Ten years

Today marks a decade since my mother was alive.

“I just can’t imagine how that feels,” people tell me. “I just can’t imagine how I’d cope.” They told me that on the day she died and they tell me that now. I don’t have the luxury of not being able to imagine. But, knowing that it was going to happen – and perhaps that is the faint positive of a long illness rather than a sudden death – I tried my best to prepare for it.

I was lucky that we essentially got to say our goodbyes. We got to make things right between us. And she was lucky that she was able to die at home, surrounded by love, and we were lucky to share that with her.

That doesn’t make everything okay. The lottery of illness is unfair and she still had a lot of living she wanted to do. And my family nowadays is small and broken and I don’t know if it can be repaired. But those of us who are still in contact with each other, we do our best.

She is with me when I try to be kind, despite my rage and hurt. She is with me when I bite my tongue and try to be patient. She is with me when I use her funny old phrases, talk to cats, or smile for a photograph. I see her in me, then.

I know that she was proud of me, despite the fact that I made a whole lot of choices she wasn’t thrilled about. I know that she believed I was fine; that, even though I was the youngest, she didn’t need to worry about me because I would always be okay. And I know that she was right about that.

Today I went to the Thai Buddhist temple and kneeled before a monk while he recited a prayer and sprinkled holy water. Even ten years on, it is not possible to avoid crying when I mark her birthday or anniversary. I wrote her a letter and then burned it. The flames took to it so quickly. I regretted that I was not fully present this time a year ago, when I went to light a candle in a church, because I was there with my ex who had just broken up with me and I could not concentrate, was struggling to process two kinds of grief at once. But I also knew she would understand. Of course she would understand. We had a bond.

I’m far away and I am carving out a life for myself in a place she’s never been to. I experiment with churches and temples and quiet spaces to myself, with candles and burning things. Today I think of us, ten years ago and before, at the beginning of this journey. There was always love. There will always be love.

2014: This Is Actually Happening

2014 hurt. 2014 hurt like goddamn. For days-weeks-months-whatever I have been trying to write about it but I can’t; the best I can do is to skirt around the edges. For a long time I thought I might never stop crying. And over and over, I found myself thinking: This Is Actually Happening. Everything I didn’t want to happen all congregated in one massive clusterfuck. It was too much to take in, which is why the grief didn’t seem to let up; once I’d halfway processed some aspect of it, another angle would hit me again. It is still too much to take in, and I’m not really interested in trying any more.

Instead I want to talk about the small shards of hope that pierced my despair.

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2013: The year in cats

Okay, so I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time. I’ve been more focused on writing things elsewhere, and reporting on life as it unfolds hasn’t appealed so much. If you’re interested, I’d be happy if you’d check out my website for up-to-date info on my articles, zines and whatnot; and I’m on the Twitter if you’re into that sort of thing.

Anyway, I hear the internet is rather fond of cats, so I hope sharing the various cats (also, dogs) I’ve lived with in 2013 might go some way towards making up for my silence here.

I began the year, as has become customary, in Lyttelton, a small village (population 4000) next to Christchurch, looking after three cats and two dogs.

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Sex Industry Apologist #2, and other zines

I launched my new zine Sex Industry Apologist #2 at Sticky Institute a week and a half ago, as part of their Paper City zine festival. A whole bunch of people crammed into the shop and I read an excerpt from Taking Ideology To The Streets before handing over to a panel of local sex workers, including members of the Scarlet Alliance and Vixen Collective. An audio recording of the event might show up on the internet in a while.

picture from Sticky Institute

The zine includes a couple recent articles I published online, as well as background on sex work and feminism in the UK, with a focus on the effects of the Swedish model and ‘end demand’ approaches. It has a few reviews of sex work themes in films, books, and theatre, and a quick guide to spotting media bullshit. It’s also illustrated by the very talented Kazimir Lee Iskander.

Also currently available is the first issue of Sex Industry Apologist, which was originally published in early 2010. It kicks off with my essay Belle De Jour Is The New Pretty Woman, before sharing a bunch of reflections on harm reduction, feminism, and the media, all from my perspective as a former staff member at a sex work project. It also includes a list of resources on various issues related to sex work.

