Gender, or Why I’m Glad I’m Aro/Ace

This post has been cross-posted to Tumblr here. It was written for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces on Gender norms and asexuality.

Hold on tight because I got rambly (again). I’ve tried to shorten my sentences and paragraphs (and have possibly made my point less clear in doing so), but if the post is still inaccessible, or has lost all meaning, please throw me a message and I’ll try and edit it.

Before I came to university, I was already struggling with the concept of attraction — how we name it, why we name it, whether attraction is the important part of a relationship or identity — but coming to uni and getting a boyfriend have made that concept all the more difficult to grasp. All three main issues I have with the attraction model have become more relevant, but for this post I’ll just talk about the first one: how do we name our attraction?

Gendered attraction, as a nonbinary person, is… difficult to swallow. Hence why I’m glad I’m aro-spectrum and ace — the attraction is so nonexistent that I don’t have to quantify it as towards guys, girls, nb people, multiple genders, etc. Which is great, because I’d have no idea of where to start.

The first, and most important, issue I would meet as someone attracted to other people (and the one that causes me the most distress personally), is how do I quantify their genders to fit the orientation names given to me? If I’m attracted to people of all genders or many, I probably don’t have to try, but if there’s just one gender, what do I mean by gender?

I’ve seen the odd bit and bob of this in the few corners of the nonbinary community that I peek in to (not for lack of trying to get involved, mind), and there’s seemingly no general consensus on how you name your attraction.

If you’re attracted to girls, you might be basing this on presentation, which is wrong because not everyone who ‘looks’ like a girl is one and that’s just plain rude to assume. If you’re going off their own personal identity, well, you’re probably already attracted to them before you get close enough to know that. If you’re going off genitals, again you’re not going to know beforehand and are being pretty darn transphobic. If you go for ‘feminine presenting’, well, what counts as feminine? What if that person doesn’t see it as feminine? There’s also the issue that ‘feminine’ looks different on different people — trans women have their femininity policed, as do people of different races, and so ‘femininity’ is likely always going to be seen through a racist and transmisogynistic lens.

Basically, saying ‘I like girls’ is a lot more complicated – and impossible to talk about – than it might seem, and it’s my major reason for hating our current model of attraction-based-on-gender.

The second reason, while less important overall, is more imperative from a personal perspective.

Let’s say I like girls*, and this statement actually passes muster by some miraculous act of fate. That’s great, but how do I use it to inform my identity? I’m nonbinary, so I’m not a girl; does that mean my attraction is heterosexual? Technically, yes, but that’s not my lived experience — going out with a girl as someone who is generally ‘read’ as a girl does not feel heterosexual; the way we are treated together is not the way a straight couple would be treated, plus I have enough internalised homophobia to last me a lifetime and affect me for just as long. So, I guess I call myself a lesbian or gay then — but then I’m erasing my own gender in a way I don’t feel comfortable with. **

Similarly, let’s say (slightly less hypothetically since I have a boyfriend) that I like boys. We’re certainly of different genders (in identity, expression and assigned gender at birth), so I can’t say I’m gay or lesbian (although I understand that some people do and I totally get that). But the idea of calling myself heterosexual grates, as it denies my gender and just isn’t something that I feel I experience; being ‘read’ as a straight couple when with my boyfriend is a real pain and erasure. It’s different to internalised homophobia and external homophobia but that doesn’t mean it’s not real or doesn’t matter, so I refuse to endorse that it.

And, since I don’t want to write a binary post, let’s finally look at me liking other nonbinary people. I could call myself gay, but there are two problems with that. First of all, it might not feel that way if we have different expressions, possibly different identities, and have different agab or are ‘read’ differently. Secondly, calling myself gay for liking nonbinary people reinforces the binary, because it gives an extra ‘outlier’ option and that’s it — we’re all seen as the same, rather than a multitude of people with a multitude of identities that are not all the same. This then leads to three options. First, using a multiple-attracted term if I’m attracted to multiple nonbinary genders. Second, using ‘heterosexual’ (with all the issues and caveats discussed in the two paragraphs above) if I like a person of a different nonbinary gender to me. Or third, using gay if I like a person of the same nonbinary gender as me (which would be difficult to know since I don’t know what my own gender is, and would also bring up the same issues as discussed in the two paragraphs above).

