Tuesday, 14 June 2016

How To Be A LGBTQA+ Ally

From a position of privilege, it can sometimes be easy to think that prejudice doesn't exist or isn't really as bad as it's made out to be. However, this weekend's unspeakably tragic shootings in Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida which left 50 people and at least that again injured certainly suggests elsewhere. The biggest act of terrorism in the US since 9/11 and the countries deadliest ever mass shooting, homophobia is alive and well in our society and while we may temporarily make our Facebook profile picture a rainbow flag, in a months time, most straight people will go back to their comfortable lives, never thinking twice about kissing their partner in public or even holding hands. There's a lot straight people to can to help move LGBTQA+ rights forward so today we're going to talk about how to be the best LGBTQA+ ally you can be.

Understand Stereotypes & Why They're Harmful
Joking that'd you'd love a gay best friend might seem harmless, but when it then leaves non-camp gay men who don't particularly care for Lady Gaga and have zero interest in fashion feeling like they don't meet societies view of what a gay man should be, this is when problems occurs. Same with gay women. As shocking as it may seem to some, women can have short hair and not be gay. Women can have long hair and be gay. Open your mind beyond the stereotypes that society and the media has trained us to use as a benchmark of true gayness. 

To put it in very basic terms, heteronormativity refers to the belief that being heterosexual is the 'norm' or 'default'. Society conditions us to think of straight as 'normal' and anything other than straight as deviant from this so-called norm. Everything from the selection of 'Mrs & Mr' wedding cards vs. 'Mrs & Mrs' or 'Mr & Mr' in any card shop to clothes for young girls with 'Looking for my Prince Charming' printed across front. Stop assuming people are straight, because statistically speaking, there's a good chance they aren't. 

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Good for you, your Facebook profile picture is a rainbow. That's your part done now, right? Wrong. Very wrong. It's all very well and good to think of yourself as an ally, but when you continue to make jokes about gay people, consume homophobic media and supports hateful politicians, how good of an ally are you really being? Have the courage of your convictions, call people out, boycott brands and refuse to stand by as people around you spread hate.  

Language & Labels
Know your terminology. Know how demisexual varies from of pansexual, know what cishet means, know what using Mx rather than Miss or Mr means. Know it and use it. Same goes for pronouns. If someone prefers he/his pronouns over she/her pronouns, you damn well use he/his pronouns. This is non-negotiable. Similarly, labels. As a whole, labels are generally pretty badly thought of. Most people don't like to be strictly categorised. However, many LGBTQA+ people take comfort in the security of labels, knowing other people who identify as that label can relate to them. Respect their choice to use or not use labels as they see fit.

Listen, Don't Talk
If you aren't LGBTQA+, you don't get the struggles. Sorry, but you don't. Same way if you're white, you don't get the struggle of people of colour, or if you're able bodied, you don't get the struggles of disabled people. A huge part of being an ally for any group is knowing that it's often important to just shut up and listen. Don't speak on other peoples behalf. Don't butt in. Don't attempt to offer a 'different perspective'. 

In the wake of of the shootings in Orlando, the world seems united against homophobia but I can't help to ask, for how long? Love is love I'm told by trending hashtags, but murder is murder and terrorism is terrorism too. If you happen to be in the privileged group that have never had to question your safety based on your LGBTQA+ identity or awkwardly correct someone as they assumed your sexuality, you probably don't ensurely 'get it', but that's okay, that won't stop you helping to progress LGBTQA+ rights by being a better LGBTQA+ ally.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Lee Stafford Chopstick Styler

Since I cut 7 inches off my locks a few years ago, I've gotten really boring with my hair styles. It's either down straight, down curly, half up or in a pony tail. Hardly riveting choices, I know. Normally when I see hair tutorials on YouTube, I don't even bother clicking but recently I watched Lucy & Lydia's remake of Little Mix's 'Hair' video and got a major case of the heart-eyes-emoji over the Lee Stafford Chopstick Styler.

It's a super narrow curling wand with no clip, designed to create tight ringlets. Now I know what you're thinking. Tight ringlets? It's 2016, not 1997, but hear me out. 1990's nostalgia is sweeping the fashion and beauty world and shows no immediate signs of slowing down and once shaken out and messed up a little, these curls are a perfect nod to that trend.

It doesn't have temperature control but the wand heats up to a whopping 200 degrees, meaning that although this look requires small sections of hair, it's really quick per section (about 8 to 10 seconds) so doesn't actually end up taking much longer than big curls and they really last until you next wash your hair. Just remember to use a heat protector spray though, I like the Lee Stafford Poker Straight Flat Iron Protection Shine Mist myself.

