An Open Letter to my MSP

https://twitter.com/askthe700

Dear Sandra

I’m one of your constituents. I’ve actually reached out to your office for help before; help that I gratefully received. I voted for you. I believe you want the best for your community, your city and your country. I thought you would speak for me and my interests. However, this time I have to reach out to ask you not to help. Please, don’t try to help people you clearly don’t understand.

The most simplistic way to look at stripping is to see it as pure male gaze objectification. The women on stage, in private rooms and on laps are victims. It’s easy to think that and not look deeper into it. It hits all the important socio-political points of today; the #metoo movement, equality, human trafficking, women’ rights, exploitation, mental health, and sex work. It gets to claim that being against stripping is to be a champion for women, to protect against potential violence and crime against them.

A lifetime lived is enough to know that it is dangerous to look at anything that simply and set a law around that simplicity.

Let me change the subject slightly. When I was a kid, my neighbourhood relied on the local community centre. It was a cafe, a meeting point, after school care, a place for various different classes, for people of all ages. It was a hub of society in an area otherwise afflicted by poverty, sub standard education and below average quality of life. Despite being vitally needed, the centre eventually closed down, not least of all because of the ‘bad elements’ that also used the facilities. Some dodgy deals were arranged and done in those halls; everyone knew but dealt with it the best they could in order to protect the very real good the centre provided overall. When that community centre was closed down by well meaning but oblivious councillors, we lost a crucial part of our community. The criminal element moved someplace else and we were left without a place to rely on for those classes, the after school care disappeared, and the cafe; so affordable to those on very low incomes, had no local equal. The community as a whole suffered. We became more insular, further education and hobbies stagnated and probably most ironically, crime soared. It soared because a lot of the kids lately involved in classes, hobbies and a place to go no longer had that, angry and isolated not to mention disillusioned, turned to petty crime and violence. From public nuisance, destruction of property to gang violence, the closure of that little centre caused far worse than it sought to avoid. More than 20 years on, I still feel massive sorrow for everyone who suffered the unintended consequences of closing our community centre.

Why do I mention this? Apart from knowing this is just one of many similar tales about the closures of community centres around poverty stricken areas, I see the same sort of unintended predicaments that threaten our city following the banning of SEVs. I see that trying to eliminate the very real issues surrounding regulations in SEVs will instead shatter all the good they do, and rather than stop the negative aspects, it will drive those deeper in the shadows; not gone, but that much more difficult to fight against. Such a simple solution is never simple. Sex work will continue as it has since the beginning of time, and those who prey on the vunerable will be empowered to do so since there will be no protections in place for the people who rely on or simply enjoy sex work as a career.

It is not for anyone, even elected officials, to judge people in sex work. Morals against a career simply don’t apply the same way they don’t apply to someone who has a career in shelf stacking or selling cars. There is no moral outrage necessary to accept that sex work is and always will be a valuable commodity in society. The old adage ‘sex sells’ is jokingly referred to in aspects of every single industry in the world, but only in the actual sex industry is it so tightly restricted by the moral outrage of those not actively involved in it.

That is not to say there is not room for improvement. Of course there is. Sex workers should be better protected in ways that make sense for them, a collobrative effort between their expertise and comman sense laws. This includes creating and maintaining safe places for them to work. It includes a mutual conversation between who make laws and who needs them to do their jobs. A conversation, not one side dictating to the other. Sex work needs regulation, sure – but to tar all sex workers as victims is to demean those who make an active choice to make this their career. They are not asking you to babysit them. They are asking you to look upon them as equals, with real insight and knowledge of how to create a safer workspace for all involved in the industry. To remove them from the conversation is to create victims of the people you are purporting to help. You are not helping them, you are telling them they are worthless, and isn’t that what you’re saying you want to stop?

Simple is never simple.

Involve those people, empower them to create their own solutions and remember you are on the outside looking in. Do not ban the places they can do their work safely. Do not do it in my name, or for my sake. I did not ask you to, and neither did any of the 700. Ask them what to do, instead of imposing your well meaning, but ultimately ill informed views on them.

I hope you see the sense in this. I hope I can feel good about voting for you again.

Sincerely

womp womp

MCM ended up being a bit of a bust. I was too sore to do the cosplay thing, and I ended up only going on the Sunday and walking around on my crutch and on my own under a hat of shame.

moi

It’s not the hat’s fault really, I just felt sorry for myself. Cue sad violin. The hat is fabulous.

Still, it was pretty inspiring. Even though I wasn’t the only one wandering around in my civvies, it was total carnival of different fandoms and genres, and everyone was just in it to celebrate! It was encouraging that even most of the traders were in similar spirit, dressing up and enthusiastic about their own passions. Everyone seemed to be in deep and joyful conversation, and I wish I’d made a drinking game for the amount of ‘free hugs’ signs I seen! Or maybe not – alcohol poisoning isn’t cute.

