Monday, 20 August 2012

Anti Homophobia poem for Black Pride

For those who missed the performance here's the poem. It is not called anything. Yet. Hope you enjoy:

could just be my friend
we could
Live together, laugh together
argue about getting a cat together
We would be
The ultimate flatmates
We'd feel richer than bill gates coz
We found each other
always there for one another
I never had a friend like this...
I look at her and want to kiss her
catch her mid drop to stop
her breaking apart...
Because she is the lighthouse in my ocean of dark
We are such great friends
sisters true blood till the end
I am cotton to the tears, she has shed
and after a wonderful evening we go home and sleep
in separate beds
Our friendship is platonic
Our friendship is so pure we have god on our side
we have a love that shines
that inspires loyalty and heals any divide
A love all admire, a love that could extinguish any fire
our friendship would be the greatest example of an unbreakable bond
if we... If we...
Didn't have sex


Because we have sex it shifts the context
suddenly i'm victim to a demons hex
and our love only wrecks
Cast into the shadows of deviance
they imply we lack decency, society's inconvenience
and god?
God is violently opposed

Man is violently opposed
homosexuality can be lethal
I share that burden with all the rainbow people
Activists: Brian Williamson, Steve Harvey, David Kato
were forced to face their final door
And Saskia Gunn can speak no more

Malevolent intentions are for the weak
the ignorance is no cause to lose sleep
when derogatory potshots come cheap
so when one of those people who I struggle to believe
are more than one cell, decide to label me. A freak...
I find it incredibly insulting

So much so
I'd love to charge a homophobe
with the crime of stupidity
sub analytical reasoning does not support that level of ignorance logically
If you wanna hide behind religion the way little kids hide behind their fathers
Then allow me to apologise, before I damage that Armour
Leviticus chapter 11 verse 10 states
Eating shellfish is an abomination
so if you eat shrimp-be warned
you may face eternal damnation
If you're gonna take every word in the bible as law
then where is your protest over the consumption of prawns?
Or do taste buds come first because prawns are... Nice?
If you can overlook passages on shellfish disregarding the verse on homosexuality
is no sacrifice
If you focus on hating the love we share
Then let that be your hell, your cross to bear

Why are homophobic people blind to the fact, they're trapped
in the hell they're intent we belong
using faith to justify what's essentially wrong
haunted by visions shrouded in disgust and hatred
and we are supposed to be the ones promised to Satan!
Give me a break, I've had as much as i'm willing to take
Discrimination has got me under attack
So even my sex life, is a political act

Some homophobes are such because they are disgusted at the thought
Of how we get down, how we get our end away
the irony being conjuring up images of homoerotic activity is really  F%££$% gay.
Don't do that, free that space in your mind-I stay out of your business so stay out of mine
and perverts, please keep me out of your mind as i'm fed up of having to politely decline
requests to bang some random chick with her guy...

What makes even less sense is hating a race
how does any mind float into that space
From conception to death I lie encased in this race
fighting against being treated like industrial waste
Like all the single mums on the income support
that's what I like to call insufficient support
along with all the youths getting lost in the courts
when your only choices are dead avenues and paths the come up short
it's easy to indulge the thought that life is just a losing sport


There is acceptance, of self and others
I accept me knowing my history of the LGBT
and the melanin infused chocolate skin I find myself in
Our past and continued struggle against brutality
So many icons to respect keeps the ego in check
It keeps me sane coz at times being black and gay
has been a noose around my neck

I'm not just speaking historically but literally and metaphorically
and stereotypes follow me a lot more than sporadically...

Though I ensure it reaps no reward
I declare war, using a pen as my sword
I demand to be left alone
Left to my own devices like a rolling stone

So if you're homophobic, racist, ignorant-leave us. We have to coexist
it's a painful waste of time attempting to resist
what is what has been and what will always persist
I am at risk of falling under an ignorant fist
I believe hatred is the mark of a beast
Less hate can only encourage the peace
we need human rights in the collective sense
until that's achieved there is no time for us to sit on the fence

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Best Black Pride Yet!

The line up is super this year!

