Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Year of Memories

It’s been almost two and a half years since I set up this blog, and every year since then I have written a post on New Year’s Eve. This year is no exception. In fact, 2014 may be the year I have the most to say about. I’ve seen so many other posts and pictures on various social media platforms of people raving about how 2014 has been such an amazing year for them. I am no different to these others because my year has also been spectacular. For this year’s post I’m going to take you through each month of my 2014, and hopefully you’ll understand why I am so sorry to see it come to an end tonight.


2014 couldn’t have gotten off to a greater start than my girlfriend’s 18th birthday. Her present from me was flights to Paris in July for our two-year anniversary. I know what you’re thinking – fucking sap. I don’t care though, it was one of, if not the best present I’ve ever gifted someone with. And before you ask, no she did not cry (which I was mildly disappointed about). We then celebrated her birthday with her best friends at her house that night. I don’t think I’ve had a better time with her friends than that night. They really are great people that I’m fortunate and grateful to know.


So February was indeed the month of my Leaving Cert pres. This may justify why the only pictures I have from that month are of the weekend Caoimhe’s friends and I spent in Dublin once the exams had finished. To briefly mention those exams, I thought they had gone okay so it’s safe to say I was celebrating in Dublin. I remember walking down one of the streets in the capital with Caoimhe and saying to her that I hadn’t felt this free since we started 5th year.

We shopped, we fine-dined, we drank, we partied, and one of us (who shall remain anonymous) got kicked out of a gay nightclub. A wonderful weekend was had by all.


I’m beginning to realise that I made quite a few trips to Dublin this year, two of which took place in March. The first trip I made was with my Killarney crew. We had bought Kevin (my bestie) a ticket to an Ireland match in the Aviva as part of his 18th birthday present, so we were hardly going to let him venture there solo. The match was enjoyable even though Ireland did not emerge as victors. However, it was the night out that truly made the trip worthwhile. It was so enjoyable that I don’t believe there are any pictures of it to be found.

My second trip to Dublin was with Caoimhe. We went to see one of our favourite bands, All Time Low, cause havoc in the Olympia Theatre. The absolute nutters that we are, we sat outside the Olympia from 11am that morning, just to be as near to the front barrier as we could be. Hence the Starbucks takeaway cups in our hands. The wait was worth it because the concert was phenomenal. All Time Low interact with the crowd in a way I’ve never witnessed with other bands. To top it all off, we came away with two guitar picks, the setlist and the beanie hat Jack had been wearing. #Winning.


Ah, April. My month of birth. It being my 18th year, of course I had an 18th party. To be fair, I really did have everyone I love at that party. My family, Caoimhe, my Killarney friends, my Listowel friends; everyone that mattered to me was there. My incredible group of friends (The Lissivigeeners, refer here for full description - ) bought me a ticket to Disneyland Paris, as they knew we were going in July. Caoimhe also took the liberty of sorting out the hotel arrangements in Paris, so I had very little expenses left to pay. What unreal presents, eh!

Another major occurrence for me in April was the Young Artist Development Awards showcase. Now this may sound very professional and fancy, but really it was just a little concert in front of the whole school. However, the part of it that was “major” for me was the fact that not only were myself and two other girls from my music class performing in front of almost 500 people, a few judges and Voice of Ireland winner Pat Byrne, we were performing a song I had written. By that I mean that I wrote the lyrics, and the other two girls came up with the melody and music for it. But still, having my lyrics sang in front of that many people was overwhelming. Even more so was the reception we received. Many, many students approached me in the aftermath telling me how much they loved the song and how powerful it was. Though we didn’t make it through to the YADA final, that showcase meant a great deal to me, and stands out as one of my greatest accomplishments this year.


Graduation. That is all anyone cared about in May. Yes, we may have been a mere month away from the most important exams of our lives, but all the Leaving Cert class of 2014 was concerned about was the food arrangements, the songs to be sung at the mass, what dresses each of us would be wearing, and where the hell the night would take us once we were let loose.

