Hi, I’m Bi

Sometimes I like boys. Sometimes I like girls. Sometimes I like people who don’t identify as either.

Liking people of any or no gender doesn’t make me greedy, it doesn’t make me more likely to cheat on my partner, and it certainly doesn’t mean I want to have a threesome with you and your girlfriend John, thanks but no thanks.

The thing is, there are so many harmful misconceptions surrounding bisexuality that many people who identify as bi are afraid to acknowledge their sexuality, and instead chose to be labelled as gay or straight. I’ve done it – sometimes telling older relatives that I could marry a man or a woman or someone in between becomes tiresome, so I just sit there and smile while they talk about my future husband. It’s often easier to let people believe that you fall into one or the other camp, rather than explain that you’ve pitched your tent somewhere between the two. Except it shouldn’t be. Bisexuality is a real, valid sexual identity and should be treated as such, especially considering the fact that more than half of the LGBTQ+ community identifies as bisexual.

So, with so many bisexuals roaming around, what does it actually mean to be bi? In my experience, people assume that the ‘bi’ in bisexuality means that we are only attracted to two genders, cis men and cis women. While ‘bi’ does mean ‘binary’ or ‘two,’ it doesn’t mean it in the way that most people think. Rather, bisexual people are attracted to people who identify as bisexual, like themselves, and people who identify as something else. Speaker Robyn Ochs describes bisexuality in the following way:

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

So as someone who identifies as a bisexual woman, sometimes I am attracted to other bisexual women, and other times I’m attracted to people who aren’t bisexual women. The wonderful thing about being bi is that I am not limited in my sexual or romantic attraction – I can have feelings for a person regardless of their sex or gender. Rather than only being attracted to a small portion of the world’s population, I now have the potential to be attracted to anyone! Does that make me greedy? Some people might think so, but I think it just means I have enough love in my heart to accept and be attracted to people as who they are, rather than what they identify as.

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Don’t Touch My Tattoos

I don’t have any visible tattoos that you might notice at first glance. I do, however, have some large tattoos in intimate places on my body that one can only see if I consciously wear clothing that shows them off. I did not, and I cannot stress this enough, get these tattoos done so that other people can see or worse, touch them.

Consider this: I have a tattoo on my thigh that peeks out slightly if I wear shorts or a skirt. It’s only a few months old, and I got it done during winter so very few people have seen it to date. However, during a particularly unnaturally warm day a few weeks ago I found myself in a public place wearing a skirt that revealed the slightest bit of ink on my leg. Of course, I didn’t think anything of it because my tattoos are an inextricable part of my body, but it would seem that certain people still think they are a novelty akin to communal artwork. I was made acutely aware of this when I ran into a friend of mine walking with a group of people I didn’t know, and, while talking to my friend, felt my skirt being lifted up my leg. His friend, someone I have never met before, apparently wanted to have a closer look at my tattoo and thought it completely acceptable to touch my leg and lift my skirt up to reveal my thigh to the entire world.

I slapped his hand away as soon as I noticed what was going on, yet he stilled seemed shocked at my reaction when I told him what he did was completely inappropriate.

“It’s such a nice tattoo, I just wanted to look at the whole thing to see what it is. There’s no need to freak out so much, just calm down.”

Just calm down? I felt completely violated and so disrespected that I could barely contain myself. Here was this stranger who thought I was overreacting to him touching my body without my consent, and I was suddenly the bad guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to talk to you about my tattoos and I love receiving compliments about them, but if you violate my personal space or put your hands on my body you are no longer simply appreciating my artwork. I don’t know if there is some sort of gender bias at work here, because I’m a womxn and popular culture has taught men that they are entitled to womxn’s bodies, but what I do know is that touching someone anywhere, especially in an intimate and private place, is completely unacceptable regardless of gender.

If I didn’t have a tattoo, what that man did could be considered sexual assault, but since he was just ‘admiring’ my ink his actions suddenly became ok.

Well, here’s what I have to say to you, random stranger: you are not entitled to touch my tattoos. You are not entitled to lift my clothing. You are not entitled to expose me for your viewing pleasure. You are not entitled to my body.

