Tag Archives: LGBT+

“I’ll Give You The Sun” by Jandy Nelson review

I'll Give you The Sun

“Winner of a Stonewall Book Award Honor” declares the back of this book – and that was me sold. I just can’t seem to get enough of LGBT+ related books, if my recent Barnes & Noble and Amazon book–buying sprees are anything to go by.

I’ll Give You The Sun is told from the perspectives of Jude and her twin brother, Noah, with Noah’s story being told when they were 13, and Jude’s story at age 16. The whole book was beautifully written, but Noah’s chapters are just phenomenal. It’s made clear straight away how artistic he is, and his story is told with an abundance of imagery. You don’t see other characters and events in the same way “normal” people might; instead you read about how Noah’s dad speaks to him “like I’m some kind of broken umbrella”, or his mind painting of one of the boys chasing after him at the start of the book:

“His coconut suntan lotion’s filling my nose, my whole head – the strong smell of the ocean too, like he’s carrying it on his back… Zephyr dragging the tide along like a blanket behind him… That would be good, that would be it (PORTRAIT: The Boy Who Walked Off with the Sea) – but not now, Noah, so not the time to mind–paint this cretin.”

The mind–paintings are one of my favourite things about Noah’s chapters, as some of the titles are just fantastic and you can really envision these works of art. Even if you only get the title of a piece, with no real description of the colours, or how it looks, I could still imagine them so clearly in my mind – something I often struggle to do, as I have all the artistic talent of a stick.

Jude’s chapters, on the other hand, are different. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still very well written, there just seemed to be something lacking – especially after hearing from Noah, which I think spoiled me a little with its beauty! However, a huge event happened in the time between them being 13 and 16, which has impacted them as individuals – and, I feel, has greatly affected Jude in particular. Given the circumstances, Jude’s character is most definitely written appropriately and she comes across as a very real character. Whilst I disagree with a lot of her actions, I do empathise with her and for the most part I love her character. Although she is written very differently from Noah, many of her lines and descriptions are just as wonderful.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this book won a Stonewall award, and I really like finding new LGBT+ novels. Well, I want to be clear: this is not a purely romantic novel. The main relationship is that of the twins, which is shown brilliantly through their individual monologues. But Noah is also following in love with the boy next door, and it’s not hard to see why: he’s charismatic, enthusiastic, and he treats Noah like a real person – something he never really got from others. Everything the two boys have to face constantly throws me into turmoil, but of course there are good points in their relationship too. One thing I love about it is that although Noah starts developing this crush, the progression of their friendship isn’t just abandoned to focus on romance.

Although the relationship between Noah and Jude, and Noah and the boy next door, are the main focuses of the novel, there are many others covered throughout too: the twins’ relationship with their parents; Jude’s relationship with a mysterious boy, the slightly crazy Guillermo Garcia, and with herself; and of course, Noah’s relationship with his art. The book is far more complex than I had first expected (I had assumed from the cover it would be some kind of cutesy, plot–deprived thing), and dotted with far more sudden twists – some shocking, others less so – than I had imagined.

The description on the inside cover claims “This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award–wining author of ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ will leave you breathless and teary and laughing – often all at once” – but really, how many books try to say this? Yet I’ll Give You the Sun pulls it off. For the majority of the time, I was in tears – and not the kind where you’re only crying a little due to some mild sadness; no, I was pretty much all–out sobbing. Then I was suddenly laughing through my slowly clearing tears, and two pages later, something was said that had me crying all over again! I honestly can’t think of any other book which has made me anywhere near as upset.

My only complaint is that the ending wasn’t quite as resolved as I would have liked – although I suppose I can (grudgingly) understand why. As much as I would have appreciated a little continuation with some of the relationships, it would have dragged the story out unnecessarily and possibly ruined it somewhat.

I promise I’ll stop banging on about how wonderfully written it was in a minute, but I’d like to finish by saying that I really loved that the twins’ chapters were done interchangeably so the story was pieced together bit by bit, instead of learning some things all at once, and having nothing really be a surprise anymore.

All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic book, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s well worth a read.