It's no secret how much I love black pride. It's a fantastic alternative to the club focused scene where we have an opportunity to not only see established artists such as; Jessie J. Ms Dynamite and Beverly Knight but an array of talented artists from our own communities. It may be "Black Pride" but it's in no way exclusive. In fact it's the "inclusivity" I enjoy the most. With music, community stalls and an all round great vibe suitable for children and adults alike the atmosphere is unique and I urge you to get a ticket RIGHT NOW! Just in case you need more convincing. Read on...

The fantastic line up includes the King of UK funky. You know his name. He sings it very well! Doneeeeeo, Doneeeeyo! He will be gracing the black pride stage with hits including "Party Hard" and "Devil in a Blue Dress." Don't miss it!

There will also be impressive DJ'ing from the likes of:  Misty B, Nicky Lucas, Missandi, Big John, Smoochie, Sho Sho, Goodaz, Sensi and Re'Kayle! Should get the crowd nice and lively!

One of the headliners repping the community is rapper A Dot. I'm really looking forward to seeing her perform!

House of Khan will be performing! Expect a high energy burst of technical perfection! You can also check out my interview on this blog with lead dancer D'relle. Such a lovely guy...

I'm also anticipating A great performance from Sister Sidney. So, So excited about this duo. I'm going to see them perform tonight... yay! I will let UK Black Pride say the rest as they were kind enough to give me a quote:

 UK Black Pride attempts to bridge divides by providing a non-judgemental opportunity for Black LGBT people, friends and supporters, to come together to celebrate multiple identities and experiences with pride and without expectation to own, reject or justify anything to anyone. It permits taking pride in being who we are as determined by ourselves – devoid of the social or cultural stereotypes that are often projected upon groups. We want all to come out and enjoy the 7th UK Black Pride Festival at the Ministry of Sound, Saturday 18th August 2012. There is lots for everyone, performers, community stalls, speakers and £1000 worth of give-a-ways.

I'll also be doing some hosting on Saturday and sharing a poetic piece on homophobia along with the amazing MC Angel!

For the full line up, tickets, details go to:

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Racism on the gay scene:Gollywog in the Drag Ball

Very creative

Two friends of mine headed out to Horse Meat Disco for one of their infamous drag balls. I actually considered going, drag balls sound like a lot of fun! Only it wasn't FUN they experienced but disbelief in noticing a white man in drag... As a golliwog. The costume "good golly miss molly" attracted the attention it sought to create. But not the negative attention you would expect. It was met with laughter because it's funny, right? I mean look, he can't be racist can he? As you can see from the above photograph-some of his best friends are black. In fact when he was challenged on his choice of attire his monotone response was "that's nice" he didn't give a shit. Good for him, because of course-all us black women have alien eyes and lips so big we feel the need to decorate them with haberdashery related items. Oh... and beards.

This costume is offensive beyond belief and speaks a lot for the institutional racism prevalent in LGBTQI society. The fact this photo was printed in QX Magazine speaks volumes and the only thing I can deduce from this is the fact they must of found it funny too. Bad QX Magazine, that was not okay because guess what? There are a number of black queer folk you have offended. How is this any different to historical characters such as; Jim Crow, Sambo and all the other stereotypical portrayals of black people denounced en masse as deeply offensive decades ago? With the recent controversy about the Swedish cake eating incident is this a sign of things to come? To all the people who don't see a problem with it, let me give you a little history lesson.

The term Jim Crow is most commonly known as a collection of etiquette laws (Jim Crow Laws) with the sole purpose of  cementing the status of white supremacy over blacks in America. The term was derived from a character created by struggling actor Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice. Rice is said to be one of the first men to black up and perform theatrical skits based on negative stereotypes of black people. Some say he based his character on a slave who walked with difficulty others say it was based on a raggedy black stable boy. In this he finally found the success he craved performing sell out shows all over America, London and Dublin. Aside from "Jim Crow" were counterparts Jim Dandy and Zip Coon. White audiences greatly received the highly stereotypical depictions of blacks as inferior, singing, wide grinning, dancing fools. These caricatures would spawn the minstrel shows which were very popular in the 19th century. These shows added fuel to the fire of discrimination as blacks were not only used for economic gain but for entertainment too. On an interesting side note when I went to see Young Soul Rebels at a gay film fest. In the film, following a particularly harrowing scene the same black people that were previously crying/despairing were shown to be grinning and dancing in a way that didn't make sense since they had been traumatised only the minute before-this portrayal still exists, though it's a more subtle affair. Anyway I digress... To dress up as a golliwog is not okay especially since the racial slur "wog" came directly from the name of that offensive doll.

