quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I'm in the process of setting up an international nonbinary (and genderqueer/gender nonconforming) visibility, education and advocacy network, designed to highlight, signal boost, encourage and pool the resources and visibility efforts of activists across the web.

The website (with wiki, case studies, FAQ, forums etc) isn't ready yet, but the social media outlets are up and running on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. Would you all mind looking at them, liking/following them and giving them a signal boost if you like what you see?


This is going to be a long term project and the major focus of my activism work from now on. I've been talking with other activists and we're planning several resources, projects and campaigns. Including an initial focus on general visibility and a campaign about equal access to transgender medical care and services.

I want this to become a properly self sustaining community-based network, so it's going to launch with a wiki and forums and ask for case studies and contributions from the start. It's also not trying to re-invent the wheel at all, there's loads of writing and activism out there that can be highlighted. I was involved in setting up the modern positive asexuality movement (wrote the asexuality.org FAQ and ran the forums for a while back in 2002/03) and that gained momentum pretty quickly, ultimately having moderator elections and the like within a couple of years, so I'm hopeful that the success there is repeatable.

Right now I'm stressing about setting up the website and making sure the technology and structural decisions I make are right, so I'm wondering if you guys could give me some feedback on how to host the group blog. Should I set it up to use Wordpress (hosted on my own server, as with Practical Androgyny) or Tumblr?

Tumblr has a big nonbinary, trans* and genderqueer scene, lots of engagement but relatively poor accessibility. Of all outlets I use, I always seem to get the most responses and thought-provoking debate on Tumblr, but I find the reblogging model of commenting difficult to follow and end up clicking through 'Notes' to dozens of different pages, each with their own differently laid out theme/layout/colour scheme.

Wordpress has features like Most Read, Most Commented, tag clouds, searchable archives, threaded comments, better homepage integration for the planned 'community portal' feel, but it wouldn't come with an existing active nonbinary/genderqueer/trans* 'scene' like Tumblr has.

So what's your opinion? Whichever we opt for, the Nonbinary Tumblr will be active and highlighting non-blog content like wiki pages, case studies, resources and forum discussions.

Update: I wrote this explanation of how Tumblr works after I was asked for more information in one of the many places I posed this question:

Tumblr is kind of a 'miniblogging' service, designed to fit between 140 character microblogging like Twitter and full on blogging like on LJ or Wordpress. Every member has a personal blog on there, but the system is designed to make it very easy for people to share and add to other people's posts.

If you like (or dislike!) someone's post, you can click 'reblog' and then quote it on your own blog (with links/attributes back) and add your own thoughts.

This means that it has a lot of active members who quickly share and debate content, but the discussion tends to escape from your original post and into a long threaded discussion across dozens of different blog pages very quickly. Kind of like following a mailing list discussion but with the added complexity that the layout, text style and colours are different on every message...

Try following the full discussion across the 146 'notes' (likes and reblogs) on this, for example: http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/post/12457351441/the-nonbinary-vs-genderqueer-quandary

I also clarified how things would work if I opted to primarily use Wordpress:

The group blog wouldn't be 'on' Wordpress or require a Wordpress account, it'd be on hosted on Nonbinary.org and likely using Disqus for comment entry and management (which allows multiple types of login including Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, OpenID, anonymous etc).

Whatever happened, I was planning to post summaries of every post (along with notable forum discussions and wiki pages) over on http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/

This is all really a question of whether the group blog contributors will have to get logins for Nonbinary.org's Wordpress install or whether they can just use Tumblr to make their contributions (of course some may not be on Tumblr and would be forced to sign up there in order to take part).
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I've now seen several people I trust say positive things about 'My Transsexual Summer', a new series due to air on Channel 4 this evening and premiered in London yesterday.

I'm tentatively expecting it to be positive overall and a genuine change in the way trans* experiences are depicted on television, but the original press releases from Channel 4 had me feeling pretty nervous that it was going to conflate 'transsexual', 'transgender' and 'trans' as one thing and present that as the process of transitioning between binary genders.

Apparently it's an 'in their own words' part reality show format with group discussions, so whether nonbinary or genderqueer people get a look in may be down to what the people Channel 4 selected to represent the trans* community say.

I think I'd feel a little more confident about Channel 4's commitment to representation if their pre-publicity gave the impression that they included any minority trans* experiences.

Looking at the list of seven participants, only one of whom is over 30, all of whom appear to be white (although I'm told one has taken exception to that description) and able bodied, binary identified, transitioned or planning to transition, I can't say I'm seeing a full reflection of the trans* communities I'm a member of...

Maybe I'm expecting too much from a TV show, given that just having trans men and trans women featured together, on equal terms and in their own words is frankly a major breakthrough.

Maybe the producers decided that including all that 'complicated' stuff like intersectual experiences and nonbinary identities would just confuse the viewing public? (Seems to be the number one excuse for erasing me ...that and 'correct grammar').

And maybe I should watch the actual programme and view these people in their own words before I comment, it's not like I don't know enough people whose stories were 'simplified' by the press...

Update: I'm informed that one of the newspaper reviews says a participant on My Transsexual Summer is transitioning to 'a happy place inbetween'. If that's true then the pre-publicity really is guilty of conflating different trans* experiences into one! But I'll be watching with great interest to see!

