How I am: an Update 

Hello readers,

I’ve missed you and I wonder if you have missed me.

A lot has happened since my last post. There’s no gentle or easy way to say it but my mother died. She had been very ill for a long time and in November 2016 she died. I don’t really want to write about that but it is important to me that you all know.

I did not know it at the time but while I and my family were trying to cope with my mother’s worsening health, her death and her funeral, the DWP had quietly stopped paying my ESA.

In fact, they’d stopped paying my ESA in September. Without telling me. Or giving me any reason why or instructions on how to fix whatever problem they had.

After several phone calls, we found out that we needed to fill in an ESA 3 form. That was before we realised that my payments had stopped. We weren’t told that the payments had been stopped until after we’d completed and returned the form and phoned them to ask if they’d got it.

They said that my payments would be backpayed and paid on the 20th of December. Which was 2 days ago.

I’m yet to be paid or even told in writing why my payments were stopped. All I did “wrong” was move house. I tried to tell the DWP in advance, sending letters to several addresses but none were received apparently. They heard from the local council that I’d moved and then stopped paying me.

They haven’t told me the conclusion of my WCA either.

I’m sure it will all be okay for me because I have a boyfriend who is able to phone them and chase it up until this is sorted.

So, yeah. Dear readers, that is why I’ve been quiet of late.

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Where Babies Come From: A Lesson For All Tories, Whether Blue, Yellow or Red

Contains: multiple references to sex, pregnancy, birth control,brief description of birth

I’m writing you all this lesson because you recently voted for, abstained on or were absent from a Bill that will limit Child Tax Credits to two children per family from 2017 and in doing so have shown that you clearly don’t understand how children happen.

Children are small people who are not yet adults. They require adults called “parents” (or guardians) to look after them, feed them, clothe them and love them until they reach adulthood. Adults are people over the age of 18, they are generally fully grown and somewhat capable of looking after themselves. As MPs, you are all adults, whether you can behave like adults or not. When people are very, very young, they are called “babies”. Babies rely on their parents for everything and cannot look after themselves even a little bit. Neither babies nor children can work and much time and money must be spent by the parents to ensure the survival and development of their children. Before you complain that all these non-working babies and children are clearly “scrounging” of their parents and the state, I must remind you that ALL adults were once babies and unless there are new babies there will be no adult workforce in the future. So even Tories like you should love babies and children because even if you can’t see the point of them now, they have the potential to grow up to be “hard-working tax-payers” and you love those.

Right, okay, here’s how babies happen: Adults have sex with each other.

If they don’t use birth control methods or those methods fail and one of the adults has a working uterus and another of those adults produces sperm, the adult with a uterus can become pregnant. Pregnancy is when a new baby begins growing inside a person’s uterus. The baby grows inside there for many months and is then pushed out of the person’s vagina or cut out of the person’s uterus by doctors. Once this has happened, the new baby has human rights, including a right to life. The person/people who take the baby home and name them and care for them and love them is/are the baby’s parent/s.

An arrangement of one or more adults living with one or more children and babies they love and care for is called a “family”. Usually, the family will contain at least one of the adults who had the sex that made the baby begin; sometimes it doesn’t. So: babies come from sex. I’m assuming you all know what sex is? It’s when adults play with each other’s genitals together because it feels good. Got it?

Sex is pleasureable, it’s fun and it’s free. Any collection of consenting adults can play, it’s cooperative, it can fill whole days or fit into a lunch break… It’s something that lots of people do in their spare time. (Spare time, in case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, is time not spent working, sleeping or travelling). People like sex. People are going to have sex – especially if they can’t afford other forms of leisure, like TV, cinema, sports, arts and crafts, tourist attractions, computer games, shopping, the internet, going to cafes and restaurants… When you’re poor, sex is one of the few pleasures that’s still affordable. And sex can make babies.

There are ways to have sex without making babies. And I believe completely that people are using them. But none are perfect. All take time to find and get hold of, many cost money. All require knowing where you can find accurate information on how to use them and where to go to get them for free or low costs. It’s no surprise that people sometimes end up with an unexpected pregnancy. Pregnancies tend to lead to babies.

And babies need love and care (which is free) and milk and clothes and bottles and cots and nappies and toys and prams (which cost money). Until the baby is 5, a parent will have to stay with the baby almost constantly and will thus not be able to work. If/when the parent does go into work, the baby will need to be left with childminders – who need to be paid. The baby needs what they need regardless of whether their parent has enough money saved to provide for those needs or not. This is why Child Tax Credits are paid to families in the first place – so that all babies and children have a decent quality of life, with their needs met, no matter who their parents are or how much money they saved, no matter whether someone had sex with the intention of causing them or they came about without anyone intending them.