Jim Crow

Dear man who thought that costume was okay. Your costume does nothing but give credence to the idea that black women are ugly and subhuman. Black women are not tools to mock and belittle. You let yourself down. I'm only to assume that you're uneducated, lack respect, racist or all the above. You let yourself down even if you're too stupid to realise it. You deeply offended my friends, one is black the other was white. Although, you already know this since they were the ONLY people in the ball who took offence. Horse Meat Disco do not come off very well either. When one of my friends posted on the Horse Meat Disco wall the comment was removed. Why is that? What exactly are you censoring? Is it to preserve the idea that racism is okay and any oppositional view must be covered up? Is your club a safe haven for racism? Thanks for making people angry because had you opened up a dialogue with the offended parties it could've been contained. Now it will not be. Ignorance is neither bliss nor a defence..

Sirena Reynolds

P.S There's a link to the article on QX Magazine below. I don't want to give them traffic but it must be seen to be believed

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


To be from the western world and fair skinned is to be beautiful and successful. This is the message that’s being fed to many Asian, Caribbean and developing countries.

Racism is something we are all acutely aware of, from the historic days of slavery through to more recent struggle for equal rights. However politically we are aware of the injustice, its blatant presence in consumerism and marketing have been brushed over. Why are huge multi-national companies able to get away with indoctrinating populations in poorer countries into thinking a lighter skin tone is a way of achieving more in life? That having darker skin is a disadvantage that can be ‘fixed’ by shelling out money on skin lightening lotion and potions.

The harmful message is; to use strong and damaging chemicals to achieve a lighter skin-tone of the west and in return reap success with a happier, more successful life, than your darker-skinned relatives. That's the message being pumped into the homes of millions of households in predominantly darker skinned countries.

Vybz Kartel before and after

 Huge conglomerate Unilever, best known for their soap brand, Dove, is one of the key drivers of skin lightening products in developing countries. In the UK, they placed huge weight on natural beauty, with their EFFIE award winning Real Beauty campaign in 2008. The TV advert depicted every different kind of woman’s figure and shape being beautiful in a non-commercial natural state. Women of every shape, colour and size championed for their new found confidence thanks to Dove.
In stark contrast Unileaver have set a completely different agenda for their Asian market, marketing products for men and women to lighten their skin to achieve a more ‘beautiful completion’.

Unilever’s line of skin products Fair and Lovely provides women with the option to make their skin lighter to attract marriage proposals and supposedly attract love. This inherent racism goes way back; lower-caste Hindus are usually darker and upper-caste Hindus usually lighter. Having lighter skin indicated wealth, and not having to work out in the fields under the sunlight. Many Asian families request to see the bride to be before marriage arrangements are confirmed. Or request for higher dowries are requested from the brides family with darker skin.

One Unilever 2008 TV advertisement even equated fairness with love: "Shottikarer phorsha, ujjol tauk . . . shottikarer bhalobasha" (truly fair, bright skin . . . true love). An extremely harmful statement to women and society as a whole, condoning racial-consumerism supremacy.

Unilever are not alone in marketing the ‘white is best’ stance. In 2008, L'Oréal went a step too far when they digitally lightened RnB star Beyonce Knowles skin tone. Beyonce whose parents are African-American and Creole was shot for fashion magazine Elle sporting strawberry blond hair and fair skin. The Féria/blonde hair colour in the advertisement was explainable. L'Oréal responded; "It is categorically untrue that L'Oréal Paris altered Ms. Knowles' features or skin tone in the campaign for Féria hair color,"
Eric Deggans, chairman of the media-monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, said Beyoncé's "skin is lighter [in the Elle ad] than the way I'm used to seeing her".

The Time magazine saga of 1994, again used skin tone. This time to darken OJ Simpsons mugs hot, to make him look more sinister and threatening while on trail for murdering his wife. Newsweek and Time both ran the mug shot as the cover story, however the darkened shot caused outrage amongst civil rights groups.