You are not entitled to my body.

Suit Up Boys

I’m not on birth control, even though I engage in casual sex quite regularly. Not because I don’t want to be; I tried the pill for a few months, but unfortunately it interferes with the other, more important medication I already take, so I had to stop.

Although the pill is great at preventing unwanted pregnancies, it does nothing to stop the transmission of STIs, so even while on it I made sure that when I slept with a man, he suited up. Most of the time I didn’t even have to ask; most of the time the man I was with brought his own condoms and automatically used them. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at finding nice guys, and I’ve only ever had one experience where I heard this phrase:

“I don’t like the feeling of condoms. I’ll pull out, I promise.”

When he said it I froze, and then I laughed. Perhaps that wasn’t the right reaction, but for me it was an automatic response to a ridiculous situation. He started spouting some nonsense about condoms reducing sensation while I hopped out of his bed and began pulling my clothes on. When he realised I was leaving, he told me that he was good at pulling out, that only about 20% of couples get pregnant while using the withdrawal method, but that would never happen because he could “tell when it [his orgasm] was coming.”

I will admit that I started laughing again after his little speech. He was trying to justify not using a condom by telling me that I only had a 1 in 5 chance of getting pregnant? He had obviously done his research into the pulling out method, so I find it strange that, in all of his reading, he didn’t once consider the fact that a) we weren’t a couple and I had no reason to believe he could control himself, and b) 20% is far too high a percentage to risk.

Before walking out the door I asked him about STIs. He told me he was clean, and scoffed when I asked when he was last tested. Apparently the answer was never, which is not only incredibly dangerous but also, in my opinion, disrespectful to all of his partners. Before turning my back, I told him he was arrogant and naïve – nobody is immune to STIs, and anyone who engages in sex with multiple partners should be tested frequently.

Thankfully, I dodged a bullet that day.


When I went home, I checked up on his research: according to Planned Parenthood and the Feminist Women’s Health Center  the withdrawal method results in pregnancy roughly 19-27% of the time when used incorrectly. So yes, he knew his pregnancy facts, but he clearly did not realise that most STIs are transferred almost 100% of the time when using the withdrawal method. That is not a chance anyone engaging in casual sex should take.

 

What’s In A Name?

In a bored monotone on a Friday afternoon, a government official spoke the words that ripped away my autonomy and reminded me that yes, we do still live in a man’s world.

“You need permission from your father, or another male relative to change your surname.”

I was over 18, a legal adult, and was still denied the right to chose a name for myself simply because I am a woman. Never have I felt so disenfranchised than in that moment, when my entire identity seemed to belong to someone else.

When we are born, our parents normally pick our first names for us, a seemingly arbitrary combination of letters that make up the sounds we belong to. But our last name, in Western cultures, is decided on before we are even conceived – we inherit our father’s name. Although it is becoming more and more normal for women to keep their so-called ‘maiden’ name when getting married, most children are still automatically named after their paternal family members.

I am not my father’s daughter, and I no longer wanted to be known as such. I wanted to legally show the world that my mum is my family, and the only way I could think to do so was by changing my name to hers. Realising that made me recognise that actually, Shakespeare was wrong about the significance of names.

Although a rose would still smell as sweet if it went by any other name, it would not be a rose as we know it. To use the world of celebrity as an example, consider Caitlyn Jenner: one of the most important parts of her transition was changing her name from Bruce to the name she felt represented her as a person. Calling her Bruce is the epitome of disrespect, because she isn’t Bruce. It really is as simple as that.

Except for me, it wasn’t simple.

It’s difficult to explain how important your name is to someone who feels comfortable with his or hers, or how negative connotations to that specific sound can colour your entire perspective of yourself. But it’s nearly impossible to explain how difficult it is to write out that name when it doesn’t belong to you, when you identify as someone else. We build up our identity around our name, it represents our integrity and abilities, so when your name is not what it’s meant to be, you feel like a fraud. Writing that surname brought a bitter taste to my mouth, because it didn’t belong to me.

