I’m A Lesbian… But I’ll Still Date You If You Have A Penis!

You should have seen my Mum’s face when I said that over a roast lamb dinner with the family. Hurriedly, she tried to change the subject to the weird snow and hail storm we had earlier. As it transpired, discussing my relationship needs was not acceptable conversation – even if she is not English!

This all came about because I spent a good chunk of my day on Tinder. I’m not desperate, but I do want to find someone. Someone feminine and soft, who can make me laugh. Someone who can ground me, and yet let me soar as I explore and grow as a person. Someone who understands the complicated path of coming out and the trials and tribulations of first dates… and then potentially first love.

Two of my prospective matches today were male-to-female transwomen. I swiped right on both. (For those of you of a generation who have never dated with a mobile phone, swiping right means you are interested in the person on display.) I am yet to see if they swiped right too, meaning that we are able to talk.

Anyway, I mentioned this over dinner. Cue surprise from my sister. I think because I am known as a staunch, butch, lesbian and a bit of a man-hater. In the ‘I won’t ever date a man’ sense. Ever. No exceptions. Not even George Clooney’s millions can lure me. No, I like boobs. Big boobs. I can’t help it. There is just something about boobs!

So the fact that I would happily date a transwoman – and one with a penis – threw her rather.

But to me, gender is a social construct. I am a woman who was born a woman and very much identifies as one. I want to date a woman who understands what it means to identify as a woman, and I could not care less what genitalia they have. Sure, I expect that I will date someone with a vagina, but if the right woman came along, with the right ideals and desires, with the same outlook as me, I would not say no because she had a penis.

Because she is still a woman. The way she thinks and acts and is – inherently in herself – is what turns me on more than what happens in bed. And let us be honest, even in the purest of carnal relationships, it cannot all be about sex. If it is more than a one night stand, there has to be something other than sexual pleasure to bond you together.

Just so long as she has a nice pair of boobs I’ll be happy!

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Strive For Gold With Your Positive Mental Attitude

One of the first things I did when I got online this morning was check the statistics on my WordPress account. (I know, I am that much of a sad geek!) Anyway, I noticed for the first time a hit originating from South Korea. My insides buzzed and my first thought, perhaps illogically, was ‘Oooh an Olympian!’ So this post dear reader from South Korea is for you. It is actually one I have wanted to write for a while.

For many years I have been cared for by a variety of caregivers. They have been an extremely diverse bunch from every walk of life you can think of and for the most part, I have enjoyed meeting every one. I know you are sitting there thinking “But Heidi, you hate most of your carers!” And yes, that is probably the case! Yet, every single one has taught me something valuable about myself.

As a family joke, we have kept a list of all the carers I have had from my current agency. Every time a new one starts they get a number. I am currently on number eighty-three. Eighty-three is a large number. To put it somewhat into context I have been with the agency seven and a half years and last year I experienced my worst year with over thirty different carers.

All joking aside, living with a stranger does put a toll on things. Even though it is your home, you cannot truly be yourself. You have to take into account the feelings of someone living with you. They are in the tricky grey area of it not being their home and also having to integrate at times as if they were one of the family. I sometimes think that carer changes are harder on the carer than the client. However, on some occasions you find a rare gem. A carer who is actually better than good at the job and crucially they are someone you feel so at ease around that it does not feel like a carer is in your home. It is a tough bill to fit.

Many of the carers I have had have been astounded that I manage to greet them all positively, even in the face of grief. When one carer stole from me, I was able to continue with others and not hold one woman’s grievance with me, against them. I did not start hiding things, or becoming paranoid when I had to send carers into drawers to fetch items. It very much hurt me that someone could take something they knew I loved. However, I consciously chose not to let her hold that power over me. She wanted to get to me, and whilst I am hurt, I turned the other cheek and carried on. My pain would not define my relationship with innocent others who are not to blame.

One carer was homophobic and told me my life was not worthwhile. I continued to be nice to her and treat her with respect until she was removed. For weeks I gritted my teeth and told her I could only respectfully disagree, whilst being so polite and not telling her to shut up. I greeted her replacement with a grin and openly acknowledged that I was gay. It may have taken me a lot longer to say it with pride, but even without pride, I knew I had to hold my head up and fight for my right to live the lifestyle of my choice. The homophobic lady thought me the value of being true to myself. She taught me that even when your back is against the wall, you cannot give up. If you know deep down that you are right – and that doing this is being true to yourself – you have to get the courage to stand up and face your daemons. Months later, I am able to proudly say I am a gay woman. I am sure I am because I am willing to go through hell to be comfortable.