Matt Mahurin who manipulated the police photo of OJ said; "wanted to make it more artful, more compelling."

The risks of using skin-lightening creams are hidden in amongst a long list of ingredients. However there is one significant chemical that is particularly damaging; hydroquinone. The chemical is described as being a severe skin irritant and a possible cancer-causing carcinogen. People using hydroquinone-containing cosmetic products have been found to have unusually high levels of mercury, causing the chemical to be banned in the use of cosmetics in Japan, the European Union and Australia. However, if there is demand for these products, like anything made illegal, there is a black market. There are numerous natural ingredient skin creams that use other ingredients to lighten the skin by reducing the levels of Melanin in the skin. However this can be dangerous as it leaves the skin more venerable to UV rays from the sun, and in turn raising the risk of skin cancer by direct sunlight.

Damage caused by bleaching creams

The production of skin lightening products by any large corporation is irresponsible and short sighted. The long term affects will cause a huge number of poor, disadvantaged people to cause damage to their there skin beyond repair, trying to gain a similar complexion to western countries. It also embeds the feeling of inferiority through lack of media representation and racial hierarchy. The money hungry antics of these companies have shrouded the racial supremacy undertones and colonial mentality. This form of ‘buy in’ self-hate for purely cosmetic reasons puts the buyer both at greater health risk and financial strain while they strive for the same opportunities of lighter complexioned race members. Continuing to promote light skin success on TV and commercials will continue to perpetuate the problem.

On the reverse side is the huge market for tanning booths and machines. The obsession the west has with looking tanned and darker has been going on for decades. Helped along by tanning shops and dirt cheap pricing, bringing a whole host of medical dangers. Numerous studies have clearly stated the effects of prolonged exposure to UV rays and its links with skin cancer. Yet people are willing to take these risks in order to go a few shades darker. Still knowing the harmful effect of UV rays, hundreds of thousands of men and women opt to step into booths for that sun-kissed look. More recently spray tans have been appealing for the summer look without the price tag.

So the debate will trundle on and and no doubt people will continue to lighten and darken in the name of fashion and trend.

Sonita Dowd

D'relle Khan: The Interview

For years I've watched in wonder the legend that is D'relle Khan. I've been entertained many a time in the club trying (and failing) to copy the way he dances. His confident professional dance moves have been lighting up the stage (and the club) for many years! I was so happy when he agreed to answer my 10 questions. He was born and raised in east London (like me) and is now happily engaged. Without further adieu (or preramble) here's D'relle's 10 questions

What is your background?

 I was born and raised in East London. For the years I did live at home I was raised by my mother, step dad and grandparents.

Have you always wanted to be a dancer?

Yes! I had a lot to say but wasn’t always confident. Dance was my way of making people listen. 

How did you go about learning your craft?

I studied different techniques and styles from street to ballet and various choreographers who I was interested in such as Bob Fosse (Chicago,Sweet Charity) and developed me.

Have you faced any discrimination in your career?

I wouldn’t say I faced any for being black but I was bullied severely for being gay. i've been stabbed and beaten. Though that hasn't ruined my sense of freedom in my career. I'm lucky to not only have the opportunity to express myself but to help others develop and express themselves too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I would say the World Music Awards. Working with Chris Brown and Lavelle Smith Jr (world renowned choreographer), meeting the Late and great Michael Jackson, Beyonce and so many more amazing artists.

 If you couldn't dance, what would you do instead?
I would definitely work in the creative field or helping people in some way. As well as dancing, I was working for the NSPCC (Child abuse Charity).

What are your current projects?

I am choreographing for a lot of the major groups around the UK,
Just finished filming with video with Jessie J and Little boots.

Any future events we should look out for?

 Planning an event with a major company combining all aspects of UK Talent all under one roof. Working with some more artists and developing more dancers, models and artists.

Do you teach?

At the moment i'm only working with different companies as well as my own and a few master classes in and around London.

And finally, what do you think is the biggest issue facing gay people of colour?

