War

At Southampton Cenotaph I stand. Busses hiss as they travel past. Cars rev their engines waiting for the nearby traffic lights to turn green. The wind is clean, for a city. I stand, looking on this winter day. The sun illuminating one side of the monument.

To either side are glass panels, engraved with the names of the dead. From the Great War. From the Second World War. From the Korean War and the Mau Mau Upraising. From the Malayan Emergency. So many names. So many. Some from conflicts I’d never heard of.

“Our Glorious Dead” proclaims one inscription on the Cenotaph. Perhaps they are glorious, but War is not. War is bloody. War is violence. War is not glorious.

I stand there, and away fades the present, as I picture how they might have died. Cold and scared in the trenches. Screaming as their plane went down. In a Prisoner of War camp.

One can’t help but wonder. Are we glorifying war? “Lest we forget” we proclaim once a year on one day. And the other 364 days we pay it no mind. The simple poppy has itself become a battleground. It almost seems to have become a contest in itself, a contest to see who can be the most sad and the most respectful of deaths. It’s keeping up with the Jones’s for remembrance day. There are ways to respect the dead, privately and without fuss, without being loud and visible in wearing a symbol. But public remembrance has its place too. I am conflicted.

Is there a way to respect and remember the dead and the sacrifices they made without glorifying the conflict itself? Was there even any other way to end the conflicts, without resorting to war?

War has changed these days too. Now there are drones, and missiles launched from afar. How are we to remember future wars, when we aren’t likely to have so many familiar names to remember, but will likely have far more foreign names to remember?

Referendum

I’ve been meaning to write a post on the EU Referendum we’re having. But well… we’re now on the eve of the refendum. This time tomorrow the polls will be closed and it will be done, for better or worse. I suspect most people who know me know how I’m going to be voting.
I was going to write a post explaining why I’m voting the way I am…. but it’s… frankly… pointless, and I jsut can’t see the point. I’m not going to change anyones opinion by writing, all it will serve to do is frustrate me. This entire campaign period has been full of negativity, misinformation, half-truths and sometimes outright lies. And that’s not to mention hyperbole.
And that’s…. all I can bring myself to write.

On Passion

I make no secret on my various internet accounts, including this blog, that I’m passionate about various causes. From freedom of speech, to the right to privacy. From the naturalists cause – that the human body is nothing to be ashamed or offended by – to believing that social equality is still decades away. From the need for us to tackle our climate emissions now, to the need for global laws for our global internet age.
But with all those causes I find myself asking why aren’t I doing more. I sit at my computer writing, liking, retweeting, reblogging the occasional articles or petitions. Probably once a week or less if I’m honest. This is so called ‘clicktivism’. But aside from a small donation to Open Rights Group each month, what am I actually doing?
I’m not really contributing to any of those causes. The minuscule amount of online activities I do for these really isn’t reflecting my passion for these areas. Why?
I’m not exactly short of time. My evenings and weekends are my own, and the latter of those certainly provides enough time for me to volunteer for an organisation that deals with one or more of these issues. Yet I find myself…. Devoid of passion when it comes to doing anything about these.
A common criticism of my generation, and even more so the up and coming generations, is that we’re lazy. We aren’t engaged in politics or political causes. We will hit a button to sign a petition, but we don’t actually do anything. And I can’t help but feel that this is true for me. Clicking a button is cheap. But actually syatematically campaigning for an issue. That’s expensive, long, hard and with the same guarantee of success as click-signing an e-petition. That is to say, effectively 0.
I am generation lazy. I am also passionate.
I want to scream from the rooftops about the causes I believe in. I also don’t want to leave the comfort of the Internet.
Passion, for my generation, means expressing ourselves on the Internet. Where our potential reach is very large. But our average reach is in our own little filter bubble.
But then… When our only political choice comes once in five years, between two parties where neither represent the views I hold…. What other choice do we have?

Radio Silence and changes

There’s been radio silence on here for quite a while now. There’s a reason for that….
Changes are coming.
If all goes to plan, check back on Tuesday night to meet the new website (that will look very similar to the old one). And hopefully I can resume my semi-regular blogging like I had in 2013

Google+ Names

So, Google have decided to abandon their requirement that you use real names, or (if you’re some kind of celebrity) your stage name, on your Google+ profile.
This is now better than Facebook.
They do at the moment still require a ‘first name’ and a ‘second name’. But unlike facebook they’re policy about how often you can change your name is some what… vague.

Limited number of name changes : After you’ve created or edited your name, you may need to wait for up to three months to change it again. It will depend on how recently you created your profile and when you last changed your name.

Up to three months is a bit longer than facebooks 60 days, but it sounds as though it might be less depending on what Googles Super Secret Inflexible Authoritative Algorithms say. Also the bold section implies that there might be an upper limit beyond which the algorithm will just say no.
Confusingly another place it says

The solution : You can change your name three times every 90 days. If you’ve recently changed your name three times, you may need to wait for up to three months to change it again.

