Writer / Reader / Fandom Extraordinaire
Chiara / April 7, 2017 , Fri / feminism

It’s the thing no one likes to talk about, in person or on the internet. It’s the thing that leads to photos removed on Instagram. It’s the thing that has advertisements pouring blue liquid on pads because god forbid we actually portray it in any kind of realistic way. It’s the thing a lot of people have to deal with every single month for a lot of their lives.

It’s the period. Or periods. Or menstruation. Or, you know, the lining of a uterus ripping away from the walls of a uterus and gushing out of a vagina in the form of blood.

Ohmygod. I said the word vagina. I said uterus. I said blood. And I’ll say them again because this is something that is real, and it sucks, and I am sick to death of the lack of talk about periods.

I could go into the reasons why society as a whole is so terrified of the thought of blood coming out of a vagina, but I wanted to talk specifically about books today. About the fact that YA books (because this is 99.99% of what I read) never mention periods, and if they do they only mention it in passing, using a reference to tampons.

Now, I was a mere, wee twelve year old in my first year of high school when my period arrived and settled in as a permanent, and quite unwanted, fixture in my life. I hadn’t been taught a lot about periods, and when the first day was over and there’d been hardly any blood and no pain I thought: that wasn’t so bad.

Oh, my poor little baby self.

Cue onslaught of period pain so bad that I couldn’t walk, couldn’t go to school, couldn’t sleep. Cue a heavy enough flow that I didn’t feel safe enough unless I was wearing night time pads all the time.

Throughout high school there were many days where I simply could not go to school. But when I reached senior years, and I knew that missing a class could mean that I’d miss something on an exam, I started to force myself to go. Nothing worked in terms of pain relief. My aspirin did jack shit. Heat packs did nothing except make me sweat. The pain was something I just had to deal with.

I distinctly remember one time in grade eleven or twelve, when it was the first day of my period. I’d woken up that morning and known it had come, known that pain was going to arrive within the next few hours. I was in the library for my ancient history class, and we were told to go and look at books for research (which, to us, meant it was a bludge class where we weren’t going to do anything). My best friend and I sat down in the puzzles aisle and proceeded to look at Where’s Wally books. I remember being in so much pain during this class that I was curled up on the library floor, trying not to cry. I remember the bell ringing, which meant I had to go to another class, and just the thought of standing up had me literally whimpering. I couldn’t bear the thought of moving, not when I was in so much pain. But I did. I fucking got off the floor and went to classes for the rest of the day.

There are so many other memories like this. Like the bake day my friends and I had planned, where all I could do was sit on the couch and watch them bake because the pain was so bad. Like the time I had to run back to the car, leaving my mum in the shops, and lie down inside because I just couldn’t stand up any more. Like the countless nights I have woken up in pitch dark, crying, curled in over myself in pain. So many other memories of pain, pain, pain.

And I’ve never once read a book where a main character mentions a period like this. Where that time of the month is hell and pain, and blood and blood and blood. Where you literally can’t do anything because it’s just not freaking possible. Where you wish there was some way to just make the pain go away, to stop having these goddamn periods because you don’t even know if you want kids and what’s the point of a period unless you want to have kids? Where your friends don’t really understand the pain you’re in because they have cramps for maybe a day, but they’re bearable, but you’re debilitated by the pain of yours. Where it takes a doctor years to give you medication to make the pain bearable because they didn’t believe you, or didn’t care, or just didn’t know.

I want periods to be in the books I read. And I wish I’d read about characters who had to deal with this in high school like I had to deal with it in high school. Because this is real. It happens. And it shouldn’t be something that’s never mentioned, or only mentioned as a tampon. It should be something that is talked about, and taught about, and just made normal because it is normal for so many people.

YA books shouldn’t be shying away from mentioning something that impacts someone’s life so much. They shouldn’t be pretending that people don’t have to deal with this. They shouldn’t be pretending that periods don’t exist. Because they do. And they can be hell. And they are real.

