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 Time to add another line to the very very long list of things cis, straight people need to stop saying. These are generally not things said by the homophobes or even the completely clueless who refuse to analyse their prejudice – these are things said by people who probably mean well and probably try – but may not see the full implications of what they say.


“I’m not gay, but if I were I wouldn’t be ashamed/wouldn’t hide/I’d be out”.


Or words to that effect. Generally a straight person asserts they are straight and goes on to “prove” it by assuring us that if they weren’t straight they would tell us, because they’re totally cool with people being gay.


In some ways this is a better form of the panicked “zomg you called me gay, how very dare you!”. And in many ways it is better – people who treat the suggestion of being gay as an insult or an accusation are being homophobic and need to be hit repeatedly with a tuna. Denying the information while making it clear you don’t consider it an insult (even if it does sometimes feel like a belated “not that there’s anything wrong with that” seems better).




Yes there’s a but…


“If I were gay I would be open”. No.


I call shenanigans. The vast majority (if not all) of everyone who is GBLT out there has spent some time in the closet. We are pressured into it since birth in an extreme manner cis, straight people can’t even begin to imagine. It takes extraordinary courage to come out. It is risky to come out. It is usually pretty hard to come out, to say the least.


If you were LGBT, dear cis, straight folks, I can nearly guarantee you would have been closeted at some point in your life and you’d probably still be closeted now. And that applies double if you’re in a big public situation where cameras follow you.


You’re not special. The chances are you wouldn’t dodge the bullet that hits 90% of us. You are not better than those of us who have been closeted, are still closeted or will continue to be closeted. If you were GBLT, you would hide. If you were LGBT and out at some point you would have hidden – at some points you probably still would. That’s not a judgement on you – that’s reality, the reality of a deeply hostile, bigoted society, the reality of what the vast majority of us have had to do or continues to do to survive. If you were like us, you would have to walk that same road



By saying you wouldn’t, you just show how little you actually understand the closet, what drives us to closet and the risks involved in being out of the closet. 

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 Someone does or says something that is grossly homophobic. Sometimes there’s outrage, sometimes there isn’t – either way there’s a number of people who remember that and the label “homophobe” is now attached to that person. A number of people, especially GBLT people, are not too pleased with them and will avoid them if possible.

 Through a need to salve their conscience, improve their reputation or even (most incredibly rarely) a genuine need to be a better person, the homophobe asks how they can make it right. What do they have to do to no longer be considered a homophobe?

 Well, your first problem is that people have different metrics – so don’t assume that just because you’ve pleased one GBLT person or organisation that everyone else is going to sign off on that.

 But if you’re going to ask me what it would take for me to not consider you a bigot any more? Well, that’s going to vary from event to event but it would, at minimum, include:

 An actual apology (not a non-pology or excuse and one that admits you are actually wrong. And an apology alone won’t even come close to me not considering you a bigot) that also doesn’t call your actions a “mistake”.

 Not repeating your behaviour

 Using any power you have to prove you have changed (politicians making pretty speeches but not actually changing policy or votes? Homophobes playing the PR game)

No appeals for “a second chance” or “trust” you are owed neither

 Not profiting from your apology or your gestures of redemption

 These are the beginning, the bare minimum, before I will even consider no longer thinking of you as a homophobe

 But, y’know what? Sometimes I don’t have an answer. Sometimes I really can’t think of anything you can do. Or nothing you can do until an opportunity arises that may, indeed, never arise.

 Yes, that means your homophobic words and deeds may have me and people like me deciding you’re a nasty bigot we want nothing to do with and there’s nothing you can do to change that.


 This is not my problem. These are the consequences of your actions; if you are a bigot, people will treat you as and regard you as a bigot. And even if you want to change, no-one’s obliged to treat you differently until they’re satisfied that you deserve it – which may never happen. That’s not their fault. You are the one who showed your bigoted arse. People are treating you accordingly – no-one owes your forgiveness, no-one owes you an easy way out. No-one owes you ANY way out. You can ask how you can make it right – but sometimes you can’t, and if you can, it’s not my job to give you a plan on how to do that.

 Here’s the thing, it’s not actually my job to pave the road to your redemption.

 You’re the arsehole here. You, carelessly at best and wilfully at worst, displayed your bigoted arse for all to see.

 You hurt people, those people are pissed at you – it’s not their job to forgive and forget just because you want them to. It’s not their job to trust you again. It’s not their job to play nicely with you. They don’t have to “forget” or “get over” what you’ve done. No, no matter how many “milestones” you think you’ve achieved or how much you’re congratulating yourself on the awesome progress you’ve made in not being an arsehole and not even if you have a full crowd of dancing supporters who are willing to sing your praises.

 They forgive only when – and if – they want to and think they should. And if you ask “what will it take to be forgiven?” and get the answer “there’s nothing you can do.” Then so be it, you don’t get forgiven. I repeat this because it can’t be emphasised enough: it’s not actually my job to pave the road to your redemption. I have no duty to rehabilitate you, to repair your reputation, to sing your praises or to try and erase your misdeeds. I have no duty to help you to do any of those things for yourself either.

