Existing somewhere between Heaven and Earth -
marmalade on toast.
Black coffee in a white glazed ceramic cup, the rising steam warming your face from the heat and the scent.
Wonder and awe to awake the senses -
in the background the quiet din of music playing on an old radio set gently serenades the morning:
Frank Sinatra crooning or some Burt Bacharach composition.
I imagine Aretha Franklin singing 'I say a little prayer for you'.
Pitted porcelain dolls on the mantelpiece stare into the abyss.
The running yoke of fried eggs, reflects the dim light, placed next to dry streaky bacon and haricot beans swimming in a red translucent sauce on a white floral painted porcelain plate.
...enjoying the simple things of being and existing.
The clock ticks, you watch the face and the movement of the hands,
encased in a turquoise painted enamel housing.
Quiet contemplations -
a wooden cross hanging from rosary beads, faded plastic flowers droop,
polished wooden floors glistens. Imagining days before the invention of the mobile phone and the Internet
Wishing you a great day it would be nice to hear from you.
I selfishly believed that something was wrong because I appear to attract' people with mental health illness. I experience mental health illnesses, depression and anxiety. Was my belief a symptom of my self-hate and feelings of shame at experiencing mental health problems? I have to admit that was part of it.
Friends who also experience mental health conditions would comment: 'what is about me that I attract these people.' Indirectly, one can interpret such comments as reflecting on me: my mental illness was responsible for me attracting people with mental health illness.
My experiences have led me to believe that, yes, my encounters with other gays with mental illness has something to do with some of the underlying causes of my psychological persona. However, this does not fully explain my experiences. I feel I/we have to accept that many gays are experiencing mental challenges. My psychological profile is not unique. It is something I share with many others. I grew up in an environment where like many others, I have had to fight to accept myself and seek validation for being myself. Laws alone do not eradicate people's underlying prejudices. The sooner we embrace this, the more compassionate we will be of ourselves and others.
The shaming of people with mental health illness on dating sites and some sections of the gay media has to end. Statements like 'no crazies', looking for 'normal' has to stop. These statements are stigmatising gay people with mental illness. It is no different from stating no blacks, or people with physical disabilities etc. Some, one can argue, see body shapes and heights as physical disabilities. Others will say it is a matter of personal preference. The non-contextualisation of beliefs are not personal preferences.
The overtly toxic masculinity on dating websites and in some sections of gay culture sends the wrong message. One can say that these messages in themselves are signs of self-hatred—the desire to mask all semblance of what some perceive as non-masculine traits, for example, to display emotions, showing empathy or sensitivity.
We who fought, well maybe not, those who inherited the liberties fought so hard by many, through their lives, well being and oppression, have adopted the face of the oppressors.
The stigmatisation of mental illness in some areas of gay culture, one can argue, stems from homosexuality being, not too long ago, labelled by the medical profession as a mental illness. Conversation therapists see homosexuality as a mental abnormality or lifestyle choice. Hence their belief that they can cure individuals of their homosexuality.
There are, one can argue, a variety of reasons why people have mental illnesses. Environmental factors, such as oppression, discrimination, can induce mental illness in people. It can also be a product of biological factors (I dare not use the word genetic). One can say that it can result from a combination of both environmental and biological factors. Some can even state some behaviours labelled as mental illness are social constructs. Stigmatising people experiencing mental illness is seeing their illness as something that they can without medical intervention control. I would argue that this is not the case. This area is a minefield, which I approach with caution and a level of humility.
The Real X-Men - The 1 in 500.
Should I embrace who I am: genetically, I possess an extra female chromosome: (XXY). I believe that this influences the way I interact with the world. It is a gift bestowed on to me by nature. In a world governed by toxic masculinity, one may perceive this to be a curse. Physically, I'm male, and I define myself as such. Strange paradoxes, the games that nature plays. With utmost respect, to the other dominant sexual categorisation, I have no desire to be a woman. I embrace emotional traits that some may be define as feminine.
My mind as a catacomb, one within which I imprisoned my truth from the world.