Eventually I gave up trying to explain myself because my case was so unusual, and only a small handful of people actually understood what I was going through. A lot of my friends and acquaintances tried to tell me that it just wasn’t worth it, that the arguments and bureaucratic battles were a waste of my time. Maybe if I hadn’t fought, if I had simply bowed to the system and tried to convince my father to sign away his naming rights, it wouldn’t have taken over 18 months for this process to be legalised. Maybe my application would not have been ‘lost’ twice. Maybe I would not have had to waste hours of my life waiting in lines only to be turned away. The only thing I know for certain is that I would not deserve my new name if I had simply let my sex determine my rights. I wouldn’t be making my mother proud by letting government officials convince me that I’m still owned by my father because of my two X chromosomes.

My name is Tessa Knight, and I am my own person.


*In South African law, The Birth and Deaths Registration act, section 26 (Assumption of another surname) part 2 says the following: 

At the request of any person, in the prescribed manner, the Director-General may, if he or she is satisfied that there is a good and sufficient reason as may be prescribed for that person’s assumption of another surname, authorise the person to assume a surname other than his or her surname as included in the population register, and the Director-General shall include the substitutive surname in the population register in the prescribed manner.

Why I Don’t Like Dumbledore

 

Trigger warning: mentions of abuse


Albus Dumbledore was a great wizard but a shit person.

Hold up, HP fans, let me explain.

I love Harry Potter. How could I not? I was the perfect age to grow up with Harry; I went to midnight book releases and the first movie previews, my parents read me the books before I could read them myself and I, along with almost every other teenage girl, dressed up as Hermione for Halloween nearly every year.

With that being said, I still think that Albus Dumbledore was not a good person.

Why?

Quite simply because Dumbledore left Harry with Vernon and Petunia Dursley. Albus Dumbledore, one of the most venerated characters in literary history, knowingly left a child in an abusive environment.

As the daughter of an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive father, I think that is one of the worst things an adult can do to an innocent child.

And yes, HP fans, I do understand his reasoning. Allegedly, spending time with Harry’s aunt would protect him from Voldemort, as she was a direct relative of Harry’s mother, Lily. The charm that was enacted when Lily sacrificed her life for her son, would, supposedly, continue to protect Harry if he lived with his abusive aunt and uncle.

And yes, I do understand that Dumbledore was not omnipotent and wouldn’t have been able to predict Voldemort’s plans, but he was also an incredibly powerful wizard who made no attempt to save Harry from being forced to live in a cupboard.

In my opinion, Dumbledore was an incredibly manipulative man. McGonagall explicitly tells him in the books that the Dursley’s are not good people, and yet he still leaves a child on their doorstep at night, in the middle of winter (which would constitute criminal negligence nowadays). He didn’t ask them if they wanted to adopt Harry, he simply forced another child onto two people who he was told where not very competent parents to start with. And then does nothing to try and rescue Harry from an abusive home. Although some people say that he didn’t know what was going on in Harry’s home life, I doubt that very much. A powerful wizard like Dumbledore, who had so much resting on Harry, would have easily been able to check in on him without exerting much effort. And yet, he did nothing. He let Harry endure years of abuse, to what? Build his character? Make sure his fame as The Boy Who Lived didn’t go to his head?

I’m sure there are some loopholes in my theories, but I will always stand by the fact that adults who ignore the suffering of a child when they have the ability to help are not good people, and adults who are in a position of power and knowingly ignore a child being abused are definitely not good people.

Remember, abuse does not have to be physical; it can be emotional or verbal as well. I felt so much more connected to Harry on the days that my father yelled at me or told me something was my fault because I knew that Harry had felt the same way. The Dursley’s were his abusers, but Dumbledore, like many people in my life, was the person who failed him most. Dumbledore watched as Harry was shoved into a cupboard and treated like dirt for his formative years, and instead of helping him, he went on to groom him into becoming a child soldier, someone who was willing to die for the greater good.

Even Snape realises what Dumbledore did was horrific when he is finally told of the connection between Harry and Voldemort in The Deathly Hallows:

“You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment? You have used me… I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter…” (chapter 33 p. 182-185).