Tl;dr: the gender-based model of orientation terms really fall down when taking into account nonbinary genders and related gender theory/terminology (this hypothetical scenario didn’t even take genderfluidity and people who identify as more than one gender into account and it still broke the system). Therefore, I’m really happy that I’m on the aro and ace spectrums, because it means that I don’t have to make a choice in this lose-lose game.

*Quick disclaimer that this paragraph is speaking about my own previous personal experiences, although there were a lot of confounding variables at the time so I’ve kept it as simple as possible and primarily hypothetical.

**Note that I’m aware of the other options of not giving it a name or using something vague like ‘queer’, but obviously these fall outside the gender-based orientation model and that’s what I’m criticising so I’ll leave those out.


TCWT Blog Chain: Learn by Example

I promise this blog is actually going to have posts on it soon. I promise. Even if it’s just crying about editing, I will get something down.


This month’s blog chain poses the question:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

I’m going to cop out as I always do and say that everything I read teaches me something, whether it’s what sort of story I want to write, what cliches to avoid, at what point in a series one must give up the ghost and wrap the poor thing up, etc.

The books I learn the most from, though, are the absolutely terrible ones.

I don’t read as much as I used to or should do, but about four or five years ago, my mum started buying me really cheap Kindle books so she could keep up with the demand I set. I read at a ridiculous pace — often I’d be reading one or two books per week — and I was reading my family out of house and home. So, as I said, my mum bought me some really cheap books.

I used to berate my mum for buying these books. They were cheap because they were self-published, sometimes seemingly unedited, and they were always the first book in what had to be a painfully long series. I hated reading these books, but it was them or nothing and I had morals about only putting down a book if I absolutely had to, so I read them.

And as I read them, I started to learn a few things. The first thing I learnt was that I absolutely hated typos, but the others were more useful than that. I started to get a feel for the pattern behind story-telling (although I’m still not entirely certain that I can replicate it in my own writing), I started to learn what my cringe-level was (because when books got too cringy, they were a lost cause), and I started to notice what I like to call story-telling gaps.

Whatever writing-based site you go on, they’re always going to have a post about how to ‘show, not tell’, but they never mention that you have to strike a balance — or at least do one or the other. These story-telling gaps were where the authors had been so focused on not telling that either they forgot to do the showing, or the showing just wasn’t clear enough. It doesn’t happen often, because people generally tell more, but every now and again I find a gap in a story. Often it seems like the author’s brain is just racing ahead as they write, and they can’t be bothered explaining why exactly the fairies are circling and what that actually means because surely that’s obvious. It’s never obvious to me though.

Noticing these gaps can be really helpful when editing (although chances are that beta readers will be better at catching them than the writer is) because it makes you aware of every little thing you’ve written. It’s also probably why people find it most effective to wait a while before editing, I think, because then you can’t remember the logic anymore — you can’t remember all the rules of fairy world, so when you read it back, you’re as clueless as your readers would be as to why the fairies are circling.

I learnt something even more important to me than story-telling gaps, though — that I really don’t want to half-bake my novels and publish them on the cheap.

December 2014 blog chain prompt/schedule:





















25th – [off-day]





30th and

31st – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

TCWT Blog Chain: Teendom & Words

So, I lied about being more active on this blog. Sorry about that. However, if there’s one thing I didn’t let anyone down on, it was remembering about this post before the day I had to do it and planning out what I was going to do. I definitely did that. And I definitely found marker pens that would show up on camera.

Yeah, that’s a lie. Sorry.


This month’s blog chain prompt is:

Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager. 

I decided to write some words and hold them up because it’s quite hard to take artsy shots with a terrible phone or your laptop camera, so here they are:



I became a giraffe after my thirteenth birthday.

I became a giraffe after my thirteenth birthday.

If someone worked out how long I'd spent reading during my teens...