The night, as expected, was special. The mass was special, the songs that we chose to sing were special, the interlude from Ms. Healy on the flute was special, and the tears it brought to my eyes were special. For me, the mass was the highlight. It was the last time I would ever stand side by side with an inspirational woman, playing songs on guitar that we both loved to play. I’ll never forget the wink she gave me when we finished playing my favourite song. I felt like I had swallowed my heart.

Also, May brought about my last day of school. It was emotional, exciting, nostalgic, and in many ways a very triumphant day for me. I had finally done it. I lasted the six years that many thought I wouldn’t. By that very last day, I was clear on so many things. I knew the reasons I shed a few tears that day, and I knew who I was shedding them for (and who I most certainly was not shedding them for). The best part of that day was the teachers vs students dance-off. The reason that was the best part is because it gave me the picture below. What a way to sum up my feelings leaving that school.

Surprisingly, there’s not much to say about June. I spent the vast majority of it sitting in the confines of my school, taking the most anticipated exams of my life. When those exams came to an end, I really didn’t do much. I relaxed, I went out a few times, and I just lapped up the feeling of complete freedom. So yeah, it was a pretty boring month which is why I have zero pictures to show.


Christ, if I was to go through every aspect of July we would all be here a very long time. In fact, it wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve anymore.  To sum it up, I went to Paris with my girlfriend and when we landed back on home turf, we went straight to an Arctic Monkeys concert. Fucking epic. Since there is way too much to say about July, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking.


The month of the dreaded Leaving Cert results. Oh, how I was anxious. When the day finally came, I went into a sort of shutdown mode. I showed no emotion as I walked into the room with my vice-principal. It was only when she handed me the certificate that I broke. As I scanned the sheet of paper through bleary eyes in search of my English grade (the one that mattered for my course requirement), I fell to the floor when I realised all the grades showed the same letter. The vice-principal got the shock of her life, I’d say. I asked her to tell me my English grade, just in case I had hallucinated my results. When she said A1, I said fuck off. I immediately apologised, of course. I continued to weep and sob until she told me my points. I then said “Are you shitting me?” and as before, I apologised again straight away.

That, my friends, was a moment I would pay anything to relive again.

August also saw the best Muckross staff night out EVER. For the first time in my four summers working there, all of the summer staff got along really well. There were no bitchy cliques (as there had been in the past) which made the night out so great. I became friends with people I never thought I would, and I strengthened my relationships with people I already adored. Success? Hell, yes.

September, October, November

The reason I am putting these three months together is because they have sped by so fast that I can’t even pick them apart. The facts of each month haven’t changed, though.

I moved to Limerick at the beginning of September, excited yet nervous of what would be awaiting me. I met my housemates, liked them, met their friends that lived nearby, liked them too, had a few nights out, liked them, and so on. You see the pattern that formed, right? I liked everything about college in September. It wasn’t until midway through October that I fell head over heels in love with college.

As I grew closer to my housemates and their friends week by week, my perspective began to change. I no longer felt like their housemate, nor did I feel they were mine. I felt like I was living with friends. Friends that I wish I had known all my life. Friends that showed me why my “friends” of the past are exactly that.

I love my life in college. I had the best four months of my life this semester. The closest friends I have right now are friends that I have made since moving to UL. That, for me, says more than enough about the position I’m in right now.

“Perhaps I should just leave it at how amazing it is that someone who was, four months ago, a stranger to me, can now mean so much to me.”


What a wonderful December it has been. December 2014 has undoubtedly been one of the best Christmases of my life thus far. To begin with, I was presented with my scholarship certificate by the university, with one of my best friends alongside me receiving the very same award. Not only that, I got a massive surprise to see that my English teacher, Ms. Hennigan, had travelled up from Killarney to be there to receive the award with me. What a bloody honour it was having the woman that inspired me to choose that course in that university standing by my side. Words cannot describe how much that moment meant to me.

Then, of course, came the final hoorahs of the semester. With Christmas dinner had and the exams finally over, we danced our merry hearts away to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in a Limerick nightclub. How utterly satisfying. Saying goodbye to the crew for Christmas was especially difficult, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing them again for weeks.

