Posted in Blog, Poetry

What Is Love?

Love

Loses its shine, like unpolished wood

 

Only lasts for as long as you feel it

Like butterflies in a case, bouncing against the walls

Eventually they must be set free

 

Varying in intensity

So uncertain, so if you do not feel it

Like yesterday

Then perhaps it was never love at all

 

Endless neurosis

Catching you off guard

When you think it is safe to breathe

 

Love

Loses its shine

Because the sun eventually stops shining

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Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Racism At Work – Competition with Other People of Colour (The Effects of White Supremacy)

Black women at work

(Image source)

Yesterday I went to my second Racism At Work session. The group is led by a Black Clinical Psychologist who specialises in racial trauma. I signed up because I was still suffering from the effects of the racial trauma I experienced with my previous employer, which had left me bedridden from epileptic seizures and mental health issues triggered by the racism. The effects of the racial trauma also left me with a phobia of going back to work.

Thankfully, I’m back in work part-time now, but it’s with an agency, not only because it allows flexibility whilst I finish my MSc, but also because it allows me the freedom I need as a Black disabled woman. While employed with the agency, I don’t have to be bound to a contract with one employer; If I go to one place and hate it, I can just call the agency to tell them so that they don’t send me back.

The best thing about this support group, is being amongst a group of British BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people, who have suffered very similar experiences to me in the workplace; who have suffered such racial trauma at work, that they have been left psychologically scarred for life. Like myself. As difficult at the sessions are, I find it incredibly comforting to be in a group of people who are pretty much strangers, yet they get me, and what I’ve been through and what I am still going through.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I came to be at “Jule’s House of Pain” (my previous employer), posing questions to myself like,

 

why did I think that I could work in an almost all-white staffed school?

 

Other than one Black media teacher and one Black teaching assistant, I was the only employee of colour at this school. I was the only person of colour in the English department. Prior to this, I’d worked in a Secondary school in Hackney for two years, where I was one of many people of colour amongst the staff. My line manager was also a Black British Caribbean woman, who was older than me. At the beginning, our relationship was amazing; She was like a second mother to me, she knew all about the deterioration of my relationship with my own mother and was incredibly supportive. She even let me take on extra responsibilities regardless of my disability and I was the only teaching assistant in the school who was also teaching lessons solo. However, when I decided in the second year of my employment to apply for teacher training in another school, our relationship deteriorated. I’d applied to train in that school the previous year, but my application had been rejected by the mostly white senior leadership team. At first they said that they hadn’t received it (even though I’d had confirmation after submitting the application through UCAS), then after making me wait for so long, they finally rejected my application, claiming that it was because of my lower second-class degree (even though in their application guidelines, they’d said that they would accept and consider applicants with a 2.2). The Head of the English department said that she had fought for me, however the Head Teacher has refused to consider my application. My Line Manager didn’t say anything until the following year when I told her that I was applying again, but to different schools; she told me that I’d been rejected the previous year because of my epilepsy and soon began to divulge apparent murmurings amongst the Senior Leadership Team that I was a burden to the department because of my epilepsy and wasn’t fulfilling my job description… even though I was still working as an Unqualified Teacher at the point, while still only being paid at a Teaching Assistant rate.

The reason why I bring this up, is because in the group yesterday we were discussing toxic relationships at work with other women of colour, who appear to be threatened by the competition they perceive between us as two women of colour and become pawns in the “game” of white supremacy and institutionalised racism, by enacting the behaviour a white oppressor would usually display towards us.

My Line Manager didn’t have to tell me “everything that was apparently being said about me”. She only did it to bring me down, because I had become confident in my role – confident enough to spread my wings to another school even. She was acting like I was gunning for her role, but all I wanted to do was teach! And in a different department! In the grievance, I even put everything that my line manager had told me was being said about me – even by the Head Teacher – and was told that it was all categorically lies. But it’s difficult to know who to believe in a situation like that.

