If I count the time from when I first became conscious of myself in relation to sexuality, it has taken me 17 years to accept that I am a Black non-binary lesbian. Even now, to say I ‘accept’ this feels static; ‘accepting’ might be a more apt word choice. Everyday I wake up I’m reminded of who I am and what it means to be me in English society, and I balk under the weight of my choices and the consequences of authenticity. I fight, constantly, to accept myself; have fought to find a community that accepts me. Tomorrow, or in a few months, or a few years, I may wake up and find that I’ve grown and the concepts I used to describe my queerness need rethinking. Whatever happens, I will always be queer. I will always be deviant.
It’s hard to find people like me in books, films and TV shows. The more nuances I discover to my identity, the more difficult it is to find relatable content. I’d like light to be shone on the experiences of people living on the margins of society, not just in the aftermath of BLM protests, not just because certain companies have redirected funds to their ‘diversity and inclusion’ departments.
Nevertheless, I’m grateful for my experience of ‘Writing Our Space’. Over the course of the anthology, I was pushed to reflect, and to recall moments of pain, loss, longing and love.
The editors of ‘Writing Our Space’ hope that the anthology takes the reader through a queer journey, both personal and collective. I can attest to that. Without giving too much away, I decided to dedicate the rest of this review to the stories that deeply resonated with me.
113 Bus to Edgware Station
Love–whether it’s healthy or destructive–is transformative. Much of my my experiences with love have been queer, memorable, passionate, acutely painful–and have revealed to me a new version of myself each time. I was reminded of that when reading this short story. The author reflects on the end of a significant relationship, and the way it grew and altered space and time for them. Love and pain have a way of infusing themselves into items and places. For the author, the place is London, which made letting go of their relationship that much harder. This is compounded if there was never an opportunity for closure. The final conversation between the author and their ex-lover made me feel vulnerable; I can’t count the amount of times I’ve replayed a final conversation with someone I loved, then retold alternate versions of it. I like to think the alternate versions are different timelines; perhaps it makes existing in this one a little easier. When I finished the story, I spent a little while reflecting on the desire for closure. I came to the conclusion that it’s not necessary for one to move on. It does make it harder though.
Medicalised+Trans [who am I without a doctor?]
I have many friends who have had to rework their entire lives to accommodate chronic pain. I’ve seen how they navigate agony, day after day, created by callous, unrelenting systems and people who measure the value of their lives against the abled standard. I’m scared by how the NHS has neglected them – further exacerbated on the part of my Black friends, who experience medical racism, ableism and transphobia. So, I moved through many emotions reading Medicalised +Trans.
The author’s vulnerability moved me. The poems depicting their experiences with medical care, where each time they’re a little older, wearier, wiser, made me reflect on how exhausting it is to be told again and again to wait for quality care. To wait to be put on another waiting list, all so you can live comfortably in your body. The urgency of this need for trans and disabled people cannot be understated, especially within the context of a mass disabling pandemic. This story frustrated me. I’m frustrated by the ways in which society disables people, and precludes trans people’s need for gender affirming surgery, further exacerbating their medical conditions.
Surrounded by obstacles, and yet the author carried themselves through these moments to be here, to pen radically vulnerable prose, to communicate the complexities of their positionality and how their understanding of their power has grown. In a world in which the suffering of disabled people is smothered, it’s a privilege to have read this.
There are many stories and poems within Writing Our Space that unearthed memories for me. I felt seen reading this book, in a similar way to how I feel amongst my own community. When I return to the book, I feel inspired to write stories that I’ve not seen, stories that depict my life and the lives of my chosen family, with all the joys and the sorrows that make each moment.