For ordering info, see jinxremoving dot org.

Hidup Rakyat: Bersih 3.0 in KL

Soalan ditanyakan. Jawapan disediakan
The question has been asked. The answer is ready

I live in Kuala Lumpur, currently. My 32-hour stopover in February wasn’t enough, so seven weeks and six countries later, I came back. I’m here temporarily, but for a longer period of time than I spend in most places. I’ve been exploring the city, learning Malay, cooking and eating epic food, following lizards around, and waking up next to someone I’m completely smitten with. And last Saturday afternoon I found myself in front of the Lotus Hotel in the city centre, surrounded by protesters who had just been tear gassed.

Behind me, two young women were crying “Allāhu Akbar.” I got out of the way as a trampled body was carried into the hotel. Bottles of water were thrown to the street from the upstairs windows, and eventually a couple of emergency fire hoses were aimed from them as well, to cheers from the crowd down below. Protesters offered salt and water to each other. Riot police paced at the corner of the street, so I figured I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Masjid Jamek LRT station was closed, but its metal shutters had been broken by people desperate to escape the gas, and police would later follow them in to beat them.

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Outside the Syrian embassy, Kuala Lumpur

Burning Assad

I had 32 hours in Kuala Lumpur and my principal interest was finding the Syrian embassy. I couldn’t deal any more with the disconnect between the atrocities documented every time I checked Twitter and the conversations I had with people around me when I surfaced from the internet: “What, there’s something going on in Syria?”

7800 martyrs, 500 children, 400 female

I didn’t know if there would be a protest and I didn’t know how to find out anyway; I just went, hoping that showing up on a Friday might increase my chances. I was right. Riot cops hovered around the periphery while flags, fists, placards and voices were raised. I caught only one or two keywords from the mainly Arabic speeches, but the pain, horror and outrage was clear. I had come here not only to show solidarity, but because I had reached a point where I desperately needed to be among other people who cared about what was going on. The attendees were mainly Syrian students, people directly impacted by the violence. A Somali who had just moved to Malaysia after twelve years in Syria told me of his classmate, Sardasht Ali, who was shot dead in the street, eighteen years old. He hoped to return to a Syria free of Assad. Insha’Allah.

All of Somali people with Syrian revolution

As the demo drew to an end, we headed back the way we had come, before a large group of Malay Muslims passed us by, heading too for the embassy following Friday prayers. A second protest, this time with locals showing their solidarity.

Malay Muslims demonstrate

And I wonder what it will take for white Westerners to pay attention and get angry now that there are no prominent fictional lesbians in the movement. Is the name Hamza al-Khatib as familiar to my peers as that of Amina? Hamza’s body was returned to his parents last year after he had been detained for protesting; they found that his jaw and kneecaps had been smashed, he had three gunshot wounds, he was covered in cigarette burns and his penis had been cut off. Whenever I see a photo of him, a smiling thirteen-year-old, my heart feels shattered. This is what the Assad regime does to kids. As one of the signs at the demo read: “The regime is committing massacre while the world is watching silently.”

Syria, Homs, the regime is committing massacre while the world is watching silently

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Jennifer the snail


Cobwebs are everywhere here, and spiders with ugly bodies and long legs. They hang curled up like closed umbrellas, then reanimate to trek across walls and blankets. The house is a rickety old thing that sits on a hill. The door is never locked. When the big earthquake comes, I don’t fancy this place’s chances, but last week’s shaking and rumbling didn’t bother me. Maybe I adapt too easily to my surroundings. The people who live here find the earthquakes scary.

The wifi password wishes death to the multi-millionaire landlord. The people who gather here talk about protests, stick and poke tattoos, dodgy hitch-hiking episodes and sex work. A collection of bangles conceals the words SLUT LIFE. Terms like genderqueer, fatphobia, cultural appropriation are known and used. Clothes come from op shops and chance discoveries in the street. Peggy Lee makes frequent appearances on the stereo. I drink vast quantities of genmaicha, make grilled cheese sandwiches and read Sexuality And The Stories of Indigenous People.

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