So…. yeah. I think, what it means is that When you change your name, if you’ve had two other names within 90 days you’re stuck with it until the 90 days from the first name change has passed. But I’m honestly not sure.
I’d like the name change restrictions to be much clearer. (Or ideally have no restrictions). They also say that

Some names aren’t allowed. For example, we don’t allow names that are too long, include symbols or numbers,

So… yeah. Apologies to those with hyphenated names. I do wonder what happens if you try putting Katakana in there though.
Still, it’s an improvement, and I think qualitatively they’re now on par, or maybe slightly behind, facebook. Although I haven’t actually done a full review of Googles policies in totality when it comes to names.
(I would apologise for how this blog has turned into ‘bash the name requirements of social networks’, but some can get it right e.g. emoj.li – where your username, and all messages, must be emoji. Names are very very important to me at the moment. So I’m not sorry, and I’m not going to apologise if this kind of stuff bores you.)

Facebook's Real Name Policy — Revisited

So, the post I made about Facebook and their Real Name Policy.
 
There’s been an update
Where it used to say you could only change it four times
FB-Name
It now says that you can change your name once every 60 days.
(A screenshot from the help center, because I changed my name before taking a screenshot)
sdgsdg
 
Their username policy hasn’t changed though – only one change that should contain your real name. Hopefully they’ll update that policy when they realise how stupid it is to allow multiple real name changes, but only one change of must-contain-real-name-username. They also still seem to be very restrictive on what they consider a ‘real name’.
Still, it’s an improvement.

On dismantling online identities

I’ve written before how I wanted to start killing my unified online identity.
And, just over a year since I posted that, it has begun.
The death knell has been struck for the previous lynch-pin – my Twitter. It was the easiest account of mine to find online (a work colleague found it with a 30 second Google search). It made easy to follow links to numerous other online identities of mine, as I cross posted. It was public.
Well, no more.
Yesterday I took the drastic step of just leaving that account. I’ve made a new Twitter. A protected Twitter, so that my tweets cannot be seen by all and sundry. I’ve added some of those that came first to mind as people who I trust with my new account. Hopefully this will enable me to censor myself less on there. There have been things I’ve wanted to retweet, things I’ve wanted to @ reply to, that I haven’t been able to because my tweets were public. And that was getting uncomfortable for me.
 
I’ll keep the old account lying around, I’ll use it mostly to tweet links to IRL things, e.g. if I get a new job or promotion; or tweet links to these posts. But my real Twitter is now only for my close friends. Those who have been let past my second level of barriers. It’s a shame. There are those I really do enjoy interacting with on Twitter – people from work, and those I am friends with, but I need to draw the line somewhere on the new account otherwise I will end up back in the same situation as before.
So, with my Twitter now mostly inactive, I’ve taken one of the biggest steps towards splitting up my online identities. Obviously, my ISP and such like will still be able to correlate (I’m not yet using Tor for all accounts – it seems particularly pointless using it for accounts where people know who I am in real life), and there will always be the possibility of my social graphs causing a link. But that kind of seepage is a lot harder for a generally interested person to find, than scrolling down my twitter history to find where I’ve linked to my other accounts.
In addition, as my Twitter was the source for most of my FB posts, that is also going to be going rather quiet. I mostly use FB for messages now anyway, so I guess not much has changed in that regard.
Now I just need to swap out my other accounts for new ones as well. That’s a lot easier when they don’t enforce real name policies. But that can wait until this new Twitter has settled down.
Speaking of which, it’s likely that there are people reading this who aren’t yet following my new Twitter, but could be. Contact me via private means if you’re interested (Twitter DM on my original account, FB message, Email etc). I do reserve the right to not share it though – as I said, I don’t want to start censoring myself on there like I have been before.

2013 in review

As the last moments of 2013 fade into the past, I thought I’d look back at what has been.
The largest is that I did get my 2:1 and I did start working.
In terms of other things, I’ve actually started blogging more over the course of 2013. In 2012 I managed 7 posts. In 2013 I managed 19 posts (not including this one) on various topics of law, gender and technology. I’m really enjoying doing semi-regular blogs, although I’m still relatively bad at finishing posts.
I’ve also, naturally, had a lot of time spent exploring what gender means to me. Quite a bit of this has happened over on a mostly private tumblr I have. I’m glad I made it and separated it out, but it is leaving me somewhat adrift when it comes to integrating it back in to my main online identity – if that’s something I even wish to do.
In fact, Tumblr generally has had a surprisingly large presence in my life this year. There’s been several things posted or asked on my various tumblrs that have really made me think and evaluate my own opinions, and my own situation. I’d argue that, subjectively, my tumblr’s have caused the largest amount of introspection of any online service I use. I’m more open on them than I ever thought I would be – especially in the past few months. With that said there is one large piece of me I still haven’t confronted online, and I don’t really have plans to for reasons I’m not going to get in to.
I feel as well that this year has marked the tipping point in my views of online privacy – see the numerous blog posts I’ve made over the course of this year. My views have gotten stronger but not unreasonably so I feel. It leaves me in an odd situation between my very public internet presences on this blog and twitter, and the other internet presences I try and keep low key and/or private.
And so, as 2014 rolls in I hope for many things, but most of all, I think, is finding a way to reconcile my desire for privacy with my desire to have a public internet presence.