After a while, I realised I was starting to feel the strain of walking around and I was lucky enough to nab a front seat to the Sunday Masquerade. For those (like myself) who’ve never been to a show like this, a Masquerade is part talent show, part costume design critique. There was a panel of judges and although not everyone was entered to ‘compete’ (some just wanted to celebrate their costume) the audience went out of our collective minds for each person and group to go on stage. The littlest geeks went up in costume with proud parents for applause and cheers, then the teens braved the stage before the contest portion started. I can now die knowing I’ve watched Winifred Sanderson perform ‘I’ve Got A Spell on You’, as well as seeing two of the happiest guys I’ve ever seen take about a minute and a half getting up the 4 steps to the stage in an AT-AT costume, panto horse style. It was the most I’ve laughed in ages! Overall, the level of dedication and talent was completely mind-blowing and I walked stumbled back home with a reinvigorated attitude to making the time in my life to create.

Since then, I’ve performed my last burlesque show I can for about a year. It was bittersweet, and probably something I’ll talk about soon. What going to MCM did for me though, was encourage me to continue making my costumes (up to the last minute!) better for the show, even though it’ll be a long time before I can use them again. I finally made a tentacle skirt for Ursula that is worthy of the diva she is, and I rhinestoned practically everything I could for Harley Quinn. She may be criminally insane, but she likes her guns to be wicked sparkly! It helped to see so many people making these costumes for the joy of making and wearing them, not just to perform. Think about it – some of those cosplayers will have spent 100+ hours on a costume they only plan on wearing once, so I should dedicate at least that to something I’ll eventually wear again.

Now I’m just waiting on my ankle surgery to happen so I can get working on getting back to normal. In the meantime, I’ll be creating. I’ve got the excuse of Halloween coming up, and I’ve already started on that! I’ll hopefully write about the process soon. Want a sneak peek? Of course you do!

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I’ll be working on it more today, check out my Instagram for updates!
Until next time,

Sig

Mama’s first convention!

Hey guys, today I’m trying to sort out what I’m going to be doing for my very first con! I keep wanting to go but life gets in the way. Damnit, life! This time though I’m definitely absolutely for sure going to MCM!

Thanks to a lovely friend who accidentally bought 2 weekend tickets, I’ve finally got the chance to dress up and go along. Since I’ve not performed in a while, I’m excited about the prospect of getting creative and being surrounded by people who are as passionate and excited about their hobbies as I am! To me, burlesque and cosplay are very similar in that you really need to love what you do, the artistic pay-off is more important than financial gain. Your blood, sweat and tears go into your project as a way of expressive release. I miss that right now.

So, I’m doing 2 cosplays for MCM. Maybe, maybe 3. Luckily, I’m surrounded by friends who are experienced cosplayers who have already helped me in creating costumes for stage wear. In particular, Psyclone Jack (who has had experience in both burlesque and cosplay) has been a tremendous help in the construction of costumes. I’d totally recommend seeking him out for commissions if you want an awesome costume made!

r1ih9

On Saturday I’ll be wearing my Ursula costume – with a few changes! When I made my costume I didn’t put much effort into making it comfortable, since I wouldn’t be wearing it long. This has been the impetus to improve on the costume, and make changes that will be both appropriate for long term wear and still easily removable. There will be more rhinestones too obviously! I figure that improving on the long term wear of the costume will increase the overall sturdiness of it, since I’ll also be taking it in and out of suitcases, different shows etc. Ursula comes in a few different parts, which I want to maintain. So far, she comprises of;

  • bra
  • underbust corset
  • pasties
  • wig
  • underskirt
  • stuffed tentacles
  • boa
  • fishnet tights (geddit?)
  • knickers

ursula

I decided not wear shoes for this routine, mostly out of necessity since my ankle is *bleep*ed, but I’d like to have something on my feet. I know the joke is that burlesque performers are a hardier bunch that can withstand the grottiest conditions, but I’d rather not test that theory too much! For the convention, I’ll be wearing simple ballet flats, and my focus will be on the skirt and bra. I’ll be making a hoop skirt (using this brilliant tutorialand sewing my tentacles onto the band of the skirt, attaching the length of them to the skirt by loosely tacking them to the hoops so they still move around a bit. I’ll be bedazzling the tentacles with black glossy sequins and flatback rhinestones, and attaching purple or lilac flatback pearls to the purple part of the tentacles. For the bra, I’ll also be covering it with the same black sequins and rhinestones I used on the tentacles. I’ve not decided if the underskirt should be purple or black though – what do you think? I’m also thinking about combining barefoot sandals and nude padded footsies, but since I won’t have to do that for the con I’ll discuss that another time! I also think I’ll forego wearing the corset and have the skirt connected to the bra with snap poppers. I think having the hoop width start just below my bust will give me the extra Ursula shape, so to speak! I’m excited to see how it’ll all pan out!