From around the age of thirteen, I found myself sexually attracted to men. Ah, the luck of dice, a man who desires to be with men. Outwardly, he looks like a man, but genetically his chromosomes say something different.
I fear to revisit the trauma bestowed unto me as a child. Remembering pubescent, wearing those baggy white shirts in tropical suns, and large black jackets in temperate summers, desperately trying to hide my enlarged breast. What a monster I then believed I was ? The visible and invisible tears I cried from the mockery visited upon me, like flaming whips, they scoured my mind — the wounds freshly inflicted every day before the open ones had time to heal. I feared playing sports, so I used to hide, finding more imaginative excuses to avoid playing. Playing football, I felt my chest weighted a tonne for all my being focused on this area of my body. My breasts, when running, pinned me down to the ground. I felt continually pinned to the past — stretching the rubber band to the point of maximum elasticity, bounce! the rubber band pulls me back to the starting point. For whatever I did, none could surpass its presence.
I recollect the school nativity play where I had to dress in a robe to play one of the wise men. I remember running and hiding under the bed because I did not wish to wear the robe. After all, in my eyes, this would mark me as desiring to be a woman.
At school, I recall the well-intentioned girl who approached me with a book in her hand, non-judgementally, she showed me this picture in the book. The image showed a man with enlarged breasts and explained that this was a hermaphrodite. But how could this be I did not possess both reproductive organs? Is the breast a reproductive organ? She meant no harm; she saw herself as an outcast. I did not know at the time she identified herself as a lesbian. She, therefore, saw me as an outcast just like her. I recollected that I told her that I like Rod Stewart's record, 'Do Ya Think I am Sexy', she sternly reproached me and informed me that this record was neither funky nor even sexy. To prove this to me, the following day, she handed me an LP, Prince's 1999. She was the person who first introduced me to the music of Prince. I, however, did not have a record player. I never-the-less accepted the record, hoping I could get my relative to tape it for me. Several days passed, I spent hours analysing the images on the LP and reading the lyrics. Eventually, I returned the LP to her, explaining that I could not listen or make a copy of it. She then told me, to my delight, that she would make me a cassette copy. And boy what a summer, with my father away on holiday for three months; I spent the summer dancing to the music on the 1999 album. I digest, well maybe not, I love dancing, and I am always composing moves in my head. I danced for days, trying every possible move in the bedroom.
As an adult, I embraced and enharboured empathy and sensitivity. Some characteristics some may describe as feminine. I, however, do not subscribe to this stereotype. I have sensitive depositions; embracing emotions is not foreign to me. So many tears, I have cried. Still, my emotional reservoirs have not run dry. I am as vast and as sublime as the Pacific ocean. My shores are endless, and my soul is as deep as the deepest trenches' soundings. My laughter is as dazzling and joyous as the rising sun in the tropics. I feel, and surrender myself to sensual delights. Some run from emotions, viewing them as being irrational. They retreat into logic. I sense the heat from the fire, the cold of the ice should I not respond? To the Dionysian pleasures, I submit and elevate my soul, from the summit I acquire new insights and knowledge, from there I grow. It is it not through the senses that we converse with our surroundings?
My self to hide, to run away from myself.
I was walking along the empty shores of Anglesey listening to the sounds of the hollow echoes of waves crashing in the distant. They reminded me of feelings tentatively felt that never fully materialise. On this day, I communed with nature. In its arms, I sought solace and understanding. Some impose their ideals on the vistas. But oh the fools for nature has no consciousness of those ideals.
Nature as Seen
I walk through your gardens of nature transformed -
your beautiful lawns.
Of dew reflecting the sunshine of the morn:
an ideal of tranquillity - so bliss.
I walk through your mind:
A garden.‘tis set amongst a landscape so bleak.
A perfect composition, an orchestration: every chord in harmony with no discord.
Steeled in all adversity -
the stream, the lawn, a path tree-lined
leading to the rapture of the mind.
This! is nature - the natural
This! is heaven fulfilled - as it should be,
as the gods intended:
Oh! But the savage, the irrational has to be pacified or at least a haven built amongst the discord.
