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The UK is now a Tory heartland - where do we go from here?

I don’t think I need to tell you why I spent an hour this morning crying like a fucking baby.

It wasn’t even just the fact that a party whose austerity measures have killed 120,000 people according to Medical Journals managed to win (in a First Past the Post system) by a landslide. It’s also that I don’t really…understand. I can’t articulate what happened. I’m an over-thinker and if I don’t have an answer to something, I’ll find one. My brain usually creates one, but my brain isn’t getting any further than “some people really do like the idea of Brexit, aye?” The polls said the Tories would probably win it, but that a hung parliament was likely. Boris is a racist, a homophobe, and a snob who wouldn’t even agree to TV interviews (I might not agree with the other Tory MPs but at least they’ve never hidden in a fridge).

If you’re here for a hot take on what went wrong, I don’t have one. My brain is fried from all of this (and I was up all night at the Glasgow count). My only conclusion is that we (including myself) underestimated just how many people wanted Brexit (given that the Conservatives made gains in places with a high Leave vote). What I am going to talk about is what we do moving forward.

But, hey, at least Jo Swinson lost her seat (but I was in the fucking toilet when it happened!).

If you have a political party that you truly believe in, join them

I’ve been a member of the Scottish Green Party for over 5 years. Not only that, but I was elected onto the Glasgow Greens Committee as an Ordinary Member a few months ago. If you join a political party, you don’t need to be as involved as I am. Plenty of members just donate their yearly fee to help with the finances. If you do want to get involved though, there are plenty of ways to do so as political parties and their local branches need a variety of skills sets. This includes marketers, data analysts, election organisers, candidates (!!), secretaries, event organisers, treasurers and confident extrovert types to knock on doors!

Or join a campaign or pressure group

They also need people with a variety of skill sets. 

Consider donating time and money

I still 100% believe that you should be talking to your friends and family about their vote. This includes posting on social media. Saying that, unless you are a public figure or influencer with a wide reach, you might only change the minds of a handful of people.

I know not everyone can, but if you’re in a financially comfortable situation please consider donating money to your candidate or party of choice in the next election - in order to help reach a wider audience. If you also have a particular skill set that could be of use during a political campaign, get in touch with your local organiser to find out how you can get involved.

Don’t think Scottish independence is in the bag

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media today claiming that Scottish independence is now inevitable.
Hold on a second.

The SNP did make big gains last night in terms of the number of seats won – but their share of the vote was 45%. While this is an impressive number, it isn’t high enough to start running around screaming Freedom. 

I support Scottish Independence and in the event of a referendum being called, I will 100% be out campaigning. With a smart campaign, the Yes side may swing it (and remember, we only need to convince the electorate once, Better Together need to keep convincing voters over and over).

I know the thought of Scottish Independence is what’s keeping people going right now. Unfortunately, this could lead to complacency where we think we’re going to fix this mess by leaving. It’s not that simple. Public opinion still looks like it hovers around the 50% mark.

If you want independence, you'll need to restart the campaign. Don't wait for it a new Independence Referendum to be announced either. A lot of Scottish people still need convincing (more on that later!).

Start laying the groundwork for Holyrood 2021

The next election in Scotland will be Holyrood 2021 (but who knows if another General Election will be called, I’ve voted in more elections in the last few years than I’ve had foreign holidays). The political parties are gearing up for this already, with candidates selected and members collecting voting data at counts across the country. 

The Tory vote share in Scotland last night was 25%. Do not kid yourself if you think Scotland doesn’t like Tories, because they came second in both terms of seats and vote share. We have over a year until we decide who is elected at Holyrood (with a form of proportional representation), and if you want it to be a left-leaning government (yes please) then now is the time to start educating people around your on why the left is best (or donating time and/or money).

Use the time between elections to talk about the issues

One problem I did spot during the campaign period was just how much voters aren’t really clued up on the issues. It’s hard to convince people during a snap General Election on why broadband for all is a good idea, why the Greens are the only party who really have a plan for saving the planet, why Universal Credit must go, that there is a lot of economic research that supports socialism, other countries have already proved that equal societies are possible (English voters were saying that free university tuition is far-fetched despite Scotland having had it for years?), why Trident is a waste of money, why the Monarchy has no place in modern society, and that immigration is not the threat to the working class that they’ve been made to believe that it is.

That’s why, between now and Holyrood 2021, we should be raising awareness of issues and educating those around us. Closer to the time we can start campaigning along party lines, but if we want to reduce the number of Tories in Scotland we need to start shifting public opinion towards the left in general.

Understand the root cause

As I said, I don’t really understand what went wrong last night. In order to fix it though, we need to travel into murky waters to find out. What makes a working-class person vote Tory? Why do people want Brexit, when there is no economic justification for it? Why are people ignoring that we only have 10 years before climate change is irreversible?

