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Safeguarding Failed Us

Trigger Warning – Rape, Self Harm, Child Abuse, Alcholism, Scuicide, Over Dose

About a month ago – I was sitting in a cafe in my home town. It’s not one I like, in fact I actively dislike it. It is far to expensive and doesn’t serve drinks I like. But I went there to work, it has a good quiet and calm atmosphere. After procrastinating I open a document I am working on. ‘Principles of supporting young people in relation to sexual health and the risk of pregnancy’. It’s actually really interesting. But I had hit a wall, something I couldn’t answer. I hoped going to this new environment would help. I opened up the NSPCC website and found the information I needed.

And then I started crying.

It wouldn’t stop.

I was crying as I left the cafe. I got on a bus a spent the evening at my ex’s house, as she was the only one who understood why.

I work with young people, which means I need to have a knowledge of safeguarding. Safegaurding is when you think a young person is at risk, being abused, or a danger to themselves or others you must report this. To whom you report it to depends on your work and where you are in your organisation. The concern will be escalated to the right people, such as social services, a safeguarding lead (person in charge) of your organisation. Safegaurding happens EVERYWHERE, and applies to those 18 years and younger.

I have been working with young people for some time but it was not until recently that my understanding of laws and procedures improved. It was also around this time that I started to recognise and deal with my own abuse.

You probably didn’t know about this. Until now only my therapist and my ex girlfriend did. And that’s not because I wanted to keep it a secret, it was because I didn’t recognise it for the abuse it was.

A few weeks earlier – I am at a work, for a study day. I have the same document open. I ask my manager for help with a question. He says the words ‘sexual abuse’, and I start crying. Why do you have to cry Alex? Why can’t you stop?

I am at my parents house, and I find a diary from when I was 16 years old. I read it hesitantly, knowing I had mental health problems. But it’s all fine. Then I find something, and it’s not fine, somthing I apparently made myself forget. It’s not the biggest deal. But to me, to have a missing memory, to realise how much I re-wrote my past. It’s really scary.

Here is a short time line of how safeguarding failed me –

About 14 years old – I tell a teacher I am self harming. I end up seeing the school doctor, who says ‘I am like a smoker who wants to quit but isn’t quite there yet’. Soon later my parents find out. I assumed the school told them. I found out about a month ago it was my best friend. I continue to self harm on and off until I am 23.

About 15 years old – I start doing musical theatre with a company full of adults and only a few people my age. We are supposed to have chaperones but don’t. Even though many of us have family in the cast, we are still supposed to have them. I thought this was great, I didn’t want to be followed around and patronised.

About 16 years old – I am touched and communicated with inappropriately by an older man in a show I am in. There are no chaperones. He has known me since I was 15, and clearly waited until I was 16. My diary tells me details about this time I had forgotten.

About 20 years old – I am at my first university and very mentally ill. For some reason I am called into a meeting with three of my tutors. One of them says that they ‘bet I blame my therapist for my problems’. They do not refer me to anyone else or any other support within the university.

OK break from the timeline.

13 Reasons Why SPOILERS

I was watching 13 reasons why, which I very much enjoyed. Well, enjoyed is an odd word. But I got a lot out of it. I watch the extra segment at the end, and one of the creators says something that hits home. He say’s

‘The challenge for Hannah is that she would have had to have the strength to describe what happened to her and the courage and determination to label it as rape, to get [the councillors] attention. And she was not able to do that. And that is not her fault. Sexual assault comes with so much shame, on top of the pain, on top of  the violation, that for victims to talk about it is incredibly hard …’

And something that had been going around in my head cam to the surface. And I decided I  needed to have the courage and the determination. So I called someone and told them, before I became to scared to say it.

Back to the timeline.

About 23 years old – I am raped. I thought it was just sex I wasn’t that into, but looking back it is not. I drank a lot to get through the sex. I drank a lot after as well. I take two over doses that year. The hospital refers me to no one.