Acceptance within our own community and from our families. It seems that being gay and of colour the issues we face are magnified and rather than have support because of our choices, we are often mistreated.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Holiday: A Gay Girl in Vietnam

 There’s always a lot of expectation when you board a plane to go on any holiday. The attractive possibility that being in a new place you’ll feel freer, more relaxed and have more fun is definitely alluring. A mental break from whatever is going on in your life and a different perspective (with the distance that being on the other side of the world affords). It often takes a lot of planning and not to mention money to travel. Some people work all year for a two week break away after all and this was definitely a much-needed break for me.
I decided to go to Vietnam because when I met travellers while staying in hostels in China they always mentioned it as one of their favourite places they had visited. I also had a friend teaching in Ho Chi Mnh who came to stay with me in London for a few nights so it seemed like a good opportunity to see what it was about and catch up with her. Learning from past mistakes, or so I thought I booked a GAP tour through STA travel lasting 12 days and taking me from Ho Chi Mnh to Hanoi stopping off at Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Halong Bay and Hanoi. The tour sounded like it would be fun and was advertised as being with a group of people my age. My trip would end in Bali where I would catch up with another friend for a week.
I arrived in Ho Chi Mnh formally Saigon at about 10am in the morning. I came out to a crowd of people waiting for their loved ones and taxi drivers holding signs for this person or that person. A barrier held them back with an opening at the end and I made my way through this. It became clear that jeans weren’t really appropriate clothing for this climate. I was given directions from my friend to find a woman in traditional clothes that would give me a card and put me in a taxi, so I ignored the endless offers from others. I found a woman wearing a yellow dress with a purple sash who did as I was told to expect. She ignored my questions of how much? Does the taxi have a meter? She appeared to be more interested in her phone and I was tired enough to let it pass. After having been in Asia before I knew this was suspicious. I showed the taxi driver the address I had scribbled down and sat back as we drove through the busy streets, motorbikes everywhere and nodded off here and there. The prevalent colour of that journey was a dusty yellow. When I arrived at my friends apartment on a road to the right of a bridge in district 1 I was told I was charged double but was really charged triple. You should only pay 100,000 for a taxi from the airport, the equivalent of about £3. Getting ripped off is something you’ll get used to. Always half any price offered as a rule.
That day we just watched a strange drama starring David Tennant and the brunette from Scott and Bailey with a work colleague of hers from Sydney. While sitting in my friend’s lavish apartment paid for by the teaching company she worked for I mused on the quality of life in London. We later went to a very expensive (by Ho Chi Mnh standards) restaurant in the district. On Sunday my friend went to work and it rained all day. I took the opportunity to do some work for a music events internship I had recently taken on. I finally ventured out after my friend had come home exhausted and was about to head to bed. I was reminded of the long hours at the weekends when teaching abroad and partly remembered why I had given it up and returned to London. I managed to find myself in the backpacker’s street at about midnight walking in my hoodie in the rain. I booked a tour of the Mekong Delta for 7.30am the next morning and left a note for my friend.
The tour was eventful; I held a python and travelled down the river in little flat boats rowed by ladies wearing the traditional thimble hats and barefoot. There was a big community living on the riverbanks in makeshift homes and hammocks their only source of income tips from rowing foreigners down the river. Often during tours in Asia you are shown a process or told about one, honey product making, coconut candies and at the end you are invited in Vietnam or pushed in China to buy buy buy. This tour was no exception and ended with live music with fruit and tea for all with a nice tip basket to go round at the end

It felt like I went out for a lot of expensive meals in the first few days, eating western food, which is usually what the more costly places have on the menu. I went to the restaurant that Brangelina went to on their fairly recent trip to Vietnam to show their adopted son where he was from. Young graduates which go and teach abroad can afford to eat out every night in the same restaurants as movie stars when they wouldn’t be able to get a job in Tesco’s at home let alone have their own place. This is the appeal of Asia and something that made me feel a little uncomfortable when I was living in China at 22 in an apartment that could house a family. A British passport is a valuable thing especially when you have a degree and very little work experience.