Everything in its rightful place as nature intended.
The flowers bloom in rhythm to the seasons,
the waterfalls where there are no escarpments.
The birds sing their contentment, and even when it rains, the sun shines.
This is the surreal made real:
everything is broken down into its component parts and restructured: a perfect composition.
Perfection with no flaws:
This is nature as seen.
To the soundtrack of New Order, the Cure and the Smiths, I remember the incident of my class year at college going on a field trip to Anglesey. The boys in the hut, I was staying in, decided to have a bath. They elected to bathe in the same water because of the limited hot water supply. The students informed me that they had excluded me from taking a bath. The strange thing was I thought the whole idea was disgusting. The water was the colour of the milky grey tea that was prevalent in England at the time and was just as unpalatable. My mind recalls those dreary cafes in Blackpool. Alas, me being a black freak was not worthy of bathing in their dirty bathwater.
As, part of my art project, I built a straw shelter in a cave using found materials. To access the location of the cave, I walked along lonely beaches. It was on one of these walks that I spotted a large beached jellyfish. The jellyfish's glutinous texture captured my attention. I scoured the beach looking for sticks to prod it. Eventually, I found a long twig, which I then used to poke the jellyfish. And, to my surprise, the jellyfish skin wasn't soft. The surface felt like hard rubber. Through the lucent skin membrane, one could see vivid, luminous organs illuminating like active electrical circuits. My thoughts drifted and moved with haste: layers of clouds in atmosphere racing pass each other. In this curious state of mind, the grey skies coloured my every thoughts. It composited a picture of melancholy. I am the stranger proceeding down these endless meandering rocky shores.
It was on the shores of Anglesey in the cave that I first painted through my senses. My mind externalised on the object of my attention. I for the first time painted through my mind's eye. I was astonished by the final result. The colours bear no resemblance to those seen with the naked eyes. However, they convey emotions, vibrant and colourful; they radiate the joy from my naked mind, stripped of preconceptions it had fused with the external environment. It created a discourse giving life to the rocks of the cave walls.
From the age of 18, I spent hours in the gym trying to reconstruct my body. Drawing energy from the music, I stretched myself to the point of exhaustion. Those were the days of the Sony Walkman, though the brand I had was Panasonic.
Eventually, at university, the mockery became too much. I was labelled a freak, and because of this, I sought medical advice. And so, they attached a medical labelled to my condition: XXY (Klinefelter Syndrome).
My GP offered me surgery to reduce my enlarged breast. There were many a time before this I thought of physical mutilation. In front of me, there were these things that I felt didn't belong, like a human with four arms. Before the surgery, the doctor approached me. I was sitting on the edge of the bed. He informed me that the people around me were medical students. He then proceeded to ask me if it was okay for them to observe the consultation. I told myself these are medical professionals. Why should I mind? He asked me to take the gown off, which I duly obliged. To my horror, in my state of exposure, two male medical students started sniggering, with their heads looking at the floor and their hands across their mouths. The consultant turned around and asked what did they find so funny? Their laughter tore me to shreds.
I vividly remember the day after the surgery. It was the day of the Manchester air crash. On the day of the air crash, the surgeon told me that they had to send me home early. He informed me that this was because they required the bed for the crash victims.
Following the announcement by the surgeon, a nurse directed me into a room. I was given a rubber block and told to place it in my mouth. The nurse instructed me to bite the rubber piece between my teeth and look up at the ceiling. She then asked me to breathe in and out deeply. On an exhale, I felt this tug followed by shearing pain. The nurse had yanked the draining tubes out of my breast. I looked down to see blood and gunk (fatty deposits), and lipid globules gushing from my breast into a white enamel basin. It reminded me of my relatives making blood pudding.
To make matters worse, I had to have this administered to both breasts. It felt like the nurse had ripped my inside out from my chest. Recalling the film 'A Man Called Horse', my mind is transported to the scene where Richard Harris hung from the ceiling with hooks attached to his nipples. My chest hurt, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the mental anguish I experienced before the operation. The nurse then stitched back the weeping hanging torn skin.