One of the biggest shifts in my own personal political beliefs was Scottish Independence. I used to be a hard-lined Unionist (and a Liberal Democrat hahaha hahaha oh god) and changed my mind with only two months to go. Shockingly enough, it was not the Twitter Nats shouting off about Unionists being cowards that made me change my mind (imagine that). It was, and this is random, attending a Republic Scotland debate covering what Scottish Independence could mean for the monarchy. I was really taken by what the Green representative said and that night I walked home feeling the shift in me. I joined the Scottish Greens after the referendum and maybe would have never voted Yes had it not been for the alternative Green Yes campaign. 

Granted, I had been questioning my Unionist beliefs in the months leading up to this (with so much discussion going on around me it was hard not to) but this was the moment where I crossed over the line. Later on in the campaign, the straight-up media bias and lies would become apparent (remember when the BBC claimed that Alex Salmond didn’t answer a question but a foreign journalist uploaded a video of his answer in full?) and I was a Yes for good. Nothing was going to convince me otherwise after that.

One of the reasons the Yes campaign was so successful (it might not have won but it did rapidly increase the support for Yes) was that it covered everything. There was the white paper, the tv debates, books, the Green Yes campaign, Radical Independence, English for Yes, and the other offshoots that represented different demographics. Almost no stone was left unturned. It wasn’t enough to convince everyone, but it turned this once staunch Unionist into a Yes voter. 

As someone who knows what's like to switch sides on a massive issue, I can tell you a few things. Don't be a dick to people. Share your opinions in a well-researched manner. Understand why people vote the way they do and then build a campaign around it.

Look after our most vulnerable

I want to pay more tax. I’ll happily take home slightly less money if it means a fully-functioning NHS, that the Masters I’m thinking of doing can be paid for by the state, cheaper (or free!) public transport, a good care home for my parents (I don’t live near them and can’t look after them myself), and a safety net waiting for me if I was to fall ill and couldn’t work (I have savings that I'd ideally use for buying a flat but I'm still hesitant to part with it in case something happens).

I’m making a commitment to donating to charities and food banks. The extra money that I would pay in tax is still going to be directed towards society’s most vulnerable people. My political opinions are firm on the redistribution of wealth (not that I’m wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, I’m just comfortable) and I’m planning to put my money where my mouth is.

I’m not going to pretend that the result of the General Election last night wasn’t fucking disgraceful. It’s disgusting that a large percentage of the UK population (and that includes Scotland!) wants to see disabled people on the streets or children only eating one cooked meal a day.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but if no one takes action (in a strategic way) then this is very much the future we are looking at. Start having a think about where you can help the cause in your own beautiful way: whether that's through using your expertise in your profession to pen thought-pieces, talking openly about how Tory rule has impacted you, donating money to a campaign you really care about, sharing your skillset with a campaign group or political party, volunteering at a local charity or your community council. 

It's bleak right now, very fucking bleak. But it's been bleaker before and society has - in many ways - made leaps and bounds even in my own lifetime. It's not over yet.  

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Why Scottish Green Party supporters don't owe the SNP their vote

My Twitter feed has been filled with politics recently, and with good reason. The UK is having a General Election on the 12th of December.

This General Election is more crucial than usual due to the looming monsters that are Brexit and the Climate Emergency (you know that in 10 years time climate change will be irreversible, right?). Not to mention that the Tories have thrown some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens into the gutter.

Oh, and we have a bumbling buffoon as a Prime Minister.

Emotions are high (mine certainly are) and political Twitter has been, shall we say, contentious. It’s darker here than it usually is.

For me personally, the deepest darkness has been from SNP supporters coming out in force to attack the Scottish Green Party for daring to partake in democracy by standing in an election.

Who on earth do we think we are? A political party standing in an election? How preposterous!.

Their argument essentially is “you’re splitting the vote” (with no actual examples or statistics to back it up). I’ve become used to the bile that Twitter nats sprout about the Scottish Green Party over the years, but this time it has been more forceful than usual and has left me shaking in rage.

The thing is: this is a democracy, and if the Scottish Green Party wants to stand then they should. Nobody owes anyone their votes. This includes all parties since I have also spotted Labour voters annoyed at the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, the Tories annoyed at the Brexit Party, and the Scottish Socialist Party voting not to stand candidates to avoid splitting the socialist vote.

But “splitting the vote” is a tired excuse and an affront to democracy, and here are 13 (!!!) reasons why (using the SNP vs Greens as my primary example since that is the debate I’m closer to).

We’re a different party with different policies

This feels like the most obvious point, so I’m going to get it out of the way first.