I also visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Mnh on my final day with my friend.  She drove me over there on her motorbike, which again highlights the freedom and independence on offer in Asia.
It became apparent very early on in my trip how one sided and uninformative Museums in Communist Countries can be. The museum was meant to educate about the Vietnam War but it had no background information at all. The first floor can be summarised by the sentence, the whole world protested and wanted to help us. The second floor, the Americans tortured us, look at all the horrible things they did. The third floor, the Americans have contaminated our country with Agent Orange, look at all the people that have been born Orange Victims.  Agent Orange was part of the herbicide warfare carried out by the U.S. in the Vietnam War from 62 -71 and got it’s name from the orange barrels it was shipped in. It contained an incredibly toxic dioxin compound. The pictures in the exhibition were very difficult to look at but it did appear to me that they just collected pictures of every person with a disability in the whole country. Are people with cleft lips Orange Victims?
I arrived at the joining hotel late after saying my goodbyes to my friend and later bundled my suitcase into a taxi. I was met by a bunch of grinning people, one British Girl, three Germans (a couple and their brother) and an American Girl. A bit later that evening I had my introductory talk with the tour leader who told me she was hoping I would be loud and crazy. After me responding ‘well maybe, after a couple of drinks’ followed by a brief laugh she told me that no one in the group had been drinking and suggested I introduce alcohol to the group. To say I was apprehensive about 12 days with these people was an understatement.
I immediately got on well with the British girl from Harrow (of all places) and it sounded like she had already got all the gossip on me from the tour leader anyway.  I had joined the tour in the second week it seemed and she was desperate for someone to have fun with. Trust me to go to Vietnam and befriend someone from down the road! I was aware that these people had had some time to bond and I wasn’t sure if I could dramatically change the dynamic.  In a nutshell, the Germans kept to themselves and were otherwise polite. The American girl seemed to have a real issue with me after the introductory dinner and dismissed my attempts to engage with her by making faces that would indicate a fly was buzzing around her head.  I didn’t let it bother me but the girl from Harrow brought it up when the American jumped down my throat when I offered we tan because our skin is recovering and damaged by the sun. I have my theories about this girl.  She would not have looked out of place at the Candy Bar, always dressed very casual and quite tomboyish. She also lamented the fact that she’d left all her ‘nice clothes at home’ when it was time to dress up. I’m sure I’ve used that excuse before! Her rather rude and dismissive behaviour towards me could be explained if she fancied me and didn’t quite know how to deal with it. You never know what’s going on in people’s heads. I’m really not the big-headed type but her behaviour was just so bizarre it really got me thinking. If I was open about my sexuality on this tour I wonder how that would have gone down…
We merged with another tour and went out for dinner with them at one point and this girl from Holland brought up that a woman once chatted her up. ‘Did she grope you?’ the girl from Harrow asked. It really surprises me sometimes when you’re not out, how seemly intelligent, educated people can make such ridiculous assumptions. Why would a woman grope you? Is that acceptable flirtatious behaviour for a man? Well it isn’t for a woman either and is probably unlikely to happen. It really tests your levels of understanding and forgiveness. As a LGBT person you have to isolate this prejudice and separate it from the person you know and like. This is quite a mild case and could be corrected by challenging the person but when your own Uncle says that if he has his own way  ‘he would string them all up (gay people) and kill them’ uncontrollable hysterical laughter was my only response. Anyway aside from my gay musings now and then I saw a lot of stuff in very short space of time.

Nha Trang is a mainly a beach city and it has a few streets of restaurants and nightlife. There is also a water park called Vinpearl. You can also try some watersports on the beach or have a mudbath if you want to treat yourself too. 

Hoi An is a colourful town and is famous for it’s tailoring and fashion. You can get anything you want (even shoes) made to measure in less than 24 hours. It’s a fashion students dream! You can choose the fabric and pick a style from catalogues or bring in your own pictures from magazines. Just strolling around this city you will come along nice temples and quaint bridges. The temple My Son is also 50km away if you want to arrange a taxi to see the Angkor Wat of Vietnam.

Hue is an interesting place. You can book a motorcycle tour and see some scenery, visit one of the Emperors mausoleums, have lunch in a monastery and see how thimble hats are made by a one armed lady. You can also she the Citadel if you have the energy.

Halong Bay is very famous and a must see for any visitor to Vietnam. You can also see the caves and go kayaking if you’re the active type.