It's been a long time since I was this excited over a hair tool, but this little beauty has filled a hole in my collection that I didn't even know I had and best of all, it's only £19.99. It's not a look I'd wear every single day but it's definitely a statement which I can't wait to rock throughout the Summer for lazy afternoons in a sunny beer gardens or for a glamour night out!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Dementia : My Experience

Dementia. Nearly a million people in the UK have it, yet it's so widely misunderstood by sufferers and medical professionals alike and often incorrectly accepted as just a natural part of ageing. This week is dementia awareness week in association with Dementia Scotland and I wanted to share my experience with it.

Ada Muriel Davis passed away in 2012. 18th of March 2012. I was 21. I remember it clearly. It was a Sunday. My mum came into my room to waken me for work. She told me before I'd even gotten out of bed. Her tone was sad but unsurprised, and as though she knew I wouldn't be surprised either. I wasn't. I was due to start work at 10am and this was about 8am. I didn't cry. You might judge me for saying this but I wasn't even particularly sad. Not straight away anyway. We knew it was near and as hard as it was, we'd prepared ourselves.

My gran lives 200 miles away and had all my life. We saw her every Christmas and periodically for long weekends through the year. I have fond childhood memories of the long car journeys and of playing in the fields near her home with my sister. In every memory of visiting her, the sun is shining. My gran was much like my dad, loving and caring but not affectionate. Never felt the need to show off about it. My other gran lives nearby and because of this, we've always been much closer.

It was about ten years before my gran passed away that she began to show signs of forgetfulness. As a family, we can now laugh about some of the funny things she'd say. One that we always talk about is when she was visiting and my mum was unpacking shopping from the supermarket. She had a multipack of crisps and asked my gran if she wanted one, who which my gran asked how you know which flavour they are. She hadn't realise that it's a big bag made up of smaller bags of crisps rather than just one giant bag of crisps with assorted flavours all mixed in together. This antidotes still make us laugh til this day. 

As time progressed, these slips of the mind became more frequent and harder to laugh off. My dad, her son, began travelling down more often. Despite not being particularly affectionate, he was fiercely protective of his mum. He could see things getting worse. She started to struggle on her own so far away from any family but was adamant that she didn't want to move back up to Scotland. Despite the tremendous efforts of her beloved life long neighbour Dorothy, my dad liked to make sure for himself. It was initially small things, forgetting to open a piece of junk mail, still having last week's crossword to finish off, not putting a bookmark in and losing her page. But it quickly progressed to much bigger things. Long out of date food, meals that should be frozen stored in cupboards and bed sheets and towels unchanged for weeks. He found a cupboard full of delivered but unopened medication that she hadn't been taking for months. More than an entire plastic bags worth. After a few attempted to explain these mistakes to her, my dad realised she didn't see anything wrong with how she was living. She was as independent in her 90's as she'd been at any other point in her life. 

A few days after my dad drove the 400 mile round trip to drop her back home after Christmas, she took a bad fall. She fell getting into bed and only after banging on the wall did her neighbours know something wasn't right and went to check on her. She spend from then until she passed in hospital. Every Friday night for three months, my dad drove down alone. Visited her in hospital. Stayed over in her house by himself. Visited her again on the Saturday. Stayed over in her house by himself again. Visited her on the Sunday and drove home again on the Sunday night, just in time for the 40 hour working week ahead. He only missed two weekends, one was my 21st birthday and the other was the weekend of the day she died. When my mum woken me and told me, my dad was already packing up the car. 

She was always a proud woman. She was well spoken, firmly opinionated and took pride in her appearance, dripping in gold and jewels and sporting a blue floral walking stick. In many ways, dementia is almost a kind disease, or kind to the sufferer at least. My gran didn't realise she was anything other than independent, able and healthy and although hard for my family and in particular, my dad, she passed away as proud as she lived. It's seeing someone you loves mind deteriorate, their control of their life slip away and their independence slowly dwindle and feeling powerless to help or stop it that's so heartbreaking and utterly frustrating.

Dementia Scotland, amongst others wonderful charities, are fighting to raise awareness of dementia and fund research into potential cures or treatments. It's an truly awful disease that will affect 1 in 4 of us. I take great comforting in the knowledge that my gran didn't see herself in the way we tried to hard to prevent but the day we can make this fate less and less likely for more and more people, I'll be a very happy lady.