Christmas in Killarney, however, has been extremely successful. In our family the rate of success was measured by the fact that for the first time in 20 years of marriage, my mom did not ask my dad for a receipt for the presents he got her. See? Successful Christmas in the Dawson household.

2014 really has been a special year in many ways. I’ve made memories I will always remember, I’ve shared experiences I will never forget, I’ve said goodbye to people that changed my life, and I’ve met people that I know are going to bring me a ridiculous amount of joy and happiness in the new year.

So that’s it from me this year. I apologise for the lack of blogposts (Leaving Cert and all), but I will be sure to increase my blogging output in 2015. Until then, have a wonderful New Year and be ready for 2015 – I already know it’s going to be spectacular.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Refreshment, anyone?

In just under two weeks I will be sitting my first end of semester exam. My first taste of a real college exam. Where have the past thirteen weeks gone?

Originally I had planned to write a post at Christmas entitled “What I’ve Learned So Far,” or something along those lines. A few nights ago however, my housemate suggested the title above instead. I knew exactly what she meant. Rather than simply listing off all of the things I’ve learned thus far, I’m going to write about how things have changed for me, personally since my big move to Limerick.

Bitch. That was my first impression of her. The “her” I am referring to is one of my housemates. The first of the females in my house that I was to meet. Her room is opposite mine and for the first few weeks, I wished it wasn’t. I was so sure that we wouldn’t get along and that I’d end up hating her within weeks. What a promising start, eh?

Well, I couldn’t have been more horribly wrong. This girl who I initially despised is the best and closest friend I have now. It just goes to show how wrong we can be about people when we judge based on first impressions. Having said that, she also thought I was a bitch, so I don’t feel that bad.

My judgement is usually spot on when it comes to sussing people out, but I can hold my hands high and admit I made a balls of this one. The connection that has formed between us is crazy. I’ve only ever had one other friendship that can compare to this one, and that friendship lasted 11 years. I’ve never even compared any friendship to the 11-year one so to even make that comparison says so much. I still can’t really believe how lucky I got to be put into a house with this girl. Out of the thousands of people I could be living across from, I’m living across from her. Hashtag winning.

Seriously though, if you lived with us you’d understand why I’m so dumbstruck by it all. It couldn’t be any more obvious that we get along like a house on fucking fire. It’s like we have the same mind, just split in two and in different bodies. We have identical sense of humours, meaning we spend most of our time laughing rather than studying. I’m smiling now because I can remember the first time I knew our personalities clicked. We were watching Forrest Gump at the part towards the end of the movie when Lt. Dan introduces his fiancĂ©e, Susan. I don’t know exactly what we said to each other, all I know is we laughed hysterically and uncontrollably for the rest of the movie. Not only are our sense of humours in sync, we literally say what each other are thinking ALL OF THE TIME. It’s no wonder we find it impossible to close our bedroom doors at night – we never, ever run out of things to talk about or laugh at. I truly mean it when I say I couldn’t have gotten any luckier if I tried.

My luck didn’t run out there, though. I have also been blessed with an incredible new group of friends. Between my house, house 38 and a few stragglers we found along the way, the banter is always in plentiful supply. A day hasn’t gone by where we haven’t had the usual visitors, or made the tedious twenty-metre trip to 38 ourselves.

When I was moving to Limerick the one thing I absolutely did not want was housemates that knew each other. You can imagine how horrified I was on the realisation that three of my housemates went to secondary school together, and another was from the same county as those three. I immediately assumed I would be isolated from their group because I was the outsider from Kerry. Of course there was the sixth housemate whom I had been banking on but by the end of week one he had bonded so well with the others that I began to think he, too, was in fact from Clare.

Yet again I was wrong about the whole thing. They are honestly the nicest, most genuine group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, not to mind living with. I know that invitations to visit them in Clare over Christmas are sincere and not only that, my desire to visit them is also sincere. These are people I truly believe (and hope) I will be friends with for the rest of my life. Fuck it, sure I’ve already asked one of them to be my maid of honour! Not everyone that lands into college in first year gets on with their housemates as well as I do, and I will never take that for granted.