Hanoi is a busy city; try not to get run over because the motorbikes are the craziest here. Tip: When crossing the street just walk at a steady pace and keep going. Don’t suddenly stop or change pace.
You can visit the Ho Chi Mnh Museum / Mausoleum before 11am and see the late presidents’ embalmed body if you’re into that sort of thing.  You can go past the Presidential Palace, visit Hao Lo Prison, the Army Museum or take a stroll around the old quarter. Remember that most tourist attractions are closed on Monday and Friday, so don’t trek down there for no reason. You can also see a Water Puppets show if you wish.

When I left for Bali I had had enough of Vietnam, all the haggling with the locals and the continual offers of pineapples in the street, locals offering to give me a ride on their bikes. …It was all giving me a bit of a headache. I stayed one night in a hostel and saw a bit more if the other side of travelling culture. All the girls in my dorm room went out on a pub-crawl organised by the hostel but I unfortunately had to be up at 4am to catch my flight. This pretty much marked the end of the cultured part of my trip.

When I arrived in Bali I managed to make my way to the guesthouse my friend was at. The instructions from my friend were it’s called Inada and it’s down an alley pretty much. Thank goodness I had found the number on the Internet along with the address because the taxi driver couldn’t find it. I got there though and found my friend in the company of his gay friend, them both tip tapping away on gay app Grindr. He seemed very chilled out and beardy. I also met his other friend from Argentina, who he often lovingly referred to as Argentina when we spoke about her. He had sent me a photo of her saying she was bisexual and I had the feeling he was trying to set me up as I awkwardly said hello and gave her a kiss on both cheeks. I wasn’t sure what to think when I was asked if I wanted to share the room with her and opted instead to stay in the same room as my friend.  I had only been there 15 mins and I was already feeling uptight.
It wasn’t long until I got all the dirt from my friend about his sexual adventures, the threesomes and other sexual encounters, this one, that one, all with graphic details. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be hearing about all this but it sounded like Thailand was sex tourism at it finest. The gay capital of Asia and Grindr sounded like quite a helpful tool. We hit the gay bars that night. I had no idea Bali had a gay scene but here it was in Seminyak.  There were bumper stickers in all the souvenir shops reading ‘Jack is Gay’ ‘James is Gay’ and also penis bottle openers and other things. At the bar there were drag queens a plenty and I had a fairly good time after I stopped musing about my friends transformation and new found freedom. He even posed in some tight little red gay lifeguard shorts he had acquired and I felt a bit like I was being left behind in some way. Anyway the night progressed and I had a few cocktails and Argentina seemed nice enough while the boys were trying to get numbers.
We ended up there the second night but this time just the two of us, as the bars in Cuta weren’t that great. I had seen a guy on the beach earlier and pointed him out to my friend as definitely being gay. My friend waved over and looked back a few times but no real response. As we entered the bar we saw the same guy from the beach dirty dancing with a drag queen on the bar.  In the end this guy ended up being too ‘feminine’ for my friend and he found a nice Brazilian, which he called Ricky as he looked like a little Ricky Martin. He ended up wanting to go back with this guy so I made my way home on my own feeling like a completely sad individual reflecting on all my failed attempts to meet new people. Apps didn’t seem to work the same way with women, you could be talking to a woman for three months and they still seemed reluctant to go out for a drink. For men everything seemed so much easier. Are men really wired differently to women and more sexually driven? I’m not so sure. Men seemed to spill out onto the streets from gay bars. Where were the women? At home with their cats, at open mic nights being creative, with their long term partners watching films? What were they doing? I actually did meet one lesbian that night, we were chatting for a bit and then I realised she was trying to get my email address for her mailing list. She puts on a night in Southbank apparently! All these Lesbian entrepreneurs and their businesses eh? Thanks, if you’re out there.