If someone worked out how long I’d spent reading during my teens…

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TCWT Blog Chain: Movies Movies Movies

Hello again — long time no see! I’m sure you’ve missed me terribly, but the good news is that exams are over, I’m full of ideas, and you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of me! Yay (groans from everyone everywhere)!

tcwt-3It’s that time again — time for the Teens Can Write Too blog chain! This month’s prompt:

“What are your thoughts on book-to-movie adaptions? Would you one day want your book made into a movie, or probably not?”

Yep, we’ve been given a difficult one this month.

There’s something ridiculously thrilling about hearing that your favourite book is becoming a film. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I have some theories, such as that it’s much easier to drag a friend to the cinema than it is to make them read a book when they’re not reading-inclined, and the fact that it getting a film means that it’s not just you that loves it. Whatever it is, it makes you fangirl for a good few hours when you find out (or at least, that’s the case for me).

The problem, though, is that book adaptations never go well — not for everyone, at least. It might be nice to get your friends hooked on a brilliant author and a great film series, it might be interesting to see your favourite characters on screen doing the things that you’ve always loved imagining them doing, but the film isn’t your imagination — it’s not going to be ‘everything you’ve imagined’, even if you’re the one that’s written the screenplay, directed and produced it. There’ll always be something that you don’t quite like, whether it’s the modifications to the ending (looking at you, City of Bones), the insta-love (looking at you, Divergent, and you yet again, City of Bones), or the fact that it’s no longer going to be shown in cinemas in your country (I can’t even bear to look at you, Vampire Academy — and it’s a good job, since I’m unable to). A book-to-movie adaptation is never quite going to be perfect, and when you stop fangirling, you realise that. You realise it, and wonder if any of the emotional trauma is even worth it.

To be honest, I don’t think it is. City of Bones was horrific, Divergent just reminded me why the book was simply enjoyable and not mind-blowing, and Vampire Academy… well, I was perfectly happy with six books and a spin-off series; I didn’t need to know that I was missing a film that, from the small bits I’ve seen of it, doesn’t seem that great. The only adaptation I can think of that I actually enjoyed was Twilight, but liking the book in the first place shows how deluded I was at that point in my life. (Note: I haven’t yet been able to watch The Book Thief, and I am absolutely terrified that it won’t be any good when I do.)


So, onto the second part of the prompt. Would I like my book to be made into a film?

I’ve always thought no, even in my Twilight-and-enjoying-adaptations phase. The idea of someone casting people as my characters makes me feel sick. Writers are very often left to watch the production of their baby in the same way as the fans are — with no control. The idea of someone else deciding who looks most like Harry or Terri or Sash or Elijah, the idea of a person saying ‘oh yes, you act exactly like them’ when they don’t know any more about how they act than what they gleaned from a quick read-through of the script is horrific. Besides which, these people are in my head. They weren’t made to be seen or be tangible. They’re not supposed to be real to anyone but me. To me, having someone play one of my characters would be like someone reading my mind — it’s not supposed to happen. I love my characters for their flaws, for their silly way of thinking, for their fears and hopes and dreams. In my head, and on paper, I can get that across (to some degree, at least). But you don’t get that inner monologue in a film. All you get is their behaviour and whatever the actor can get across in their expressions and the way they do things — and that’s unlikely to be enough (especially when your characters, like mine, are likeable only because their thoughts make it possible to empathise with them slightly). No matter how much the script writer, producer, editor, casting people understand my vision, they’re not me, so they wouldn’t be able to understand it fully. Even if they did, how likely is it to be marketable to a wider audience? I’d say there’s very little chance that everything I understand my novel to be would be something the marketing folks would jump at; something would be unpalatable or too uncomfortable, and the edges would be rounded so that the General Public didn’t recoil in horror. The rawness I love would be thrown out in place of getting more money or a lower age rating, and it would be awful and the exact opposite I could have wanted it to be.

In short: I dislike the adaptations of other people’s novels but I would hate the adaptation of my own.


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TCWT Blog Chain: Publish More Books!