Meeting so many new people has had a massive impact on the person I am now compared to the person I was four months ago. That may sound ridiculous because of how short of a space four months is, but it’s the absolute truth. I feel so fresh and renewed, but most of all I feel untainted. I came here with a blank sheet of paper. No marks from my past followed me here. College has really allowed me to fully close (and lock) the door I had spent six years walking through. I was finally able to ditch the oxygen tank I had been relying on in secondary school and learn to breathe fresh air. What a difference it has made.

Even just living away from home has done so much for me, personally. I know 110% I was not ready to leave home last year, so thank Jesus for that extra year in school. This year, however, was the right time for the change to happen. Everything has fallen into place so perfectly. In fact, I honestly couldn’t have even scripted this; it’s better than any storyline I could write. The transition from living in Killarney to living in Limerick has happened so naturally that it’s almost as if I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. For the life I’m currently living. The best life I’ve ever known. 

And that is something worth writing about.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Being Bisexual

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of bisexuality is being “sexually attracted to both men and women.” A straightforward definition it would seem. Unfortunately the reason I am writing this bloody post is because so many people don’t understand my sexuality. I am frequently asked questions like “Are you sure?” and “Maybe you should think about it again?” Sound lads, but remember back when I was the tender age of fourteen and I bravely came out? Yeah? I HAD ALREADY THOUGHT ABOUT IT AND I WAS SURE. But thank you for your ongoing concern.

The problem that has led me to writing this post is not a personal one. Having said that, this is a personal blog so yes of course I will be referring to myself throughout (as I always do). The real problem here is the misconception of bisexuality alongside homosexuality and heterosexuality. Basically, everyone knows the difference between gay and straight, but how many people stop to think about the alternative? Do we honestly even appreciate that bisexuality does exist? If we don’t we’re simply fooling ourselves. Of course it exists. It’s not like Santa Claus where it exists for a few years and then poof, gone. And it is certainly not “just going through a phase.”

As the definition above does not state, bisexuality isn’t a case of being attracted to both men and women equally. So for those of you that think “Oh, she likes girls more so she’s a lesbian,” go get a fucking dictionary. As bisexual activist Robyn Ochs put it, “bisexuality is 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."

With that said, I am very much aware of how curiosity leads to people tossing the label around like an old hat. I have encountered many individuals who have said to me “Olivia, I think I’m bi.” Turns out most of them were either experimenting or thought it was cool to be bisexual. A lot of people who identify as bisexual do end up coming out as gay/straight in the future, and I’m certainly not denying that. Many people also identify as bisexual because they think bisexuality doesn’t get as much stick as homosexuality. “No, no I’m still half straight” – you’re still gonna get abuse, hun.

In fact, bisexuals face even more abuse than homosexuals. Believe it or not, bisexuality is not accepted as a legit sexuality by many (not all) gays and lesbians. They believe bisexuality to be a compromise of their sexuality. This hostility is not as prominent in recent times, what with the LGBT community rallying together in the fight for equality, and all that jazz. I believe that underneath the surface, however, that hostility still remains.

For many people bisexuality comes as a hard concept to grasp. How is it possible to like both sexes? How do you decide when you want which? The thing is, drumroll please… you don’t. It’s kind of like when you go to a buffet and you’re not sure whether you want the steak or the chicken. Then you go to the counter and see the steak and the chicken next to each other and you’re like “Yeah, I fancy a nice bit of steak tonight.” But at the same time you wouldn’t say no to the chicken either. Get me? What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that the attraction depends on who the person is, what their physical appearance is like, and whether or not they’re actually available. Sounds fairly heterosexual doesn’t it?

Somewhat of a pet peeve of mine is peoples’ tendency to use the term “lesbian” to define my sexuality. How kind of you to recognise that I like girls but hey, guess what? Men have a shot with me too! The funny thing is I always joke about my sexuality. I actually have an example from two nights ago. We were all having a few drinks in the house Tuesday evening and I wandered over to the sofa, only to find three lads lying on the ground together. Without even thinking about it I shouted “HEY! I’m the only one allowed to be in same-sex relationships in this house. I’m going to heterosexual it up here.” And so I proceeded to lie across the three of them, in the most non-sexual way possible might I add.