 If I call you a homophobe, this isn’t me volunteering to be your personal life coach to be a better person, nor am I volunteering to be your PR manager to guide you on how to make all the criticism go away. I’m certainly not volunteering to approve your conscience-salving gestures.

 You are not owed a step-by-step guide for being absolved of your bigotry. You’re not owed absolution at all. Sometimes you’re going to have to live with it, sometimes you’re going to have to accept that the evil shit you said/did is going to follow you for the rest of your days.

 Deal with it. Because I have zero obligation to embrace a scorpion to give it a chance to prove to me it won’t sting me. Again.


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 One of the constant attacks from anti-gay-family folk is the idea that all kids need role models of each gender, especially of the same-sex. So all boys need to have a father to teach them how to be a man. All girls need a mother to teach them how to be a woman. This is known.

It’s also one of the points that a lot of straight, cis supporters have trouble countering and they often fall back to miscellaneous excuses of “it takes a village to raise a child” and to point out that a gay male couple will have female friends/aunts/etc or a lesbian couple will have male friends/uncles/etc.


Yeah I’m not running with this excuse. I’m not buying the idea that GBLT couples absolutely must have add-ons to their family to make them as good as straight couples, it’s demeaning. It’s offensive. I’m also not running with the idea that gender (and binary gender at that), alone of all characteristics of a person, is so important that a child simply must have an example of each to cling to – especially not in a world where most GBLT people are raised in cis, straight households that not only don’t share our GBLTness but are often hostile to us. In fact, given that, I kinda want to slap any cis, straight person who prates on about how essential it is to have a role mode to teach children how to be X; if anyone knows what it’s like to be raised by parents not like us, it is us.


But let’s take this whole “I need a father to teach me how to be a man” bullshit because I want to know exactly what it means.

See, I grew up with 2 parents, a mother and a father. My relationship with them is… decent. It has some holes and flaws in it simply due to the extreme heterosexist viewpoints they still haven’t shaken and a whole lot of homophobia I haven’t brought myself to forgive and a whole lot of really nasty bigoted family members they haven’t brought themselves to condemn, disassociate with etc. There’s some rough ground there.


But, on the whole, we have a good relationship. And I love my father (in that classic “we’re British men so will never show any affection or touch each other now you are past the age of 8” kind of way), respect him and think he did the best job he knew how as a father with only a few problems.

And we have absolutely nothing in common


He likes sport. He even likes motor racing and golf. Any and all sport


He’s apolitical


He doesn’t read


He doesn’t like fiction


He doesn’t laugh out loud and when he does find something amusing it’s the cheesiest, cringe-worthy slapstick you ever did see.


He likes fixing cars and tinkering with engines and electronics


He doesn’t cook.


He likes the pub and sports matches and all of his socialisation revolves around them


He has no time for academics, less time for learning and no interest in either.


He likes warblers from the 1950s that must have been dated when he was young


He thinks long hair on a man is shocking and pretty embarrassing


His clothing is a mess of bright, eye searing patterns


Yet he decorates in pastels and neutral tones that can make any home into a blah-show house. And he likes pale wood.


He’s straight and pretty damn uncomfortable around gay people


He’s a morning person. And doesn’t know the meaning of the word insomnia.


He’s an extrovert, he has to be with people all the time. He’s almost co-dependent in that he doesn’t know the meaning of solitary activity. If he read, he’d be one of those people who feels the need to tell you what he’s reading every 3 paragraphs.

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At some point among various members of various activist movements, choice became the last word, the finishing line, the end of any argument.

And you can see why. For so many marginalised people for so much of history the very concept of agency has been alien. Choosing a way to live, choosing what you do with their lives, choosing just about anything has been constantly denied both overtly and covertly. Choice was – and in many ways, still is a luxury that too many marginalised people can’t afford. Either there are people directly controlling what marginalised people can or cannot do, severe and even violent consequences to marginalised people exercising those choices. Even without overt prohibition, there are more hurdles and road blocks – discrimination, prejudice, sometimes even legally, that denies you access to what you want to do or just makes it that much harder or simply a system that is set up to benefit people that just aren’t you

Marginalised people also come under a lot of policing as well. Shame from the privileged society that expects marginalised people to fit various roles or harsh judgement when we do not reach often impossible standards. Shame from within the community for not being the model minority and “making us look bad.” Shame from within the community for not fitting some ideal of what we should be, not liking what we should like, not fighting how we should fight. Shame from within that we fear we may be “doing it wrong”, fear that we’re being too stereotypical or fear that we’re being (horror of horrors!) “assimilationist!”

So, it’s no surprise that agency is vital, that choice is vital, that being able to live our own lives is vital to the point of becoming an untouchable icon to many.