I began to realise that if it wasn’t for this manager, I would never have rushed to “Jule’s House of Pain” to do my teacher training. I was just so desperate to get away from her, that I took the first school that offered me a job. Most of the Senior Leadership Team were leaving during my second year, including the Head Teacher, and the teacher who was taking her place was always supportive of my work. With her and the Head of English looking at my teaching application, I may have had a second-chance. In fact, when I had to ask her to write my Teacher Training reference (she began her role during the last term of my employment), she was disappointed that I wasn’t staying with them to do it at her school. She asked me why I hadn’t applied to train there and by this point, it was almost the end of my employment at the school and I felt like I had nothing to lose by telling the truth, so I did:

 

I was told that my application last year was rejected because of my epilepsy, so I felt like I had no choice but to go to another school.

 

She responded:

 

We would’ve accepted your application now that I’m Head Teacher. We need teachers like you here.

 

By the end of my time at the school, I’d had to file a grievance against my line manager and was moved to the English Department until the end of the school year. But, even being in a different department was difficult because she was still in the school and still talking about me to staff.

 

The irony is that, my Line Manager handed in her resignation after I did. I wouldn’t have had to deal with her anymore. I could’ve stayed in a multi-culturally-staffed school, if it wasn’t for her. When this suddenly dawned on me last night, it broke me, because it brought back all of the trauma I had suffered during my teacher training year. Had it not been for that Line Manager in my previous school, I might have been saved from such trauma. Having to reconcile that although white supremacy played a big part in this game, a Black woman had played a huge part in the demise of my career as well as my mental health, is a difficult pill to swallow. But this is what competition will do, especially when we’re playing the game of the white man. Some of us are so desperate for approval and acceptance from white people, that we will trample over our own people to get it. It’s historical – As slaves, Black people were encouraged to compete for favour from their White slave owners; within families, women in particular fight for the attention and favour of their mothers –  and clearly some of us are unwilling to break the generation pattern. Psychologically, unless we make the decision to break that bondage we could all still fall prey to the orders of the white man. Even if they aren’t explicitly telling us to fight each other, we can still implicitly hear the orders because that’s how institutionalised racism works and the closer you are to your white colleagues or managers, the closer you believe yourself to be to the power that they hold, which of course isn’t true. 

XOXO

Posted in Blog

I Am Black British, I Will Not Get Out of Here

I had my last session with my private therapist this week.

It’s the end of an era.

#celebration #turnup

She’s been a blessing to me, truly. An inspiration. And I’ll always be thankful to her for helping me to create the woman I am today.

I have come a long way. I’m back in part-time work now, which I never would’ve had the courage to do without her help and I’m more motivated than ever to finish my MSc, now that I’ve seen where it can take me!

Backtowork

(My back-to-work selfie)

Before going back to work, I almost had a back slide, following a racially traumatic trip to the North of England. My girlfriend and I rented a motorhome and took a road trip through the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. I noticed that the further North we went, the more people would stare (and glare), and become less friendly, until they were ignoring me completely to pretend that I didn’t exist. In a café in Cumbria in the Lake District, the staff refused to speak to me and kept me waiting longer than other white customers who had ordered long after me. The waitress also didn’t bring me any cutlery with my food, like Black people are savages and therefore always eat with our hands. Then later on the same day, I was asked to leave a pub, while my white girlfriend sat peacefully undisturbed by the staff in the corner. I was asked to leave because as a Black woman, clearly not from the area, I made the manager uncomfortable thus she made me uncomfortable on her land. I sat at a bus stop crying for half an hour, just wishing to be back home in London, even if I do live on an all white street where the neighbours think I’m going to rob their properties or pull a gun out of my handbag each time I reach into my handbag to pull out my keys.

Psychologically, this experience made me want to retreat back into myself. I knew that I was returning to work the following week too, but I very nearly called to say that I’d changed my mind, or that I could no longer work for whatever reason.

But after ranting on social media about my experiences and finding solidarity in my Black sisters online, I found the strength to not give up. One friend even DM’d me to make sure I was ok when she saw my tweets about how upset my holiday was making me.