However it becomes a whole other ball game when someone else changes my sexuality. Either get it right or don’t mention it at all. I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory the other day and in the episode Leonard and Penny get goo all over Sheldon’s seat on the sofa. Howard thought he could help by swapping Raj’s seat with Sheldon’s and he exclaimed “Problem solved.” To which Sheldon replied “If your head had been accidentally amputated, and we transplanted a dog’s head in its place, would that be ‘problem solved’?” Slight exaggeration but that’s pretty much my view when people refer to bisexuals as gay/lesbian.

Even though without reading back I’m sure a lot of this is me going off on a tangent, I hope you can understand the problem here and how it should be addressed. Bisexuality is not a joke, nor is it a reason to make a sexual object out of someone. We all need to show more respect to those who identify as bisexual and to not always try to gently guide them down the path of gay or straight. If you still don’t understand bisexuality, then it is not up to you how a bisexual should or should not act. Bear that in mind next time you try to persuade someone that their sexuality is imaginary.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Oh look, a poem.

A flash of all the memories,
A strike of pain inside,
Just like the wave that hits the sand
And rips it out with the tide.
A broken mind and twisted heart,
A knife right through my spine,
Self-inflicted, as it were;
An accidental suicide.
All is but diminished,
All black, and white, and grey,
A lifeless painting of my world;
A dark and empty space.
The void that only one can fill
Hurts more with every day,
Every day it grows in size
And swallows me like its prey.
So take me to the beach again,
And show me to the sea,
Let me feel you let me go;
Let the waves crash on me.

Monday, 14 July 2014

When Friends Become Frenemies

It’s been a long time coming. To be exact, it’s been two and a bit years coming, this post of mine. Although the idea came to me midway through transition year, the expression of this idea at the right time has been difficult to realise. In my six years of secondary school I have come across many “false” friends, for want of a better word. Friends who have betrayed my trust, humiliated me or simply rubbed me up the wrong way. It is to these “friends” that this post is dedicated.

To begin with, one must pose the question: how is a frenemy identified? Let me assure you, it’s not always obvious at the start. In my case, there were two prominent instances where I felt alienated by friends. First of all were the inappropriate jokes and remarks that were being launched in my direction. It’s one thing to engage in playful, harmless mockery in the company of only a few people, but to throw offensive remarks across a room full of people is a whole other ball game. A friend does not degrade you in front of your peers and colleagues to appear the joker – a frenemy does.

Not only are frenemies willing to bash your self-esteem, they are also prone to severe bouts of jealousy. Competitiveness is a clear indication that you are dealing with a frenemy. If a friend is reluctant to congratulate you on an achievement, regardless of its importance, then they are not a real friend. An attempt to quench the flame of your success is a nasty showcase of how begrudging a person can be to another. If you announce to your friends that you’ve won an award and the only response they can muster up is “cool,” you’ve found yourself a frenemy.

Another little thing that made me realise what I had on my hands was the way in which the daily conversations would flow. In friendships, communication is a two-way thing. Therefore it is needless to say that a friendship cannot blossom if one person is dictating the conversation. It really is a game of give and take. Give some information, take in some information. Pretty straightforward, right? Not for a frenemy. A frenemy is so self-absorbed that they will manipulate and control a conversation so that it revolves entirely around themselves. No matter how uninterested you are in their story of their uncle’s wife’s cat’s diet, you will have no choice but to listen. Any attempts you make to contribute to the chat will immediately be shot down. If you see an empty desk at lunchtime be worried – a frenemy doesn’t stop to catch breath.

Perhaps the most frightening trait of a frenemy is their ability to isolate people with the click of a finger. One day you could be conversing (or should I say they converse whilst you listen), the next you could be sat on your own pondering why it is you have been abandoned. Frenemies are all about status and power. If you can no longer supply them with either of these necessities, they bid you farewell. A frenemy thrives on being the dominant voice and any challenge made to this dominance is not tolerated. For example, if I was to share a differing opinion on a matter, the frenemy in question would, without hesitation make a statement undermining everything I had just said. Typical frenemy behaviour.