I apologise if you’ve noted my absence — the next month or so is exam season, so you probably won’t see me often.


Yes, ladies, gentlemen, and rebels without a cause — the blog chain is back up and running for business! This month’s theme:


What kinds of published books would you like to see more of?

If there’s anything that A-Level maths has taught me, it’s that there are endless possibilities, an infinity of infinities, and an absolute mountain of books that need to be published. Well, maybe it didn’t teach me that last part, but you probably catch my drift — for every book you can find on the shelves, there are a million more that haven’t been written yet, or just haven’t been published yet — may never be published, just because of the genre or ‘kind’ they fit into.

So let’s get back to the question and look at the types of books I would like to see more of — not the ones that haven’t been written, but the ones that we’re not able to read.

  1. Type Number One: Minorities
    I don’t know many figures, but I imagine that much of the world — a majority, even — is part of a minority, whether that be the LGBTQ…etc community, a racial minority, a religious minority, a disability, a mental illness… the list goes on. So why are all our novels (as always, I’m thinking about YA in particular) about a majority character? Why are the minorities, if present at all, side-kicks? And, on the rare occasion that you read a novel with someone of a minority as the protagonist, why is it that they have to ‘get past’ their ‘problem’ in some way? We live in a diversifying culture, so why doesn’t our literature reflect that? Why can’t I pick up a book about a gay black guy battling literal demons from the same shelf as I pick up a book about a young deaf girl who finds it amusing to sign insults at the zombies as she runs away from them? Why do the few books we have about people who are ‘different’ get separated into weird genres specifically down to the orientation/religion/race/disability of the main character? Why can’t we just read books about people?
  2. Type Number Two: Odd
    I’ve read a lot of books in my time, and after a while of reading the same genre, I start to see a pattern — a story arc or character set that I can only presume are what the publishers are most comfortable with and seem like a safe financial bet. If you like familiarity but can’t stand to re-read, this is great. Brilliant. The best thing to ever happen. But in the end, ‘commercially viable’ begins to be a synonym for ‘boring’, and you realise you want something you can’t guess the plot of. It doesn’t even have to be good — you just want change. It’s one of the main reasons that this blog has hardly any book reviews — I just haven’t been reading, and when I have, it’s been boring. The same as ever. I want to be able to go into a bookshop that is so full of weird stuff that it can’t begin to be categorised into ‘fantasy’, ‘contemporary’, ‘romance’, or anything as mundane as that. I want to be overwhelmed by choice and pick a book completely at random, because even the blurb can’t tell me how the story will end. And then I want to read it. And hate it. And go back to that bookshop and try again. I don’t want marketable; I want interesting.

There are probably a thousand other things I want to see in books, but I won’t go on. You’ve probably realised by now why I rambled on about maths at the very start of this post — I want the ‘types’ of books I read to be an infinity of infinities in every possible way. What do I want to see published? Every bit of writing under the sun, and quite a lot more that no one’s yet dared to write.

It’s not much to ask, is it?

Blog Chain Schedule:

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May 26th – TheUnsimpleMind – link to come

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May 29th –

May 30th – – We’ll announce the topic for June’s blog chain!

Walls Part Four

For those of you, like me, who have completely forgotten what happened in this (like I did), you can find the last little section of this serial-thing here.

“Aleks!” Tom shouted as he watched his friend walk out of the flat. He put a hand to his head and sighed — he’d really messed this up. And now he was going to have to do something drastic, like tie Aleks up in the hope that he’d have more difficulty escaping or hurting himself.

He followed his friend out of the flat and onto the stairs that would take him down and out into the real world. Aleks was stood on the first step down, his hands trembling.

“Just come back inside, Al. It’s not safe for you out here.”

“Nowhere’s safe,” he said, his voice constricted. “That stupid little bedsit isn’t any less dangerous than outside — I can still get hurt from in there. I can still be betrayed.

“But you’re a lot less likely to be killed,” Tom pointed out drily. “So why don’t we go back inside? I can leave, if that’s what you want. I’ll go stay with Tam, and just come here to bring you shopping and the like.” That was never going to happen; he couldn’t trust Aleks when he was in this condition. But somehow, the lies just kept building up. “If you’d prefer, I can try and find you a bigger flat.”