#Blacksistersgotmyback

It’s a shame that racism marred the trip, because I saw some majestic waterfalls, glorious moors and stunning horizons. England truly is a beautiful country.

(Left image: Peak District; Top right image: Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire Dales; Bottom right image: Cumbria, Lake District.)

 

Moors2

(Image: Yorkshire Dales)

Part of me was initially angry with myself for having put myself into the situation, because “I should’ve known or expected to be racially abused” and I felt that I shouldn’t have made myself go on the trip in the first place. However, it was during my therapy session after the trip where I suddenly realised that (a) I had no right to make myself feel like that, burdened with guilt and shame and (b) I am British as well as Black Caribbean and I have EVERY RIGHT to go wherever the fuck I want in my OWN COUNTRY, my OWN home. Nobody has the right to dehumanise me, but DEFINITELY NOT in my own fucking home. I’m not going to apologise for being alive or being the colour I am just because certain people perceive the colour of my skin to be the wrong colour either.

Which brings me to Love Island, my new reality TV addiction (hence all the random hashtags in this post!)… Samira, the only Black woman contestant has been single since the season launched, because every guy’s type appears to be blonde hair and blue eyes (white), which is not the issue here because this is also Samira’s type. The issue is, as the only Black woman on the island, none of the men find her desirable. At first, when I started watching, my initial thoughts were, “well what did she expect, going on a show like Love Island she’s guna get rejected!” However, upon reflection, I suddenly realised that I was wrong for thinking this way. Why shouldn’t Samira go on a show like Love Island? She’s fucking hot, she’s British and she has every right to go on a dating show like all of her white peers, looking for love, a fling or whatever. Seeing how the other contestants treat Samira, is just the epitome of British racism – the guys treat her like a leper because she’s that sexually undesirable to them, while the girls treat her like an agony aunt, forcing her to put aside her own problems (the fact that nobody fancies her or wants to couple up with her), to listen to the other girls whine about their petty boy dramas, simultaneously rubbing in her face the fact that they have boys to have drama with, while she doesn’t.

To be implicitly and explicitly told that you “don’t belong here”, is what racism is in our country.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Embracing my True Self… and Alex Strangelove

I have so much to write about, so much more pressing events, as I’ve been away and also been super busy with Uni. I’ve also started working, part- time! But more on that later.

I feel like this post has just been burning up inside of me.

Since I came out at a lesbian, everybody has had something to say about it, especially considering I was seemingly straight my entire life before coming out, and more so that my first girlfriend happens to be trans. Even my girlfriend doubts that I’m gay, because according to her I’ve “never tried it with a real girl before” (these are her words by the way, not mine. I see her as a real girl, which is why I’m still with her after coming out).

But here’s the thing, I know who I am. I’ve always known it. Having to pretend for so long drove me crazy. I went to a girls’ school, where I was attracted to my friends, but because everybody in a girls’ school takes the piss out of lesbians, I never admitted my feelings to anybody, not even my closest friends. I even remember masturbating in my secondary school best friend’s house, during a sleep over, while thinking about her. I felt so ashamed. It didn’t help that I was born into a Catholic home and had to endure a strict Pentecostal upbringing, where I was taught that relationships were created to be “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”.

So as soon as I went away to University, I lost my virginity to the first guy who showed interest in me and I didn’t stop trying to prove my straightness to the world after popping my cherry.

alex-strangelove-netflix-before-after

(Image source)

I’ve just finished watching Alex Strangelove, a new Netflix film, about a boy, Alex, who realises that he’s gay during his senior year in high school, while dating his best friend (a girl). He tries and fails epically to lose his virginity, because he’s fallen in love with a guy. He then breaks up with his girlfriend and because he’s still in denial about his sexuality, he goes to a frat party immediately after, to try and hook up with the first girl who shows interest in him. He also plans to sleep with as many girls as he possibly can once he goes away to college, in a bid to run away from his true identity – a gay man. This resonated so much with me, it was unreal. Many of my friends were so shocked when I came out, and are still in denial about my sexuality because of the simple fact that I used to go on about cock so much. I would talk about loving it and wanting it – especially when I first broke up with my ex-boyfriend two years ago. I even went on a shagging spree after our break up, hoping to leave behind my confusion. I actually find cocks repulsive and each time I had sex with a guy, afterwards I would feel soiled, but I buried the feelings deep inside of me, hoping that they wouldn’t resurface.