Why is it normal to mention dragons and never-ending love and prophecies of the chosen one but not normal to mention periods? Why do YA books touch on so many other things that high schoolers have to deal with – love and friendship and sex and parents – but periods are taboo or forgotten or not mentioned? Why are pimples and bad hair days things that YA books talk about but not the shitty thing that comes knocking every month?

And whenever periods aren’t talked about, aren’t normalised, it adds to the taboo surrounding them. Adds to the collective societal disdain for mentioning them. And there are so many reasons why this taboo needs to disappear. For the people who are suffering from endometriosis but have no preventative measures or cures because there’s no research being done. For people who have other menstrual- related disorders (of which there are many) that impact their lives.

I am just so sick of the lack of talk about periods. About the way that society, and the books we read like to pretend that it doesn’t exist, that it doesn’t happen. We need to include it in the books we write and read so that people grow up knowing that this shit happens, and that it’s okay to talk about it. Because without talk we get nowhere. Because without talk the taboo continues. And people stay in pain.

So. Let’s talk about the thing that no one likes to talk about. Let’s talk about periods.

Chiara / March 2, 2017 , Thu / films & music, lgbtqia

1. sense8

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I don’t see how Sense8 couldn’t be on a list of favourite shows with LGBTQIA+ characters. This show is so queer and it is so wonderful. Even though at times I am not 100% sure of the storyline regarding the sensate business I thoroughly enjoy every episode I watch. The character relationships and the romantic relationships are all A+. YAY FOR SUPPORT AND FOUND FAMILIES.

Also huge kudos to Netflix for hiring a transwoman actress to act in a transwoman role. If only the rest of the world would do this for trans roles (and all LGBTQIA+ roles, let’s be real).

In my Googling for this post, I just found out that one of the creators said that ‘in theory’ all of the characters in Sense8 are pansexual so *endless cheering and excitement and yeses*

2. orphan black

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I had heard about Orphan Black a lot, but I was never particularly interested in watching it. Then, one fateful day, I was browsing through Netflix and decided to see what all the fuss was about. I then proceeded to binge the entire series (except for the last season which releases this year – NO, DON’T LEAVE ME).

Orphan Black is as good as you’ve heard. The storyline can get a little complex and convoluted at times, and literally nothing ever goes right, but damn this show is good. And Maslany’s ability to portray so many different characters is freaking amazing.

As for the LGBTQIA+ aspect: Cosima, one of the four main clones in the show is gay, and there was also a transguy clone who had a small role, as well. Cosima’s romance with Delphine is really adorable and also wrought with heartbreak because this is Orphan Black we are talking about here.

3. pretty little liars

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Yes, this show is kind of terrible but I cannot help but love it. Also, a girl loving girl of colour is one of the main characters so that alone is a 100% valid reason to watch.

The fact that Emily’s romances get as much screentime and angst and cuteness as all the cishet ones makes me happy. Because when my cute queer couples are sidelined for the cishet ones I am not happy.

At the point where I’m up to in this show Emily hasn’t fond her endgame girlfriend but it better happen. After all the A crap she deserves a happily ever after.

4. shadowhunters

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Okay so the acting might be terrible, and they have changed the storyline so much from the books that it’s barely recognisable … but I can’t help but watch this. And Malec is so BEAUTIFUL. And haven’t been denoted to just the cute m/m couple. They are adorable together, yes, but they also disagree and talk about important things and are real! people!

I’ve also heard rumours that Simon is going to be pansexual and so help me lord if this happens because it would be AMAZING.

5. how to get away with murder

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How to Get Away with Murder started off with two cis male gay characters (one of whom is a man of colour), and then BAM Annalise is bi/pan (so far I haven’t seen her use a word to describe her identity). THIS MADE ME SO HAPPY I CANNOT EVEN.

I loved this show before it was revealed that Annalise had been in a relationship with a woman (and then kind of continued that relationship in the present), but my respect for the show went up by approximately 100% after that point. It’s still such a big deal (and I mean this in the exciting way, obviously) when shows have queer characters, and for one this popular and widely consumed to expand upon a character’s sexuality in the second season was just incredible.