Once a frenemy is recognised, the next problem is how do you deal with the frenemy. There are numerous approaches one could take to combat frenemies but since this is my blog after all, I’m going to discuss the two which I, personally have taken. The first thing I tried was confrontation. By that I do not mean telling them to meet me in the parking lot at 5pm. By confrontation I mean telling them straight out that I have an issue with how they have been treating me. For many frenemies, this sort of a blunt statement may shock them out of their wicked ways. Unfortunately in my case I was not so lucky. Which leads me on to approach number two: disassociate yourself from the person. If they cannot acknowledge their own faults then they are too far gone to bother trying any further. Some people try to be a frenemy; others simply take to it like a boat to water.

People may say that I made the wrong decision by disassociating myself from my frenemies. However, it was not a decision I made overnight. No, this decision was made over months of tolerance and efforts to keep peace within myself and with others. Looking back I couldn’t be more content with my actions and the approach I took. Confidence and the belief that you are doing what’s best for you are key in breaking free from the clutches of a frenemy. Sometimes that inner self-belief may be hard to recognise after a battering by a frenemy. One piece of advice I can give is to avoid getting sucked in. If you begin to accept the dominance, you will lose yourself somewhere along the line. You will lose sight of how you deserve to be treated in comparison to the way you are currently being treated. Worst case scenario: you become the frenemy.

I’m sure my own frenemies will be dissecting this post in the hope of finding some evidence that it is fact I that is the frenemy. In that case, this post has served its purpose. If you are trying to find evidence that I have mentioned you in a post about frenemies then this post has been a success already. Admission is the first step to recovery, eh?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Love Garners Brutal Treatment in Russia

For the majority you in this room, I would imagine the topic of my concern is something you would never have considered problematic enough to be worthy of your attention. And can I really blame you? Since the onset of the recession and the global economic downturn, you have seen your people suffer relentlessly for over six years. You have witnessed First World families living in Third World conditions. You have had hundreds of other problems that have been deemed more important than the one I am vouching for today. This issue has baptised many of you as procrastinators, yet now it can no longer be simply put off. Now I’m going to show you why homophobic discrimination can no longer be tolerated and why it is we must take action sooner rather than later.

When we cast our minds to homophobic violence, what country do we immediately think of? Yes, Russia. Since President Putin released a statement on January 17th announcing that gays would be permitted to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi provided they “leave the children in peace”, the outcry in the country has been phenomenal. LGBT activists in Russia are outraged at such a remark being made, and I don’t blame them. Suggesting that a person’s sexual orientation determines whether they are a paedophile or not is something I cannot quite fathom. Boycotting the games, which begin February 7th, was the immediate response formulated by LGBT groups across Russia but it was then reconsidered as the careers of many of the athletes would be hampered with. Isn’t it ironic that a community that has been socially hung by its own government decided against a decision that would violate the rights of a minority of people?

As most of you already know (or should know) it is illegal to be openly homosexual in Russia. Wait, that’s not how I ought to phrase it. Phrasing it like that would imply Russia is a bigoted, discriminating world power. How could I possibly imply such a thing? As the leaders of the country have put it, there is no problem with being gay as long as you stay in the closet and suppress your true identity. Does that sound any better? I didn’t think so. In Russia it is illegal to be seen promoting LGBT by any means of propaganda. Simply holding a rainbow flag warrants arrest in this country. Any sort of campaign or protest to regain their rights is prohibited and, you guessed it, warrants arrest. How can we watch as innocent people are detained and treated as inferior beings every day because of who they love?

