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DON’T LET CAMBRIDGE KILL YR CREATIVITY

Hi everyone! It’s your editor here, offering constant affirmation and creative encouragement. Here’s a press release I just penned:

GENDER AGENDA is the women's campaign zine. A zine is short for 'magazine' and, as a form, zines have their roots in political, punk, and riot girl cultures. We are different to other publications in Cambridge because we want to encourage taking up creative space without any pressure to be perfect. Imperfect grammar? Poems written all in capitals? A bunch of nudes you want to publish yourself? GENDER AGENDA is the space for it. We accept almost every article, short story, poem, collage, art piece, collection of tweets that gets sent to us, either via our facebook page or email (genderagenda@cusu.cam.ac.uk). As a branch of the women's campaign, we accept submissions from self-defining women and non-binary people. Our website takes submissions on a rolling basis and the physical zine gets printed once a term (and we have a big launch party - get in touch if you want to DJ). This term's theme for the printed zine is "NEW BEGINNINGS" and the deadline for submissions is Friday 10th November. I can't wait to see your submissions! Don't let Cambridge tame your creative heart.

Hope it inspires you! Get in touch.

MICHAELMAS 2017 THEME ANNOUCMENT

★★★★ THE WOMEN’S CAMPAIGN’S GENDER AGENDA ZINE IS OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS ★★★★

The theme for the winter edition is NEW BEGINNINGS / (RE)START. We’re looking for prose, poetry, essays, visual art and anything else that can be photocopied and distributed in the zine. Submissions are open to all self-defining women and non-binary people + can be anonymous. Get in touch with our zine officer Claire Sosienski Smith via the email below if you have questions, we’ll see you in week seven for the launch party!

Deadline for submissions: 10th November.
SEND YOUR SUBMISSIONS TO: genderagenda@cusu.cam.ac.uk

GOOD ENOUGH (SHOUT OUT TO MY IMPOSTER SYNDROME)

By Claire Smith

I think a lot about Ira Glass’ advice to young creatives about taste and the gap between the good taste that got you into creative work, and the quality of the stuff you currently produce. How so many people give up because that gap in quality and taste is hard to stomach. But the only way to close the gap between your killer taste and your average work is to keep creating. The work you make catches up at some point. The gap between my taste and my work is cavernous at the moment and it makes me not want to write. I’d rather do nothing than do something poorly.

This perfectionism is such a chokehold. It’s a step for me to call this perfectionism, as a person who has previously told counsellors that I am far too fine with leaving unwashed dishes in the sink and going out with unbrushed hair to be a perfectionist. Turns out that looking beyond the superficial means admitting that there are hidden perfectionist traits lurking deep within me, like the crumb-encrusted plates currently submerged in my overflowing sink. Quite simply, I think nothing is good enough. I think I stutter out sentences, half-formed and limping, and feel people’s eyes widen in horror as they try to decode whatever I am trying to say. I remember getting so tongue-tied trying to talk about my favourite painting because I was so intimidated by the person who asked about it. I still cringe about how ridiculous the sentences were that left my mouth, how I undersold my enthusiasm and quickly changed the subject to push any attention away from myself.

I recently opened a document on my home computer with its myriad of folders from 2013/4, and all it said was “speak up, dance and don’t fuck idiots.” It seems like pretty good advice. Forget my audacious aims of routines and nights of good sleep with freshly flossed teeth. I am allowed to be unruly as I want to be. I am allowed to not learn my lesson after the fifth time of drinking too much, as long as I am not hurting anybody. Not hurting anybody does include myself, but one night of drinking isn’t going to hurt, neither is not moisturising twice a day or imbibing trace amounts of dairy.

There are things more important than perfection. Everything in fact. People who know how it feels to be insecure twenty year olds are getting us hooked on hydration, meditation and moderation – some with the best intentions, some with only economic concern. We’re not making too much of fuss because we’re too busy worrying about the minutia. Maybe the creative work I’m producing and the face I’m presenting to the world is in serious need of some finessing, but obsessing over these little things is keeping me distracted from the goal of just doing something and showing up. I remind myself constantly that the first step is showing up, and the rest is all a bonus.

Look at me laying down some truths that have got me through my last years of education. Ripping off a few band-aids. That’s what writing can be: letting things breathe and letting things go. Peeling off the plaster and being like “Woah… Gross.” But we all bleed, right? Exposing my weird so we all feel a little more comfortable in our imperfections. Accepting that I’m a pimple on this planet, which is a giant ball of water hurtling around the sun anyway. Acceptance in the face of rejection and uncertainty. It’s worth a try. So come on, rip off the band-aid. Scabs are the original clickbait.

Help resurrect the Gender Agenda website. University life is full of over-edited and competitive articles. Bring me your midnight ramblings, the poetry you save on the notes of your phone when you’re inebriated, in the toilet cubicle, too inside your own mind. Did you just take a few absolutely sick selfies that you want to compare to renaissance art, a la tabloid-art-history? A bunch of haikus about how annoying I am? I want to read them. Gender Agenda is taking all this and more that can fit beneath the umbrella of gender identity and intersectional feminism from women and non-binary people. This is your invitation to bridge the gap and take up space – perfection is not necessary here.