Update 2: My reading comprehension skills clearly weren't up to much when I read all those profiles this morning: It says 'a happy place inbetween' at the bottom of Donna's profile. Remember, tune in to Channel 4 at 10pm to see how each of the participants self-describes!

Update 3: Judging from the first episode, Donna's 'inbetween' comment seems to be euphemistically talking about how firmly happy she is with her body with no wish for surgery (and how brilliant to see that view represented on TV!). It wasn't clear whether she also identifies outside of the binary in some way, and I consider it a failure of the programme makers for not making that clearer. Here's hoping there'll be more discussion of this in later episodes.

I've since spotted that one of the contestants describes himself on Twitter as 'two-spirited' and feels a lot of what he said about himself on film hasn't been shown. If the programme makers really have simplified a participant's self-described gender identity to make it 'easier to understand', I'll be very disappointed, but I'll reserve judgement until we've seen more episodes.

I've also seen another participant blogging about people complaining about stereotypical depictions in the show and left a comment there saying that the critique is very much placed on the producers for not having more diversity represented in the people they selected for the show (and in their editing). The stories of the participants featured are all positive and valuable and should be celebrated by 'the community'.

I'm sure a blog post will be written for Nonbinary.org in time for the site's launch :)
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
Update 2013-04-30: For the 40th anniversary of The Tomorrow People, I re-recorded the vocal to reflect the newer lyrics I wrote based on feedback from Talis and others in the UK Filk community. The song is now slower, makes use of the different vocal qualities my voice is capable of, has a new bridge, a gratuitous key change and a softer ending.

Update 2011-11-02: Now updated with an improved vocal performance (I hadn't warmed up and only did one take yesterday).

Inspired by listening to Talis Kimberley on BBC iPlayer this morning, I wrote and recorded a new song over my (extended!) lunch break.

It's about classic British children's television science fiction and the experience of being a queer teenager. Listen for free here:


Lyrics for The Changes below... )
Big thank you Talis for inspiring the folk protest song style I'm using here (and probably the tune, I not usually very original with that sort of thing).

You also may be interested in a video I made for PracticalAndrogyny.com about vocal androgyny, where I sneakily included some filk music:

Practical Androgyny - Vocal androgyny in speech and singing

I'd be interested to hear your feedback!
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I wrote an article appraising and critiquing this year's IoS Pink List, suggesting constructive responses and looking at how some of the eleven (binary, transitioned) trans* people included for the first time this year have inspired and represented me as a nonbinary, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, queer-identified, atypically transitioning, andrognynously presenting trans* person. Here are some extracts:
This stuff is important. I had an ‘inspiration board’ on the wall of my teenage bedroom, full of printed out song lyrics, pictures and newspaper clippings that kept me going through my last couple of years as a closeted queer teenager at a rural comprehensive school (1996 to 98). My board included people like teenage Age Of Consent campaigners Chris Morris (who was the same age as me) and Euan Sutherland, and famous performers like Ellen Degeneres, Wilson Cruz, Brian Molko, David McAlmont, Ani DiFranco, Michael Stipe and Skin from Skunk Anansie. Being surrounded by images of successful queer and gender nonconforming people and listening to their music made me feel like less of a freak and gave me hope for the future.
As a community, we need visible inspirational ‘heroes’ to look up to. Some people survive, get through it and are inspired to succeed and perhaps become activists themselves due to newspaper articles just like this one. It is possible to critique the form of an award and the nature of the organisation that issued it while still seeing it as important and valuable. As little as I believe in the honours system and the monarchy, I still found it incredibly significant and inspiring when the establishment recognised the work of trans* activist Christine Burns by issuing her with an MBE in 2004 and Stephen Whittle by issuing him with an OBE in 2005.
I see these lists and the tendency to single out certain prominent famous and notable people for recognition and awards as only problematic in isolation. If we let this be the only way that trans*, queer and LGBT people are celebrated in our communities, then yes, it is problematic. If we let this start a conversation about who else should be recognised and celebrated, the hard work that so many others do in our communities and all the different ways people make a difference, then it becomes just one of many ways that the deserving, inspiring people in our communities receive thanks.
When Dan Savage started the It Gets Better campaign, I was among the critics who found it deeply problematic. But it started a conversation that prompted complementary and constructive campaigns that focused on helping young people to Make It Better, and inspired many other It Gets Better videos that weren’t problematic in the ways that Savage’s had been. There are now some amazing trans* and queer It Gets Better videos out there and no end of testimonials from people saying how seeing them has helped them in the way my inspiration board helped me.
And let’s not forget that we do have eleven openly trans* people and several more trans* allies recognised within the Pink List article. Forget the numbering and the different categories and focus on the recognition these people have been rightfully given. As I said above, I want to see more trans* people included, more trans men, more trans* people assigned female at birth, more nonbinary, openly genderqueer and solely gender nonconforming people, and I want us to work towards getting those people into next year’s list and given recognition through our own community efforts, independent of The Independent. But let’s not play down the hugely important work those who are listed have done to represent, inspire and improve the lives of all trans* people.
Travel writer Jan Morris whose groundbreaking 1974 memoir Conundrum and its journey through her transition (most notably chapter 12) was my first exposure to the reality that it was possible for me to become androgynous, it wasn’t just something that some people were naturally gifted with that I could never achieve. I cannot overstate how important this was to me and how much hope and inspiration it gave me as a dysphoric nonbinary person trying to find comfort with my body and social role.
Sarah Brown, Britain’s only openly transgender activist serving in an elected political position; a Liberal Democrat Cambridge City Councillor, and chair of the Lib Dem Transgender Working Group. Sarah was instrumental (along with Zoe O’Connell) in influencing Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert to raise the issue of gender neutral documentation such as passports in the House of Commons. Something that will be vitally important to many nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender and gender nonconforming people in this country (including myself).

Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence, an organisation that does hugely important creative work with young transgender and genderqueer people and is explicitly inclusive of the wider transgender spectrum. Jay organised the wonderfully positive and inclusive Trans Community Conference, that I was lucky enough to attend this year, and was previously the chair of FTM London, an AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans* support and social group known for being inclusive of all identities and expressions within the wider transgender spectrum. I have briefly spoken with Jay and seen him speak from stage and on video. He comes across as someone who comfortably challenges stereotypical assumptions that all trans men are hyper-masculine. Read him here encouraging readers of the Times Educational Supplement to celebrate transgender students and allow male assigned students to express femininity in their schools.

Journalist Juliet Jacques (in the ‘Nice to meet you’ section) whose blogging for The Guardian has talked frankly about the process of coming to terms with being a trans woman and undergoing transition in a very public and visible way that has exposed the human story behind trans* people’s lives to a whole new audience. In her earlier articles, Juliet talks about how she did not have the stereotypical transsexual childhood story (in a way I hugely identified with), and tried on and explored numerous transgender identities and communities before transitioning. She writes about having been drawn to male crossdressers, made to feel less alone by the comedy of ‘action transvestite’ Eddy Izzard and going through years of identifying as a gay male crossdresser and later ‘transgender’ as described by Leslie Feinberg and Kate Bornstein. As such she is one of the few journalists to have written about transgender people who ‘live beyond the traditional gender binary’ in a mainstream outlet.


So while I am not aware of any nonbinary, genderqueer-identified or solely gender nonconforming trans* people recognised on the Pink List this year, every one of the trans* people listed above has either worked for their rights and/or recognition in some way, or challenged binary gender roles and the public’s stereotypical view of transgender people through their openness, their humour or their own gender nonconformity. I don’t know about you but, as a genderqueer and nonbinary person, I think that’s worth celebrating.

Read the entire article at PracticalAndrogyny.com
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
Today is the last day for responses to the UK Government's 3rd survey of transgender people (which explicitly includes 'androgynous', 'non-gender' and 'genderqueer' options in the demographics section). This survey follows up on responses from the first two surveys by focusing on issues of employment, identity and privacy. If you're in the UK and identify as trans*, genderqueer, non-binary or gender variant please complete the survey (sorry for the late notice!).

Below is a sample of my responses to the survey as a non-binary trans person (some responses have been reworded to protect my privacy):

What barriers or challenges do you think exist in employment?

As a non-binary trans person (identifying and neither female nor male) my protection from discrimination under the Equality Act is ambiguous, I may not be protected at all due to the 'gender reassignment' wording. My neutral/androgynous gender identity is not recognised under the law so it is questionable whether I can be said to have undergone 'gender reassignment' even though I am treated by a gender clinic and have undergone medical treatments for my gender dysphoria.

It is difficult to educate employers on my legal protections when the wording of the act heavily implies that I may not be protected at all.

What do you think Government can do to help trans employees tackle workplace discrimination?

Clarify the ambiguous position of non-binary trans people.

Does expressing our gender identities constitute 'gender reassignment'? Can 'gender reassignment' protections apply when the law does not recognise our genders as existing or valid?

Are we protected should we ask for gender neutral language to be used in reference to us rather than gendered words such as 'man', 'woman', 'Mr', 'Ms', 'he' and 'she'?

If we undergo hormone treatments or have surgeries to treat the gender dysphoria arising from our non-binary genders, does this fall under the 'gender reassignment' protections even though we do not identify as an 'opposite sex' or gender?

Are we exempt from gender-specific dress code requirements such as short hair and ties for those with male 'legal genders' and makeup and skirts for those with female 'legal genders'?

What do you think employers can do to help tackle workplace discrimination?

Recognise all gender identities and expressions. Offer gender neutral facilities and language for those who require them. Offer a gender neutral dress code for those who are not comfortable with firmly female or male presentation

What can the following do in helping you to find employment?

Government: Recognise non-binary genders not just female and male, recognise the unique challenges faced by non-binary trans people.

Employers: Be aware of non-binary genders and those who live outside of the gender binary. Do not require a binary gender on job application forms/websites. Do not insist on using gendered titles such as Mr/Ms. Do not use gendered job titles such as 'Dinner Lady' or 'Postman'.

In response to the problem you identified, what do you think the following can do to address these challenges?