He shook his head. “Why can’t it be me that leaves, for once? Why can’t it be me that has control over where they are and who they see and who sees them?” His hands curled into fists.

Tom sighed. “You know why. When the Revolution–”

He snorted. “The revolution? You really think that’s actually going to happen? They burned him at the stake and no one gave a shit, Tom. Do you think some puny little group of do-gooders can really fight that? No, they can’t. It’s just going to end with all of us dead — so I might as well speed the process up a bit.” He stepped onto the second step.

“No, Aleks. Tam can do this. And you know why? Because she has you as her martyr. Her people make up nearly twenty per cent of the Fey population. And it’s all because of you — because we all remember what it was to be human, and to have that stolen away. We know that we need to care for the newly turned, not punish them for breaking rules that are still foreign to them.” Tom took a small step forward, careful not to do anything that might spook Aleks into running. He could have just grabbed the kid — he was strong enough — but he’d learnt from experience that if Aleks didn’t work out his problems now, he’d work them out at another time, most likely when he wasn’t there to help.

“Martyrs tend to be dead, Tom. And I wasn’t the one who came out worst, was I? Why isn’t he the martyr?”

Tom rolled his eyes at his own idiocy. Why didn’t he see this one coming? “Let’s just talk about it inside, okay?”

Aleks turned round, his eyes burning and his face red. “No. Why isn’t Rath the martyr, Tom? Tell me.”

“You know he and Tam had a bit of a rocky relationship, Al. She just found it easier to remember you than him.”

He shook his head. “No. No, that’s not it. You’re lying again. Why, Tom?”

This was going to go badly. He stepped forward, his hands placating but ready to grab Aleks when he bolted. “No one liked him, okay? That’s it. They weren’t going to rally around someone they were pretty glad was dead.”

“No! You’re lying!”

“Aleksandr –” Tom began, but Aleks had already grabbed his hands and was pulling him forward.

“You’re lying,” he whispered, letting go of Tom’s hands just as he was stepping forwards to regain his balance. He lost his equilibrium and fell down the stairs.

Break My Bones

‘Sticks and Stones’, that’s what you say —
Emotional pain is nothing
To the Bully, the Liar, the Friend who’s become wolves’ clothing.
The person I didn’t know you’d be.

But you don’t know what I feel
Because it’s inside me.
And these walls between who we are
And what the world expects
Are hard to break down, even for
The wolf in friend’s clothing, the person you trust.
Still, I let them fall.
Just for a moment.

I let myself fall.

The sneers and the fear,
I opened myself up to every last bit of it.
I stood there in front of you, bleeding and broken
As I had been since the day I’d realised
That love was a four-letter-word
When you asked for acceptance.

I stood there in front of you
Honest as I’d never truly been
And you laughed.

I cried.

But not on the outside; no
I’d already made that mistake once.
I cried on the inside and my heart became petrified.
I shut myself up behind those walls,
Those walls that had felt so suffocating before
And were now all that kept me safe.

But it was too late; you’d seen behind
These walls, and you knew me.
Or you thought you did –You were clever enough to see the tears, at least, and you said,
‘Sticks and Stones.’

‘Sticks and Stones’, as if that changed my life,
As if you really meant an olive branch and my heart.
‘Sticks and Stones’? How about
Hatred? How about hatred of yourself,
Fear of yourself — lack of a self to hate or fear
Because you’ve hidden it behind so many walls
That even you can’t find it?
That you don’t even want to find it?

If I told you what you’d done,
Would you still laugh?
Would you look at my walls differently?
Or would you laugh and say ‘Sticks and Stones’?

If I was brave enough, I’d explain it to you,
Break down the walls with a hammer of my own self-confidence,
Throw the remnants at you and see how you liked
Your ‘Sticks and Stones’.
But I’m not brave enough.
Because of you.