The Scottish Green Party might agree with the SNP on Scottish independence and Brexit. However, the two parties disagree on a lot of other issues.

First up is climate change. The SNP’s approach to climate change is to do just enough to for some good press and to appeal to voters who think banning plastic straws is the answer (it’s not) - while still keeping their mates in the oil industry happy. Case in point: their recent climate conference was sponsored by BP and Heathrow Airport, those famous beacons of environmental concern.

Very recently, the Scottish Parliament passed a Climate Bill, which was drafted by the SNP and backed by all other parties aside from the Scottish Green Party.  The reason the Scottish Green Party didn’t back it wasn’t because we don’t want to reduce emissions, but because the bill was very weak on how to go about it. Targets can be moved around and while the targets do make good headlines, they don’t mean anything if the SNP keep allowing oil companies to drill in the North Sea.

Nicola, if you’re reading: we’ve only got 10 years to save the world, so get a move on.

The Scottish Greens, on the other hand, have launched the Green New Deal. It focuses not only on reducing emissions but refocusing Scotland’s economy in a way that can save the planet (I repeat: we only have 10 years to fix this) while still protecting workers who make a living in engineering, oil and gas etc. It is based on a report by the New Economics Foundation that is available here.

Another recent example of the Scottish Green Party going up against the SNP is the Gender Recognition Act. The planned update to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 would allow trans people the right to legally self-identify, as opposed to medical professionals deciding for them (a process that many trans people have described as traumatic and stressful).

The SNP shelved it after giving in to pressure from TERFs but that’s not all, they have “gender critical feminists” in their highest ranks, such as MP Joanna Cherry (for Edinburgh South West) and MSP Joan McAlpine (South Scotland region). So much transphobia, that a trans SNP councillor in Dundee quit the party, citing the party’s “institutional transphobia” as his reason (and let’s not forget the problematic Women’s Pledge).

This is in direct contrast to the Scottish Green Party. The Scottish Green Party is committed to the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and our policies are voted on at our conferences. When Patrick Harvie spoke in support of trans rights in his speech at the Autumn Conference in 2018, the crowd cheered, when we passed a motion supporting trans rights at the same conference, it passed without a blip.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: the SNP’s failure to reform the Gender Recognition has been utterly disgusting. I am a bisexual woman, and I forever and always stand with everyone who falls under the LGBTQI+ banner. That includes trans people, and their right to decide their legal gender for themselves.

The SNP’s treatment of trans people is the number one reason why I can’t just hold my nose and vote for them (especially since I don’t even live in a risky seat, but we’ll get to that). The climate emergency and Scottish independence are both complex matters - politically, scientifically, and economically. There’s a lot to flesh out and it’s going to be a long journey. But respecting a trans person’s right to live their life as their chosen gender? Why is this even up for debate? This isn’t complex economics, this is basic human dignity.

Not that long ago the SNP were standing for Westminster knowing they couldn’t win

The earliest election I ever remember was the 1997 General Election when Tony Blair achieved his landslide. I’m still under 30 so in the grand scheme of things this election wasn’t that long ago.

In that election, the SNP stood 72 candidates but only won 6 seats. In the 1992 General Election, they also stood 71 seats and won 3. Within my own lifetime (and I repeat: I am under 30) I have seen the SNP grow from a fringe party with a handful of seats to a political powerhouse. And you know how they did it? Their own determination for one but also because people were willing to believe in them and voted for them even when they were told that it was a wasted vote. Where would the SNP be if they’d listened to all those Labour campaigners telling them not to split the anti-Tory vote from 1935 until 2015?

The Scottish Green Party are just doing exactly the same thing a generation later and would appreciate the same level of respect.

Scottish Independence isn’t the only issue on the table (and we’re not going to win an independence referendum anytime soon, anyway)

I get it: the SNP’s central policy is Scottish independence and if you’re a candidate, member, or supporter of the SNP then Scottish independence is probably high on your political priorities.

And you have every right to make that choice.

But so does everyone else, and Scottish independence isn’t that important to some voters. Yes, I support it but I have other issues that are more pressing right now (like, uh, stopping the world from imploding). I don’t support Scottish independence in principle. I support it because the UK is a hot mess of a country and I believe that Scotland is being held back by Westminster.

But if the UK stopped being so wild, I’d maybe change my mind. Who knows.

However, the main reason why I’m not putting Scottish independence higher on my priorities is this: we probably wouldn't win a referendum at this point. Polling (depending on who’s doing it) still hovers around the 50% mark. Even if we did get a mandate for a referendum, there’s a real chance that it would still be a no.

