Travel as a disabled/differently abled person

A friend of mine has tweeted tonight about not being allowed to get on a Virgin train because she hasn’t booked in advance.  Why did she need to book in advance for something most of us take for granted?  She and the friend she was travelling with were in their wheelchairs and going two stops up the line.  There were even disabled spaces vacant.  So let me get this straight, all people in wheelchairs need to book 24 hours in advance before using public transport that others can pretty much get a ticket for 5 minutes in advance.  They need to know exactly when they plan to travel and how.  Even people in wheelchairs need to change travel plans last minute.

I tweeted Virgin and asked them about this, the answer I got:

“You have to book in advance for a wheelchair space, however if you go to the station they will be able to assist you ^RS”

This is not cool. Period. Personally I travel most trips over an hour with a walking stick because of my knees.  The pain gets too much and I just can’t deal with the constantly having my knees bent for that long.  But here’s the difference, they would have let me on the train.  My friend and her friend however, were refused service.

The difference between the way countries treat those who are not able bodied is astounding.  Over the past few years, I’ve made several trips to the US to visit my other half.  Every time I’ve had wheelchair assistance at the airports because after long haul flights the idea of attempting to walk from one end of a large airport to the other is laughable.  People, even passers by who don’t work for the airports, automatically move to let anyone in a wheelchair or with a walking stick past.

Staff on the coach service I usually use to get me to and from the airport assist me in and out of the coach when I am in the States.  They make sure to take my luggage and load it for me and get it off for me and make sure I can manoeuvre it on my own.

At Dragon*Con, which we’ve been to for the past two years and which is held in Atlanta, the convention staff go out of their way to ensure disability needs are met and that anyone with a differing ability is treated as a human being.  Admittedly, most of the time, the UK cons I attend are the same but with one difference.  At the UK cons I have to warn them in advance I’m coming.  At Dragon*Con I just have to go to the disability services on arrival and they put a sticker on my card that states what it is I require to ensure I’m comfortable.

When using my stick in the UK, I’m subjected to stares from people who think it’s odd that at my age I’m using one, I get people laughing and taunting.  In the States, this doesn’t happen.  You get the occasional idiot who ignores the walking stick as they barge past, but as a whole, my experiences are generally good.  People within the customer service industry in America seriously go out of their way to help people, and whilst some buildings could definitely be more accessible, there’s an attitude of help rather than hindrance.

As people who rely on public transport or the kindness of friends and family to get from a to b, we shouldn’t be told that we can’t travel, we shouldn’t be pushed aside in favour of able bodied people.  A wheelchair does not mean we aren’t capable of living a good and fulfilled life, but, according to the UK transport system and the attitudes of the British public, we do nothing but scrounge of the government.  Tell that to me once you’ve found out I work a 40 hour week, and tell that to my friend in her wheelchair, who would love nothing more than the ability to work a full time job and who has a mind as sharp, if not sharper than most, but who is, in effect limited to what she can do because of the limitations of her body.

Disabled is a word that says in the minds of many, unable, scrounger, living off benefits.  To those people, I say heaven forbid you have an accident that means you can’t work any longer.  You too would be living off the government, and what would you say then?  Would you be as quick to judge the rest of us?  Travel and dignity are rights for everyone, not privileges, and it seems that Virgin Trains have forgotten this fact.

The lesser lauded women of Sci-Fi

There are some branches of Sci-Fi that have given us amazingly strong women.  That have shown us that women, as a species, can survive against all odds and that women can be strong leaders as well as followers.  If I asked you to name a few, you’d probably come up with names from what appears to be the regular list.  For example, Dana Scully, Samantha Carter, Kathryn Janeway, Laura Roslin.  I love these women I’ve just named and I love the actresses that play them, but there are often others who get overlooked, whether we mean to or not.  A conversation with a friend about which season of SGA to watch, earlier today has reminded me of that fact.  I suggested season 1.  She replied with ‘but it doesn’t have Carter in it’.  My answer, it has Weir, and she’s awesome.  It made me think about the female characters I admire in shows that often appear to be overlooked because of an actor or character who is thrown into the spotlight.