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Who Am I? Delving into the Difficult Depths of Gender

Who am I? I’m Eilidh. I’m 18. I was born female. But I know I’m not – at least, not JUST female. I don’t want to put a label on myself; I don’t want to limit myself to thinking I identify only as a female, or only as a male, or even to identify as both. And I don’t want to feel I have to conform to any of these, either. I don’t want to be looking into terms like gender-fluid, bi-gender, or non-binary and think “Well, I think this is what I am, but maybe I need to be a bit more like this for it to be acceptable/accurate”.

I love being mistaken for a guy. It’s happened to me for years, ever since I first got my hair cut short, and it amuses me and actually makes me happy – which some people, myself included, struggle to understand. Why does being called “son” or “boy”, or hearing a young child say to her brother that I “don’t look like a lady” make my day? I don’t have a clue, but I DO know that I like it, and I do know that nobody needs to get offended on my behalf, as has happened a couple of times. I used to absolutely hate being referred to as a girl; the very thought of it made me feel physically sick and angry, but at that time I didn’t really know what transgender was; I didn’t really have an understanding of gender outside of “male” and “female”. So I resigned myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do about it – I was a girl, I was going to be called a girl, and that was that. I had the feeling that if I asked my parents to stop referring to me as “their wee girl” or as a female in general, I would be either be laughed at and ridiculed, or told that it was just a phase.

In the years that have passed, I have often wondered what it would be like to be a guy, and I know it’s something I would prefer; it’s always seemed to me that being a guy would be, simply, easier and better. Even knowing that, though, I’ve never done anything about it – I never really thought that I could. Sure, I wear clothes that are maybe a little more masculine (certainly stereotypically so!), my hair is short, and I really dislike wearing make–up, but I’ve never tried to think too much about if I could be Trans, gender–fluid, or really anything other than the girl that I was born. Lately, however, it’s been playing on my mind a lot. I spent days on end doing online research and trying to look into all the terminology – although that nearly left me just as confused – and I realised that I’m not a cisgender female. I just can’t identify with that, and I don’t want to identify as that either.

How, then, do I identify? Well, that I still don’t know. Part of the not knowing stems from struggling to understand, and get to grips with, some of the terms and work out the differences between, say, gender fluid and bi–gender – they seem really similar to me. I’m trying not to think on it too much, as I’m sure over time I will work out how I identify, but at the same time I just want to know. I want to know if I’m bi–gender; I want to know if I may even be Trans (which seems more likely the more I think on it) so that I can start coming to terms with that and not spend my time worrying “Am I this? Am I just over–thinking things?”.

My ideal image of my self is generally pretty masculine, but at the same time I can’t imagine people actually referring to me as “he” – but that may be because the only times that has happened, have been accidental and misunderstandings. I’d feel awkward asking people to refer to me as “he”, too, because I don’t know how they would take it, especially if they’ve known me as “she” for so long. I’ve considered the use of “they” before too, but again it doesn’t sound quite right to me – but that’s just in my head, and in reality either “he” or “they” (or, indeed, any number of pronouns I’ve not even considered) could sound just right when used out loud by someone other than myself.

What I need to do is not try and put a label on how I feel – I don’t want to feel I have to try and match up to certain “criteria” in order to realise who I really am. I know I need to give myself time and the opportunity to explore my feelings; to experiment. I’ve ordered a couple of binders and some new shirts, and I’m getting my hair cut into what will hopefully be a slightly more masculine style – they’re not huge steps, but they’re a start, and hopefully they’ll help me realise how I feel most comfortable. I’m even at the stage where I’ve started to consider a small selection of both gender–neutral and masculine names, if it should get to the point where I want to change mine. Perhaps that’s me jumping into things unnecessarily, but putting a little thought into it and seeing how they may fit with how I want to express myself isn’t going to hurt.

I’ve also recently joined the forum Empty Closets, which is designed for LGBTQ+ people and their families/friends for any questions and discussions relating to things such as Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation. I’ve not posted on it terribly often yet, but I have been reading other threads that I feel myself associating with and some have been really helpful so far – it’s definitely a site I recommend for anyone who perhaps doesn’t have anyone they can talk to comfortably, or would like information or help on a range of subjects. In fact, this post was inspired by a response to the thread I made regarding my gender, in which I was urged to think about the questions “Who am I?” and “Who do I want people to see me as?” – and I like to think I’ve made a start in that. I’m lucky to have people I can speak to about all of this, whether they’re online or friends I see often, as I know that is often not the case, but to anyone who is questioning their own gender/orientation/etc., I hope you know you’re not alone in that – and remember, there is always someone willing to listen, even if it doesn’t always feel that way 🙂

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Edinburgh Pride 2015

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Yesterday (the 20th of June) was the Pride festival in Edinburgh, and it was a great thing to be part of. It also marked 20 years of Pride in Scotland, so having this be my first Pride experience was that bit more special and I’m so glad that I could take part.