I decided to let this incident pass but when my friend left me with a gay couple I barely knew the next night in the Gili Islands to pursue this Canadian model I told him how I felt. He still went and we argued about it later. I don’t think wanting to seize the moment and have fun or that you’re really horny are ever good excuses for treating your friends badly especially if they have come to see you for only 6 days.
The situation improved from here and we had a really good time on the whole. There is nothing like the company of an old friend and we always have a laugh the majority of the time. I’m not sure people knew what to make of us. They immediately assume we are a couple naturally.  My friend often plays on this and refers to me as his wife and uses the ‘this is our honeymoon’ line to try and get a cheaper room. Little do they know I ‘ve probably seen more penises than any straight girl will have seen in a lifetime when he was showing me the camera roll on his phone.  Nothing happened with Argentina and she apparently is in love with some guy. He bought her a pair of shorts so she knows he feels the same way. 

On a sleeper train from Hue to Hanoi, I was listening to Florence and the Machine in my bottom bunk while everyone was asleep. The train rocking gently and the light going round the small room like a zoetrope. I suddenly realised that I wouldn’t want to be any in the world or be anyone else but where I was at that moment. I’m not sure why but it was a mixture of the music, what had happened previously that day and realising how lucky I am for lots of reason; to be able to travel, to be a British citizen and have so much freedom and to live in a great city like London. Although it’s difficult, it’s such a vibrant city with so many creative people in it, we have the luxury of culture and varied nightlife and so many opportunities. God knows what made me think that on a cockroach infested sleeper train but hope is all we really need.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Deep Poetry Series: Shauna O'briain

We all know not all memories are good and I believe by acknowledging that fact whilst having open and honest discussions not only helps the afflicted but those who are yet to be. I'm going to be posting a series of deep soul searching poetry from the most amazing poets on the scene right now! I feel that just putting these stories out there in the form of lyrical beauty is a good thing. If only 1 person can identify it will have achieved it's purpose. The first poet in the series will be the amazingly talented Shauna O'briain founder of Lyrically Challenged an artistic space where all kinds of expression is accepted and greatly recieved. I will be doing a profile on Shauna and the Lyrically Challenged Collective soon. For now, I'll leave you with her heartfelt poem titled "Memories."


The memory's of the beatings Sting with the same sharp pain
As the wacks of the wooden spoon,
\Pants down looking at my red bottom and thighs in the mirror in my room,
Tears stain my cheeks so young not even 5 and so confused,
I know I was challenging but for that extreme punishment what did I do?
With my mum our relationship was a game I'd always loose,
The patterns she'd learnt from her father she was following suit,
We'd fight I'd get ignored for days,
Feeling like there's never a solution I'd imagine cutting my wrists with razor blades,
I didn't want evidence of home disfunctions so I pushed the feelings away
,Can't see it on the skin but emotional scars don't fade,
When I look back I see I pushed her into many a rage
,And wonder why I behaved that way,
Did I find love in a violent exchange,
Was it a dance I looked to re create,
Receiving abuse becomes a safe space?
A bite from her on my leg purple took three weeks to fade,
From that bruise part of my physcie is stained,
I wage on like a warrior searching for healing,
Coping statagies and different methods of dealing,
With a history so deep created depression and years were stolen,
More than my heart was broken,
Feeling unlovable in every relationship,
Now I gather wisdom looking to transform this situation like an alchemist
,Yet in moments I feel like a piece in a puzzle that never fits,
How do I forgive and let go,
She's dead I can't be angry at a ghost,
Yet so many youths from round the flats were I lived
suffered similar stories so something's gotta give,
Am I mad at the system or a broken woman?
Getting dragged up in cities full of mind pollution,
Breaking free living as an artist doing as I'm choosing,
I cry as I write,
the emotions escape now With Strength to provide
Knolodge that the past doesn't leave but we can choose to leave it behind
,Perspective as the gift,
A smile and a tear are equal it's powerful to share it,
Speak up and be heard,
Talk of our hurt,
No longer bottled up in side the stories are released with freedom like the wings of a bird,
The power of the feelings of injusticeInspire to create a change in social conciseness,
Every man woman and child on this planet,
Deserves freedom to live the life they want full of happiness,
In an unbalanced society
,Instead of being angry at the past or ourselves our stories can create unity,
Educate one another and form loving communities,
Cause we can spiral down and we can spiral up,
We can become pilars of loveOpen our hearts n share hugs,
Creating new history's breaking the cycle so the next generation is free,

 Shauna Obriain

Will update this post with her social media info soon...