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Dementia Defined?

According to the dictionary definition, dementia is:

1. Deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain. It is sometimes accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes.
2. Madness; insanity.

September brings Autumn

My Summer holiday is officially over. I am back in the real world and today was back at work.  Coming home from 2 weeks in the hot climes of Alabama and Georgia back to British weather is always a bit of a downer, but today, even with the showers, I can say for certain I love British weather.  We haven’t really had a summer this year, but even though that is the case, Autumn is in the air.  That feeling I used to get when I went back to school after the summer off is back.  There is a slight chill in the air and I noticed a couple of the leaves on the trees on my walk to and from the train station were starting to turn.  I love Autumn.  It is perfect.  The chill that takes the heat off, the way the leaves turn.  Autumn is my favourite season.  It brings a closing to the old year and a starting of the new, particularly in Pagan traditions.

It’s the closing of the old year that has me intrigued today.  Things have been going a little crazy for me recently.  Friendships have reached points where in the coming months they will either be salvaged or broken for good, one of my colleagues is leaving our office the day after my first year is complete, I’ve been offered some part time as and when needed work that excites me beyond belief, and soon, hopefully, my fiancee will be leaving the States and coming here to join me in the UK.  I’m at a point of sadness and of peace, of contemplation and of hope.   It’s an odd mixture but it’s a good place to be.

I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but what I can see of it is looking like it will happen the way it is meant to. And that is something that I am beginning to look forward to.

A weekend of chaos and yet of fun

My poor blog has been a little more than ignored since I’ve been in the US and so a post now should at least remedy that a little.  This past weekend I was at Dragon*Con with my fiancee and our friend J.  I’m not even going to attempt to chronologically order things but I am going to give a quick overview of thoughts and happenings.

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Sometimes I despair at the world

In the past few days I have grown weary of humanity.  I have lost most of my faith in it and I’m finding it hard to find a reason why I should have faith in it.  Since Monday, there are things that have reached my ears that have made me want to turn off my internet connection, quit leaving my flat and become a hermit.  Quite frankly it’s looking like a completely viable option.

My fiancee’s colleague uttered a phrase that left me wanting to slap her, and my fiancee scared to be at the job she is in.  What was the phrase? “If my son is gay, I’ll beat the crap out of him.”  Admittedly that on its own is enough to make me doubt my faith in humanity, but then you add this little gem overheard on the way home tonight, “My mum told my sister if she brings the f*****t home again, she’ll cook him dinner.”  These words tear me to the core.  They bite at me and they stab like knives.  Is it any wonder that the Queer community has trouble coming out? Even when we’re in the supposed ‘liberal’ Western World we are attacked by these words.

In the news, Pussy Riot have been imprisoned for two years, the Moscow government has banned pride for one hundred years and the Russians are also suing Madonna for standing up for Gay rights.  Please explain to me how someone who expects to have fun being wined and dined at the UN thinks this is justifiable, because apparently Putin does.  The way it stands at the moment, Russia is governed by bigots and a Church that is so far beyond Orthodox it’s forgotten the teachings of the man it was based on.  Chances are this paragraph is enough to get me banned from ever entering Russia under their current rule, even if my sexual orientation isn’t.  It’s no wonder I’ve met Queer Russians who live in the UK and who plan to stay because they are scared to go home again.

I’ve mentioned this week, but I should also mention that in the past few weeks, I’ve been asked if I know of somewhere that can provide safe harbour for Queer people, I’ve seen anon comments on other sites where people have slammed into my friends because they are Queer, and I’ve also had a friend ask me what the point is of coming out when it only causes more damage than good.