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Good Faith

Mar. 5th, 2013 07:08 pm
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I’m faintly, academically curious about how the same arguments used by privileged people to dismiss nasty complaining marginalised folks keep getting used -and even rebranded. One glorious example is:


You know how this goes? Someone spouts a whole load of bigoted crap as they do so many times over – maybe they’re ignorant, maybe they don’t give a crap, maybe they’re just that overloaded on their own superiority and privilege, maybe they’re malicious – ultimately they’re called out on it and they turn round and say “I didn’t intend that!”

And magically everything’s fixed. Except, not. Unintended bigotry is still bigotry. Something that dehumanises or others marginalised people still does so even if the person producing it is thinking of fluffy kittens and happy unicorns. It doesn’t make a slur any less triggering, a piece any less erasing, a portrayal any less stereotyped or their actions any less dismissive, offensive and othering. Intent as an excuse puts the privileged person’s feelings above the actual harm caused to marginalised people. This is why the watchword for so long has been “Intent isn’t magic.”

Ah, but the forces of privilege aren’t going to give up just because someone has hit them with some common sense (alas, for if they did we’d be in a much better world by now). And even as we continue to fight magical intent, it’s mutated child has crawled onto the scene…


The Good Faith argument basically says that the person meant well – they had good faith. In other words, it’s the Intent argument for those who know they’re not going to impress anyone by waving the intent banner. But it has the bonus points of being aggressive, not defensive. See, the “Intent” argument is a defence “I didn’t mean that!” while this is an attack “I’m acting in good faith!” with the nasty little implication that the marginalised person challenging them has BAD FAITH. Tuttut.

And you can see that in how it’s used. I’ve seen it used most often as an accusation: “you assumed I was acting in bad faith!” As if whether they’re acting in bad faith or not changes what they did! Just like with intent, your good faith isn’t magical. If you do/say/write something demeaning, dehumanising, stereotyping, othering or erasing marginalised people then that is what you have done/said/write. Your magical Good Faith Fairy won’t buzz around your words and deeds like some kind of Microsoft Paperclip and edit you actions.

And you know what? Damn right I assumed they were acting in bad faith! Why should I assume differently? Why should I ASSUME that any straight person is going to deal with me in good faith? Why should any trans person assume a cis person is acting in good faith? Why should POC assume white people are acting in good faith?

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One of the thorniest issues when it comes to analysing media from a social justice perspective is the concept of portraying prejudice and bigotry. After all, bigotry exists, bigoted people exist, at some point we’ll expect some bigoted characters showing up.

And that’s not a bad thing - in fact, erasing prejudice and pretending it doesn’t exist is far from ideal. To not show prejudice in times and places where prejudiced would be common or rife can be a denial that that prejudice exists, especially if you are showing everyone in that area and era as gloriously accepting of all minorities. In many ways it’s a form of erasure to do this or a rewriting of the world - both present historic. The problem is portraying prejudice in a way that doesn’t perpetuate it - and too often writers use this argument of “realistic portrayal” as an excuse to produce some severely bigoted work.

So how to portray bigotry without producing a book or show that should come with its own
trigger warning or will make the minority in question want to eat your liver?

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is that prejudiced portrayal really necessary? Sometimes the presence of bigotry is not only unnecessary, but it’s down right confusing, especially in speculative fiction. In an alternate world with an entirely different religion, culture even different species, is there a reason why women are dealing with misogyny? So much else had changed, why not this? Or, in the distant future, between the stars with more curiously-humanoid-aliens than you could shake a phaser at, do we still need racism? This can reach the point of almost parody - I’ve seen avatars of Greek gods - ancient Greek gods - losing their shit over men kissing. The Greeks!

It’s bemusing that, in these worlds where everything can be so different from our own, prejudice is considered inviolate. When all else in history can be changed, when the truly fantastic can be introduced, when we have magic, vampires, aliens and plot holes you can drive a bus through, it seems ridiculous to decide that bigotry is just something that must remain. And I think every social justice media critic in the world is tired of someone explaining the absolute necessity of “historical accuracy” in a series that has freaking dragons.

But even aside from fantasy worlds where you’ve decided to, bewilderingly, include real world bigotry; there is plenty of bigotry shown in works that are closer to our world and we have to ask “why is this necessary?” Does this prejudice actually add anything to the story or development or anything at all? One of the things that annoyed us so much about season 1 of American Horror Story is the amount of bigotry that was presented was completely gratuitous - it did nothing for the story to have the realtor use gay slurs to describe the previous occupants of the house, or even half of the many other problematic incidents on the show. Throwing in bigotry for the sheer hell of it, to an extent where it seems almost out of place sometimes, doesn’t help anyone.