Even though in some of these later incidents I am over 18, it was still the institutions responsiblity to look out for me.  And they didn’t.

I have been reading and watching a bit about child abuse cases, and it made me realise, it’s ok that we were failed. Obviously I don’t mean it’s ‘ok’, like it was fine it happened. Stay with me. There are hundreds of us that were and continue to be failed. And we did nothing to deserve that. Either our service wasn’t working well, or we weren’t noticed. But it’s not because we aren’t worthy, it’s not because we don’t matter and it’s not because our problems are too small. I don’t know why it is, but it was nothing to do with us.

Now when the organisations I work with take safeguarding so seriously, sometimes, oddly it makes me feel sad. Because I wonder what could have happened if I had that support.

With out it I have been left with a career in jeopardy because I become upset when sexual abuse is mentioned. I have a history of problems, that may have been a little shorter if I had been safeguarded. But now, again I need the courage and the determination to keep talking about these things and be part of these conversations, so that I can do my job effectively.

A couple of weeks ago – I have to leave the room while grooming is discussed. I cry so much. Please. Stop. Crying.

I shared this I think so that people understand their rights. So they see there are people out there who care and are effected deeply by safegaurding. And to get it out there. The more I talk the less scary it it. The less I’ll cry. Hopefully.

Go forward with courage and determination.

Thank you so much for reading.

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LUSH Make Up (and other general bits) For Non-Binary, Androgynous or Gender Non Conforming People

Hiiii

I have been thinking for a few weeks about the make up  I use when I don’t want to look to ‘made up’ but still want my skin to look nice and thought I would share it for those interested. Two disclaimers –

ONE – I work at Lush. I don’t mean to sound like I’m advertising them or anything, but Lush is what I use, so that’s what I know to recommend. Some of the stuff on this list can be bought from other shops (such as face masks), some are unique to Lush. But for the purposes of this article I’m referring to Lush because that’s what I know and can guarantee.

TWO – You should not feel like you need to do any of this. If your non-binary and you like rocking a full face of make up or none at all, thats totally cool. This is for you to use as you like and I would hate to tell anyone how to express themselves.

So lets get going.

I really like my skin to look good and taken care of. I normally wear very thick foundation from stargazer but it’s very much the ‘you look like your wearing make up’ look. And some days thats not right for me. So I started by trying to make my skin look lovely so I could wear no make up if I choose.

No Make Up Look 

I had a bit of a break out so I used a face mask and then about 3 days later did another. I used BB Seaweed and Cupcake but which face mask you should use really depends on what you have going on with your skin. After a few days of this plus a Full of Grace, Cleanse, Tone and Moisturise, things were much better. Again, in terms of the skin products you use, it just depends on your skin. I hate going out with spots full on display but I didn’t want to cake foundation over them.

Light Make Up Look


I find Lush colour supplements very light and natural, which is what I want when trying to achieve an even skin tone but nothing to over the top. I use Light Pink because my proffered skin tone is ‘pale as possible’. They have a range of colours and it goes on like a light  cream.

I then add a bit of Charisma Skin Tint, to give my face a bit of colour to it after washing it out. I’ve never like blusher or bronzer, I always feel I look a bit like a doll with round cheek circles after I use it. Charisma blends in nicely, and I don’t feel to pale, but I don’t feel self conscious either.

I finish off with Emotional Brilliance Face Powder. It covers my face nicely, and makes me feel like everything is set in. Some days if my no make up is not quite right but I don’t want to use this much, I’ll use it by its self.

Instead of lip stick I use Lip Scrub (Bubblegum is my fav!). It stops my lips looking pale in comparison to the rest of my face, and plumps them out a bit. This is a big recommendation from me. I find lip stick tricky and scrub kind of by passes all of that.