Government: Explicitly recognise and protect non-binary trans people, perhaps by wording the law as protecting 'gender identity and expression' rather than 'gender reassignment'

Employers: Provide gender neutral facilities wherever possible

Are there any other workplace issues you want to raise?

Use of gendered language such as 'man', 'woman', 'Mr', 'Ms', 'he' and 'she'. Gendered dress code etc. Employers should allow gender neutral options wherever feasible.

What do you think Government can do better to protect your privacy?

Explicitly class gender as private information that it is not reasonable to ask for when providing goods and services (Data Protection Act should apply).

Do you consider your current identity secure from disclosure?

No. Numerous services require a binary gender (female/male) or a gendered title/honorific (Mr/Ms etc) to be specified as required fields. As such I am misgendered or outed as transgender when ordering shopping, using my bank, registering for a library card etc. This is a particular problem where others complete my form for me or where computer form validation enforces entry of binary gender identifiers.

What can be done by Government to help you successfully live in your current identity?

Explicitly class gender as private information that it is not reasonable to ask for when providing goods and services (Data Protection Act should apply). Explicitly recognise and protect non-binary trans people, perhaps by wording the law as protecting 'gender identity and expression' rather than 'gender reassignment'.

Are there any other issues concerning your privacy and/or identity you want to raise?

The government does not recognise my non-binary gender identity. Only binary (female/male) options are provided on birth certificates and passports. As such I am discriminated against by the government and denied Gender Recognition afforded to other trans people.

I consider the sex I was assigned at birth to be deeply personal information that is only relevant to a handful of medical professionals and my partner. However the law and common practice currently force me to disclose this in a wide variety of situations. Doing so causes me gender dysphoria, misgenders me and outs me as transgender in a way that binary trans people are able to avoid due to the Gender Recognition Act.

Please extend gender recognition protections to all trans people, not just those with binary identities. Please also help to establish that gender (even 'legal gender') is deeply personal information for many people and it should not be reasonable under the Data Protection Act to require its disclosure when ordering groceries online or signing up for local services.
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
If any of you have any influence with Google's privacy policy or know anyone who does, people pass this commentary about trans* privacy on to them.

It's a good start but Google can do better: How Google+ could improve the safety of trans* people

* The asterisk at the end of ‘trans*’ denotes that this is the wider inclusive form of trans that includes all transgender, genderqueer, gender variant and gender non-conforming people regardless of gender identity or expression.
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
Activism and being an activist are important to me but I have a long, mixed and largely ineffective relationship with activism.

When I first became chronically ill in my early 20s, was running both my university's LGBT society and the 'Gayline' once weekly overnight helpline (where I was re-working all the training materials and aiming to get the name changed to something more inclusive). Some part of me still now associates doing too much and taking on too much responsibility with 'making myself ill'.

My energy levels are now so unreliable that I will have weeks (especially in the darker winter months) where I struggle to work my full time job and keep on top of my self care, let alone do anything else. I have other weeks where I'm brimming with energy, enthusiasm and motivation, but I've come to see this as a cycle. I try not to volunteer for things during those periods any more. I especially should not volunteer to run regular in person meetings because in person meetings are the first thing to go when I'm fatigued.

I've come to see my activist energy as something finite, I've come to see activist causes and activities as something I have to choose very carefully.

Then there's the 'bad poster child' factor. I didn't become an asexual visibility poster child back when I was 'a founder the asexual movement' (according to a paper I read recently!) because I was also androgynous non-gender and felt that associating asexuality with genderlessness would damage both movements (as both were only just recovering from being linked to a 1980s American chat show guest). Similarly I was asked to consider being the first (if I recall correctly) NUS LGB Trans Officer but (partly) turned that down because I felt a genderqueer person would not be the most appropriate choice to represent all trans people (I don't exactly follow the typical transsexual or even transgender narrative).

And finally there's finding the right type of activism, doing what I feel to be the most important work with my limited and valuable time. I tell people the bi community is my home community where I feel most accepted. I always run workshops at BiCon, I sit on the bi stall at Prides, I'll recommend or defend the bi community to anyone who'll listen, but I have never identified directly as bi. Every time I attend bi activism workshops, or it's suggested that I run a bi group, I can't help but feel that it's not the activism I should be doing. Similarly whenever I've looked into trans activism in the past, it's been focused on binary trans identities, on a type of trans that I'm not. I'm not trans through transition (although I did transition over a decade ago, twice in fact), I'm trans because of my 'end point', because my identity and my appearance are transgressive.

So I've recently been focusing on finding the right type of activism. I'm back on focusing on visibility. I might have been a poor poster child for asexuality but for non-binary gender, a visibly androgynous person who refuses to make concessions to the binary, while getting on with their life without apology, that's a pretty good example. That's a case study for the people who refuse to accomodate non-binary people because "everyone sees them as men or women anyway". That's an example of what's possible for questioning non-binary people who can't feel any hope that what they know they have to be is even possible.

I'm also focusing on practicalities, on presentation, expression and behaviour. Historically the non-binary gender community has tended to focus on identity, on carving out ever more specific identity divisions and celebrating the diversity of our differences. But in our day to day lives, those of us who present ambiguity have more in common than we do different. If we're presenting ourselves to the world as something other than female and male, women and men, it doesn't make much of a difference if that's because we see ourselves in terms of a gender continuum, as non-gender or as something else entirely. We deal with the same reactions from others, we have the same difficulties with gendered spaces, with forms and language, with mandatory gendering.