Tonight, this blogger’s faith in humanity is nearly completely shot. And quite frankly it’s going to take a lot to get what faith is lost back.  No amount of indulging in my favourite shows or books is going to take the bitter taste out of my mouth.  So whilst I despair at the hatred in the world, I’m going to keep fighting.  I’ll make these posts that maybe reach a handful of people who are, I know, likely to be like minded individuals. I will sign the online petitions against the injustice in places like Russia.  And I’ll try to hold onto the goodness of my chosen family and the people I look up to. And no, regardless of the fact I’ve been publicly heckled and chastised online, I will not stop calling people on their homophobic, sexist, ablest or racist attitudes.

Shipping and Fandom a Newbie’s guide to the pitfalls of Shipping Wars

If you enter the world of Fandom, you have to be prepared for there to be a whole lot of group “OMG!” flailing and also a number of other things.  In this post, I will try my best to discuss shipping and what exactly it entails.  I’m going to try and remain unbiased, but undoubtedly that may fall apart at the seams so I apologise in advance.Continue reading “Shipping and Fandom a Newbie’s guide to the pitfalls of Shipping Wars”

There is nothing shameful in being queer

As members of the LGBTQ community we are who we are and there isn’t a lot we can do about our sexuality or gender.  We can’t help that we were born this way and we certainly shouldn’t be expected to either.  Sadly in today’s society, it seems like we are.  The pressure we are put under to be ‘normal’ and to hide who we are, not just by the media and certain celebrities who make fun of our relationships, but by our own families is disgraceful.  So I’m saying it here, it is not shameful to be queer.  The behaviour of people towards us is what’s shameful.

For once in my life, I would like to see Sci-Fi represent us as part of the norm, after all it’s about pushing boundaries.  I applaud the short lived SGU and the portrayal of Camille Wray by Ming Na.  A character who was a lesbian but whose only purpose was not her sexuality.  I applaud Joanne Kelly and Jaime Murray for their firm support of the Myka/HG ship.  The fact that Steve in Warehouse 13 is gay as well makes life that little bit more affirmed for the queer audience, but it’s not enough.  I want transgender characters, I want queer characters in MAIN roles.  And not just in Sci-Fi.  I want to see actors not disparaging their fans because they ship their character with one of the same sex.  Anyone who knows me will know who I’m talking about.

I would like celebrities who have had gay/lesbian/bisexual/whatever relationships in the past and who have ultimately fallen into a ‘straight’ relationship not to clarify what they are saying with “I’m not gay” or “I’m not fluid in my sexuality but I did do this in the past.”  Quite frankly, your past is your past and your present it your present, you don’t know what your future will hold and you shouldn’t have to clarify or quantify your actions.  Just the same as someone like me who has had relationships with the opposite sex in the past should not have to add “but it doesn’t mean I’m straight” or “but my attraction to women isn’t because of a bad experience.”  So you had a relationship? Big whoop! You’re human and you had an encounter with another human being.  It doesn’t invalidate who you are as a person.

I would like the media not to jump on the fact that someone has had a queer relationship in the way that it does.  I do not want to open tabloid newspapers (actually I try and avoid going anywhere near them) and see “X HAD GAY RELATIONSHIP” plastered on the front page with some damning story inside.  It sends out the wrong message and quite frankly, X could have had multiple partners at the same time and I’d still be more interested in their work.

I don’t want comedians to think that ANY minority is fair game as long as they themselves are coming from a place of privilege.  I’m sorry, but if you’re a white able bodied male who is secure in his heterosexuality and gender, you have no right to make jokes about women, people of colour, queer people or disabled people without expecting to a) hurt someone and b) receive backlash.  And don’t get me started on the male comedians who think that rape is fair game, because I might just explode.  There is NO place for rape jokes in society, it furthers the notion that it is up to victims to protect themselves rather than the rapist not to do it in the first place.

I would like my queer friends and other queer people the world over to feel safe in their own homes.  I would like not to get emergency messages asking me if I can suggest safe harbour because yet another person’s sexuality means they aren’t safe in their family home.  Families should accept and love regardless, not emotionally, mentally and physically abuse because a child or family member is queer.  So many of us have been there and so many of us are struggling to deal with it still.  It’s been 7 years since I left that environment and I’m still dealing with the repercussions now.  A lot of baggage comes with being in that sort of home and it’s not a pretty subject.

