On Being Privileged

Life is complex and often full of contradictions. I think most people accept this on some intellectual level but, when faced with a single fact or data point, it can be all too easy to jump from it to one conclusion and then the next without stopping to ponder what alternatives might exist as part of a more nuanced story.

That’s a lot of big words to express what perhaps seems a lofty idea, so let me give you a realistic example to truly get to the heart of what I’m talking about: in my previous post, What I Make As a Writer, I broke down the facts and figures of how I’ve survived as a disabled self-employed person so far. On the one hand, I have had to manage on welfare payments. On the other hand, I talk about having lived rent-free with my parents while I got on my feet.

Receiving welfare is, in some ways, a privilege because – while necessary for basic survival – it’s not something open to everyone in need for a myriad of reasons. Compared to the people who need it but can’t access it, we’re lucky. Yet, at the same time, we’re unfortunate to need it in the first place.

Living with my parents sounds like a more clear-cut thing. Yes, my existence there was rent-free. In some ways, that gave me financial freedom. But not when you understand what a toxic, neglectful, and downright abusive environment that place was. Most weeks, I had £10 to live on. Ten pounds to call my own after I paid the minimum amount off my credit card and student overdraft. An overdraft I was privileged to get in the first place, get disadvantaged enough to need. Continue reading

Thoughts on #OwnVoices

I am a bi/pansexual person with non-visible disabilities. Five years ago, I hadn’t come to accept either of those things about myself. In the first case, I was repressed, and in the second I was ignorant.

Ten years ago, not only was I not the feminist I am now, I was very vocal against certain rights for women. (Yes, I hated myself. It’s a potted history.)

Do you know what helped? For the most part, educational Tumblr posts.

Seriously. From the more liberal parts of the internet I not only learned some pretty key things about myself, but also a level of self-acceptance I had never experienced before.

As I hope these points illustrate, talking about issues outside of the ‘norm’ helps real-life people in real ways. Whether it regards race, sexual orientation, disability, disfigurement, or anything else.

Perhaps ‘issues outside the norm’ isn’t the best way to word that, but I can’t think of a better alternative.* Part of the problem regarding said issues is that the terms have become politicised. People don’t always have the right words. Other people get offended. It becomes a bit of a shitshow and the main points get lost.

A prime example of this has been the recent Twitter drama regarding the ‘Own Voices’ movement. Continue reading

Helena Brockovich (Flash Fiction)

At Writers’ Group a while ago, we did an exercise that consisted of a series of prompts –

Characters: A Kitchen Maid and a Retired Judge
Traits: Corrupt, Congenial
Sense: Smell
Location: Dog Show
Object: Piece of Flint

Below is the piece of flash fiction I wrote. Credit goes to David for the title. The reference should become clear at the end, where I will give a bit of extra context.

Helena was a kitchen maid for a big house on the other side of town. Usually a congenial soul, on this day she had to drag out her inner badass and go to war.

As she said goodbye to her sickly kids, hoping their condition wouldn’t deteriorate while she was gone, she mentally prepared herself for the confrontation, using the sight of them sat there, listless and suffering as motivation for her task.

Crossing over to the rich side of town, she passed her employers house and kept walking until she reached the dog track. There was a ‘Best of Breed’ show on for all the pedigree pooches of the neighbourhood, and she’d been told the judge would be there.

Sure enough, she found him in the front row, mercifully unattended.

Helena approached and he smiled at her, so she gave him the speech – a four-minute pre-prepared rant, that didn’t stop for pauses or interruptions, about the state of living conditions on the poorer side of town.

When Helena was done, she handed the judge a lunch box, which he opened and then immediately closed again, throwing it away as he swore at her.

Although he’d managed to throw the box quite a distance, they could both still smell the item strongly. All pleasantries had gone from the judge’s demeanour as he demanded an explanation.

Helena said it was a sample of her front yard, which had become flooded and, subsequently, contaminated with the local water. Which just proved her point: the water in the poor side of Flint, Michigan, was undrinkable. Unfit for the ground, and most certainly toxic to people.

The judge frowned before hesitantly agreeing to look into the matter, hinting that things would be sped along if Helena made a donation to his office.

It took her a month of working extra shifts, but she made the money and sent it off to the address he had written out for her.

It was only after that she found out that the judge was retired and had no influence in local matters anymore.

Not the happiest story in the world but, sadder still, it is based on a real-life situation. If you haven’t heard about the Flint water crises, you can (and should) read about it here. Education is power, after all.