I’ll discuss my other cosplay in another post, but to give you a clue – dang dawg, inapprops!

Sig

KaleidoScot interviewed me!

Just after Glasgow Pride I was asked to answer a few questions about my perspective on gay life in Glasgow. I identify as bisexual although the article did erroneously label me as straight, which they apologised for and offered to clarify (I thanked them and told them it was fine), but aside that, I really enjoyed talking to Jonathan (new friend alert!) and was absolutely overjoyed to be offered a writing position on the strength of that interview! I’ll link any work I do there here, but I figure I’ll let you see this great interview first, and hopefully introduce some of you to the brilliant work KaleidoScot have done! Let me know what you think!

nicola

My Pride 2014 make up!

Homelessness

Yesterday I had a visit from NewArt, a company putting together a DVD for my Housing Association. Basically, they wanted me to talk about how I became homeless, and what led me to apply for the Partick Association. Of course, I wanted to talk about it, because recently, I’ve discovered I actually want to spread the word. Being in the position of having to declare yourself homeless isn’t shameful, and it can lead to the most wonderful things, made all the more wonderful because you can’t quite believe your luck will turn when life has beaten you down so low.

J.R.R. Tolkien called it the eucatastrophe. The sudden change of what seems utterly hopeless to joy, and hope. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…. they don’t. 

I suppose most of you know the circumstances of my homelessness. In short, eviction, hostel, private let, stayed with a friend, stayed with another friend, stayed with Gof, hostel again, then finally, blessedly, to a flat with my name on the lease. Some friendships were burned so bad, all that’s left is ashes and regret. Some were made, and sealed with love and hope. Mostly though, looking back, it was a real discovery for who I am, and what I can do. I found reserves of strength, eventually, that I didn’t believe I had in me. I accepted help, from anyone willing to offer, from family, friends, organisations – and knew it wasn’t an admission of defeat. I took time, proper time, and found an iron will. I found that even though I sometimes succumbed to despair, I knew, deep inside, that I will not let this beat me.

And it hasn’t. I’ve still a way to go, no doubt for that – but I’m more hopeful than ever. I’m paying my bills, looking for a job, writing, creating a home, and looking after myself again. Of course, we all know by know, I’m even doing one thing I never thought I would – by marrying the man who stuck by me through all this. I’m still scared, sure, but it’s a good fear, the fear that the future I wish for is within my grasp, but I need to work at it to reach it. Not just for me, but for Gof too. For my family. My friends. Everyone who has had a part in the twists and turns so far, and those yet to join me. The fear is knowing I am able to succeed. I would let myself down if I settled for second best.

That’s my story. So far. I’ll continue to tell it, but right now, my thoughts are on homelessness in general. How much, do we, as the general public (how I hate that phrase!), surmise about homeless people, and how much do we stereotype? It’s the runaways, the junkies, alkies, whores of the world who are homeless. 

Maybe the majority are. But where did those people, (and they ARE people) come from? What did they run from? Why are they swallowing, injecting, snorting the memories away? One wrong choice and that might have been you. One moment in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s all it takes. The stories I heard when I was living in these hostels… I related to these women. I seen how it happened. For everyone I spoke to, they all said the same thing – “Don’t end up like me. Don’t give up on yourself”. These women settled for last place, living in a hostel for good, since it was the only security they’d had in years. I’m sitting here typing this with tears streaming. These people should be commended for simply surviving over the odds, not condemned for something most of them had very little say over. This was something that was done to them, for which they lacked the skills to cope.

Even so, more and more people are becoming homeless as a direct result of this so-called credit crunch. Families who bought their home suddenly finding themselves on the street because the bank foreclosed on their mortgage. People who lost their jobs because the company they worked for went tits up. Armed with very little information, there is a scant amount of support for those who have no real understanding of a system that can be scary to navigate alone. 

There’s very little actual statistics on homelessness in Glasgow. I know, I’ve looked. Between homeless charities like Shelter and Crisis publishing fairly general reports like this one and Government trying to “spin” the situation, apparently homelessness has went down according to some reports like this one that states;

“Homelessness presentations by single applicants down by 38% over the years 2002/03 to 2007/08”

 Strategic evaluation of the Glasgow Homelessness Partnership by Blake Stevenson.

But then, we have graphs like this one from the Scottish Government website completely contradicting that!

What to believe? I know I’m not the only casualty of the credit crunch who has ended up homeless. I know I’m not the only person the DWP has let down. So where are the real stories? Where are the success stories? The hopeless cases? Why is no-one asking these questions?