Ok, you’ve looked at the bigotry and it is an absolute essential part of setting the world, the characters and the story. It would be wrong to exclude it - so how to include it without supporting it? Simple - by making it unsupportable

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One of the eternal frustrations with trying to talk marginalisation with privileged people is the ignorance of what persecution actually means, what being marginalised actually means. Yes, I know, blink and step back “surely it’s obvious!?” right? I mean, groups that are marginalised are treated horrendously in a myriad of ways for centuries – how can we not know what that means?

And yet – how many times have we seen a marginalised person described some event in their lives where prejudice has screwed them over and you have some privileged person saying “oh, yeah, that’s just like what happens to me!” And then we to resort to the marginalised serenity prayer – give me the serenity not to kill this person with axes. Increasingly it seems I am lacking in serenity, on the plus side, I have no shortage of axes.

However, axe murdering does rather stain the carpet, and putting out plastic sheeting every time is a nuisance so can we actually address what marginalisation is and why privileged people don’t face it, even if they think they do?

So, let us begin with the “that happened to me too.” Ok, but does it feed into a societal pressure and habitual victimisation? Do things like that commonly happen to people like you, for that reason? Does it reflect or build on a major societal pressure?

Because this all matters. Say tomorrow I am walking down the street, leaving my firm and someone decides that he really really hates lawyers and decides to violently attack me with my own axe. Woe, I have been attacked, due to my profession. I have been victimised. Yet, if we take exactly the same attack and change one thing – that my attacker tried to kill me for being gay instead – and we’ve got an entirely different situation.

Being attacked as a lawyer wouldn’t make me worry about it happening again. It wouldn’t make me check the news for other attacks on lawyers and feel that fear every time I see it appear. I probably wouldn’t actually see any other incidents, or very few. I wouldn’t change my behaviour or worry about how I’m acting and what I’m saying. It wouldn’t send a message to all other lawyers that they’re under threat and their lives aren’t valued. I wouldn’t walk into a room full of non-lawyers and worry about being safe. I’d be pretty sure that it wasn’t part of societal attitudes to destroy me, drive me out or render me invisible (well, except for people who’ve seen one to many of those “I’ve had an accident” Underdog adverts, but even I want to punch them. After I’ve tracked down the Go Compare opera singer anyway). There won’t be powerful forces in authority encouraging people to discriminate against me for being a lawyer, to condemn me for it and to add to a culture of violence against lawyers. I can expect the press to report on my attack, rather than ignore it, I can rely on them not demonising me for being a lawyer. I am confident that, being attacked as a lawyer, my attacker will be treated like a criminal, I will be treated as a victim, I won’t be blamed for my attack, my attacker will be sentenced appropriately, the crime against will be treated as a grave one.

And this is just a surface scratch of the differences. Even though it’s the same offence – there’s a vast difference once a marginalisation comes into play. Or, to put it another way, no, it didn’t happen to you, too. The context matters, the societal history and pressure matters. Because no crime (or other prejudiced incident) against a marginalised person happens in isolation.

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So John Scalzi, a man I normally find myself agreeing with most of the time, has posted something I feel obliged to comment on. Not that he shouldn’t delete comments however the whime takes him, but his reasoning is something I object to.

I take issue with the idea that criticising price of a product I’m buying is “entitlement.” Quite the opposite in fact, I think it’s quite reasonable. When reviewing any product out there, price is usually considered a factor. Whether I’m buying new plates, new cushions, new furniture, food, a painting, clothes, a holiday – you name it, price is normally considered an acceptable element to criticise. I don’t see why books are such a hallowed product that we should not stoop to commenting on the crassness of price.

And yes, I do think there is often a problem with ebook pricing. I do find it dubious that some ebooks are priced at the same level as paperback – or even hardback books. I’m quite sure there are people rushing forward to tell me why this is so and it isn’t just inflated profit margins – and by all means do – but to say the very criticism of price is a sense of entitlement is grossly dismissive. Yes, as a producer, the publishers can set any price they want on their product – most certainly. And as a consumer, I can complain about said pricing and even comment on whether something is worth the money it costs. Because that is what consumers – and most certainly reviewers – do.

Nor do I support the idea that we shouldn’t criticise a book for things the author doesn’t have complete control over. Yes we should mention that it’s not the author’s fault – but the complete product in my hands is what I am critiquing – and if that includes things like a grossly offensive or ridiculous cover, or the fact it is ridiculously over-priced then that is worthy of comment. After all, as we found in the recent YA drama, many publishers are actively pushing to have GBLT protagonists replaced with straight folks. So do we stop criticising erasure as well? For that matter, I’m sure publishers, editors and “market forces” force a lot of fuckery on an author – but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to criticise them when they end up in the book And no, I don’t think it makes you a dick because you criticise the product you have bought rather than some ephemeral dream product the author imagined but wasn’t actually the finished book.

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Our weekly podcast is here. Our full archives can be found here.

Our Next podcast will be on Tuesday 1st November at the usual time

Interview with Clay & Susan Griffith, authors of the Vampire Empire Series

This week, we're lucky to have a written interview with Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of the Vampire Empire series, The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker. Both books we enjoyed immensely and we're happy to fanpoodle shamelessly.