When my current partner and I first got together, the attraction for me was that I was falling in love with my best friend. I didn’t know that my partner was transgender when we first met, but I remember feeling like the attraction wasn’t like anything I had felt with any guy before. It felt feminine.

So when friends also say to me, oh perhaps you’re pansexual (attracted to a person regardless of their gender), again, I cannot agree.

What I love the most about the film, Alex Strangelove, is why critics have commented on how the film dismisses or erases bisexuality, I disagree. It targets the notion that people carry that if you’re struggling with your sexuality, or suddenly “appear to be gay” then you’re probably not, which is dismissive and hurtful to people like me, who are trying to come out to their loved ones and closest friends, only to be greeted with this retort instead of open mindedness. And no, embracing bisexuality or pansexuality is not a sign of “open mindedness” when you are deliberately dismissing homosexuality. When Alex tried to talk to his best friend about his feelings for another guy, his best friend also dismisses Alex’s feelings as “just a man crush”. The amount of times I tried to dismiss my feelings for other girls as “just girl crushes” I cannot even begin to count.

When my partner eventually told me that she was transgender, it was a huge relief. I’d guessed, but I was also relieved to discover that I had in fact fallen in love with a woman, who just happened to be living  as a guy when I met her.

I can only imagine how different my life would’ve been, if I’d been as brave as people like Alex who came out in their younger years. In the finale of the film, there is a montage of YouTubers, who like Alex, post a “coming out” video to the world. They are all young people – either in their late teens and some possibly early twenties – and they look so happy and liberated. I really wish I had been true to myself, not worried about what my mother would think of me (considering we’re no longer talking, it really wasn’t worth pretending to be straight to keep her love and approval) and saved myself a lifetime of heartache. It was awesome to see a young black girl in the montage too, which brings me to my next point. Loads of people claim that it’s patronising to say to somebody that they are brave for coming out. Bitch please. When you’re black and queer, you’re risking everything to be who you truly are. If that isn’t bravery, then fucking shoot me in the minge. 

To anybody reading this, who is afraid to live their true life, please know that I am here for you. Don’t break your own heart to please a world that doesn’t give a shit about you. Show yourself the love you deserve by living your true life.

xoxo

 

Posted in Blog

Speaking Out & Fighting Black

I always feel like I’m constantly crying because I’m constantly disappointed by life.

My girlfriend doesn’t do her share of the housework, so I cry as I obsessively glare at the dirty dishes piling up.

My mother proves once again that she cannot be the mother I deserve, so I cry.

I wake up to a new day and before I’ve even opened my eyes properly I have a seizure, so I cry.

I think about the possibility of returning to work but the thought of doing so fills me with immense fear. So I cry.

When I do work up the courage to apply for jobs, I hit a wall when it comes to the reference requests because my previous employer always find a way to refuse doing it even though they signed an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) promising to give me a reference for any future employment. So when they don’t I cry.

I’ve kept my end of the agreement for almost a year now. Even though I was forced to sign this document when I was mentally unstable.

One of the terms of the agreement was to also keep quiet about the name of that Employer, so even though they are so intent on not only ruining my past career, but any future job prospects, I still have to keep schtum..

The employer was an all white comprehensive secondary school in Finchley. For legal reasons, let’s call them “Jule’s House of Pain”.

And they fired me because I am Black and disabled.

When I called my mum weeks ago to tell her what “Jule’s House of Pain” were doing, she advised me to send an email to the new Head Teacher pleading for her to reconsider. When I asked my mum why I should have to grovel to these people, her response was:

That’s what Black people have to do in this country.

