Hope in the Dark

I’ve been reading ‘Hope in the Dark’ by Rebecca Solnit. I picked it up at the Hay Festival earlier on in the year. I kind of kept going to read it but then finding something else to read instead. I by chance watched Josie Long on IPlayer and she recommended the book, so then I had to read it.

I have started trying to form an Amnesty International society at my university. This book has been invaluable in getting me to think more about what it takes, thinking about what I’m actually doing and having realistic expectations.

The book was originally published in 2005 so a decent amount has changed and progressed since but it’s eerie how in a way it hasn’t at all and how well the book still applies… Different people, same situations etc.

There is a large focus on American politics. Bush and Blair and the time of the Iraq war beginning. This was slightly before my time (as in I was about 9 so not really aware of the world) so it was difficult to get as involved with the book as I hoped I would. But Solnit writes really well and I get the points that she was making. I found it difficult to fully gauge some of the significance of what was written.

Solnit has since added a number of Forewords to her newer additions which are great introductions.

So very broadly, the book for me, mostly told me about what activism is, what has been successful and what it means to be successful or to have success or to not succeed. There were some really key thought provoking chapters in the book. Sometimes seemed screamingly obvious but not something you’d necessarily think about too deeply.

A quote in the book from Paul Goodman

“Suppose you had the revolution you are talking about and dreaming about…  … How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now!”

Solnit looks into the emotions associated with activism and tragic events. Comparing despair and hope.

“Despair demands less of us, it’s more predictable and in a sad way safer. Authentic hope requires clarity – seeing the troubles in this world – and imagination, seeing what might lie beyond these situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable”

She looks at the different types of activists and news bringers. Those that do well in defeat and ‘doom’. This is linked to the psychology that activism is more bolstering identity that achieving results. ‘demonstrating one’s own virtue rather than the realisation of results’.  I think I can think of a number of people who would be pessimistic, assume to worst and not try to make it work and then take in the glory when it turns out that they’re right. (which was more likely to be the outcome anyway)

I found it very true that “tales of decline and fall have an authority that hopeful ones don’t”

But activism itself can generate hope because it already constitutes an alternative and turns away from the corruption at center to face the wild possibilities and the heroes at the edges or at your side.

The revolution that counts is the one that takes place in the imagination, many kinds of change issue forth thereafter, some gradual, some dramatic and conflict ridden – which is to say that revolution doesn’t necessarily look like revolution.

Being able to see the world differently to what is put in front of you can be the biggest step in a revolution. Solnit uses a fantastic analogy of a theatre. Civilians being the audience and the actors on stage being presidents, prime ministers etc Big wigs. We don’t see what’s going on back stage or anywhere else in the theatre. But sometimes we do, sometimes we can see through the actors and when enough of us have, that’s revolutionary and that’s what the bigwigs are scared of.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that sense that even if you don’t see success or you don’t feel like you’ve made a difference, actually you probably have. In a small way you may have supported a movement, spread a movement to more people and in that way starting to stimulate a change or progression.

“It’s always too soon to go home. Most of the great victories continue to unfold, unfinished in the sense that they are not yet fully realised but also in the sense that they continue to spread influence.”

This is Earth, it will never be Heaven

Perfectionists don’t make very good activists essentially. When anything less than total victory is failure, progression is not going to be able to be appreciated. There will always be cruelty, violence, destruction but we can reduced it. ‘There’s an inability to to recognise a situation in which you are traveling but haven’t arrived to the destination. The world is always being made and is never finished.’

Victory is not some absolute state far away but the achieving of it. It wasn’t the moon landings but the flight etc

“The way you win people over to your side is try to present the information from some perspective they’re familiar with”   Velasquez

A better world, yes; a perfect world, never.

Rebecca x

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Gay Britannia and Bisexuality 

*This post started as a mind explosion and I typed whatever came to mind on Sunday evening. I have tidied it up a little but I’ve noticed this with a lot of my posts…that I’m not very good at concluding or keeping a good flow….. I’ll work on it.*

So the BBC is showing a load of LGBTQ+ programmes at the moment and so far what I’ve seen has been great! I know so little about LGBT history, it’s shocking. And with all this and pride at the moment it’s really got me thinking about who I am and what makes me me.

I can’t imagine living with constant fear and not being able to be who you are. I know it is still often the case, but we can’t be arrested for it! These programmes are making me realise really how much we really do have to thank the older generations for pushing through and doing what they did. So brave, so courageous.