When I had a carer question my choice not to have children, and told me that I was not a full woman if I did not want them, I still held my head up. Even when she told me I could not possibly love my nephews if I did not want my own offspring, I looked her in the face and calmly told her she was wrong. I asserted my right not to procreate and I affirmed how much I loved those three boys.

When I had a carer who inappropriately grabbed my breasts and buttock, I stood up for myself and very clearly told her to stop it. I did not accept that she was oblivious to what she was doing, and I called the company for an urgent replacement. I stopped things as soon as they started. I have not worried since about any carer providing my care because I know that if I have another issue, all I have to do very clearly is say “No!” and report it. Whilst I know that these incidents do occur and that – statistically – I am likely to have another, I also know that most carers have deep-rooted intentions to do well. I cannot let the actions of one of those eighty-three mar the obvious evidence that carers are good people.

So, as I go through life, I am struck by this: in order to live the best life I can, I must spend every day with as positive an attitude as I am able.

And that, dear potential Olympian, is what you must do in order to get your gold.

Swipe Right For 100 More Years Of Commercialisation And Sexualization

I was reminded this morning that today sees a hundred years of women gaining the vote. In those hundred years we have seen many things: the end of two World Wars, the decriminalisation of male homosexuality, equal marriage in many countries, the first men on the moon, the assassination of a US president and the first female British Prime Minister to name but a few key moments. In the UK we have also seen a sixty-six year reign of a powerful and much loved matriarch.

However, as I sit here and contemplate on how far the women’s liberation movement has come in the last century, I cannot help but also see how far we have yet to travel.

In the last one hundred years, we may have gained a meaningful voice. But, we are still held back by the men, who for the most part, still view women as bodies – both figuratively and literally – beneath them. Sex and all things merely alluding to it, sell. Heck, I’ve seen car adverts more sexy than a Victoria Secrets ad! (Other lingerie stores available.) I bet Herbal Essences sold their product by the container-load when that brunette woman aired on TV looking like she was having an orgasm!

And I doubt Emmeline Pankhurst gave any thought about fast cars and shampoo when she ran onto that racecourse!

We are also held back by our own greed and lack of direction. I know of a number of women who have left school with the ambition of being famous. And how do they plan to achieve it? Reality TV. Or, by being the Wife of Girlfriend (WAG) of a famous man! That is their ambition! I was saddened. These are girls who could be so much more, if they only put their mind to it. They could be famous and achieve things in all sorts of areas and bring far more to the female liberation movement than if they stood there as exotic eye candy. Nice eye candy… but still!

Will ideals like that stop me using shallow apps such as Tinder? No. Will it make me pause before I swipe right based on attractiveness? Probably not.

But it will make me think long and hard about how and when I open my mouth. We may have gained so much thanks to our suffragette sisters, but we also have so many doors to unlock and glass ceilings to shatter. Let’s not stop now and blow it all on quick money if we get our tits out in a house owned by Channel 5.

A Brief Look At Nigerian LGBT Freedoms

I have noticed of late that I am getting a lot of hits originating from Nigeria. I don’t know anyone from there, so I have new followers, yay! In honour of you, here is a brief look at LGBT freedoms in Nigeria.

Nigeria is a conservative country of over 186 million people. Northern states are Muslim whilst southern states are Christian. Twelve states in the north have adopted Sharia law. Sharia law is mandatory for all Muslim residents whilst non-Muslims have the choice to follow Sharia or secular law. This has created a dual legal system in the north. Not all the states adopting Sharia law have the same laws, punishments or legal definitions, leading to a confusing state of affairs.

The country has made all same-sex conduct for both men and women illegal. Conducting yourself as the opposite gender in public is also illegal, as is adopting the mannerisms of the opposite gender. In some of the states ruled by Sharia law, transgressors can expect punishments including caning, and in more serious cases, death by stoning. By contrast, these same states only sentence to fourteen years imprisonment if the transgressor has chosen to follow secular law.

In 2007, the Pew Global Attitudes Project (in the USA) estimated that 97% of Nigerian residents felt that the homosexual lifestyle should not be accepted by society. However, by 2015 a study by the Bisi Alimi Foundation (based in the UK) estimated that this number had dropped to 87%. It was also found by the Foundation that 30% of Nigerian residents felt that LGBT persons should receive education, housing and healthcare. Bisi Alimi is a Nigerian-born UK citizen, who was granted asylum in the UK because he had to flee Nigeria after death threats. He is the first gay Nigerian man to openly admit his sexuality on Nigerian national television. He now lives in London and is a high-profile advocate for the LGBT and HIV communities.