I hated the idea but I did it anyway. The Head Teacher ignored me. So when I got an email from the employment agency I was trying to register with to say that they had to reject my application, because”Jule’s House of Pain” were refusing to give me a reference and thus confirm that there were no Child Protection issues while I was an employee at the school, I decided to fight. I emailed the Head Teacher again, pointing out that she was breaking the terms of the NDA and I would be forced to take legal action against the school.

She emailed me back within a day to say that she had provided the reference to the agency.

My previous email may have helped my case because clearly this new Head Teacher, who wasn’t working at the school while I was there, had inherited the prejudice from her predecessor who had tortured me. This was clear from the way she spoke to me on the phone when I courageously called to speak to her personally. She spoke to me like I was a piece of dirt. Therefore a polite, grovelling email contradicts the Black, aggressive troublemaker she’s evidently heard about. Perhaps she saw my final email as a “last resort” and out of character if she compared me to the same person who had emailed so politely prior. But, as Black people in Britain it is not our legacy to plead with white people to get what we are entitled to. We are human beings and citizens.

But, as Black people in Britain it is not our legacy to plead with white people to get what we are entitled to. We are human beings and citizens.

So now, instead of crying I’m going to fight. I was forced to sign that NDA while I was mentally unstable, so I’m going to seek legal advice on my next steps. When I read it now in my right mind, I see it as worthless like the toilet paper I use to wipe my arse. It doesn’t protect me, it is just an oppressive weapon to shut me up.

My therapist also asked me why I expected them to be co-operative after what they did to me:

This is “Jule’s House of Pain” why would you expect them to give you what you want?

As if that should excuse the continued torture.

Again, this isn’t about getting what I want. It’s about getting what I am entitled to as a fucking human being and a citizen of this country. It’s about being part of a new generation of Black British citizens fighting a long oppressive legacy of colonialism where white people think they can take from us and not have to pay reparations. It’s about fighting against structural racism.

After consciously making the decision to fight instead of cry, last night I dreamt about being in a school but for the first time in over a year, it wasn’t a nightmare and I didn’t wake up shouting and crying.

This time, I was in full control.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Saving Myself

I told my mum a few home truths on Monday over the phone and now I think that she is deliberately sabotaging a reunion between myself and my sister to spite me, or both of us. Not really sure.

I was going to call the house later that evening (because I don’t have my sister’s mobile number but she still lives at my mum’s house), and I asked my mum to let my sister pick up the phone, just so I could ask how she is. At first my mum didn’t want to help but I begged her so she finally agreed. Plus the reason why I was doing this is because she’d told me that my sister is hurting because she misses me so much. 

Then about half an hour before I was planning to call, my mum sent me a message saying that she had told my sister about our plan and my sister said that it wasn’t a good time to talk right now because she had too much on right now.

Giphy

My mum wasn’t supposed to tell my sister that I was going to call. And every single time that I try to reconnect with my sister, I’m told that it’s a bad time because she has too much to deal with right now.

So what? Do I not have shit going on in my life too? Yet I was willing to put all grudges aside, forgive and forget and try to re-establish a relationship with my sister because I miss her and still care about her.

But once again, my mother couldn’t be a parent, she had to be the child that she is and sabotage that. The woman is a joke. 

So let us reflect on what it was I was willing to forgive and forget about, just to muster up the courage to make that phone call on Monday evening: Three years ago, my sister told me that I was faking my seizures for attention, and that I was too much of a burden and she couldn’t deal with me. She also lied about the fact that she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages for weeks. But then after saying all of that, she then expected me to turn the other cheek, she acted like nothing had happened, that she hadn’t broken my heart.

But I wasn’t going to be a doormat anymore; I’d always let my sister get away with treating me like shit because I was not only petrified of losing my best friend. I also didn’t want us to end up like my mum and her sister who don’t talk and hate each other’s guts. So every single time we’d had a fight, I would force myself to be the bigger person and reconcile. However this time I wasn’t going to take her shit, nor my mum’s, so I told them that I needed a “time out” to think about things. I never told them this, but I wanted to re-evaluate my place within a family I’d never felt part of. So I returned back to my home in London and didn’t make contact with either of them for a couple of weeks (which wouldn’t have made any difference to my sister, because as I said before, she hadn’t been returning my calls or messages anyway).