It's been a year

This time last year I came out to my friends, and the readers of this blog, as transgender/genderqueer. And what a year it has been. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about transgender people generally. I’ve graduated university, and started a full-time job, although I’m not ‘out’ there yet.
Side-note: If you ‘re a colleague from work reading this, feel free to keep reading and ask me any questions privately in person or over sametime / notes etc. just don’t mention this to other colleagues – I’ll decide when and how to do that. Thankyou!
So I’ve taken several steps over this year: my wardrobe has expanded in several areas recently; I’ve experimented with nail varnish and with hair dye and shaving. The support from my core group of university friends was amazing.
I’ve also refined my own views on where I’d like to go with this; and on what it means to be transgender and/or genderqueer. It’s really hit home that despite what I just said about wardrobes, nail varnish etc they are all simply gender stereotypes. Even the idea that all men have penises with XY chromosomes and all women have vaginas with XX chromosomes is wrong – it erases intersex people whose sex chromosomes may not be of the traditional XY/XX configurations; transgender people who don’t want surgery down there because of costs, or the risks with SRS; and transgender people who don’t hate their genitals with a passion. The only real way of knowing is to know your inner self. It’s much more a question of “How does being called and read as male make me feel? How does that compare with being called and read as female?”. Indeed, any other question ultimately comes back to gender stereotypes – variously erasing intersex people, tomboys, and ‘effeminate’ men. For some people, myself included, there’s not a major dislike of being classed as one of male or female, but one is preferable to another – the opposite of the one assigned at birth. It’s the distinction between gender identity – what you know inside; and gender expression – how you express that identity and how that interacts with the stereotypes that society places on gender.
How do I know this? I’ve chosen a name. I’ve started using it online with several accounts. It feels right. More right than my birth name, and being read as my birth sex. But being called male doesn’t usually provoke an intense negative reaction. I hope to expand my use of it online, and filter it through to the real world over time.
I’ve started down the NHS route (it’s long and slow and I won’t see a specialist for about a year), and am looking into exactly what my private insurance covers, if anything. I do know I don’t have a hope in hell of passing without some… help.
I’ve become far more aware of exactly how the gender binary, and the resultant gender stereotypes are ingrained deeply into our culture – you only need to look at the questions the consultant psychiatrist asked before agreeing to refer me to a specialist. And naturally that leads to a much deeper understanding of the various “labels” that people use to describe their exact gender identity. For now I’ll stick with the labels of transgender and genderqueer – the latter being an umbrella term for anyone outside the gender binary.
It hasn’t all been progress and rainbows however – I haven’t come out at work, although I feel confident that the majority would be supportive. I also haven’t come out to my parents. That’s something that has caused me a great deal of pain. It’s something I won’t be able to hide forever, but… Well…. I have my reasons, despite wanting to tell them.
It’s been a year. I wonder what the next 12 months will bring?

University is over.

So on Wednesday I had my last University exam.
It’s the end of my formal education (barring going for a Masters at some point in the future). Having been in formal education since the age of 4/5, this is quite something. Yes, I had a placement year last year, but for some reason I don’t really count that – I was still a student really. Still getting e-mails from my University. But that stage of my life is at an end now.
*flumps in to a seat*
So what have I done since the end of that exam? First I went into Bath’s centre and kind of wandered in a stupor for a while before going home and reading a book. I’ve played some games, tidied my room up after the garbage that collected during the revision-snacks phase. Watched the movie Night Watch (The subtitles on Disc 2 are excellent), and I have the last book in the series the film is a loose adaption of on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Rewatched the movie Adams Family Values. Looked in to alternative email/contact/calendar software. Email is one thing I don’t want to have to host myself – dealing with blacklists, spam and security is not something I want to do just to keep my email working. I’m thinking of perhaps using Microsofts Hosted Exchange offering. It’s cheap, but still paid (thus I’m the customer, and not the data). It’s Exchange, so it’s feature rich. And being Microsoft and Enterprisey it doesn’t go through upheavals with social media integration. Sure, they might work just as much with Law Enforcement as Google do – but at least they don’t have my search history as well.
A final thing I’m going to do over the summer is code myself up a private journal software. Yes, I have WordPress. And I could use that, but it doesn’t quite do what I want. Given my quality skills with UI design, I’m sure that this will look all modern and that </sarcasm>. Anyway, here’s a thumb sketch of my requirements:

  • Web access
  • One entry per day. You can extend, but after say a week you can’t edit them anymore.
  • With specific sections for
  • Interesting Links browsed / found
  • Interesting stories read
  • A way to pull in specific Tweets/Facebook/Tumblr posts.

So the way I’m kind of imagining it is a kind of digitally integrated private snapshot of my life day by day. It’ll be interesting to do this. Maybe I can use it as a chance to finally learn JQuery and AJAX and all the web 2.0 goodness? I don’t know. I’ve wanted to get around to learning how to AJAX and JQuery and that, but I’ve never found a tutorial that actually made it click. But anyway, this might be my project over the summer. 4 months of a clear diary is somewhat daunting. Although it will likely be the last time I have this amount of time free.
Well, this turned out to be somewhat rambly. Ooops.