That's why I started Practical Androgyny, and that's why I'm excited to see other people taking the same focus on practical day to day living for those of us who present our non-binary genders to the world. This is the right path for me, this is activism I can believe in. And I hope it's one that will become a movement, that has its own visibility campaigns and activist weekends. If you want to get involved, please get in touch!
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)

Practical Androgyny is a new site I've created devoted to the practicalities of ambiguous gender presentation within a binary gendered society.

The binary gender system classifies all people into either female or male, woman or man. However not everyone fits neatly into these categories. Some people have non-binary gender identities, and so do not feel comfortable when assigned a traditional gender. Whether owing to choice or chance, many of these people are not readily gendered by others. This state of binary gender ambiguity can be described as androgyny.

Practical Androgyny is a resource for both those who are comfortably androgynous but struggle with the pressures of the binary gender system, and for those who are gender dysphoric and wish to explore the possibilities of gender ambiguity. The site does not focus on the details of gender identity but on the practical aspects of living with, or obtaining, an appearance that defies gender classification.

Why ‘Practical Androgyny’?

Most websites and discussion communities about genderqueer and non-binary gender tend to focus on identity. The discussions tend to be mainly theoretical, deconstructing society’s concepts of gender and exploring the diversity of gender identities and expressions possible for those of us that slip through the gaps in the binary gender system. The most commonly asked questions are ‘What is gender?’ or ‘What is my gender?’. These are hugely important questions and it’s a good idea for everyone to be asking them, not just those who feel gender dysphoria or feel out of place in a binary gender system. However for those of us who already asked and answered those questions for ourselves, it’s difficult to find resources about the practicalities of living as something other than female or male.

‘Practical Androgyny’ is also descriptive rather than prescriptive. Resource sites that non-binary identifying people may find useful are often tied to a particular identity, with the assumption that the reader will hold that identity or the implication that you must take on that identity label if you relate to what’s described. Practical Androgyny recognises that gender identity is highly personal and that there can be as many gender identities as there are people. Practical Androgyny recognises that more than just non-binary gendered people will find androgynous living resources useful, and everyone will pick and choose from the resources this site provides. Plenty of genderqueer or non-binary identified people choose to live within the gender binary to some degree and even highly androgynous people need to blend in under some circumstances. These are the sorts of practical choices this site supports. Equally, there are circumstances under which binary identified people may find information on living with gender ambiguity of use. The resources that will be presented on the site are provided with no implication that all genderqueer or non-binary gendered people will find them useful, or that everyone who finds them useful must be transgender, genderqueer or non-binary identified.

What To Expect From The Site

Right now Practical Androgyny is more of a mission statement than a website. I’m planning to gradually post articles about different aspects of androgynous living that will eventually form a comprehensive guide to living outside the gender binary.

In addition to this, I will be keeping a blog of my personal observations and experiences of living with an ambiguous gender presentation. I would love to also host observations from other people who live androgynously, especially those who are androgynous for different reasons or who have differing experiences to mine. If you’re interested in contributing resources or blogging here as a columnist, please get in touch!

Subjects To Cover

Right now I'm blogging about my experiences of living with an ambiguous gender presentation and posting articles about pressing issues. Below is the list of subjects I'm planning to cover soon, I hope others will contribute their own suggestions for other subjects that should be covered.

  • Gendered Spaces
    • Changing Rooms
    • Employment
    • Formal Occasions
    • Public Toilets
    • Swimming Pools

  • Identity and Documentation
    • Campaigning for Change
    • Forms
    • Legal Gender and ID
    • Websites and Social Networks

  • Language and Pronouns
    • Gender Neutral Language
    • Names
    • Pronouns
    • Titles and Salutations

  • Physical Changes
    • Hair Gain
    • Hair Removal
    • Hormone Therapy
    • Surgery

  • Presentation
    • Binding and Tucking
    • Body Language
    • Clothing
    • Hair
    • Packing and Padding
    • Voice and Speech

Visit Practical Androgyny

quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
You've probably seen me post about filk and share filk song lyrics here. It's occured to me that some of my readers might not be familiar with what filk is, so here's an attempt at a primer.

Filk is the music of science fiction and fantasy fandom. It's something that grew out of general conventions (originally a programme book typo for 'folk singing') and still goes on at bigger conventions, but it's also big enough in itself to have its own conventions and communities in various parts of the world.

There seems to be a misconception in Internet-based fandom that filks are always existing songs rewritten with new SF-related lyrics and mainly humorous. While this is of course a big part of what filk singers write and sing, it's by no means representative of filk music. There's easily as much original music inspired by science fiction and fantasy, probably more serious than humorous over all, and no shortage of music about mythology, space exploration, science, technology, beer, cats, knitting, music itself, filking, filkers and anything else filkers are interested in. The genres filk covers are wide as well, while singing in circles does tend to lend itself to folk or at least acoustic music, there are no shortage of filk rock bands either. It's very hard to pin down exactly what filk music is except that it's the music that filkers make.