Send your submissions to womens@cusu.cam.ac.uk

How To Make Love With A Trans Person

Em Travis, after Gabe Moses

content note in the linked piece for v explicit sex, violent body imagery, surgery and needles and scars, mentions of illnesses, car-crash analogy mention, non-binary erasure, romonormativity and descriptions of hypothetical transphobia

content note in this poem for sex, violent body imagery, scars, imprisonment imagery to imply systemic cissexism/transphobia

As a trans person who has sex with trans people, I read this poem and loved a lot of what I read. The concept of challenging preconceptions about body parts and about what kinds of sex trans people will want to engage in, and the reassurance that it’s okay to fumble through and experience a shared discovery of new positive kinds of sex with your partner, is something I know resonates very deeply with many trans people.


I was compelled to write a response poem, to add to and reply to the original, because I felt there was more to say. I wanted to emphasise most strongly that trans people are not a monolith. Some of us have gone through aspects of physical transition; some have not yet; some are unable to; some have no wish to, and never will. Some of us experience constant physical dysphoria relating to our bodies or to parts of our bodies, and some of us never or rarely experience it at all. I wanted to elaborate with more representation of experiences outside of a binary trans narrative, using pronouns other than just he/him and she/her, including neopronouns that some people may not be very familiar with (disclaimer: no pronoun is inherently binary or non-binary).

My response is written with for a more explicitly cis readership than the original, which was very deliberate – firstly, because I wanted to underline the necessity for cis people who have sex with trans people to communicate with them individually about what they want and don’t want, rather than assuming that all trans people have sex in any kind of similar way; and secondly, because one thing that made me uncomfortable about the first piece was the focus on cis people “being okay” with trans people’s bodies, and helping their trans partners “be okay” with their own bodies, without recognising that, as members of an oppressive system, they must also hold some level of accountability for a certain amount of the impetus behind trans people feeling uncomfortable with our bodies in the first place.

(Also: this poem is written in a trans-specific context, but its message is by no means trans-specific. Detailed communication about sex, and explicit consent for specific things within sex, is always important, whether a partner is cis or trans or neither.)

—-

 

The first thing you must learn is to listen.
You will hear the world through new mouths,
words used in fresh ways, sentences that make
no sense to you. Listen until you understand.
This is how you learn who we are, and this
is how we know that when our words are
whispered breathless through trembling lips,
you will still be listening.

The second thing you must learn is to ask.
Do this always, from the moment you meet us,
because words can pile up like weights on our heads
and we are weary of not being given a choice.
Ask how you should form the words to tell faer
how the shape of faer lips and the steel in faer eyes
stop you from sleeping soundly some nights.
Let fae teach you the language of faer limbs.
Ask how ze wants you to say that ze is a land
that you ache to get lost in, hir hands hurricanes
you wish you could be devastated by.
Watch as ze shows you how to navigate hir body
and maps out the boundaries you may not cross.
Above all else, ask before you touch xem.
Ask before you taste xyr skin. Offer xem your hands,
and ask where xe wants them to find their home.
Xe may say everywhere. Xe may say nowhere.
Sometimes, xyr answer will change. That’s okay.
Both answers are the right one.

The third thing you must learn is to remember.
We may be fragile. We may shatter.
Remember not to treat us as though we are
bulletproof. Remember the scars we may bear –
those in plain sight, and those that are invisible.
The puckered lines carved out across eir chest,
and the tangle of swallowed thorns inside it.
Remember not to assume that the most painful
of war wounds are those that reshape skin.
When ey tells you that it was never just eir body
that imprisoned em, remember that you are lucky.
You were taught to be eir jailer. Some days,
ey may still hear the keys to eir cell jangle
in your pocket. Do not betray eir trust. Remember
how lucky you are to be trusted in the first place.

The fourth thing you must learn is to forget.
Forget what you were told your body was made for.
Unlearn everything you have ever been taught
and relearn it in shuddered gasps from vir lips –
not just once over, but again, again, again,
because it is not enough to adjust, not enough
to retune your tongue to a body that you see as
something other than the norm. Forget the word
normal. Forget that you ever thought you knew
how skin and muscle and nerves and chemicals
should bind two hundred bones together, and how
you expected virs to fit with your own.

The last thing you must learn is that we are different –
not just from you, but from each other. Ask. Listen.
Every answer will be different. Do not presume
to understand a body you do not inhabit,
an identity that has never been anything but
misunderstood. She may tell you she was born
in the wrong body, to treat her planes like curves
and her valleys like mountains. They may tell you
they were born in the wrong world, that their body
is boxed by language you must learn to translate.
He may say you are free to worship each part of him
with whatever name you choose to give to it.
Ne may say that you must never touch nir at all.
The last thing you must learn
is that you will never stop learning.

 

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