Have you watched any of these shows? Do you want to? What are some of your favourite shows with LGBTQIA+ characters?

Chiara / January 16, 2017 , Mon / writing

So I’m back (after far too long a time – I’m sorry if this space feels neglected. I think it was Christmas and New Year’s and life and all that kind of stuff that got in the way of me keeping this blog updated! But rest assured I have some posts planned for the future so this isn’t a barren wasteland of a blog), and with something exciting to share!

If you follow this link you will find yourself at The Regal Fox, where I have been published before, and am so very lucky to have been published for a second time. My poem/story/thing What Summer Was was published today, and I am incredibly happy! I love this piece because it’s about a girl, and her non-binary lover, and the summer that they share together.

I sincerely hope that you adore this piece, and I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

All my love,

Chiara / November 30, 2016 , Wed / books & reading, lgbtqia

Whenever readers talk about the lack of LGBTQIA+ characters in a book or series, there are varied negative responses. A lot of these are along the lines of:

1) Write your own book with LGBTQIA+ characters, then.

2) Friendships are important. Why can’t we have friendships anymore?

3) The author owns these characters. She/he/they don’t have to write LGBTQIA+ characters.

Sure, there are other responses, but these three above are the ones that I most often see floating around the book community.

And, because I am sick of seeing these excuses given in response to asking for LGBTQIA+ characters in a book or series and legitimate discussions about the lack of diversity in the YA publishing world I thought I’d write a little something about it.

1) You know, I actually am writing my own book with LGBTQIA+ characters in them. I’ve written two already, in fact. But that does not detract from the fact that I want to see LGBTQIA+ characters outside the books I write myself. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see them in a series that I’ve invested time and money into. It doesn’t mean that suddenly my desire to see LGBTQIA+ characters in the pages of books disappears because I’ve written my own.

And furthermore, if a reader wants something – if a reader wants to see themselves in the books they read – it is not up to that reader to do it. There is no responsibility for readers to write what they know, or what is lacking in the book industry. To put such a responsibility and weight on the shoulders of marginalised readers just shines a light on the privilege of the people saying they should write the books themselves.

2) This one actually almost makes me laugh more than it makes me angry because the complete dearth of canonically queer romantic relationships negates the entire claim. Please, name one friendship that actually resulted in any kind of queer romantic relationship. I will wait. Literally. I will wait because it will take you a long time (if not forever) to name one of these precious friendships of yours that has actually moved beyond friendship and into the realm of beautiful, queer love.

3) Oh, naïve and ignorant person. Have you never heard of The Death of the Author or New Criticism? The author holds rights to their words, yes. But they do not hold rights to interpretation of their characters. They are not the be all and end all of how their readers will perceive a character’s emotions, actions, and relationships. Yes, they wrote them. No, they do not own them. Once a book is out in the world the author is not the sole authority on how their text is going to be interpreted. In fact, The Death of the Author and New Criticism all but deny any relation of the author to the text, except for the fact that the author wrote the words.

You do not get to tell readers how to perceive a character. You do not get to tell readers who to ship. You do not get to tell readers that whatever the author says goes because it just does not work like that. The author is the creator, sure. But the author does not hold some kind of god like power over every single interpretation of what they have written. They cannot argue with readers (although we have seen this happen, horribly so) over who their characters are. They cannot tell a reader that, in fact, they read those two characters incorrectly and that there is just unequivocally no homoerotic subtext between that prince and his guard.

It just does not work like that.

Now, sadly, I know that just because what these people are saying is nonsense it doesn’t mean they won’t keep saying it (I mean, look at the real world media lately). But I just hope that if you are one of the people having these ridiculous things said to you – don’t believe it. You can want LGBTQIA+ characters, you don’t have the responsibility to write those characters, and you can ship whoever the damn hell you want to ship. Because that’s how reading works. It works for the reader, not against them. And you can ask for diversity. You can ask for representation. You can ask for an author to do better. Because you’re the reader. Because you’re supposed to be the person that the publishing industry is doing this for.

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