The format of the annual UK filk conventions is a daytime programme made up of 20 or 40 minute sets by various performers, in the main hall with professional quality sound equipment. These are open to anyone, to the point where I've had sets of my own at two past UK cons. The convention also has guests of honour; a UK guest and an overseas (North American) guest. Sometimes a duo are brought over as the guest. The con also pays for a young Footloose Filker brought over from continental Europe (always Germany and always female as far as I'm aware but I don't think this is the rule). The guests of honour run workshops on the weekend mornings, overseas Saturday morning, UK Sunday morning. They also get a set each on each day. In addition to this there's a filk fund auction, a 'main concert' in which anyone can perform a single song (or reading) and an award ceremony where the con-goers' vote wins for four different categories. In the evenings there are filk circles in which everyone sits in a circle and takes turns to perform, either bardic-style going around the circle and taking turns or more chaotically with whoever has a 'follower' song or the confidence to push in goes next. After the con ends, there's a 'dead dog' circle where everyone who's staying overnight at the convention gets together in a room and sings together, usually with lots of accompaniment, harmonising and singing along.

The main reason why I love filk is that it's an all abilities community that celebrates and encourages creativity and expression in everyone, not just those who are particularly gifted. Two of my favourite 'filk manifesto' songs, Take It Back and Second Hand Songs express this the best and are often sung early in filk circles (or at least I'll sing them if no one else does). I also wrote my own song about discovering filk Where The Fandom Sing, which you may enjoy.

It's always been one of my biggest regrets that I gave up music early in my secondary school career (for painful reasons) and I made various attempts during my twenties to learn musical instruments and develop my singing voice. I first stumbled across filk at a CCDE (camping in a reclaimed landfill sitefield with a bunch of Discworld fans) about ten or eleven years ago and it had a big enough impression on me that I started writing songs and calling them filk, but I only got over hang ups with my voice enough to consider filk singing in my late twenties. My confidence has grown considerably in the last four years, mainly through the encouragement and inspiration of the filk community.

Filk conventions are the time where I get to be around amazingly talented people (singers, musicians and song writers alike), get to sing with them and have them sing and play along with me, and pretend for a few days that I'm a real musician like them :)

Update: My convention report for this year's convention can be read here
quarridors: (Werewolf)
I'm just fresh from the stage performing a newly written filk at Con2c3rto (the 23rd annual UK Filk Convention). I've had song writer's block for a year but sitting in on wonderful music sung in German seemed to shake loose the lyric writing parts of my brain :)

I'm really pleased with how this turned out, and that I've finally written filk about my dearest and most personal fandom...

Lyrics: Breaking Out Is Hard To Do )
quarridors: (Toclafane)
I've managed to pair down everything in my previous list of personal projects I want to work on down to making Bridging The Rift into a monthly audio zine about Doctor Who Universe fandom and creating an androgyne/genderqueer resource (which seems to oscillate between being a website and a comic or possibly an illustrated website or a website with a comic). But I don't feel like I'm managing to work effectively on either.

Some angsty stuff about prioritising different personal projects around work and sleep... )
quarridors: (Werewolf)
I have long term problems with insomnia. Regardless of what I try I end up falling asleep between 1am and 2am. Gory details follow... )

Quite some time ago I came to the conclusion that I likely have delayed sleep phase syndrome. I should probably be on Eastern Standard Time rather than GMT. The reasoning behind that... ) This is clearly a repeating cycle and not working.

What I've been trying to work around that... )

So I'm probably completely jinxing things by writing this all down, but currently this seems like it's working :) (Oh and I'm still easily keeping on top of my life laundry routine and keeping the flat in good order, which is nice).
quarridors: (XXXVI)
I'm currently in the depressing situation where my irritable bowel syndrome has got so bad that I feel almost constantly uncomfortable and get frequently triggered by problem food after which I feel ill and understandably for days. I am very lucky I'm working from home or this would be disrupting my life even more than it currently is.

A while ago I realised that the 'norovirus' I'd suffered at several conventions in a row was actually the true extent of my IBS - I would eat all my trigger foods over multiple days and the end result would be complete (and spectacular) digestive system failure. I've recently confirmed through a very annoying process of removing foods and adding them back that my major triggers are cabbage, brussel sprouts, onions, lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas, once I'm triggered then just about any green vegetables or carbohydrates make things worse.

You may have gathered from that list, that it makes following a vegan diet ridiculously difficult, I've had to stop eating houmous and almost all available ready meals and, once I'm triggered, veganism makes it impossible to avoid other trigger foods so a period of extreme IBS can last a full miserable week after I eat a trigger food.

About three or four weeks ago I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to stop following a vegan diet, since then I've been depressed, going through the stages of grief and trying every possible ditch attempt to avoid the enevitable. But, here I am, everything else failed, accepting that I'm moving over to an ethical vegetarian diet. I always believed in doing what I could practically do to make a difference, and due to failures of my health, ethical vegetarianism is now what's practical.