Also in 2007 the cabinet of Nigeria passed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. However, it encountered various delays and was only signed into law by Goodluck Jonathan in January 2014, weeks after Uganda adopted a similar law. None of the main political parties have endorsed LGBT rights, with the two largest being overtly hostile in their language.

Yet, some organisations in Nigeria do try and help the LGBT community. The Metropolitan Community Churches offer some support, although anyone attending their meetings does so at their own risk.

It’s the Month of Self-love!

February is a very important month: Valentines Day. But as we all know, good things come in threes. And even February does not disappoint. The USA celebrate Black History Month, while we here in the UK celebrate LGBT History Month.

However, for me February 2018 will be a little smaller and much closer to home: the month of self-love.

It’s often said that we need to love ourselves and empower ourselves before we can love another fully and satisfyingly.

This month I plan to spend in a series of self-reflections and on some kind of journey of growth and understanding of myself.

Christmas 2017 was a particularly rough time for me as – for a number of reasons – I suffered an emotional breakdown. It had been a long time coming, and like most breakdowns, the smallest and most insignificant thing tripped me up (an e-mail) and I temporarily lost the plot and everyone around me was left to pick up the pieces and try and make sense of the mess, whilst not actually being able to do anything but sit and hold me as the world – as I viewed it – shattered around me. To everyone else, the world continued to spin just as it had before. But, my world shifted gears and I will forever be changed.

Throughout all this, someone sat with me and kept repeating over and over that I would be fine and that it would be okay. I didn’t believe him at the time, but he kept telling me that I just had to love myself. Something that I evidently had not done for a very long time. He told me that I had to find strength in me to be me, openly and confidently.

Weeks later I realised that I had to (bluntly) stop giving a fuck. Not about everyone else per se, but about how everyone else saw me. I needed to hold my head up and challenge the mantra that had become ingrained in my brain. The voice that said that everyone hated me for being gay… simply because one or two carers had. That voice that panicked and ran to hide every time I had to come out… just waiting for the moment I would be berated. Or even the fact that I wasn’t out because I was quite frankly petrified, thus not living the life I so desperately wanted to. Lastly, I had to stop viewing every new person in my life as a potential homophobe.

I know that over Christmas I was not in the head space to know or do all of the above, but in the intervening weeks I have started to take back control. I have had long and deep periods of introspection and it lead to me realising how I need to self-love. For me, that means surrounding myself with as many people who respect me as I can find. To get carers who support me, fully in the knowledge that I am a lesbian. To be able to talk about my preferences without feeling that impending, crushing doom in my chest.

And herein comes the biggest change: for the first time – perhaps in my life – I am very clearly communicating what I need from people. I am saying that things don’t work for me. I am also stating what does work for me. Together, I am sure we will find something that works for everyone. But at the heart of that, will be me, pushing for what works for me.

A lot of people have noticed and picked up on my self-love, and how much happier I am now. People who I would not expect to notice, either. I am obviously no longer waging a war in my head.

And that is why, as I look to a bright (and very rainbow!) future, I am proclaiming my month of February to be the month I love myself.

The Importance of Tending Your Garden

We are now in a meteorological spring.  As I sit in my conservatory it actually feels like the first flush of summer.  The nephews are running round the garden screaming with delight and hosing each other with water guns whilst their mother looks on with a mix of trepidation and glee.

In the break I have taken from writing this blog I have done a lot of introspection and a lot of reading on various topics as a matter of continuing self-development.  Somewhere in the mix there were a number of self-help books.  (Generating a variety of results, only some successful…)

One of the concepts I particularly liked was the idea of each person being born with their own garden to tend.  At birth we are given our own patch situated next to our relatives.  Clearly at this time we are unable to care for ourselves, let alone a garden.  Thus, decisions of what to plant and when to work on our patch are left to those around us.  Our parents can go one of two ways: they can either plant a mix of seeds from their own garden, or they can start something totally new.  Typically, we get a mix of parental values along with a small touch of new thinking.

As we grow, we find that we are given little tasks in our garden so that piece by piece, weed by weed, we begin to learn how to nurture the life garden we have been given.  We begin to notice things for ourselves and we begin to understand whether we like our garden or we don’t.