I’ve watched ‘Prejudice and Pride: The people’s History of LGBTQ Britain’ and ‘against the law’,  ‘queer art’ and ‘The man in the orange shirt’.  While watching some of the programmes with Rosie (I have the irritating tendency to talk through a programme. Rosie pauses it. haha soz) we talked about bisexuality and how it never has been that much of a deal. I mean even the programmes so far have been predominantly about gay male relationships. (It is the 50th year since the act was abolished so there’s justification behind it.)

A big thing we have realised is that gay men suffer their own insults but they don’t generally get the brush off that bisexuals and lesbians do. …The number of times I have heard, “they just haven’t found the right cock yet.”  How many times have you heard someone say a gay man hasn’t found the right vagina yet?

However! I’ve got a big buzz with it all at the moment! The “Everything is great and will be great and I’m bisexual and being bisexual is amazing”. It’s a nice feeling! Feeling that it is perfectly fine and there’s nothing wrong and just have a good time and love who you feel like loving.

When I can talk about my relationship freely like those in straight relationships, it feels so natural. Withholding what I want to say because i don’t think people will understand or take it the right way or if i’m worried they’ll respond badly is really hard to handle (let alone not telling anyone and having to hide it entirely!).  It’s like a subtle and ongoing sensation that makes you continually doubt your validity.   Being able to sit with my arm around Rosie while chatting to other people and couples is one of the greatest feelings in the world to me. Just the unity and fuzzy feeling is a guilty pleasure. ❤

We also brought up how the things we have read about women’s sexuality have always been pretty negative and hard: depicting the struggle. Which is great for inclusiveness when you feel like you’re dealing with it all by yourself. But it doesn’t often bring hope. So I want to be positive on here! Show why It’s so worthwhile!

If anyone asks me, I say that I am bisexual. It has been a long and winding path to get to this point but it’s definitely what rings truest. If I found myself single one day, I have no idea if the next person I would date would be male or female. I like it. It’s exciting. I definitely go through phases where I feel like I’m more attracted to one than the other but the ability to feel towards both is always there. Often, i’ll just be spending more time with a group of one or the other sex and that can sometimes feel like it’s shifting a preference. For example, at university it’s pretty much 85% female so the chances that I’m going to find people I get on with that are women is pretty high, so maybe that swings my preferences.

It is a shame to be put into the wrong LGBT group. I guess most people that know of me will assume I’m a lesbian. * It’s Tuesday now and a conversation I had today proves this more for me*  But it cuts out so much of my life and story and makes it all seem so clear and easy. Being LGBTQ+ is hard, and I know most about being bisexual.

Bisexuality is hard because when you have the option to go with the ‘normal’ and easier sex (I.e hetero) it makes it harder for others to understand why you would choose to be in a homo relationship. I certainly think that’s why It took me a long time to think about the possibility of dating women. Because if I know I’m happy enough looking for Mr Right why would I make life that more difficult by being open to finding a Mrs Right too? Obviously, it just doesn’t work like that, but I suppose it kind of does, I suppose it could be possible to hide one part of your sexuality forever for the ease. But that wouldn’t be fair on you or do you any favours.

It’s a mindfuck when i consider that I would likely never have met nor spoken to Rosie if I hadn’t have decided to try dating women. And yet she is the closest person I have ever been to, my bestfriend and I am absolutely ridiculously head over heels in love with her… except when she does something that annoys me 😉
So therefore I do think that bisexuality is an invisible sexuality at the moment and there are a couple of campaigns running along this line too.  Basically, If a bisexual woman is with a girl, she’s a lesbian and a guy, she’s straight. And bisexual men are men that are actually gay but don’t want to totally admit it. Excellent.

There’s also a lot of talk about promiscuity with bisexuals. Like how can you trust a bisexual when they literally fancy everyone? Haha… Because there’s never been any cheating in straight or gay relationships…? But perhaps as some bisexuals will agree that the sex of a person is far less important than the person they are, it suggests that we could be fussy because we’re looking for someone we really connect with.

So onto Sexual fluidity. The concept that every single person is on a spectrum and lay somewhere between straight and gay and where you are on that spectrum can change throughout your life. Before I go any further, this really does have to be the simplified version as there are groups in LGBTQ+ that aren’t included in the spectrum. (asexual, pansexuals etc)

I know a lot of girls (probably because we’re more happy to talk openly about it) who have considered their sexuality once or twice or quite a lot.  They’ve wondered if they had had a crush on a girl previously or have kissed girls on drunken nights out etc.

I’m not saying that every one of these girls is a bisexual and should relate and be categorised under this term (no way!), but they are on the spectrum like everyone else and would probably be placed somewhere closer to the middle between straight and gay than just one or the other side.