We’re going to have to be patient. Support for Scottish independence is higher amongst the younger generation, and it feels naturally inevitable. Yes, support seems to have increased since Brexit but it still isn’t high enough. And if being pulled out of the EU against our will, a blonde rubber duck as a Prime Minister, the Eton elite as his backing dancers, the dismantling of the NHS, and the rise of the far-right still haven’t convinced voters that Scotland is better off as an independent nation - then I’m not entirely sure what will.

You know what is inevitable? The planet overheating. An overwhelming majority of scientists have said that we have 10 years to fix this mess or the damage becomes permanent (and we die). We literally do not have time to be sucking up to the SNP’s mates in BP. There is a deadline here. Scottish independence doesn’t have a deadline. We’ll get it when we get it (which we probably will, eventually, after the planet is officially dying).

And even if we did magically win a referendum, we wouldn’t become independent overnight. The 2014 Independence Referendum had an 18-month campaign period and in the SNP whitepaper, it was suggested that the process of leaving the UK would take 18 months. That then leaves us with 7 years post-independence to save the planet (bearing in mind that even more damage might have occured in that time). Saving the planet will require a complete overhaul of our infrastructure and energy sources. Not a ban on plastic straws or whatever else the faux-eco warriors are suggesting these days. A change in infrastructure is not a simple process and certainly can’t be done overnight. If we want to save the planet, we have to act now (not when we get independence because by that point Scotland might have already sunk into the North Sea).

Before I say my next point I want to make it clear that I say this as a person and not a Scottish Green Party member: I believe that referendums that propose a big constitutional change (such as Scottish Independence and Brexit) shouldn’t rely on a simple majority. If I was in parliament drawing up an independence referendum bill I’d be looking for a supermajority, somewhere between 60-70% of the electorate. Just look at Brexit as an example of what happens when a referendum that demands constitutional reform wins by a small margin.

I’m also going to share a little tidbit about the Scottish Green Party that you might not know about. The Scottish Green Party is officially a Yes Party, by virtue of having voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence multiple times at our conferences. But we are okay with our members voting no. No one will get chucked out if they choose to campaign for Better Together. There are probably a small number of no-voting Greens (albeit I don’t have data) who are very unlikely to vote SNP purely on constitutional grounds, never mind our other points of divergence.

Finally, some people vote SNP because they like the candidate or the party’s social democratic policies. Not necessarily because they want independence. How people decide to vote isn’t as simple as “independence = good, UK = bad”.

The Scottish independence movement needs alternative voices 

I might be pro-Scottish Independence now, but I used to be a hardline Unionist (sad trombone I know). What made me change my mind?

The Green Yes campaign.

I had always found (and still do) the mainstream Yes Campaign to be a bit lacklustre, and only strives for an independent Scotland that would be mildly better than the UK. The Green Yes movement, however, offered a vision of a country that I want to live in - but makes the clear point that Scotland can’t become a progressive beacon for the world while still ruled by Westminster.

If you want the support for independence to grow, you need to stop shouting over the top of other pro-yes voices. The SNP aren’t the only voice in the Scottish Independence movement (and thank god, because some of us would have never been convinced otherwise.)

You lost seats in the last General Election...and the Greens only stood three candidates

I have two tables below showcasing the overall vote share in Scotland in 2015 and 2017 General Elections. Have a look at them.

Do you see it?

Do you see that the SNP lost votes in the 2017 General Election?

Do you see that the Scottish Green Party stood in fewer seats in 2017?

According to SNP Twitter logic, the SNP should have performed better in the 2017 General Election, since the Scottish Green Party were standing in fewer seats and weren’t “splitting the vote”. But that didn’t happen.

What the SNP should be doing right now (instead of harassing Green candidates and voters on Twitter) is working out what went wrong in 2017, so that they can perform better in 2019. Why did you receive fewer votes despite fewer parties standing?

Scotland doesn’t have a big impact on the outcome of elections

It’s well documented that Scotland doesn’t have much of an impact on which party forms the UK government. There are 650 constituencies in the UK, but only 59 are in Scotland. So in percentage terms, that means that only 9% of MPs are elected by Scotland. Even if Scotland sent down 59 SNP MPs something really bizarre would have to happen in the rest of the UK for the SNP to become a Westminster powerhouse.

If you want to block Brexit, Labour is your best bet

Labour can be just as bad as the SNP-ers in regards to complaining about “splitting the vote”. In reality, both parties should respect democracy and campaign on the positives of voting for their party.

However, I can understand Labour’s logic. You can’t vote for the SNP in other parts of the UK, so if you want a pro-Remain majority in the House of Commons, well, it might be best that Scotland holds its nose and sends down 59 Labour MPs.

If the SNP won’t consider standing aside for Labour, then the Scottish Green Party shouldn’t stand aside for the SNP.