I’ll keep fighting for these things to become a reality.  I’ll sign petitions, I’ll make my blog posts, I’ll speak to people about it, I’ll boycott places like Chik-Fil-H8.  I’ll research and find ways to keep those in danger safe.  But I won’t lie down and rest on it like some people would like me to.  It’s when we sweep the issues under the carpet that the problem intensifies.

To the queer community out there, I want you to know this, you are beautiful.  You are perfect just the way you are.  If you find yourself in a bad situation, there are ways to get out.  And if for whatever reason, now is not the time, then please please please go to Kicked Out Anthology and know that you are not alone.  There are people out there with stories just like yours.

Spirituality, Sci-Fi and Amanda Tapping

Fairy StairsWhen I woke up today, there was an air of trepidation about me.  I procrastinated as I got ready, despite the fact I knew that Eileen and Jim would be coming to pick me up so we could go to the Fairy Fest in Oakworth.  There was a stop we had to make on the way that was the reason for my not wanting to step out the front door.

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“My work will never be done. Which means that one day you may have to accept the fact that you will have to carry on without me.”

 Helen Magnus, Sanctuary (Requiem)

It’s been a while since I watched this episode of Sanctuary, but tonight, I had what I call my “I need to watch Crazy!Magnus” head on, and so into the DVD player it went.  Normally I sit and quote the whole thing, which is why I’m glad I am home alone with my hamster, Chipmunk.  But tonight is the first night I’ve really and truly felt a twinge at the above line.

In the  past 3 years, since its inception, I’ve supported Sanctuary for Kids.  The charity that was spawned from this series.  In the past year of the charity, I have been part of a group called Small Pebbles.  We focus our efforts, or at least have done so far, on raising funds for Sanctuary for Kids.  We’ve raised a considerable amount for our first year, although I won’t reveal how much until it becomes public.  We’ve thrown ourselves into it whole heartedly.  It’s a passion that cannot be rivaled, not unlike Magnus’ work in the show.

The charity has outlived the TV series that brought a lot of us together, but that is no surprise, I always knew it would.  Good work, a never ending supply of Amanda Tapping fans and voila, the perfect recipe for keeping it going.  I can quite honestly admit that I haven’t run out of ideas for fundraisers yet and I doubt I will for a long while.  What does all this have to do with the above quote?  I realised something when hearing the quote.  Amanda, Jill and Damian are keeping us all driven forwards with this amazing charity, but the responsibility is ours.

We are the ones who have to carry the mantle, not in the business sense but in keeping the spirit and the message alive.  We are the ones who are carrying on the work that will never be done in our lifetime.  In all honesty I hope I’m wrong, I hope that we have a global turnaround on wealth, understanding, respecting and loving our fellow man within our lifetimes.  I want to see that, badly.  I want to watch the world and the attitude of the people in it change for the better and reach that stage, but I have a feeling that our generation will lay the paving stones but not see the end of the road.

There’s a quote that is famous among Amanda fans, and some, if not many of us, have taken it up as a mantra:

“Live Peace, Speak Kindness, Dwell in Possibility.”

That quote is one that inspires, it sits on my desk at work, reminding me not to lose it at the more difficult clients.  It is on my bedroom door as a reminder when I wake, it’s the last thing I say at night and the first thing I say in the morning.  It’s what Amanda and Sanctuary for Kids embody.  A world where peace and kindness are real possibility and those possibilities are endless.  I’m teaching myself to think those words before I raise my voice in anger, I’m teaching myself to use those words to remind me that when things go to hell there are still possibilities, and I’m using them to remind me that as a race, we’re not quite there yet.

So yes, we’ll continue the fundraising, we’ll continue spreading the word, and we’ll teach our children to do the same.  They will grow up in a world where they understand the power of giving, love, peace, kindness and possibility.  They will carry on the mantle we have passed to them that has been passed onto us, and they will continue to follow our path, trying to make the world a better place, one day at a time.