At the end of the day I see no reason why a reader should like Albus Dumbledore. He leaves Harry in an abusive household, he lies to him, keeps secrets from him, becomes a father figure to him then lets Harry watch him die, and all the while making sure Harry grows into the type of teenager who will sacrifice himself.

And that, fellow HP fans, is why I think Albus Dumbledore is not a good person.

*if you’d like some more reasons, this tumblr thread lists some of the other ways Dumbledore fails not only Harry, but also many of the other characters throughout the entire series.

And here is some more tumblr inspired wisdom.

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I Got A Pap Smear Today And So Should You

Firstly, I need to preface this article by saying that I don’t know how to be a proper adult yet and I still find making doctors appointments super scary, so I nagged my mum and eventually she did it for me.

Unfortunately, good ol’ mum failed to mention that the gynaecologist about to put his fingers into my vag was a man, so when I walked into the doctor’s office I was greeted by the sight of a balding gentleman rubbing his hands together and staring at anatomical pictures of female genitalia. Safe to say I was a little creeped out, but I only really started sweating when he introduced himself as my doctor.

I was so nervous. Most of the women in the generations above me have some sort of horror story to tell about old men sticking speculums into their sensitive areas and cranking those buggers open wide enough to have a sneak peak at their cervix. I was prepared for pain, but I needn’t have been.

The doctor was lovely. It turned out that he was rubbing his hands together to try and warm them up in order to make the whole “stranger sticking his fingers into my vagina” experience slightly more pleasant, which I did appreciate when the time came to get down to it.

All in all, the procedure didn’t hurt one bit.

When it was over I mentioned that I had avoided this visit for years because I had expected the procedure to hurt. I was told that I was not the only woman to do so, and when I said that I didn’t think it was all that important I was promptly informed that I really wasn’t the only one.

The thing is, we don’t talk about vaginas enough. Female genitalia is still a taboo subject and honestly, that needs to change. I shouldn’t have avoided an important doctors appointment because I was ill informed and too scared to take my kit off in front of a trained professional. And the fact that there is an entire medical field dedicated to keeping vaginas healthy goes to show just how important it is to look after our little ladies.

Personally, I got tested because a friend of mine contracted HPV and sent me this document from the HPV Information Centre. It’s long and arduous to read, so here’s a summary of the important facts:

  • HPV is considered to be the most common sexually transmitted infection out there, to the extent that almost every sexually active person will contract it at some point in their lifetime.
  • HPV can cause cervical cancer in women.
  • Cervical cancer ranks as the 4th cause of female cancer in the world, and the 2nd in woman aged 15-44.
  • 830 million women aged >=15 are at risk of cervical cancer worldwide.

All I can say to that is go get checked, if for no other reason than to get a cool ultrasound picture of your badass, baby-making uterus to stick on your wall.

The Tavern on Mars

I have killed Victor Camps. There isn’t much way to sugarcoat that kind of news, so I’ve decided saying it outright is probably for the best. I haven’t actually killed him. I killed him in my head, and burnt the chair he gave me as a wedding present, which equates to the same thing if you ask me. If you’re a law-abiding citizen, that is. Obviously actually killing him would be more effective, but I can’t stand the sight of blood. Makes me slightly queasy just thinking about it, so I’m going to stop. I have made the mistake of sitting in his silly little restaurant, The Tavern on Mars, for vengeance sake. What a stupid name. But it does make frustratingly good eggs. The fact that it’s right next to a busy road is fortunate, though. I’m quite sure that drives away at least a few costumers. Thankfully they don’t read the story Victor wrote and put on the walls, although I think they would leave anyway if they did.

 

“Can I get you anything else?”

 

“Yes, another plate of eggs. Please.”

 

“Ok. What are you writing?”

 

“Something banal, probably. I’m not sure yet. Can I get some chips too? Please.”