While we wait eagerly for the third instalment in this series we have these 10 questions and their detailed answers to whet our appetites

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Mixed Raced Characters in Urban Fantasy don't Necessarily Constitute Inclusion

One of the recurring tropes we’ve found in Urban Fantasy is the use of token inclusion for people of colour. Unfortunately for many authors, the addition of one person of color in an all White cast, even in cities in which the population demographics would suggest a larger representation is necessary, qualifies for a claim of equal representation. This is beyond irritating in and of itself. But there’s a related trope that doesn’t even go so far as that to use the oft normalized tokens - mixed race protagonists. One of the major issues is that even though these people are technically bi-racial, they are often so light skinned that they exist with passing privilege, thereby never having to negotiate the racism faced by everyday people of colour. Urban fantasy gives new meaning to the phrase light bright and damn near White.

In and of themselves, mixed race protagonists are by any means a bad thing - not by any stretch. We’d welcome, hail and do happy dances about more mixed-race protagonists, or more protagonists of colour in general, if it constituted good equal representation but alas that is not the case. It would be good to see if these mixed raced people read like mixed raced people, instead of White people with a touch of exotic thrown in for extra flavour.

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Traumatised Youth in Urban Fantasy

What shocked us most about this trope, as we went through our Book Review Master list, was how common this trope was. Literally, we went down our master list and struggled to find series where this trope didn’t apply. No, seriously - nearly every last series we’ve read included this trope. It has become less of a trope and more of a requirement in the genre.

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The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode Seven: Ghost World

Once again, Mystic Falls had another founders celebration. This week they were celebrating Illumination Night. Apparently, they lit lanterns to tell the town that it was safe to come out at night again, after they had entombed all of the vampires. I am really sick and tired of the weekly celebrations of the former slave owners. Of course, The Vampire Diaries creators don't see it that way, but this is the truth of the matter.

It seems that when Bonnie sent Vicky back to the other side she opened up a door that allowed all of the ghosts that had unfinished business to walk the town. Because Elena was thinking of Lexy, Stefan's friend he came back and because the tomb vampires had unfinished business with the founders they came back with the aim of killing the descendants. Mason came back to find a weapon to kill Klaus in order to save Tyler.

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Secret Circle: Season 1, Episode 6: Wake

And within 5 minutes of the Secret Circle starting we learn that Nick had an older brother called Jake. See, see? I totally called it. No way were we going to go down to 5 witches. Someone call the advertising people and replace Nick with Jake (or, y'know, we could give Melissa some space... nahhhhh) and yes, the Circle is bound by bloodline! So Jake is a member of it as Nick's brother – replacement Nick!

And Jake is troubled... very troubled – and a thief and selfish and and and he jaywalks! EVIL, evil I say! And he used to date Faye (Mean Girl) and treat her terribly and he stole from Adam and Adam now haaaates him. And he's baaaaad. And they don't want him in the circle, no no no! Bad Jake! No cookie.

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The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2: Bloodletting
The episode begins with Lori talking about her marital problems with Rick. Right after that she admits that she loves him Shane -- who is not dead -- pulls up and tells her that Rick has been shot. Even then you can see Shane looking at them with a weird sort of desire.

The seen flashes back to Rick running with Carl after he has been shot. We learn that Otis shot a buck and it went straight through to Carl. Lori stops to look behind her when she hears the gunshot. It worries her that Rick and Shane have not caught up. Darryl keeps them moving by telling them to stop worrying about Sophia and that she will be just fine, and that Shane and Lori are probably on the way. What I don't like about this is that they have set Darryl up to lead in the absence of Rick and Shane. Why couldn't Andrea take the lead considering that she is such a strong character in the comics. Oh I get, Darryl a character made up for the show is a nature guy and therefore the natural leader.

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American Horror Story
While it may stretch the definition of Urban Fantasy a tad, we've had many requests to review this series – and we were curious anyway – so we have decided to do so :)

American Horror Story: Season 1, Episode 4: Hallowe'en Part 1 4 Fangs
American Horror Story: Season 1, Episode 3: Murder House 4 Fangs
American Horror Story: Season 1, Episode 2: Home Invasion 4 Fangs
American Horror Story: Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot 4 Fangs

So we return again to ghost central! And within 5 minutes of the episode starting I am given my reason for watching this programme – Theo James in a towel. What? I need something to encourage me to keep watching. Alas, Kate wants him to put some clothes on to do some handyman work... hmm... maybe a toolbelt.

Anyway, I digress. Molly's friend Zoe is still missing and Molly is going on blind dates, Kate is still sleep walking and hallucinating and being a not-very-pleasant person and Ryan's upset about his brother's killer coming up for parole. I dunno, not doing much but this episode follows the much distracted Leah (I don't blame it the 4 main characters of this programme don't exactly lead fascinating lives), another resident of Bedlam heights and Molly's new friend – who keeps seeing spooky tire tracks, ghosts in her car and spectral car trouble. Her car keeps breaking down but she daren't take it to a garage because it belongs to an abusive ex who has probably reported it stolen – if it goes into a garage, he can probably find Leah.