In many ways the Russian Orthodox Church, of who over 70% of the country’s population belongs to, is largely responsible for this stigmatism and intolerance. The church openly believes and teaches that anything other than a male-female relationship is unnatural. They firmly believe that homosexuals are born heterosexual (straight) and merely choose to be gay. They don’t and won’t accept that a person’s sexuality is not a decision one could ever consciously make. Due to these religious beliefs, many Russians have no problem watching innocent LGBT people being brutally and maliciously attacked on the main streets of towns and cities in broad daylight. In fact, these vigilante groups that carry out the attacks are graciously welcomed by the majority of people as saviours working for the good of the nation. The attacks are seen as “social cleansing.” In reality, though, they’re more like the police of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 who unleashed vicious dogs and high-pressure fire hoses on the black community as they fought for their rights. It’s a shame Russia doesn’t have a modern day, homosexual Martin Luther King leading them to a reformed society.

It’s hard to believe that in 2014, with gay marriage now legal in so many countries, we have a nation that is so rigid in its customs and beliefs that it allows the murder of thousands to take place right under its nose and does nothing to prevent such atrocities. The suicide rate amongst young LGBT people in Russia has catapulted within recent years and I can’t say I’m surprised. YouTube is full of videos of vindictive groups of men attacking and abusing young people if they are thought to be homosexual. It is believed that pouring urine over the person’s head cures them of the “disease” and if that does not work, an even more severe beating is in store next time around. Since the passing of the anti-gay propaganda law in June 2013, seven suicides have been linked to homophobic intolerance in Russia. The law made it illegal for teachers, parents and psychologists to speak to children under the age of eighteen about LGBT issues, and this undoubtedly has caused problems amongst the LGBT youth of Russia. For example, if a sixteen year old boy is questioning his sexuality, he has no-one he can turn to for advice or support. This law was passed supposedly to protect children, yet ironically it is leading to more teenage deaths. Go figure.

The violence against the LGBT community has escalated to such an extent that they have set up self-defence classes in the suburbs of cities to learn how to protect themselves. One does not have to be engaged in homosexual activity to be attacked on the streets or followed home at night. No provocation is needed to become a target of these vigilante groups. Worse again, these murders are actually recognised by the Russian government as, and I quote, “Civil movements fighting the sins of society.” This law which officially banned non-traditional sexual relations is destroying the lives of thousands of citizens in Russia. In one case, two men were peacefully living together in Moscow, in no way showcasing their sexuality. One of the men’s family, however, turned the man’s partner in to the nationalists and he was taken away to be murdered. Can any of you imagine your own spouse being savagely killed and your whole life being uprooted? How would you react? Because in Russia silence is the only option for the victims’ families. The murders are not recorded or investigated and the community must accept this as law. Would you be so tolerant in your own lives?

I’m by no means suggesting that Russia is the sole nation discriminating relentlessly against the LGBT community. However, with the Sochi Winter Olympics just around the corner and with the threat of riots looming over the games, I strongly believe action should be taken immediately to ensure the safety of not only the LGBTs, but of everyone attending. There have already been two suicide bomber attacks recently in Russia which have devastated the country, and we must not let another occur. Then again, isn’t the similarity of the suicide bombers’ killings and the suicides caused by the Russian government’s policy towards LGBTs uncanny? Just a thought.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Looks Can Be Deceiving

How many people does each of us walk past every day, do you think? I certainly don’t know. Let’s be more specific so, how many people does each of us walk past every day in our respective workplaces? In my case, I walk past hundreds of girls in blue uniforms, unfamiliar faces that mean nothing to me, nor should they. It’s not my business to know their business; in fact it would be rather intrusive of me if I did. Sometimes though, these faces reveal a lot more to me than they probably intend to. I see faces trying to hide secrets by blending in with the crowd, and for the most part they succeed in doing so.

How many of us have walked past someone and immediately thought “She’s not okay” or “There’s something wrong with him.” It’s very easy to look at someone we don’t know and identify their problems because we know we won’t actually have to confront them about it. Yet when it comes to those closest to us, we are prone to handing their problems an invisibility cloak and looking the other way.