Hair Care 

If you have short hair but want to do nice things with it I really recommend Mr Dandy’s Hair Candy, and Hair Custard. I use Mr Dandy’s to mould my hair how I want it, then Hair Custard to keep it there and add a really good smell! I have found myself looking in the mirror thinking ‘why does my hair look rubbish?’ then realising I haven’t put my products in it yet.

Aromaco (Solid Deodorant)

Since coming out as non-binary deodorant has caused me more trouble than I would have imaged. I’ve like Lynx but I find it’s marketing and associations problematic, and I don’t want to smell to flowery, I like the musk edge on men’s deodorant. Buying it really sucks as well, when you go into a shop everything is arranged in a really gendered way. I gave Aromaco a try and I’m super happy with it, the smell is quite light and neutral and the block is lasting a really long time. Its solid which means I don’t feel wet after using it or like its going to seep through onto my clothes. It’s also easy to put on if you already put your clothes on and forgot to use deodorant first (which I do all the time).

Shopping At Lush 

I mentioned above that shopping can get awkward. At Lush nothing is gendered. Sure products are bright pink and flowery but nothing says it’s ‘for women’. There is a beard and facial wash but it’s not in a men’s section and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a facial wash. I especially love this in regards to the perfume.

Story Time. I stayed in Bristol in the summer overnight, but hadn’t planned to (this was before I worked at Lush). I was going to a group where we talked about trans stuff that day (I had never done anything like that before) and got some clean clothes from Primark and went into Lush to give myself a spray of some thing so I didn’t smell of hostel and sweat. I had used Dirty styling cream before so I kind of knew the smell. I sprayed myself with the Dirty perfume, and as the day went on I realised I felt like me, I looked like me, and I smelt like me. I was 100% me, no compromises and that felt great.

Photo on 15-02-2016 at 16.05

 

 

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Everyday Feminism’s Top Ten Questions About Being Genderqueer … My Answers!

Everyday Feminism published an article about being genderqueer and some of the frequently asked questions we get asked. I recommend reading the original first. Here are my answers.

1. So Are You a Boy Or a Girl?

boygirlno

2. No, But What Are You Really?

ummm Genderqueer. Non-Binary. I’m AFAB (assigned female at birth) but its not an excuse to treat me as female or as a woman. It’s unrelated to my gender. I have this way of thinking, If you wouldn’t treat a guy the way you treat me don’t treat me that way. If you would call a guy ‘love’ or ‘babe’ or hug them for a really long time then you can do that with me, and I know that differs from person to person. But I catch people using gendered ways to relate to me, that seem to be excused because what they are looking at looks like a woman sometimes. Another way of doing it which I also like is using both options. Like my partner will flip back and forward between calling me handsome and pretty. So do both, or do neither.

3. But What About Biology?

I really don’t want to talk about my … biology.

4. Which Bathroom Do You Use?

Woman’s/Female. Sometimes I will use the disabled if it’s a viable option. I hate having to use the woman’s bathroom but I feel even more uncomfortable with the idea of using the men’s. Ideally I would use a neutral one.

5. Are You Gonna Get ‘The Surgery’?

Next question. They say this in the article but really, don’t ask people this. They’ll volunteer the information themselves if they are keen to talk about it.

6. ‘They’ for a Singular Person Is Grammatically Incorrect!

  1. No it isn’t.
  2. You use it all the time when you don’t know the gender of someone. Example – ‘I have a meeting with my new boss today. I haven’t met them before, I’m a bit nervous, I hope they’re friendly’.
  3. I don’t care, please just respect my pronoun choice.
  4. You are not the first person to inform me of this opinion, I have done my arguing about this. So forgive me if I’m short with you but it’s a discussion I’m done with having.

7. Why Do You Have Boobs One Day and a Flat Chest Another?

Because I own one binder (because they are expensive) and the cut doesn’t go with all the clothes I own.

Because they are very hot.

And most importantly because some days I want to have a flat chest and others I don’t.

8. Are You Dysphoric?

Yes.