(P.S. I wrote this post before there was talk of SNP backing Labour).

Glasgow Central won’t elect a Tory

On a personal level, I live in a constituency where a Scottish Green Party candidate is standing. So I’ll be voting for them and before you claim that I’m splitting the vote, let’s look at some stats from my own constituency.

In the 2017 General Election, the SNP candidate won with 44.7% of the votes. In the 2015 General Election, the same SNP candidate won with 52.5% of the vote. Labour came second in both elections, and then the Conservative party were third (but a very far behind third).

By voting for the Scottish Green Party in Glasgow Central, it’s very unlikely that I’ll be letting a Tory through. In fact, I would pay good money to see a posh Tory knocking on doors in the area I live in.

If Greens can’t vote Green they won’t necessarily vote SNP

First Past the Post is an unfair system that lends its hand to tactical voting. As much as I don’t like tactical voting, I sometimes do it and if I was living somewhere where a Tory might slip through, I’d consider voting for the lesser of the evils (even if it meant not voting Green).

However, my vote might not necessarily go to the SNP.

This is what some SNP-ers don’t seem to grasp: if the Scottish Green Party didn’t stand that doesn’t mean that they’ll vote for the SNP.

Let’s nip back to my own constituency of Glasgow Central. The Scottish Green Party stood someone in the 2015 General Election, but not in 2017. If you were to apply SNP theory, this means that the SNP vote share should have increased because Green voters naturally flock to the SNP when they don’t have a Green candidate on the ballot paper.

Reader, the SNP vote in Glasgow Central dropped by -7.8% between 2015 and 2017. On top of that, the vote share of Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats all increased. This is despite there being five fewer parties on the ballot paper. Granted the turnout was higher in 2015 (maybe because there was a wider option of candidates and we’d just held the Scottish Independence Referendum?). But their drop in vote share has nothing to do with the Scottish Green Party (because we didn’t even stand).

I’m also going to point out that the Scottish Green Party isn’t standing a candidate in Glasgow North East, a constituency served by Labour MP Paul Sweeney. I feel roughly the same way about Labour as I do the SNP (in that I can tolerate them), but I do have soft spots for certain figures within the party. Paul Sweeney is one of those people. He is a capable politician who shares a lot of my values. I know Greens who live in his constituency who are happy with his performance and intend on voting for him. If I was living in his constituency I’d also be “lending” him my vote.

The Green voice is always important, and it shows people care about climate change

Honestly, I’d be shocked if Glasgow Central sends a Scottish Green MP to Westminster. I’m not going in there actually thinking we’ll actually win.

What having a Scottish Green candidate on the ballot paper (and at debates and at local hustings) does is helps keep green issues on the table for discussion. If people vote for the Scottish Green Party knowing that they can’t realistically win? Well, that just proves that there is an appetite for green policies that can’t be ignored. It might encourage other parties to increase their own commitment to climate change (which no other party is doing).

Keep abusing us on Twitter, and we might not ever vote SNP again 

One of the most common threats I keep seeing on Twitter is that SNP voters will no longer vote for the Scottish Green Party on the Regional List (a few of them have even said they’ll vote for the transphobic Wings Over Scotland instead, Lord give me strength).

That is a risk the Scottish Green Party need to be willing to take.

However, this works both ways. The SNP is sometimes lent votes from the Scottish Green Party supporters. In the 2017 General Election, I voted SNP and I vote for Nicola Sturgeon on my constituency ballot in the Scottish Elections (I have my issues with the SNP as a party, but I believe Nicola to be a solid leader).

The Council Elections have a much fairer voting system where we rank candidates in preference. I always vote Scottish Green Party first (and Allan Young in my Govan ward is a very solid councillor) but after that, all bets are off. Councils have diddly squat influence on Scottish independence and Brexit, so those issues don’t influence my decision in an election about play parks and bins.

Maybe some SNP voters will never “forgive the Scottish Green Party” for potentially splitting a vote. But you know what? The Scottish Green Party candidates and their supporters won’t forget the vile we’ve been receiving on Twitter in a hurry either.

If you want to win, get out there and win fair and square

Sometimes when you’re campaigning for a party, you do need to point out the failures and problematic policies of other parties. In a constructive way. Heck, I do it myself. But, as I said, in a constructive way.

SNP voters: if you want people to vote for you and not the Scottish Green Party explain to us why in a constructive manner. Don’t angry tweet us complaining that it’s personally our fault if Scotland isn’t independent within your preferred timeline.

Scotland voted Remain

It’s well documented that Scotland is being dragged into Brexit by other parts of the UK. As a nation, Scotland largely voted to remain.