 

She’s nodding now, the waitress. Good thing my wife isn’t here. She doesn’t like it when I eat crap. Something about cholesterol blocking my arteries and all that jazz. I don’t actually think she knows what that is, but there’s this ad on the telly that plays between her shows about how dangerous cholesterol is. It’s got her all in a tizz, so now I can’t eat chips and have to take these vitamins in the morning that have a faint orange taste, but in that irritatingly slight way that makes you want to eat an orange but also not because they put you off oranges at the same time. It’s quite confusing, so I’ve been avoiding fruit for the last few days. Which makes my wife more cross, because at school we were taught you have to eat at least three fruits a day. School was quite a good time for her, apparently, but I found it boring. Most people seem to think that I would have liked English, for obvious reasons. I didn’t not like it, but it wasn’t as fantastic as my wife says her class was. The class I really didn’t like was French, but I was strangely good at it. Je ne sais pas pourquoi. That means I don’t know why.

 

“Hi. Are you waiting for anyone?”

 

“No.”

 

“Can I have this chair then? Please.”

 

“Yes, yes, if you must.”

 

“Do you want it?”

 

“No.”

 

“Okay.”

 

I suppose I should get back to Victor Camps. He was my father’s friend, and apparently liked me quite a lot, although I don’t really think he did. He was alive during the First World War, enlisted in the army, and then got himself gassed by some Germans while having a smoke in the second battle of Ypres, although he never did learn how to pronounce the word. He lived, I should add. But he couldn’t really speak afterwards. I’m not sure if that was solely because of the gas messing up his throat, or a combination of inhaling gas and cigarette smoke at the same time. So when he did learn how to pronounce ee-pres he couldn’t even say it, which was quite upsetting for him, I believe. He still smoked though, but he had to smoke French cigarettes, which apparently aren’t very nice. I can’t really comment on that, not having had one before, although une cigarette est une cigarette est une cigarette dans tous les pays, if you ask me. Obviously he didn’t. But he did ask me whether or not he should open The Tavern on Mars. Well he didn’t ask per say, he wrote it down on a napkin in the pub down the road, but I said yes all the same. We eventually worked out that he should make it very futuristic, with aliens and tellies and spaceships and strange noises playing (although I did tell him that the noises would probably annoy people). He said (read: wrote) that he also wanted it to be old school, like a fusion of the future and the past. I’m not really sure what he meant by old school, and I don’t think many of the patrons of The Tavern on Mars do either, but he was insistent. He made me go and find pictures of what the road The Tavern is on used to look like, which was really quite difficult. We then took it to some artist who added gaudy little aliens to the pictures that I didn’t like but Victor did. After that we found out all the history about what happened in this town, about how the French blockaded the road and used it as a vantage point to try and keep the Germans out. It didn’t work, obviously, and most of the road was ruined because your average road isn’t built to withstand the weight of tanks and missiles and whatnot. But we did it anyway, and Victor wrote a little piece about how he had to help put the road back together so that the Germans could get their tanks over it, even though he didn’t know anything about building roads. He did it anyway, though, and with the help of a few other men they got the road fixed, and the Germans got their tanks over it and went on to gas more people in other places.

A few months after that Victor watched a documentary on how eventually cars will fly and how everything will be electronic, and got a bit upset that he had wasted all that time building the damn road when it would just be remade in a couple of years time. The general consensus is that the gas made him a bit loopy, so to say, and that’s why he kept going on about flying cars and flying saucers and flying people. I think that’s why he wanted to make The Tavern on Mars a strange combination of the past and what he thought was the near future, so he wouldn’t have to redo the whole place in a few years time. He was a strange man.

Anyway, onto why I’ve killed him. In my head, that is. The reason is quite simple: Victor Camps has painted the road outside The Tavern on Mars. Purple. He painted it purple, because apparently that’s a very futuristic colour. It’s just a small patch, to be clear, but it’s not the colour a road should be. And now he’s just disappeared. Left a note saying he’s been abducted in my letterbox and then vanished. Maybe he has been abducted, I’m not really sure, but I do know that I have to pay for the road to be re-painted. Which is why I’ve killed him in my head, and burnt the chair he gave me as a wedding present. It was a garish thing, covered in stars and spacecrafts. I’m also taking the tellies that are in The Tavern, so my wife and I can watch in different rooms. Plus, I think that will ruin business a bit more, because most people just come for the eggs and the shows. Someone’s even put some gum on Victor’s story, so I think it’s safe to say nobody comes for that.

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