9. Am I Gay If I Think You’re Hot?

Well, I would say if your a man and your attracted to my male-ness or a woman and attracted to my female-ness, you might have some pansexual/bisexual feelings going on. But really , no. You can be straight and find one person of the same gender you like and still identify as straight if you want to, you just like that ONE person (same with gay people). Technically because I’m not of a gender you can be opposite to you can’t be binary and be straight/gay with me. But it’s not a term I get picky about. I’m in a relationship with a woman and sometimes we say we are lesbians and it’s not a huge issue to me. I call it a ‘queer relationship’ most of the time.

10. What Kind of Sex Do You Have?

Sexy sex.

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Exciting Ukulele News!!! New Channel

Hi my lovely friends 🙂

SoOo I have exciting ukulele related news (although all things ukulele rested are exciting). I have been working on a project for uni and it has been going very well. It’s a youtube channel where I write and play songs on the ukulele inspired by films and TV shows, or covers of music from films/TV shows.

I’m really proud of the work I have done, I’ve learnt to video edit, recorded some of my own sound and most importantly am finally writing music again and singing in a public forum. I was trained as a singer, and started my degree in music but after a hard mental health time I walked away from it. It’s lovely to be doing it again but on my terms, performing what I want and in an environment I feel comfortable in.

It would be lovely if you checked out my youtube channel HERE and like/comment/subscribe if you want to.

I also have a blog HERE dedicated to the channel.

Your interest and support in this project would mean a lot to me.

Here are some of my favorite videos I’ve made (I love them all though). If you follow me due to discussing mental health I wrote a but of the girl interrupted song based on my own experiences with borderline personality disorder. You can see the video below, and a vlog I did about writing it HERE

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I find this incredibly funny …. Ellen Page on SNL.

I remember seeing this video ages ago. I watched it a few days ago because I was reading THIS great article. The article gives context of where this skit came from:

idle talk about her sexuality trailed her, too, and grew only louder on Feb. 24, 2008. That was the night that her power-lesbian publicist sat next to her on her big Oscar night, where she’d wind up losing to MarionCotillard, the star of La Vie en Rose.

It was gossip warhorse MichaelMusto who, five days after the ceremony, first floated the question of Page’s sexuality in a Village Voice column titled, “Ellen Page: Is She or Isn’t She?” In the same article, Musto wondered whether she’d attended the ceremony “with her mother” — certainly the most efficient way to land a lifetime position atop Bush’s shit list. Musto later wrote a follow-up in which he took a measure of sadistic delight in recounting an angry phone call from Bush, in which he described the publicist sounding “as if her cat had just gotten stuck in a drainpipe or something.” (Bush denies ever having raised her voice during the conversation.)

Page’s fears about celebrity media had been confirmed.

But rather than deny or ignore Musto’s tauntings, Page played right into them, participating two days later in a Saturday Night Live sketch as an earnest young woman who’d returned overjoyed from a MelissaEtheridge concert. The part, written by veteran SNL writer PaulaPell (herself gay), had Page gushing to her unfazed boyfriend, played by AndySamberg, about all the lesbian wonders she experienced at the event. “They were kind of like, ‘Are you … OK with this?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’ ” says Page. If there was any backlash, Page never felt it: “Sometimes I think when you’re like, ‘Hey, I don’t give a shit,’ that’s the moment where people don’t give a shit.”

I remember the last time I saw this laughing my ass off at the line ‘Why does everything have to have a freaking label? Can’t I just hug a woman with my legs in friendship’? I think it was quite some time ago. With the power of hindsight so much about me is explained.

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Queer Life/I Am A Genderqueer Balloon

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/12/15/a-9-year-old-girl-gave-this-hearfelt-letter-to-her-teacher-after-he-came-out-as-gay/

I recommend reading the entire article for context. I think its interesting because when I was a kid, if some one asked me if I thought people who ‘were gay or lesbian were bad or wrong in some way’ I would have probably said yes, but if you asked me why I wouldn’t have known (bear in mind section 28 was repealed in 2003 and I was at junior school between 1994 – 2005 so school wasn’t going to tell me jack all). I sort of never thought about it much until when I was older and just sort of realised its all fine (which is bloody lucky!)