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Once Upon a Time
Okay, I know that this is a bit of a stretch but fairy tales are fantasy after all. Sunday night was the ABC premier of Once Upon A Time staring, Ginnifer Godwin, Jennifer Morrison, and Robert Carlyle. The story is based on the idea that fairy tale creatures are now living in the modern world but are unaware that they are fairy tale characters thanks to a spell by the wicked witch.

The story begins with Snow White and the handsome Prince Charming. As we all know, Snow White was presumed dead and the seven dwarfs were mourning her when Prince Charming rode in and saved the say by giving her a true love's kiss. At their wedding, the evil queen shows up to make them a promise, "everything you love will be taken from you forever. Out of your suffering will rise my victory. I shall destroy you happiness if it's the last thing that I do".

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Lover Enshrined, by JR Ward, Book 6 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood
The plot for this book is actually surprisingly involved for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. While we do have a relationship between His Whineyness Phury and Cormia front and centre but it's relatively easy to ignore and you can see the true action beneath.

The Omega has decided to combat the Dhestroyer prophecy with both a new fore-lesser and to tap his son – the son of a powerful vampire aristocrat. Bringing him back into the fold not only brings a powerful warrior with terrifying abilities but also bringing with him powerful intelligence that allows the lessers to hit a lot of extremely high profile targets which in turn leads to the looming shadow of politics in the glymeria

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Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, Book 5 of the Kate Daniels Series
Kate Daniels is back in action in post shift Atlanta. After killing her aunt in Magic Bleeds her secret is rapidly becoming unfrayed as more and more people notice her powerful magic and powerful blood – and more and more people know exactly who she is and who her father is.

Kate now runs her own agency, joined by Andrea whose attempts to make the Order accept her humanity failed in the face of their prejudice. And the Red Guard has come to her with a job – they were guarding a weapon. A weapon of incredible power. And it has gone missing, along with its inventor. Under the cloak of necessary secrecy and discretion, the Guard need Kate to find the weapon and the inventor, preferably before its power is unleashed

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Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep, Book 5 of the Elemental Assassin's Series
The plot was simple yet epic. It wasn't complicated with nuances and twists and there's not a lot to summarise of it without going outright into spoilers. Gin has reached the final showdown. Her or Mab. Mab has been targetting her sister too often and while Gin can hide her identity and be the ghost biting at Mab's flanks, Bria cannot. And the longer this fight continues, the longer Gin keeps to the shadows and plays the long game against Mab, the more and more danger Bria is in.

Especially now. Mab has put her vast resources on the table and sent out a call to every bounty hunter in the country. The Spider – dead or alive. Or Bria, Gin's baby sister, alive only. Except, with some of these bounty hunters, “alive” covers a great deal – and Mab herself certainly never hesitates at torture.

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Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine, Book 4 of the Morganville Vampire Series
In the last book we were left with a cliffhanger. The Bishop, Amelie's father has come to town – and so has Claire's parents. The Bishop is dangerous, threatening and powerful...

And we open the book basically in the same situation. Big threatening bad guy and Claire's parents hanging round. And then we enter a holding pattern. I said the same thing about Midnight Alley and, sadly, I have to say it again, there's very little plot to review.

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Tangled Threads by Jennifer Estep, Book 4 of the Elemental Assassin's Series

Gin's war against Mab is now declared and Mab is feeling the Spider's bite. First killing her lieutenant, Elliot Slater in Venom she has now started hitting Mab's operations around the cities. Her minions and dealers are all under threat, smoothly assassinated and the Spider rune left by their corpses.

Mab can't tolerate this any more and calls in LaFleur, her own assassin. An expert assassin of the Spider's calibre and an Electricity Elemental. She's in town to run Mab's operations – and take out the Spider. As a bonus prize, she's also to take out Bria, Gin's sister, to finally remove that thorn out of Mab's side as well. To complicate things, Mab has not missed Gin's friendship with Roslyn and is looking to spy on her and undermine her as much as possible

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John Carpenter's Vampires
This movie could easily go down as one of the worst films, I have ever had the misfortune to see. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am going to admit right off the hop that James Woods is one of my least favorite actors of all time. From the beginning, I could see why he was attracted to this role. He got to play an ass kicking vampire slayer with a gun and a cross bow.

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There has been a series of kafuffles here and there about councils and other government agencies collecting information on whether someone is GBLT or not – you know, the standard forms, tick various boxes etc. Councils and other government bodies have been scrapping them because they're considered “intrusive”

Such forms are not new – they regularly collect information on race, ethnicity, gender and religion to name but a few. So do many employers for that matter.