So, for me, sexual fluidity would be something like this…

For example, let’s say if a girl is 80% straight, she only dates men and has only had relationships with men. But, she has wondered about being with a woman once or twice. Now, whether she would ever take it any further, think more, act on her thoughts and whether she would even feel right in a relationship with another woman is a totally separate thing. But say a couple of years later, for whatever reason, it’s now 60:40, that could be enough for her to start thinking and acting on it. She’s still more into men and it’s all she knows and starting to date a woman is going to take a lot of encouragement and persuasion. It’s going to be confusing and baffling for most of the time too. It’s going to be a case of getting to a point where she feels she needs to answer this niggling question… Can she be with another woman, does she fancy women? I feel like a lot of women don’t feel the need to answer this niggle. And obviously, that’s entirely fine, they’ll be closer to the straight side of the spectrum,

So for me, when I was younger I only ever thought of men. I had the occasionally feeling towards girls but brushed it aside thinking i was in awe etc. Then i got older (obviously), met new people, saw new places, read new things and my mindset altered, I became open to other options.

I have read blogs and discussions about how bisexuality is it’s own entitity entirely. And i don’t think that’s wrong. The spectrum really helped me come to terms with my sudden shift a couple of years back and it works for me.
When talking to people about bisexuality there’s a sense from them that you are or you aren’t and you must have an answer. Whereas if you’re happy with the sexual fluidity perspective, you do what feels right for you at the time. Possibly partly why I struggle to accept the term bisexual. It’s actually quite inflexible and vast and doesn’t say much about an individual at all.

So yeah, this is where I originally came to a totally dead end in my word splurge on Sunday evening. Not even a hint of a conclusion. haha. But today I had a conversation with two girls that I have been working alongside with at university a lot recently. They’re absolutely lovely and we get on well but this just proves an inability to understand the concept of bisexuality.

So basically we were working with two absolutely gorgeous male clinicians. They’re charming and they bought us coffee. Putty in their hands we were. And we were talking together about one in particular. And I said how I liked his blue eyes. (drowning in crystal blue seas and all that… ). One of the girls said to me,

“Well it doesn’t matter to you as you’re not into men.”

I mean for one thing, you don’t have to fancy a person to be able to appreciate how good they look.  But anyway!

I was a bit taken aback but we were all messing around and so i didn’t get particularly serious. I just replied that I do like men. The other girl shook her head and put her hands out to show the separation and said “no, you just can’t like both, one or the other.”  And so I looked into her eyes and said “watch me.”  To which we all laughed.

But actually, how can you feel so confident to tell me that I’m wrong about who I feel attracted to? Why would I lie or pretend when I’m so open about other things? I used to think that I could only like one or the other but that was the most confusing part of all because I couldn’t choose which. I don’t need to choose.

It was lighthearted and they did not mean to insult me. It just showed the ignorance that is out there.

What if I became single and started dating a chap? Would they tell me that I was straight (and just experimented or went through a phase with Rosie) or actually just a lesbian who’s hiding how she really feels? There’s seems to be no understanding that the sex of a person is just not on my priority list. It’s absolutely the person.

So, I could just not care I suppose. I could just not right this article and not care how people see me or how they categorise me. To be honest, I don’t really mind. But i don’t like that people don’t understand me, what I’ve gone through and how I think and feel, especially those people that I otherwise have a good time with. Though actually i don’t like the feeling it’s assumed to be a phase, as though i’m just messing around with people and testing waters. That would belittle any relationship I had over another persons, when to me, my relationship is the best and strongest and most serious and loving and stable relationship I have had.

So let’s conclude lol. The BBC is doing a great job in celebrating LGBT. But there is still a long way to go. If you’re in the LGBT club, you are still considered different and I don’t think that should be the case. There are misunderstandings everywhere regarding LGBTQ+ groups and one of them is not appreciating bisexuality. What does it mean to be bisexual? why it’s not a bad thing, a phase or experimenting. One of the ways I explain it is through the sexual fluidity concept. And it is hurtful and harsh to brush off a person when they say they’re bisexual because you’re invalidating their entire history. You’re saying that they actually were never really in love or felt for the one person they used to see because they’re now in love with a new person of a different sex.  Maybe not on purpose but you’re telling me that a big part of my life that probably helped shape the person i am wasn’t real and wasn’t significant. And we can entirely talk about crushing on any sex. But we can also talk about how hot someone is without bringing sex into it too.

A bisexual is someone who has the ability to feel attraction to another person they’ve connected with regardless of this person’s sex.

Rebecca x

Don’t judge for adding a wikipedia link.. it explains it well – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisexual_erasure

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/bi-erasure-hurts/

i feel this article a lot :http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ravishly/on-bisexual-erasure-in-th_b_9995418.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059lylf