Kids don’t really think about it, thats why they are so accepting, but on the flip side, they don’t think about it much so they believe anything they are told from family, other children, the media ect … Parents need to talk about these things to their kids, or it will be left to playground insults of calling each other gay to shape there perception of sexuality. I think if I had been educated a bit earlier about this (or at all actually) I would have know more about myself. I never knew I had the feelings I did because I never thought it was something I could have. Of course I knew about LGBTQ people but I never thought that could be ME.

Over the years everything became more confusing and it wasn’t until I went to university that I even started to really engaged in what it meant to be bi-sexual (a label I no longer identify with), I had the attraction but I never spoke about it much unless in flippant terms, or got involved in the LGBTQ community. My life has changed because of engaging with these people, not just because I’ve made a lot of friends, but because I started to learn about things. The more I knew there were names and explanations for how I felt, something many other people felt, the more I felt them. Maybe thats sounds odd but it was like I was being given permission to be me.

I found out the label ‘Queer’ was a thing and looked into it’s meaning and took it as my own. I felt bi-sexual wasn’t really accurate and although queer can refer to a number of things I find it better to be vague then explain than use a term that isn’t quite right and have people assume the wrong thing.

Back to about feeling like I was being given permission to be me. At some point I realised I really started missing wearing jeans. I think I was watching some of Arielle’s videos, and looking at her style and jokes about how lesbians dress and I was like ‘I wouldn’t mind trying that’. I had owned a shirt for a while and loved wearing it but never thought to buy any more. I got more. And more. And irritated when I didn’t have any to wear, like I used to feel when I had to wear school uniform. At the same time my undercut expanded and my hair got ‘accidentally’ cut short. I thought about how when I talked about ‘women’ in contexts like feminism I never really felt like I was talking about me, but some other group. I never worried I was manly, I never have been and never will be. I have traits some might consider male, but I don’t really by that way of thinking.

I knew a few people who didn’t identify with gender, and the more I thought about who they were, the more I saw that was who I was.

So no I have to leave past tense behind. I’ve felt this way for a few months but didn’t want to say. I know there are harder things to share with the world. But I’m still scared. I’m worried that people won’t get it, will ask me to explain constantly. What do I say to strangers who mis-gender me? What if I realise in a years time of whatever this is not the case and have to go ‘sorry guys I’m not actually genderqueer’. What if men or queer women don’t like me in a romantic way because they don’t see me as a woman?

But thats what I’m trying to say now in this really round about way. That I don’t identify as a man or a woman. I’m just this floating thing. Like a balloon. A genderqueer balloon. This started as a Facebook status and after about 200 words I knew now was the time just to bloody get it out there.

I like girly stuff, I do love a good skirt and heals. And I like shirts, and guys hats. And it’s not all about aesthetic. I wonder why I didn’t know sooner, but then I look about my red, vaguely gendered bedroom thats been this way since I was 13 and think maybe it was pretty obvious I just had no words.

And that brings me back to the point I made at the beginning. Educate young people so they have the words, so if they have these feelings they know what they are and don’t have to wait as long as I did to figure out who they are.

Some days I’ll look girly, some days I won’t. Some days i’ll pull a face at heavily gendered things and others I’ll love them. I don’t know, I just take each day at a time.

So would you mind they/them for me as a pro-noun?

I can’t keep just doing it my head anymore, its a real thing of me now, it seems so silly to keep it inside.

And I totally reserve the right to realise I was incorrect, although I can’t see that really happening.

Thanks.

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First picture I took of me in my newly expanded non-binary gender wardrobe.