As much as I had been regularly checking the Pride Edinburgh website, and reading other bits and pieces on Pride, I still had no real idea as to what to expect so although I was excited going into Edinburgh, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive at the same time. That said, it was really something to be sitting in a coffee shop with my friend and watching people start heading down to the Scottish Parliament, adorned with various LGBT+ flags, t-shirts, and an amazing fashion sense from all.

When it was time to start getting together at Parliament, I was slightly amazed at how many people were already gathered there and I must admit that I did feel quite out of place – I almost had no idea what I was doing there, as everyone I saw seemed so comfortable and confident, and there I was utterly convinced I was sticking out like a sore thumb. I wasn’t, of course, and after managing to find a friend of mine by chance, I lost any feelings of nerves or awkwardness, and started to really look forward to the march.

The walk up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile was quite surreal, as a good few people were around watching and taking photos, and it was wonderful being able to walk along surrounded by so many people all marching to celebrate being who they are. About halfway up the Mile, a big cheer went up from people in front of us, and it turns out we were walking past a (straight) couple who were just married, and the bride had taken one of the rainbow Nando’s “Worth coming out for!” flags that many of us held as we walked along, so that was very nice to see.

We stopped outside the City Chambers at the top of the Mile for speeches, and again I wasn’t sure what to expect from them. It turns out they were from members of the various political parties here in the UK, and I actually found them to be pretty interesting – I was also somewhat amazed that they (for the most part) managed to leave political matters and party jibes out of it. I have to say, my favourite moment from all of the speeches was when the member of the Green Party (I think) came out with “Give me a P! Give me an R! Give me an I! Give me a D! What have we got?!”, at which point my group and I almost yelled back “Pride!”, and then realised we only had…Prid. I’m still wondering how quickly it took for her to realise her error; nonetheless it was pretty damn funny for us, and was referenced a LOT throughout the day.

After the march ended, we wandered round a few of the stalls, where I was handed a couple of leaflets on fire safety (clearly they could just tell what a hazard I am!) and picked up the odd leaflet and Visi-BI-lity badge, as well as a “Some people are BI. Get over it” sticker, which I really love. We also paid a visit to the main arena, where they had the LGBT+ Youth Space and various other things going on, although it was a bit too crowded to really move freely and not get in anyone’s way. However, one thing I noticed throughout the march, and am thinking about again just now, is how diverse an age range there was. There was a lot of older people, and then on the other end of the scale a lot of young people – and I was almost surprised as to how young. I noticed a few people out with their young children, and it was lovely to see them getting so involved. From what I could see, the majority of people were made up of those of us aged 16-25, which was again really good to see as I hadn’t been too sure how likely young people would be to attend.

One thing that really jumped out at me was especially prevalent in the speeches, which is that a large part of the focus was on the LG parts of LGBT+. A couple mentioned transgender and intersex rights, and one at least mentioned bisexuals (only once, mind), but there was no mention at all of asexuality or anything else – and sexuality was definitely the main feature, with gender becoming a seemingly non–existent concept. It made me realise that although things have definitely changed over the years, so much more has to happen in terms of awareness. Just as gender doesn’t stop with “male and female”, sexuality doesn’t stop at “heterosexual and homosexual”. People identify as so many different things, and it’s important to be aware and inclusive to the best of your ability. In the speeches we heard at Pride, they all mentioned being lesbian or gay, and as I said only a few included bisexuality, transgender, and intersex, and I believe some did use the LGBT acronym too – but as my friend pointed out, “how hard would it be to say LGBT+? It’s only an extra syllable”. And I feel she made a very valid point; to some it may just be an extra syllable and so no big deal, but to others it could be a way to feel more accepted and less alone – and surely that can only be seen as a good thing?

All in all, I had a great first experience at Pride, and as well as being good fun it also really made you think; though perhaps not very coherently if the above paragraph is anything to go by! I’m looking forward to many more years of Pride, and I would urge people to go to any local ones if they ever get the opportunity.

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