So when Scottish voters come at me with “this election is about Brexit and I don’t want to let through a Leave party” I like to remind them that this mess was caused by the other parts of the UK, and Scotland can’t do much about it.

We are relying on England to vote for the Remain parties in order to stop this national embarrassment. Maybe take to Twitter to try and persuade English voters to vote Labour? I’m followed by a lot of English people on Twitter and I regularly post political content that is more relevant to them than my Scottish followers.

The alliance with the Green Party of England and Wales is about cooperation, not shutting someone out

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party of England and Wales have created a Remain Pact to keep out MPs who support Brexit and that is great. I am not against it.

(Though I could go on a rant about the Liberal Democrats being untrustworthy).

What makes this different from the Greens “splitting the vote” is that the SNP is not interested in working alongside the Scottish Green Party to keep out Tory voters - they are straight up just telling us not to stand. That is not the same thing as the Remain Pact.

It’s just not democratic

Bottom line: asking a party to stand down because you want their supporters to vote for your party (even though there is no evidence that they would) is a slap in the face to democracy.

If you want your party to win the election, then get out there and earn those votes and if the Scottish Green Party (or whoever else) is “splitting the vote” that you feel undemocratically entitled to, then your party needs to attempt to understand why people would rather vote for them than you (especially if it’s for a party that won’t realistically win).

That’s how democracy works. You’re not entitled to anything.

That includes my vote.

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REVIEW: The Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit

"But I can't give up cheese"

This is one of the most common excuses you hear from vegetarians or meat-eaters who would like to be vegan but just...say they can't. I do sympathise, to an extent, as I was once a major cheese lover. In fact, I didn't make the full switch to veganism until Violife came onto the health food shelves. But since then many other brands have also launched new cheeses, some very similar to the dairy versions.

But if the (many) shop versions aren't doing it for you, there is another option: making your own.

A while ago the makers of the Big Vegan Cheese Making Kit* got in contact asking if I'd like to try their product. Obviously, I said yes. Between being a vegan who does miss cheese and someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, this sounded up my street.

The kit comes with six cheese recipes - and another six recipes showing you how to use the cheese in regular dishes! The six kinds of cheese this kit can make are mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, halloumi, feta and parmesan. The kit also includes a muslin cloth, a thermometer, and some of the ingredients you'll need: Anhydrous Citric Acid, Organic Sea Salt, Agar Powder, Tapioca, Nutritional Yeast, Dried Basil, Dried Paprika, Lemon pepper. All the cheeses are nut-based, and you will have to buy the cashews and macadamia nuts yourself (along with plant milk).

The cheeses themselves are simple enough to make, but you do need to be above intermediate in the kitchen and own a powerful blender. You also need to set time aside because you will need to soak the nuts overnight to soften them (or quickly boil them in hot water, that does the trick).

Out of all the cheeses, my favourite was the feta. In fact, when I crumbled the feta into my Greek Salad (a recipe that came with the pack) it tasted the same (and I used to love a Greek Salad!). It's probably because feta has a dry, savoury taste anyway so this nut-based recipe worked well as a substitute.

The parmesan was a close second, as it was very believable.

I also liked the mascarpone and ricotta recipes but (there's a but here) I can't remember eating the dairy versions. So I'm the wrong person to ask.

I also enjoyed the Halloumi. But (big but here) it didn't resemble dairy-based halloumi, as it lacked the squeakiness. Saying that it was still delicious - but in its own way.

The only cheese I didn't enjoy was the mozzarella. Not only did it not really resemble mozzarella but it also didn't really work as its own unique thing.

Now, I love cooking and experimenting with tricky recipes but the negative of this kit is that it was just a bit of a fuss. I have made each recipe only once and it is a bit of a novelty. And there are more and more pre-made cheeses coming out that are very believable and tasty. In fact, the only time I'd whip out this kit in future is if I was wanting to show off at a dinner party or was making something for someone with allergies where I wanted to be really sure there were no harmful ingredients.

Do I recommend this kit? It depends. You need to really love cooking. And have a bit of time on your hands. Maybe if you're retired, or you have a partner who you split up the household chores with (someone marry me and take on all the cleaning, and I'll cook every meal for you for the rest of your life). As mentioned, it might also be a good shout for people with allergies who really want to be sure their cheeses have no trace of dairy. As a vegan, I think there are some really good cheeses on the market now so I'd only go for this kit if you really don't like anything store-bought and like to know what's in your food.
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I watched all the Friday the 13th films and here are my thoughts

I love horror films - specifically, slasher films. As much as I have a place in my heart for creepy girls climbing out of a television or, uh, experimenting with a crucifix, it's the slashers that have my lifelong love.