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What Makes Me Skip A Dating Profile

I was having a read of this great article from The Good Men Project (really great website) and it got me thinking about what makes me stop looking at someone’s profile with online dating. It can be something very small or that if it was real life I wouldn’t mind so much. I do this for two reasons.

1. On the internet I exercise more caution. If someone on a dating site or in message makes a joke that comes of creepy, even if it’s not that bad or if spoken in the right way it could be alright, thats it. Done.

2. In profiles we get to market ourselves, we can choose exactly what we show and what we don’t. So if someone is showing me a picture of them at a party with one of those beer funnels, it gives me the impression this is an important part of them, the essence of them. Which would be a no. I really really like a drink but I wouldn’t use a picture of me drinking as a first impression to a romantic match. So if people are including things I don’t like in their profile, even if in some sort of context it might be ok, no. Because I don’t have that context.

 

So here is a list of things that, for me personally make me skip over a dating profile.

1. ‘Looking for a genuine person who can except me for me’.

These words, especially ‘looking for a genuine person’ suggest recent, unresolved heartbreak. I think its kind of a given we want to meet someone who is excepting and loving of who we are and who tries to share their thoughts and feelings. If it’s super important to you that you meet someone like this I would go for ‘ Looking for an open and loving person’. Comes of a bit less angsty.

2. ANY kind of angst. 

I’m not interested in anyone who talks about how much bad luck they have with dating, who says their life is ‘boring’, or talks about any personal issues at all in there profile. Maybe health conditions would be ok if it was relevant to how the person was describing themselves. I have a lot of room of acceptance of personal issues in my relationships, both with friends and romantic. But like I said, you choose what is in your profile and I don’t want your defining points to be your problems. I prefer to get to know someone and let any kind of problem comes up naturally.

3. Ticking they like to do EVERYTHING. 

If you like movies then say what kind and names some favourites, apply to anything else you tick that you really enjoy. I know it’s hard, I have a lot of interests and I like movies far more than I like cooking, but will still tick both as an interest. However I would go on to say what movies I like, but not to mention anything about cooking. If I see a profile I like who is really into making sushi, I would message them and go into greater detail about my smaller interest.  Ticking everything leaves me the dark as to what that person really likes, so I’d advise being minimal with the ticking or explain more in a profile.

4. Ticking/writing nothing.

I have literally seen profiles on sites intended for dating (as apposed to hook ups) that have no interests ticked and the profile description just says something like ‘I’m shy’. All I really have to go off that is a profile picture and even if I think someone is really good looking I don’t want to start talking to them and realise we have nothing in common.

5. Any signs of lad behaviour. 

Sorry this one is just for guys. Anything that suggests lad behaviour, drunk pictures certain types of clothes, use of the word ‘banter’. I know that in context these things are fine, but like said, no context, no contact.

6. A profile picture that looks like they don’t want to be on the site. 

A miserable/uninterested/aloof profile picture is really off putting. I think the safest bet is to smile, you might think your coming of as cool but it might not be the case.

A note on messages –

DO NOT

Message someone who is way way younger than you.

Message someone just saying ‘hi’.

Message someone with sexual content as the first message.

DO

Introduce yourself in a friendly way.

Ask one or two questions that show you have read their profile.

Write a few sentences about yourself.

My advice for making a profile is look at your finished product, clear your mind and look at it from the point of view of someone who knows nothing else about you. How does it come across to you? How does it make you look? Are the jokes funny or creepy? Are you cool or uninterested? Does this profile give a general sense of who I am? And keep it short. I barely read enough as it is, I’m not going to trawl through the life story of a stranger 😛

I’m no longer really interested in internet dating, not because of all the problems that come with it (see Bye Felipe). Just because I think my relationship failures come from going for the same kind of person, and because online dating is so deliberate you can look for exactly who you want, so I tend to go for ‘the same again’. And I would like to meet people different from my normal ‘type’ and I think the real world is better at randomly throwing people at me.