And there is a point. I don't particularly like being faced with the prospect of having to lie or having to Out myself. It's never fun to be put in that position (though many of us are put in that position repeatedly). Nor do I particularly trust the powers that be to have that information, keep that information safe and use it wisely – or understand just how important that information is

And, of course, any statistics about us are always suspect because of the problem of the closet and the dangers of outing ourselves. By definition, it is difficult, if not impossible, to collect accurate data about a hidden population and there's always going to be a level of suspect on the data produced.

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Ok some things hang around far too long. They're not only wearing out their welcome, but they're lurching around, rotting, smelling like an extra on The Walking Dead.

And most certainly one of them is that old, stinking excuse “I have X friends” (or cousins, or co-workers or employees or someone who once passed you in the street) and it's related zombies “My friend said X”.

Apart from anything else, it's useless. I'm always amazed when one marginalised person says “hell no” and then some privileged person turns round and says “but my friend says...”. Why? Why does your reported friend overrule the marginalised person in front of you saying it's not ok? Sometimes even multiple marginalised people are supposed to bow to this. Does your friend have the grand imperial veto or something? Supreme Godfather of the Gay Agenda? International President of all Black People? Supreme Dictator of Translandia?

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There is an ongoing trope of GBLTQ people as servants, adjutants and otherwise assistants in the life of straight people. I say trope because we see this a lot on TV and in books, but really trope is inaccurate because this is one of those that has bled out a lot into real life as well – and it's deeply problematic.

In fiction we see a lot of side-kicks, a lot of side-characters, mentors, advisers – always there to lend a hand and support to a straight protagonist. And this leaks – ye gods does it leak – into the real world. Not just with so many GBLTQ people being unable to find a depiction of themselves centre stage – but also in how we're often treated.

Just look at the GBF trope. I don't really have to say more about it since I've already ranted about it a lot – but again, we are treated as accessories, servants adjutants to other people's lives.

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So students at MIT have created a computer game called a Closed World which is basically a GBLTQ themed game whereupon you play a character who has to run around fighting the daemons of prejudice

I don't have a smiley expression to adequately describe my facial expression. 0_o is probably closest. I'm not sure confronting homophobia is my idea of a fun leisure activity or what I'd put high on my priority list for GBLTQ friendly game. I was... sceptical

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As you know, I do my Bad News Lists. And one compelling quesiton I even ask myself is “why?”

Obviously I don't do these lists for fun, far from it. They're painful, cringe worthy and generally horrible lists to compile and cause no small number of grey hairs. They're not fun or enjoyable and I'm not exactly resilient or immune here. Bear baiting and rattle snake juggling may be more fun, less painful and generally safer hobbies.

I do not produce them for news sake – my lists are rarely sufficiently recent to be an action alert nor wide enough to be a summary of anti-GBLT bullshit out there. In fact, people looking for news I urge you to go out there and find multiple sources to try and get you some fractured image of the total picture – do not by any stretch rely on my blog. I catch less than a fraction of a percent of what's out there, if that – and I don;t think anyone catches more than a fraction of a percent and I only show a fraction of what is caught. I know from experience that there have been 3 violent anti-gay attacks in my city alone this month that are more severe than much of what I include and haven't appeared in any publication. Reporting of hate crimes is fraught, reporting within a closeted community more so and of those that are reported, them then being picked up by the press to any great level – and then that (often local) press being noticed elsewhere

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I've been thinking about “flaunting” again – as in “do you have to flaunt your sexuality?” and how we should be all closeted to protect ever-so-delicate Hetlandia from our presence. And it irritates me in so many ways – and one of those ways is the cost of it.

I don't just mean the emotional cost of having to hide, the repression, the shame, the self-hatred – but the actual effort of constantly running your life through a filter.

I think we all know that filter. Even though a long time ago I decided to be as out as was physically possible and refuse to hide or duck my head any more, that filter's still there and it still gets applied. I'm not brave enough or foolish enough or have nearly enough energy to do away with it completely.

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So today I had a fun time arguing with someone – yes a straight someone - whether “Batty Boy” is a slur and whether it's ok to call me that.

Now there's a lot we can say here, but it's very very tiresome and I am very very tired so I'll confine myself to questioning why I had to ARGUE this. Especially whether or not it's ok to call me something.

I just said it wasn't. I get to decide what I am called and what it's ok to call me especially when the world is completely and utterly a slur with minimal attempt at general reclamation and most certainly none from me.

But really – he says it, I say no, do not say that, then we have an argument? Why? Why even fight this? Why try to make me concede that it's ok to call me a slur? Why is it so hard to say “sorry, didn't realise, I won't in future”? Why was I reduced to using threats to make him drop it?

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There are innumerable ways I while away the few... well, minutes that aren't already claimed in my extra hectic circle. And one among my guilty pleasures is the computer game, the Sims 3. Especially when I'm reading a book for Fangs for the Fantasy that is so ultra painful that I have to do something else at the same time to distract me

Anyway, a friend of mine looked over my shoulder and was surprised at my gay commune. Yes, all my Sims, their children and grandchildren were gay – my little gaytopia. And this confused and bemused her. Isn't it silly? Isn't it unrealistic?