But yes, although it's very depressing that my body isn't able to keep to my ethical standards, I now need to accept the situation I'm in and get on with my life. Here's just hoping I'm able to gain some control over my digestive system now I have a larger range of non-triggers to choose from!
quarridors: (AE-36 Unit)
As in 2006 and 2007, I'm making a costume for the BiCon Ball again this year.

The theme this year is Crime And Punishment and, as before, I have a (secret) idea involving me going as an appropriate inanimate object.

The construction of this year's costume is quite similar to 2006's IRN-BRU can, but a little more complicated. I can exclusively reveal that, as well as a top structure and bottom structure with fabric hanging between, this costume involves both foam and velcro!

This isn't actually technically day 1 as it's the third day in which I've been gathering costume materials, but it's the first day I've had all my materials together, so I'm declaring it the starting point! I haven't actually performed any construction today other than laying all the materials out and working out proportions, hopefully tomorrow will be the first day I actually put things together (depends on how I feel after going supermarket shopping and whether I go to the cinema).

I've really been appreciating how lucky I was in 2006 to find wide, long roman blinds in exactly the colours and size I needed in a £2 shop - meaning back then my fabric only cost me £4, went down to below my knees and all the way around my body with a generous amount left over for straps, tabs and test material. Cut to 2009 and I had to go to a market stall to buy fabric, where I found the cheapest lowest quality fabric was £3 a metre, not as long, not as heavy duty and not seamed at the bottom. Foam also cost £9.40 a sheet, so the costs of this costume have grown rapidly over my expectations! Oh well, hopefully it'll be worth it - I'm certainly going to do my best to justify the expense!

I also wasn't lucky enough to find something appropriate for my top and bottom structures at a pound shop this time, so one of my first construction tasks will be to make the top structure out of wood... now, I have dyspraxia and a few traumatic childhood memories involving woodwork classes! But I'm hopeful that all will go well, especially as I'm working with pretty lightweight model shop bought wood and I'll be working with glue rather than nails... So I'll post another update once I've screwed that up and glued myself to something! ;)
quarridors: (XXXVI)
You've probably noticed that LoudTwitter has died and, as it was making a loss, is almost certainly not coming back. Interestingly this has actually been quite liberating as I've started using Twitter far more socially than I was before without worrying about all my replies making sense out of context or being potentially of interest to third parties - now I can assume that anyone who sees my replies is also following the person I'm replying to and so has context. So Twitter's become more fun, but isn't getting archived anywhere...

So this also means that I need to start keeping note of what I've been doing on my journal... and also that there's no difference between my DreamWidth and my LJ now, as at least before one included Twitter archives and the other didn't. I suppose I could do day to day updates on LJ and reserve DreamWidth for only articles on a particular subject? For the last month I was actually writing a paragraph of summary on every LJ LoudTwitter post that I already wasn't mirroring on DreamWidth...

Any opinions DreamWidth-only people, would you like to see a full mirror of LJ or would you like this to keep being only art posts and articles?
quarridors: (Werewolf)
The following post doesn't go into details about Children of Earth (Torchwood series 3) but the resulting comments almost certainly will...

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not keen to see Torchwood continued after the ending the series was given during Children of Earth: Day 5.

However, after discussions with some friends, I have an idea for the continuation of Torchwood which I would absolutely LOVE to see.

Now Torchwood has been around since the Victorian era and Captain Jack has been a member of Torchwood Three since it was run by two Victorian lesbians. That's a century of Torchwood and Captain Jack continuity that's completely untapped.

So let's treat present day Torchwood as finished, leave the modern Doctor Who universe free for Steven Moffat to play with and instead explore Torchwood's shady past!

There are some options for how this might work:

You could have series 4 set entirely in the Victorian era with Captain Jack working as a junior member of a steampunk Torchwood, hiding secret knowledge about Torchwood's arch enemy, The Doctor. After that, series 5 could be in, say, the 1920s, as previewed in The Golden Age, then series 6 could be in the 1960's, series 7 the 1980's and so on. Each series would move on enough that we have a completely different team with very few characters crossing between. Eventually this would have the nostalgic appeal of Life On Mars or Ashes To Ashes and it could even feature ongoing threats and big bads that persist or develop through the decades.

Alternatively, the story could follow Jack working on some sort of shady quest (looking for something to travel in time to change events perhaps?) alone before the CoE epilogue while flashing back Lost-style to related stories that occured at some point in Torchwood's past. Not only could this give us more of Torchwood's missing past (and that steampunk Victorian Torchwood) but it could include missing stories from Torchwood's recent past, even including characters that died in past series.

Or you could ditch the framing story and just have an anthology series exploring different Torchwood stories set in different time periods and different locations. We know from The Golden Age that Torchwood has a base in India, for example, so why not all over the empire? Then you'll have a series with lots of different stories in which anything could happen with only Captain Jack as the main recurring character.

A series set in Torchwood's past could be pretty dark, because we know for a fact that Torchwood in the past was an unethical organisation willing to do anything to protect the country and the empire. We also know that they used to treat Jack more like an abomonation who could be used to do dirty jobs almost certain to result in death. We'll also see an ongoing dynamic where Jack's position in Torchwood gradually changes going from a dispensable and untrusted pawn to eventually leader of Torchwood Three.