Now, when they retell this story to family friends – particularly my Aunt (my surrogate mum), they tell the story without mentioning that I was bullied out of the family and therefore needed time away. Instead, they tell anybody who will listen that I was getting too big for my boots now that I was living in London and no longer wanted to associate myself with them.

On the phone on Monday, my mum screamed to me that I was the one who left them, when I went to University in 2004 and that I was responsible for going away all those years ago and breaking the family apart. How manipulative must you be to be a mother who holds a grudge against her own daughter for going away to University? And to hold that grudge for 14 years? 

Giphy

She also doesn’t tell people that although she was fine with my sister being in a long-term relationship for so many years, while I was still living with her and my sister and I began dating my ex (which was my first serious relationship), she told me that she was jealous of me and wished it was her instead.

She even said that it wasn’t fair, when would it be her time? 

While I was living at home she used to charge me more rent than my sister, even though my sister earned more money than me, which was the final straw for me when I realised that all those years I’d been living at home to help my mum out, she was actually just using me as a cash cow to stop me from growing up and leaving the nest.

She doesn’t tell people that she told me I was too damaged to be loved; and she denies (even to this day) that she blamed my Epilepsy on me and told me that my love for horror films had opened the door to demon possession.

When I told her that I had started to remember what my dad had done to me and had to confess that I’d lied when I told her that nothing had happened to me, she refused to listen and told me that nothing had happened to me – the devil was playing tricks with my mind. In fact, when I then went to try and talk to my sister, instead of her showing empathy, her response was:

Why did he do it to you and not me? 

I also think that my mum actually blames me for the abuse, because she cannot fathom that the man that she loved could do such a thing, so instead of acknowledging that man she once loved was truly a monster (he abused her too), she seems to feel more comfortable with seeing her child as the devil instead.

In regards to my relationship with my sister, my mum denies that she ever used to play my sister and I against each other  just like her mother used to do with her and her little sister – and whenever we fell out, she would be the one in the middle playing Devil’s Advocate and stirring the pot, instead of being a mother and helping us to sort out our differences. She also constantly used to tell me that my sister was jealous of me.

Giphy

They think that I look down on them, because I’m more educated than them, when in actual fact even though they were my oppressors, up until three/four years ago, I used to worship them and would’ve taken a bullet for either of them, especially my sister.

My mum and I were actually supposed to finally meet up for the first time in three years tomorrow, but I cancelled after what happened on Monday because I don’t want to see her and I told her to not bother to call me until she can be a mother instead of a petulant child. I haven’t heard from her since, but I’m sure I’ll get a voicemail in a couple of weeks where she begs for forgiveness. Again.

This week I’ve had  all of this to deal with, while keeping on top of my module deadlines and thankfully, regardless of crying myself to sleep two nights in a row and barely actually getting any sleep, not only have I managed to make all of my deadlines to finish the module on time (#win), I’ve also managed to ensure that my anger and heartbreak hasn’t triggered any seizures, which I am particularly thankful for. I have yoga and mindfulness to thank for this – even after everything that happened on Monday, I still went to my yoga class, which gave me an opportunity to focus my energies on myself as opposed to people who constantly hurt me. Yoga is also a great opportunity to be kind to yourself and to be thankful to yourself for taking that time out for self-care, which was desperately needed this week. 

I also have to thank my girlfriend, who let me sob on her on Monday evening and let me wallow in my silent moments of reflection yesterday evening, as I ponder what on earth I did in a past life to deserve such a family. 

I bet not once, did my sister and mother stop to think what impact this would have on my Epilepsy. Because they never do. And I share my story not only to vent about my family, but to also encourage other young women like me, who have struggled with psychologically abusive family members (especially mothers), to not be afraid of standing up for ourselves, and to protect what we have built for ourselves and not let toxic family members destroy our empires.

XOXO