And I have to say this is a game where my eldest Sim is a vampire, where I can make the kids age by buying a cake, I can on holiday to France, find some artefacts and bring them home (also the only place you can buy a camera) and put them on your shelves. I can buy teleport pad for crying out loud. But an all gay household? That's just ridiculous!

And I recall, the many times when I complained about lack of decent GBLT representation out there, commenters have objected because “realistically” there just simply aren't that many GBLT people, right? So surely a lack of us is just “realistic.” Never mind the other effects of representation on a marginalised population, never mind that even if the quota in the media exactly matched the proportions in real life, we'd still need a damn site more characters. Never mind how we commonly accept elves and goblins and star ships and that absolutely anyone laughs along with those laugh tracks. No, too many GBLTs? That's totally unrealistic.

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Tropes. Those lovely repeated little clichés we see in books, television and media in general over and over again. I won't say all tropes are bad – but when it comes to marginalised people, tropes have a specially unpleasant taste.

It comes down to the single story.

Marginalised people are not portrayed as broadly as dominant people. We don't have the same breadth and depth of stories told about us. Rather than a million paths and possibilities being laid out, the few portrayals that include us (and sheer lack of portrayals is one of the main problems with marginalised tropes. You can't show a plethora of stories if you're not going to show our stories at all) tend to walk down the same paths, follow the same roads, and repeat the same tropes, the same stereotypes and the same tired portrayals. It only hurts more when these tropes are insulting, offensive or are built on real world isms.

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I read this article about how grossly unrepresentative the judiciary is and I'm having a think

I am torn. Which seems odd. After all, the judiciary is grossly unrepresentative. It is extremely white, extremely male and, (though not mentioned by the article since we often fall through the cracks when discussing discrimination and representation) extremely straight as well as being overwhelmingly cis and able bodied..

Until relatively recently, to be a judge you had to be married. Sound bemusing? It was a rule brought in in the 1970s to expressly prevent gay people becoming judges. It was openly admitted that that was the reason for the rule.

When I left law school, the judiciary wasn't on my mind. In fact when I went to law school I knew it would be impossible. I also chose my law school on the understanding that I wouldn't be a judge and I would have little chance becoming a barrister if I wanted to be an openly gay man. I cynically – and realistically – assumed these doors would be closed and didn't try waste my time dragging at a locked door that would be so unlikely to open for me.

There have only ever been 2 openly gay judges in the High Court. One of whom has now moved off to the various echelons of EU law.

And we know that because of the various blinkers of privilege, this nearly all super-privileged judiciary is going to have big freaking holes in their understanding. We've seen in decisions and in processes that marginalised people of all stripes tend to get a rawer deal in the courts than the privileged, ye gods we know that.

So, why am I torn?

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I know some people don't like it because it's a lie. It often doesn't get better. I sigh, again, because I think of young Sparky and what I would say to him

What would I say to the boy who has been ostracised from his friends, alienated from his family, who has been beaten, who has been freaking burned, who has had bones broken, who stays up half the night with nightmares and wakes up with dread and has just emptied the medicine cabinet. What would I say to him?

Would I say “there's a lot more shit to go through. You're going to be beaten a lot more. Your low self-worth is going to leave you vulnerable to some real arseholes who are going to treat you like shit and worse. You're going to lose your first 2 jobs. You're going to have to tolerate a hostile work environment. You're never going to have a happy relationship with your family, the nightmares will never go away and you won't be able to look in the mirror at all for the next 12 years and probably never comfortably because of your scars and you're going to have to take pills every day to avert a mental break down that had rapidly reduced you to an unstable wreck. You will never be able to go out your door without being afraid. You will never be able to touch another man without fear, you will never look at a stranger without wondering 'are they safe?' You will never speak without wondering who can hear, you will never walk without wondering who is watching you. You will never feel secure, you will never feel that anything you have is ever remotely safe.”

Would I tell young Sparky that? It's the truth, after all?

Or would I tell him, “you're going to fall in love with a good man who never fails to make every day a little brighter. You will have a home, a haven. You will find the courage to be you, despite fear. You will get a job, and despite everything you'll be bloody amazing at it. You will help people, you will safe lives and families and protect rights and provide other people a safe haven. You will be loved, you will have friends who know you and value you. You will have fun. You will laugh. You will enjoy life. You will survive and be strong and do well.”

It's also truth. It's heavily edited truth, but it's still truth.

Because I know which I would tell young Sparky. I know what would have helped him not reach into that medicine cabinet. And it sure isn't the hard truths or painful realities. It's the hope – however weak and erased and glossed over that hope may be. Because it's hope that will keep them going to manage another day, it's hope that will tell them someone understand and is working with them. It's hope that would have helped me.

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April 2015

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