Child tax credits were for every child regardless of how many siblings they had too. Because a first child and a third or fifth or twelfth all deserve the same dignity and the same shot at a half-decent life. They all equally deserve enough food to eat, clothes to wear, warm beds, school equipment and, YES, toys to play with and books to read. Because they all have human rights and not one of them asked to be born or played any part in bringing themselves about.

So, when I hear your “reasoning” for what is essentially a cap on two children per family is to “encourage responsible behaviour”, what I hear is: “We want to punish poor children for their parents having sex”.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t reward or encourage anyone, this cap is a punishment. And it punishes innocent children because some adults had sex – which is not itself illegal, immoral, harmful or wrong. So why punish anyone for it?

And why leave middle class and upper class people unpunished for the same actions you deem so irresponsible from people like me? While they won’t get the Tax Credits for their third and fourth children either, they will still be able to feed and clothe them even if not to the standard their first child enjoyed. No millionaire will be over-worried by an unexpected new member of the family while every poor family will be terrified of broken condoms and accidentally missed pills.

You might as well admit it. This was never about the money – children start paying tax from shortly after birth through parents and family buying things for them – this is about keeping us poors from having sex as often as you imagine we do. And it’s about keeping us thinking always about whether we are affordable, thinking of ourselves and our families as “burdens” on a state once designed to support us, a state that would grind to a halt without our labour and our purchases. A state that wants us thinking about our bank balances instead of enjoying ourselves while we have sex.

No Regrets

This is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago. I’ll say now that it’s not a happy story so if you’re not in a great mood right now, please read it another time.

This is another story about people choosing not to be heroes, so once again there’s not much detail about exactly what the main character has opted out of fighting against because the story focusses on his reasons for opting out. The setting is Europe, most likely the UK or Ireland sometime in the next 50 years.

 

Content notes for homophobia (one slur), pregnancy and birth, implied death, parents splitting up, toxic activism.


 

To: jack.reynolds@hemail.co.uk

From: gareth.reynolds@hemail.co.uk

Subject: Please read this, especially if you’re Jack but even if you aren’t

 

 

I don’t regret it. I know you think I do. If you’re still alive that is. And if you are dead, then I know that you died thinking of how much I must wish that I was by your side, how keenly I must feel that I should have chosen differently all those years ago, how it must hurt me to know that you and I became so far apart.

 

Yet even on that last count, I’ve no regrets my long-lost lover. We were good for each other once but you found out where your loyalties lay and I found mine too. I no longer miss you all that much and neither does the son you barely acknowledged. You left him and I alone for your cause.

 

You were probably right to do so, you know. I think I can acknowledge that now. And still look deep inside myself and know that I made the right choice when I refused to go with you.

 

It’s not that I don’t believe you. It was never that, though you often accused me of it. It isn’t even that I don’t believe, as you do and as you would often say, that some things are so important that everything and anything can be sacrificed for them. No, I do believe that. With all my heart. We simply have different priorities.

 

I remember a long time ago, before you knew what you know, before things changed. I remember the love and the sex, the joys of young married life. I remember walking through the park in the sunshine holding hands and being genuinely surprised when that old homeless man called us faggots. I can see his face now, with the distaste and anger we’d never learnt to expect and hear my own voice telling him “Yes, we are gay and we’re happily married and just trying to enjoy the park”. I remember handing him a five pound note and a sandwich because whatever he thought about gay people he looked like he needed it more than we did. But that was a long time ago before you started risking your life saving the world from enemies it daren’t believe it has. That was during our honeymoon, all those year ago, back when we were young and in love and nothing, not a shower of rain, not a homophobe, not a global recession, nothing could take away our happiness. I suspect such happiness is only for people who are young and in love and on their honeymoons because I’ve never felt like it since.

 

You met them at University, of course. The people who changed everything for us. We called them friends and I guess that’s what they were. One of them, a woman, Sophia? She held my hand when I told you that I’d been stupid and forgotten some shots and now I was pregnant. She was sure you’d take it well and you did. You handled it better than I did which I reckoned showed just how brave you were. It’s not every day a man learns his husband is accidentally pregnant. Some of our friends were there when I told you I wanted to keep our baby, they saw you agree, heard you talk about how blessed and loved this baby would be, how you would be the best of fathers, second only to me. They knew what they were doing when they told you.