So what do you think, is this a good idea? Which option would you prefer? Or would you prefer to see a present day series 4?
quarridors: (XXXVI)
My favourite Doctor Who Podcast Radio Free Skaro asked me to be a guest panellist on a special Wednesday Cutaway episode discussing whether Torchwood: Children of Earth was homophobic from an LGBT perspective.

This episode is now available on the feed, via iTunes or directly from the Radio Free Skaro blog.

I had a great time recording this podcast and think we had an excellent and interesting discussion about the portrayal of LGBT characters in mainstream TV drama. I hope you'll all listen and let me know what you think!
quarridors: (The Red Badge Of Gayness)
This article contains spoilers for Torchwood: Children of Earth, especially days 4 and 5. If you haven't watched these yet or aren't already aware of the widely discussed spoiler, don't read on...

Also please note that I personally identify as queer and use the term to mean any sexual or gender identity outside of cisgender, vanilla heterosexuality. If you find this term offensive, please substitute the word with 'LGBT' as you read.

Torchwood: Children of Earth spoilers follow... )

If you enjoyed this article, I've also been involved in a podcast panel discussing the same topic, now available on the Radio Free Skaro blog.


Jul. 5th, 2009 11:50 pm
quarridors: Sporting a giant Tangle (not a chrome snake) (Psychic Paper)
Barn Owl digital paintingThe image to the right is a digital painting of a barn owl that I've been working on for quite some time. This accounts for approaching 40 hours work ...mostly due to me being really inefficient in my method, as only half of that was detail work. I completely lost the will to go on half way through and ended up leaving it aside for two months before I could finish it off!

As always this was drawn entirely in Autodesk SketchBook Pro using the digital airbrush tool, the eraser and nothing else (well, apart from a pen for the signature). I used a Tablet PC where I draw directly on the screen.

The reference image was a stock photograph from deviantART, taken by the extremely talented Kev Lewis.

(I know I said that I wasn't going to crosspost art here, but I've realised there'd be nothing in this journal otherwise!)

I also have my most ambitious fan art project yet on the go, involving four different characters and eight complex props. I've spent more than 24 hours on it so far and I've just about finished the line art! The colour should (hopefully!) be a lot quicker now...

On top of that I'm planning a secret costume for the BiCon 2009 'Crime And Punishment' Ball, which I'll hopefully start making next weekend and when that's finished I'll be kicking off an even more ambitious long term Doctor Who fan art project...

I'm going to two conventions in August so I won't be able to do National Art Making Month (NaArMaMo) again, but I am planning a Doctor Who project that'll overlap with NaArMaMo and hopefully keep me motivated. Last year I drew a Doctor Who new series monster or character for every letter of the alphabet, this year my ambitious project is to draw or paint individual covers/posters to represent each the 30 TV seasons of Doctor Who so far, and likely the Eight Doctor and the 2009 specials too. I've always found that my favourite Doctor Who art involves multiple images from one story combined in an interesting composition. I think my biggest influences are the Target Novelisation covers that were a huge part of my childhood. I've got 30 seasons to cover, so I should be able to try lots of different styles, including tributes to some of the most influential Doctor Who artists. Obviously this is likely to take me longer than a month, so the deadline I'm giving myself is to finish all the seasons before the Matt Smith Series 5 starts in Easter 2010... I'll likely be starting in early August once NaArMaMo's kicked off - wish me luck!
quarridors: (Judoon)
Bug-eyed monsterPlanet of the Dead was this year's Doctor Who Easter special, the first of four 'gap year' specials taking us up to David Tennant's Tenth Doctor's regeneration into Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor. Billed as the Tenth Doctor's last hurrah, we were told during Russell T Davis' interview on BBC Breakfast to expect a fun romp before the dark end - and that's exactly what we got, lots of fun! I let the story flow over me, had fun and found I laughed more often watching this than I did during the first episode of the new Red Dwarf premiered the night before. It seems that this episode went down extremely well with the non-fans, the 'not wes'. I was surprised by how many people on Twitter were saying this was the best Doctor Who they'd ever seen, and I heard later that this episode had one of the highest audience appreciation figures ever recorded for a Doctor Who and the highest for a New Who special. This was also the first ever high definition episode of Doctor Who. I signed up for a HD service on the promise of this episode and I wasn't disappointed - it looked absolutely amazing! Details like the pores on the doctor's face, the amazing sand dune vista, and the detailed CGI Tritovore ship were all crisp and stunning on my HD TV. It seems I wasn't alone; this episode also gave BBC HD their highest ratings figures to date. Supposedly this was the 200th Doctor Who TV story (if you ask Doctor Who Magazine), if you count The Trial of a Timelord as 1 story and not 3 and count Utopia as the 1st part in a 3 part adventure and not a standalone (as the production crew did), you reach 200 at this episode (if not, you reach 200 at Midnight or The Next Doctor). Spoilers for Planet of the Dead... ) But this is still a 4 out of 5 story for me as I had fun and didn't let the details worry me while it aired. It's a very enjoyable, witty story with lots of rewatch value due to the sparkling dialogue. It looks stunning on a 42" TV. I think we may have seen a template for what a big screen Doctor Who blockbuster movie might look like.

December 2016

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