Through our teenage years we are left more and more to care for our gardens alone.  Occasionally a loving parent may step in and fix a patch of weeds for us, or offer well-meaning advice, but that’s pretty much it.  It’s also at this crucial crossroads in our life that we may meet another teenage gardener, who is also just starting to tend his or her own garden and we embark on a mutually satisfying relationship in which we tend our gardens together.  We may find that instead of taking cuttings from our parents’ garden that we take cuttings from a variety of other gardeners’ patches and start to experiment with how we want our garden.

However, not all of us have good gardens with which to begin adulthood.  It may be that our parents simply didn’t care about gardening and doused our plot in weed killer shortly after our birth, so that they could concentrate on something else.  Or perhaps our garden – and the gardens all around us – was subjected to a nasty wildfire early in life.

Either way, we have hit eighteen and ready or not, we are now obliged to look after our own gardens.  If we have been left with nothing at all, we now have a mammoth job in constructing something new at this late stage.  But, no matter what, we must and often do with great success.

All through life, we are faced with challenges and pitfalls as well as amazing triumphs that shape us every day, every step of the way.

Just remember, no matter what, that garden is yours.  Care for it and nurture it and love it because that’s the only garden you will get.

Feminism In Argentina

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I noticed recently that I have been getting a lot of hits on this blog from Argentina.  I do not know anyone there so my curiosity is piqued.  Wanting to keep things relevant to my readers, I’ve decided to write a piece on the country’s rich feminist history.  When I was researching, my first port of call was Amazon for any ebooks that I may find useful.  I was quite disheartened to find that there was only one text in English that might have proved useful.

Argentinian feminism is about more than a few key feminist figures such as Eva Perón and Domingo Sarmiento.  It is a grassroots women’s movement that was borne out of a collective frustration with the patrimonial status quo.  As many small organisations gained power they were aided by mass immigration and assistance from many exiled Socialist Party members.  Thus, feminism in Argentina is more accurately described as a women’s movement.  A key aspect of Argentina’s women’s movement is that it places welfare matters above any other matter – including matters purely affecting women.

The traditional, pre-independence view of the Argentinian woman was that she was first the property of the father and latterly the husband.  Families sought to marry their girls off between the ages of fifteen and eighteen to men twice or even three times their age.  At this time divorce was not legal and whilst a legal separation may be granted, the wife would not have received financial assistance from the husband.  Separated women were shunned by society and most likely destitute.  Widows were unable to inherit estates and were under great pressure to remarry quickly.

Independence from Spain in 1816 did bring some equity in law.  However, the traditional views expressed above remained and many families found ways to circumnavigate the new laws to ensure primogeniture.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries attitudes became more liberal, with French culture playing a huge role.  The upper classes began to mirror the goings on of French salons, in which young men and women of intelligence could meet to form their own relationships.

Buenos Aires’ first daily newspaper, Telegrafo Mercantil founded in 1801, played a pivotal role in revamping education for girls.  Regular articles were published calling for secular education.  It was believed that church education kept girls ignorant, superstitious and irrational.  On the other hand, secular education was assumed to turn girls into emotionally stable, fit and competent young women who would be more suitable intellectual companions for the men.

During the country’s fight for independence from Spain women’s roles changed.  They began to manage their husbands’ businesses and estates whilst the men were on the front lines.  However, their new role was only ever seen as temporary.  Societal pressure demanded that they relinquish their newfound freedoms when the men returned.

Bernardino Rivadavia – the first president of Argentina between 1826 and 1827 – wanted to include women in the building of the nation.  His argument was that women provided much needed public morality.  Earlier in 1823 he had founded the Argentine Beneficient Society with this core principle of being run by women to administer charities which has previously been under Church control.

In 1853 the first constitution proved a major setback.  Article 21 said that all citizens of the country had to take up arms when necessary.  As women were prevented from doing so, the courts unfairly judged them not to be citizens!  This also meant that they are unable to benefit from any constitutional rights afforded to the men.

In 1856 in an unprecedented appointment Domingo Sarmiento asked a woman to join the Board of Education as the Supervisor for the Buenos Aires area.  At this time, middle class women did not work, let alone take positions of seniority over their male counterparts.  Sarmiento was an advocate in advancing education for women and believed that women’s inclusion in local – and then national – politics would only be a good thing for the country at large.

Eva Perón appealed so much to lower class women because she was one herself.  The early upper class feminists would shun her because she stood in their way when they tried to jump on the bandwagon of feminism and use it for their own gain.

For a decade between 1975 and 1985 the country was overtaken by a series of repressive regimes that unfortunately spread propaganda in the hopes of reinforcing the traditional, bygone era view that women should be subservient and primarily restricted to the home.

Divorce was finally legalised in 1986 with a more favourable constitution being adopted in 1994.