Primarily, it's the slashers that were created between the mid-90s into the early 2000s that I love the most. With Scream being not only my favourite horror franchise - but just one of my favourite franchises, period. But I know that those films wouldn't exist without the golden oldies.

But I've not watched that many of the old slasher films, because I'm a bad horror fan. I've seen about half of the Halloween series (but let's be real: that franchise got wildly out of control), a few of the Nightmare on Elm Street films and only half of Psycho because I didn't actually like it. Until very recently, I had only seen two Friday the 13th films (the first one and Freddy VS Jason). That changed when I randomly stumbled upon the entire Friday the 13th series on NOW TV. So if you've not seen me recently and thought I had died, that is actually what I was up.

My perception of Friday the 13th before this was...meh. I had seen the original and Freddy VS Jason and had never quite taken to Jason. Personally, I prefer my villains to have more complexity, with a backstory, and the ability to talk. So I never gravitated towards the man-child that is Jason.

But, I am a big horror fan. And as a big horror fan I have still always appreciated that Friday the 13th was one of the earliest slasher films created and that, without it, many of my favourite films would not exist. Many of the horror tropes used today were developed from Halloween and Friday the 13th.

Here's the thing though: despite its commercial success, critics hated it. And fair enough. From a critical and artistic standpoint, it's a pile of shite. Even Betsy Palmer, who played Pamela Vorhees, didn't expect it to be a hit and only took the job because she needed money for a new car! It's not a good film, in the technical sense. But what people who graduate from film school don't always understand: what is good from an academic or professional standpoint isn't always what audiences want.

And that's where marketing comes in. Or, more accurately, understanding supply and demand. The creators of Friday the 13th admit that they wanted to create something similar to Halloween (largely regarded as the film that created the slasher genre). Audiences wanted more and the creators saw the gap in the market; there was the demand but not supply. A large part of Friday the 13th success was the right time and the right place.

When talking about slasher films, especially the older ones, the book Men, Women and Chainsaws will come up. I actually own this book and read it several a years ago. And in it is the answer to why audiences loved the low-budget slashers of the 80s: they were simple, accessible, and lacked pretentious art school vibes. So pretty much: the very reason film experts hated them was the same reason mainstream audiences loved them. The book also calls Silence of the Lambs a "slasher film for graduate students" and I've always lol'd at that. I love the Silence of the Lambs film (it's actually a favourite) but let's not pretend that Hannibal Lector isn't a pretentious snob.

Regardless, Jason became a horror icon. Which is strange to anyone who has seen the Friday the 13th series and/or the opening sequence of Scream:

Maybe I love Scream so much because I don't mind spoilers.

Jason didn't actually show up until the sequel, which I knew because of my aforementioned love of Scream. But what did surprise me while watching the series is that (spoiler alert) he doesn't get his iconic hockey mask until the third film. And even then it's not until a good chunk of the way through the film. All that iconic imagery that I had been familiar with since my teenage years showed up later in the franchise.

But I love this scene. Not just because he obtains his mask, but also because of the nonchalant way he waddles back to the house.

And then he uses the hockey mask to cover his disfigured face for the rest of the franchise.

Speaking of the entire you want to know which of the films I actually liked?

The one that stood out for me, and a lot of horror fans, is the 6th film: Jason Lives. Yes, it's very random that six films in they created something that received some positive reviews from critics. It's slightly humorous in a passive way, the kills are gory, and there is more characterisation. While it was released in 1986, it's humour and meta dialogue make it look like a film that could have been made in the late 90s in a post-Scream world. And I love Scream. Scream in the best.

It's also the film where Jason is resurrected and would remain immortal and powerful for the rest of the franchise.


Who doesn't love watching a bunch of annoying company execs being killed in the woods?

The other film I really liked, and I might get some flack about, is Jason X. Some fans really hate this film. Like, really hate it. But I like it. It's Jason in space which is a ridiculous idea, but the film knows that it's ridiculous so, in my opinion, they get away with it. And Jason gets a make-over and becomes futuristic Uber Jason. Okay, I know that's probably why people don't like it. As mentioned, slasher flicks started out as simple films without anything too out there. So sending Jason ino space and having him become half-robot was going to anger the purists. But, I like this film. It's silly.

Sadly, Uber Jason was only seen in this film and Freddy VS Jason decided to old old-school Jason.

And while Jason Takes Manhattan is probably the worst film in the franchise because HE SPENDS MOST OF IT KILLING PEOPLE ON A BOAT that one scene where we see Jason standing in Times Square was incredible. And I just love that people don't bat an eyelid because...New York. That city sees dressed up weirdos all the time.