The nurse asked me did I have anyone to look after me? I explained that I did not. However, I inform her that I had a friend that I could call if I required help. The doctor then gave me some painkillers and then discharged me.
I cannot remember how I got home. I believe I took the bus and a train home. I remembered feeling so alone, walking from Manchester Piccadilly Station to the rented room. Being the summer holiday, my housemate had returned home to his family.
I returned to the empty house. The following days, I lived from the coins that I had collected in a jar. It is a habit I still practice today. I went to the local corner shop to purchase loaves of sliced bread. Their sour artificial rancid scent felt as noxious as my sense of being. The nearby walls of the Manchester City Football stadium felt like prison walls. Eating the flaccid white bread, I recalled with fond memories; the canned crushed shrimps my first housemates, two foreign Chinese students from Hong Kong used to eat with rice. The smell of the canned crushed shrimps used to suck the air out of the house, but, boy they tasted good. Those were the days that excited the palate, flavours playing on the tongue piqued the imagination.
I was afraid I did not wish to return to London to my father and relatives. I did not want them to see the bandage around my chest. I did not want my relatives to ask me questions about what I had done. Anyhow, I did not have the money to buy the ticket. I had the operation without telling my father or relatives. It was my secret to bear. I feared that they would interpret my actions as me wishing to alter my gender.
As the day went by I started getting desperate. I ran out of change and was waiting for the social services to provide me with financial help. Being a student, the social services staff informed me that I could not claim unemployment benefit.
One calm summer afternoon, the air still, it was one of those humid exasperating English Summer's day. The front doors of the tenements were open: doorways leading into dark, haunted tunnels. The women were standing outside with their aprons, smiling and greeting passerby’s good day. Nowhere to be seen, were the raucous hoard of children who usually filled the streets? A quiet hush replaced the usual cacophony of noise. On this day, I unexpectedly received a visit from the landlord. He told me that he had not received any payments from social services. Further, he added that he would have no option but to evict me if he did not receive the rent soon.
Empty days exhausted of life by fear and numbness flew by. During those forsaken days that faded from light grey into darkness, Grace Jones's Private Life kept inspirations in flight. I found her so captivating that it inspired me to think outside my material condition.
As luck would have it, my friend Trevor decided to visit me. He said that he had not heard from me, nor had he seen me at the night clubs and bars. He added that he thought that I had returned to London for the summer holidays. However, just by chance, he decided to come around in case I was still in Manchester. I explained to him what had recently happened. He was shocked when he saw me. Until he mentioned it, I wasn't aware that I had lost a considerable amount of weight. He asked me what was I eating. I explained to him that I was living on bread and butter. He scorned me, asking me why had I not called him. He then asked me why had not gone to the Social Services? I explained to him that I had. He told me to grab a jacket. He explained to me that we were going to go to social services.
How soon is Now (Hate Full of Hollow), this track spoke to and mirrored my heart. Watching the starlings’ murmurations over Manchester's skyline, they cast shadows over the sky, blocking the fading sunlight at sunset. I thought you understood the desolations of the heart, but you it appears were wrapped in ideas of superiority, after all the white working and lower middle classes need someone to look down upon. I wrote these in word the 1980s even before I had substantial knowledge of your beliefs.
Something felt uncomfortable in my soul about your demeanour. Your mannerism, the staring into deep space, the aloofness, conveyed exclusion rather inclusion. It was I felt about the ego in ascendance. In response, I wrote these words in the 1980s:
Morrisey sings — on silver seas, she sailed and conquered all — never to fail.
Bringing civilisation to all,
salvation, in her words, her beliefs a revelation.
She stood alone, her battleships resisting all invaders.
Conquered the Armada — never to surrender.
Glorious, she reigns supported by the toils of her maidens — true!
At her head, a Queen symbolising everything she dreams of.
England is so you have to be or else leave.
Worship or we will be brand you a heretic or the modern day equivalent.
Morrisey sings — remember Manchester.
Her streets paved in gold, and there was no poverty or a starving soul.
The glitter from the lore shone so brightly that the glare blinded all.