“Sure give it a few days and they’ll be fine.” Oh how I loathe this expression. It’s almost as if we give people the benefit of the doubt, as if we could most definitely be a source of support if it was necessary. As if our care is too sacred to be wasted on someone that doesn’t hold the required credentials. We like to imagine that people with issues magically resolve them by being left on their own to pick up the pieces of their shattered world. “A bit of space is what they need, that’s all.” Sound familiar? Is it perhaps something you may have whispered in the past? Now I’m not trying to pin everything on us that make little effort to involve ourselves in the lives of others, oh no. I mean, it’s obvious that this is just a matter of confidence. We feel inadequate as foundations of insight and support, and we firmly believe that we will in no way, shape or form be able to assist this person in their recovery. What most of us don’t realise, however, is that any form of support can make the greatest of impacts.

Take my story, for example. During my darkest hours I had but two friends that never once treated me any differently to before I started losing control of my life. One of those girls helped me by only ever allowing me to briefly discuss my worries with her before quickly changing the subject to something she knew would make me smile (HSM songs). The other friend aided me in my recovery by never once questioning my actions, she just listened. It was rare for either of those girls to ever respond with prodigious words of wisdom, but they were there for me every day when I was invisible to everyone else.

Neither of those girls gave me lifelong advice that have stuck with me to this day and that I can recite to you now, in fact they didn’t even know how to reply to some of the things I told them. What those girls did for me though was far greater than any of that. They made me feel safe. They reminded me that I wasn’t going through it alone. They may not have said it upfront to me (they weren’t the kind) but I knew they cared. Knowing that alone gave me the strength not to give up on myself. They may not have given me the help I had been longing and hoping for, but they ensured I never gave up searching for it. And that’s more than I could’ve ever asked of them.

I don’t think we realise just how much of an impact we each can make by simply asking someone how they are. As a matter of fact, it is so rare for someone to ask us how we are that we should not be so foolish as to answer “I’m fine” if we’re clearly not fine. What does “I’m fine” even mean these days? Does it mean “I appreciate the effort you have made but I shan’t put you under any further stress by enlightening you as to how I really feel.” Ah yes, and then the concerned friend (that’s us) responds with “Are you sure?” translating as “Am I really off the hook?” with the straightforward answer being “Yes.” Why all the pretence? I wish someone had asked me how I was three years ago… “Actually I fell asleep crying last night and I think I’m suffering from depression.” Respond to that one, bitch.

I’ve sworn to myself that if any person ever comes to me with a problem I will do my utmost to be there for them. I made this decision because I know first-hand what it’s like to sit at home wishing that the phone would vibrate or the doorbell would ring. I have spent hours sitting on the floor of my bedroom looking into the mirror, enjoying imaginary conversations I hoped would someday take place, which in reality never did. I used to pretend to host a sort of talk show where I was interviewing myself, allowing myself the opportunity I was never given to tell my side of the story. At that age I assumed this was how every person dealt with their problems – on their own. I was too young to know that I deserved support. My peers were also too young and too blissfully unaware to even consider being that support. And so I tried my level best to put on a brave face and get on with things. To a certain extend I succeeded in doing so as many may not have fully understood my story until I set up this blog. I became a face in the crowd trying to hide my secrets by blending in, and it worked.

This is why I can easily pick out those people that I pass each day that have a thousand things flowing through their mind. It shows, it really does. Cracks begin to appear and before long your deepest thoughts are smeared across your smile for everyone to see. To be fair, the majority of people utilising this coping method get away with it. But this is not because of how they have mastered the art of deceiving, it’s because we, the onlookers, only see the person. We see them, we don’t look at them.

If we were all just that bit more aware of those around us maybe we could be the difference between giving up and getting up. Maybe, just maybe we could save someone. When we start to ignore a person’s problem, they follow suit and before we have time to reconsider it, the problem has escalated to heights it should never have reached.

If we could step outside our comfort zone for a brief moment we could make a difference we never imagined possible. But are we still too afraid of the unknown depths of a person’s mind to take that step? I believe we are. In fact, I don’t think we’ll ever willingly be so selfless as to offer up our support knowing we are not benefitting from it. Or are we? I know the answer to that, yet I’m positive some of you never will. So go on, now is your chance to shut me up. Take that step. Prove me wrong, I dare you.