 

When my son… when our son was little, I used to tell him those old, old stories about the Sight. The really scary ones about the ointment that you put on your eyes that makes you see things as they really are. The one about the girl who doesn’t know she’s baby-sitting for the fey until she gets some of the baby’s eye medicine into her eye by accident and she can See and how she spends the rest of her life wearing an eye-patch in order not to go mad. Really quite scary for a little one but he had to learn somehow. He had to know what happened to you. What happened to us both.

 

When they told you, when they opened your eyes to the truth of this earth and invited you to join their fight, they knew I was pregnant. They knew that I needed you, that our child would need you. They told you anyway. Those friends of yours, they thought they needed you more than I did. I wonder now whether they were right.

 

They told you about good and evil and forces at work that most people never know of. They told you about a war much greater than any war between mere humans and how events much more important than our tiny lives were going on around us as we groped blindly along trying to make sense of the disasters and wars and famines and droughts that were mere side effects of the truth. They gave you proof, showed you things and made your world the world of bigger events, the world of things that were more important.

 

Things that were worth sacrificing everything for.

 

You can’t pretend you didn’t know that’s what they were asking. They needed people. People who couldn’t pretend to forget, who wouldn’t. People who could place an ideal above their own life. People who could see their place in a grand scheme and take it willingly even if that meant losing dreams, losing love, losing life. People like you. People like me. They needed us.

 

I can say it. I was just the sort of person they needed. And if I wasn’t eight months pregnant when they finally asked us to join them, I still can’t say what would have happened. I believed as you believed, I had seen what you had seen. And we both knew that some things are so important that nothing else can ever be allowed to get in their way.

 

I was going to be a dad. I had a living human being growing inside me, soon to be outside and cold and helpless and in need of love. And I knew with every neuron in my brain that nothing could ever ever be more important than the life I carried inside of me. I was a dad.

 

And they still tried to recruit me into their war. They didn’t understand. They’d left people behind, those friends of ours. Parents, siblings, friends, lovers and, yes, even children. They’d given up everything, their livelihoods, their homes, sometimes even their names to fight for all humanity’s right not to be killed off by the actions of a few angry gods. They thought I’d be one of them. And you thought so too.

 

You suggested that we leave the baby with my mother. That we leave him with friends. That we get him adopted. You casually suggested to my face that we just toss away our baby as soon as he was born and you didn’t even understand why I was angry with you. I wanted not to love you any more when you said that. I wanted to hate you and the fact I loved you anyway hurt like anything. I knew you’d decided what you thought was worth sacrificing everything for. I knew I’d found the one thing I would sacrifice anything for.

 

You left before our son arrived. I delivered him alone in a strange hospital where they’d not yet had a man give birth and people still weren’t all that used to trans people insisting on being fertile. I told our newborn child that we didn’t need you and when I next saw you four days later I told you that I wasn’t fighting anybody’s war. And that if you still were, you had to get the fuck out of my baby’s life.

 

You left. So did all those friends. They used to drop by from time to time, to check up on me and my boy and to talk about their experiences with someone who would listen and might understand and believe them. As their visits became less frequent I knew they no longer needed someone to believe them or even to understand, they just wanted someone to listen.

 

When he was old enough to talk and walk, we moved to a new town and I was just a single dad with his kid and everything was fine and I had no regrets.

 

And my son went to school and he made friends and he liked drawing and he didn’t like maths but he got a prize when he was twelve for a maths project and then he liked maths too. He speaks three languages and once they published a bilingual poem he wrote in the paper. He’s made two Father’s Day cards every year just in case and he keeps all yours in his bedside drawer and I pretend I don’t know it. He’s a great kid and I’m proud to be his father.

 

And he had a boyfriend for a bit and then he didn’t and now they’re back together but perhaps that doesn’t matter because right now he’s fifteen and we’re hiding in our cellar because outside the world is ending. The sky is on fire and people are dying and at least down here we can’t hear the screams.

 

And I am writing you this email not because I think you will get it, I really doubt that anyone will but to say to whoever does get it, assuming anyone is alive tomorrow, to say to them that I made the right choice.

 

Because my son is fifteen and he’s terrified and I’m pretty sure he’s going to die tonight. But he’s had fifteen years of being happy and fifteen years of knowing his dad loves him. Not fifteen years of wondering why his dads left him or whether they’re still alive. Not fifteen years of not being loved.

 

I have always known that some things are worth sacrificing everything else for. Giving my child a life worth living, however short, is my one of those. You, my long-ago love, chose to fight a war and I chose to devote my life to a person I love. Who is the hero?

 

My son has been reading this over my shoulder and he asks me to say to you, whether you are his other dad or some other stranger, that he says I am a hero and he loves me no matter what. We have no regrets.