These were the vacant summers of Thatcher's Britain, soul emptied, desolated and more barren than a sun-bleached carcass. People who had forgotten themselves walked like folks or sheep in vast open expanses. A country numb and drained of hope, hope, a word that seemed as distant as those longing for long hot summer days with cool nights. There were no new jobs to be had.
To accelerate the slow crawl of time, I used to walk around the colourless shopping malls; which only served accentuated the sense of despair. To add to this, Morrisey and the Smiths were busy painting tormented soundtracks that perfectly captured the hues of those vapid aimless days: spitting on the graves of the dead, the jester sings, dances and cries, for he knows that they are the fortunate ones.
When we arrived at the social services, (which felt more like a barrack with men with haunted stares looking at walls with none existent job adverts, they wandered aimlessly, when one stopped the others scrambled to his location. It was as if he had found the key to recover their lost souls and dignity.
Trevor forcefully asked the agent why had the landlord not received the rent payments? He then informed the housing officer that I was entitled to income support. He stated that he would not leave until he had a guarantee that I would receive the payments. Eventually, the agent indicated that they would provide me with emergency payments, but it would take a week or two to get to me. We left the building with Trevor still grumbling about how racist these people were. He told me that we were going to the supermarket, where he would buy me some groceries. After accompanying me back home, Trevor reached into his wallet and handed me fifty pounds, which for that time was a lot of money. He stated that I would pay him back when I receive my benefits, but there was no hurry.
At first, I refused, but he rebuked me, stating "what are you going to live on?" Further, he said that he could not have it on his conscience to leave me with no money.
In addition to the enlarged breast, my genetic composition's other mental and physical features include poor coordination skills: I have tried to learn to drive three times and have not finished the lessons.
My mind is restless and is continuously moving from one idea to another. I cannot even ride a bike, although I got pretty close to mastering it the last time I tried. It is not that I cannot do those things; I require more practice than most. I have mild dyslexia. The irony is I love reading and writing. It is a strange paradox; I possess a curious mind that wills me to explore, too extrapolate, and delineate ideas. And yet, it limits my ability to express and convey my insights. I, however, have built up resilience and perseverance.
I have some muscle definition. Nevertheless, considering the length of time I have spent in the gym, my muscles should be more pronounced and defined. I have stopped pursuing this objective. I prefer my body to be slim, rather than looking like uncoordinated blocks fighting to achieve equilibrium. I tower over the other members of my family; this being another characteristic of XXY.
I have, throughout my life, struggled with learning languages. I used to think that I was stupid. I have studied hard to overcome this disability. I am a visual learner. It never occurred to me that there was a biological explanation for my learning challenges. I do not know whether I am infertile because I have never attempted to have children. My hips are not overly broad, and my body appears in proportion. I do not exhibit all the physical and emotional characteristics of this genetic trait. Although, it pains me to say this for me is a blessing.
As I have previously stated, Klinefelter Syndrome manifests itself on a spectrum. The mild Klinefelter Syndrome features that I possess, instilled fear/anxiety in me, which acts as an additional barrier to my learning. I have to read a concept, create space and then return to it to acquire meaningful understanding. The anxiety creates word blindness in me. I believe ideas and concepts to be more complicated than they are. I guess this fuels my curious mind. I have an ability to draws links between disparate concepts and ideas. My wandering mind means that I am interested in a broad spectrum of knowledge. I am curious about life and our existence. From my early childhood, I was looking up at the stars and asking questions like why do we exist? Why is there a universe? Is it possible to imagine nothing? Nothing feels like an extremely dense entity, probably as intense as the centre of a black hole.
I find it challenging to accept reality. I want to know the roots of ideas to explore things at the microscopic level. I frequently find my mind racing, thoughts and images moving through my mind at extraordinary speed. It is a rush that leaves me feeling elated.
XXYs are more prone to depression and anxiety, whether this is genetic or environmental induced is still to be decided. However, one can speculate that the emotional challenges individuals with XXY face causes them to experience considerable stress. It is alas another example of which came first the chicken or the egg.