I’m almost glad it rained as much as it did because while I’m definitely improving my interpersonal skills in social and professional situations, I don’t know how I’d react when faced with conflict and potential violence. My guess is “not very well” but it turned out not to matter as the miserable weather meant that fewer protesters bothered to turn up, so there were no major problems.

While the rain seemed to have an effect on the number of spectators that turned up, it didn’t change the bright colours and high spirits of the parade. Scantily clad angels and cowboys roamed the square, rainbow-coloured capes were visible in every direction and when the rain came down, the rainbow umbrellas went up.

Ponchos. Ponchos everywhere.
Ponchos. Ponchos everywhere.

I ended up walking next to my university’s LGBT Society, which was an odd bonus to my day, and got to catch up with a couple of members of the society afterwards. The entire society seems to be lovely, and I’m definitely going to make an attempt to go to more than 5 meetings next year! Another upside to this position in the parade was that it meant I spotted the president of our Student’s Union marching in the parade, strengthening my belief that I voted for the right guy – long live Cap’n Gallagher!

To sum up an already short post, Belfast Pride was fantastic. I can’t wait until next year, when I will hopefully go to more events and will definitely volunteer again. Here’s hoping that it’s a little drier next time, though!

Damp.
Damp.

On Issues of Gender

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This is me, right now, in prime blogging position. As you can probably tell, I’m a girl. I was born a girl. I grew up a girl. I have always been a girl. Why would I ever question it?

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The problem is that I don’t think, act or dress like a girl…

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… And I never have.

This fact worried me a lot when I was younger, say, in my early teens. I was worried that maybe I was transgender – a boy stuck in a girl’s body – and while this is something I have no problem with in other people, I don’t think it is something I could have handled myself. Certainly, it is not something my family would have been accepting of, which is an awful shame considering it’s 2014. 

But the plot thickens, as I’m pretty damn sure I’m not a boy. At least, I’m no more a boy than I am a girl. The realisation that I didn’t fit into either gender bracket perhaps hit me even harder than the thought that I might be anything other than female. The confusion and unhappiness that came about as a result of my inability to relate to either grouping lasted until just a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this post. With a little bit of internet research, I discovered the definition of “androgyne” and realised that this is the closest anything has come to describing me. 

I don’t plan on openly identifying as an androgyne, but knowing that the gender identity exists and that there are other people like me has made me much, much happier in myself. I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. My gender has had no effect on what subjects I chose in school, what I am studying at university or what I plan to do for a living when I have finished my degree. My gender has had no effect on the way I act or the people I hang out with. The only effect my gender has really had on my life is that period of darkness I experienced while I did not know what I was or what was “wrong” with me. For the sake of keeping things simple, though, I’m going to go ahead and continue publicly identifying as female because, frankly, I don’t have the balls to identify as anything else (pardon the pun). 

Gender is nothing more than a social construction, and a fairly destructive one at that. There is no reason that the fact that I’d rather wear a suit than a dress, or rather play video games than go shopping, should have thrown me into such a downward spiral. The way in which we are judged should not be based on which pronouns we use to describe ourselves, but on the way we act in regards to ourselves and others. I am not saying that gender identity should not exist. It’s a way for people to define and label themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. All I’m saying is that it shouldn’t matter. But it does.

I know that this is a fairly pointless ramble. I’ve achieved nothing by writing this, but I would have achieved even less (if that’s at all possible) by not writing it, so here it is. 

If you want to read more on this subject, check out CN Lester’s fantastic posts, Uncloseted’s “LGBTQ – RSTUV?” and this page on androgyny

Stay incredible!

Tx