One day, I won’t need sticks or stones
To make you see your mistake.
One day, I’ll just need my smile
And a glance that says ‘Do I know you?’

Until then, I suppose you’ll just keep breaking my bones.

Watch Out for the Canons, Moffat!

Sorry about the last few weeks — things at school sort of piled up. To make up for it, you will (possibly) be getting two updates this week! Yay!

Today, we are going to delve deeply into the philosophy of writing, so hold onto your hats and other precarious pieces of clothing as I ask you a very important question:

What is canon? Continue reading

Walls Part Three

Sash sighed as he typed the final word that he wanted to write. Panic flashed through him for a moment as he realised that he had forgotten to be discreet but, reading it back, he breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed like he hadn’t said enough to give himself or the Revolution away.

He stared at the screen as he waited for a reply.

Ten seconds, thirty, a minute. Two. Five.


He wondered if he’d sacred the woman off — it wouldn’t surprise him. After all, he’d scared his parents a million times over; his brother was terrified of him now, he knew. Even with Tom, he occasionally saw a flash of fear in his eyes. It was as if they were scared that what he had would catch.

Something came up on the screen. She was finally replying.

Aleks, it’s me. I’m sorry I lied to you; this was a mistake. A really big one. I’m coming home now — please, just wait for me to get back. Then we can talk about this. T

He read it ten times before he understood what it said. Tom had made it all up? It didn’t make any sense. Tom knew that he could ask him anything. Anything. He might have difficulty telling him, but he’d try his best.

He hadn’t felt this betrayed since Tam had locked him up on… on that day. He trusted Tom. Or at least, he had. Now… Now he didn’t.

There was a bad side of breaking down the wall inside his brain, and he was on it. He looked around desperately, not even sure what he was looking for.

Before he could find it, Tom ran through the door.

“Aleks –”

“No.” His voice was rough with suppressed tears. It felt like years since he had cried.

It’s going to be okay, Sash. Don’t cry.

“It was a mistake, Aleks, I know it was. But I’m worried about you.”

Sash shook his head. “Aren’t you always? Isn’t that what this is about? You worry about me, I mope? It goes around in circles until one day — you hope — the circle stops? After all of the things that have happened…” He looked away, unable to watch Tom realise that what he’d done was worse than he could ever imagine. “He told me that he’d make it. Annie told me he’d be fine. Lies. Everyone I love lies, and I’m sick of it.”

Tom sighed behind him. “We do it because we love you. They were trying to protect you.”

He snorted, turning back to the man that had found himself picking up the pieces from that ‘protection’. “And that went so well, didn’t it? Protecting me?”

“They tried.” Tom glanced up at Sash, his eyes showing discomfort. “Aleks, I’m just trying to protect you. What you said about the voices, I just –”

“If you’d asked me, I would have talked to you. Because I trusted you, Tom. But not now. You don’t get to tell me what to do, either,” he added, the final, crumbly bits of wall exploding outwards from the intensity of his rage. He took a moment to adjust to the idea that he’d be able to feel again and walked straight out of the flat.

This is more of a cliffhanger for me than for you, I’m afraid, since this doesn’t come with the context that Sash going out means people recognising and killing him — oh look, you have context. To be continued…

Shade of Misinformation

This week, you’re getting what seems to be a bit of a recurring theme on my blog. No, I’m not talking about my fangirling (though I should cut down on that, I agree). Today, I want to talk to you about the responsibility of YA authors.
In my last post about this (if I remember rightly), I said that no, authors don’t have a responsibility. They shouldn’t preach to us; they should use their love of words to show us things that they think we need to see. However, every now and again, there is a thin line between not being preachy and perpetuating cycles of misinformation and stigma that some authors just don’t know the right side of.
I am writing all of this specifically about a couple of books I read lately, part of the Shade of Vampire series. I’m not reviewing it here, so I’ll quickly skip over the general flaws, tendency to have giant plot twists that are somehow just not interesting at all, and the fact that the books barely deserve to be called novellas let alone novels because they’re less than two hundred pages each. What bothered me most about these books is the stereotypes and outright lies that were used.

Continue reading