One of the main criticisms you hear about the Friday the 13th films is WHY SO MANY BOOBS! The whole franchise has a lot of naked chicks, and this has been up for academic and feminist critique. There's a horror trope about "sluts dying first" that really needs to get in the bin (and has done so, to an extent). But the Friday the 13th series is probably one of the boobiest horror franchises out there.

My opinion: the critique on the naked chics being mostly young, white, conventionally attractive, thin women is valid. When you're going to have sexualised characters, have a bit of variety. But also: stop being prudes. It's not just about the "male gaze". I'm a queer woman and I'm not going to pretend I didn't enjoy the boobs. Boobs are nice. And I like hot naked chics as much as any straight dude.

Though race: the third film has black characters...but they are gangstas. Okay then. I was hoping for a tiny bit of diversity. Thanks to Scream 2 we know that horror is a white-centric genre:

You tell them, Jada Pinkett Smith!

My main bug bearer about Friday the 13th is small, and pedantic. I was wondering how big Crystal Lake actually is? And how many houses can you fit around one fucking lake? And how did Jason hideout in the woods that long with no one finding him? And in the ninth film, there's a Vorhees Estate that fell into the hands of a random half-sister? Half-sister I can believe but this massive mansion? Why did Jason live in the woods when there was a mansion that was rightfully his? Blah blah blah artistic license blah blah blah.

Would I say that the Friday the 13th franchise is going to become a personal favourite? No. But I did enjoy my binge, even if it was only from an I'm a Horror Fan and Really Enjoy Watching All the Horror Movies Because I Just Love Horror That Much sort of way. For me, my binge was a massive geek sesh.

P.S. you can buy a Camp Crystal Lake candle.

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5 things that helped me accept that I am bisexual and come out the closet

A flashback to a selfie taken around about the time I came out. My face says everything about how I was feeling at that point in my life. 

Last week I wrote a long, rambly 4000+ word post about my decision to come out as bisexual two years ago, and what life has been like since.

In that post, I shared that my decision to come out was directly related to my decision to end some questionable platonic relationships. While this was the critical moment that pushed me over the edge, it wasn't the only thing that had happened in recent years that would get me closer to accepting what I had known since high school. Here are five other things that helped me accept who I really was, and result in me coming out of the closet!

1. Open-bisexual public figures

While I was growing up, there weren't any bisexual public figures to look up to. At least not any who were explicitly bisexual. I've known for decades that Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore are bisexual - but their sexuality is not well publicised.

Fast forward to the last few years and there are two prominent bisexuals in the media who everyone knows are bisexual: Kristen Stewart and Cara Delvigne. I mean, sorry if this is how you found out but anyone who follows celebrity gossip even slightly knows that these two ladies love people of any gender.

Bi-erasure is still a problem. Cynthia Nixon is one of the most prominent examples. She's been married to a woman for 11 years and has to correct people who assume she is gay. I mean, she was with a man for 15 years (which was during her Sex & The City fame) that you think would be a giveaway - but nah! I've even had to personally correct someone on Cynthia Nixon's sexuality. 

People, not even public figures, should never feel pressurised to be loud about their sexuality if they don't want to be. And they shouldn't really have to, in an ideal world anyway. But having celebrities who are loudly bisexual was a turning point for me.

2. LGBT+ people coming out in later age

I came out a month before my 27th birthday. And part of my fear was people asking me why it took me so long - or, god forbid, using it as a reason to not believe me. Any, yes, I was asked by people why it took me so long. Not all of us get it done the first day of university, okay?

In 2015, YouTube sensation Ingrid Nilsen came out as gay at the age of 26. Granted this was two years before I would eventually come out myself but it did serve as a small nudge that it's okay to come out in your late 20s.

A slightly more low-key coming out story was from local Glasgow blogger Sophie. Sophie is a friend these days, but at the time they were no more than someone I followed on Twitter. But seeing someone who was my age publicly document their coming out story was the second most important thing that helped me accept myself, only losing out to ending shitty friendships.

I came out of the closet a year after Sophie did, and their story was an important part of mine. Sophie sharing their story helped me rattle on the closet doors while ending ugly friendships was the thing that made the doors throw open. If I was to write a book about my life as a bisexual - from the moment I knew to the present-day - Sophie's influence would have a dedicated chapter.

And that's why I'm a fan of people sharing my own story. Sophie isn't a public figure. They were a random person on Twitter, albeit one that I would consider a friend now. In the past week since publishing my anniversary blog, I've had two bisexuals (one closeted) come into my DMs thanking me for putting into words what they've struggled to say. You never know who your story could help.

3. Online dating

I would like to give a friendly shout out to my good friend Tinder (and OkCupid) for making it easier to chat to girls when I still wasn't ready to come out publicly. How did queer people meet people back in the day? Especially those of us who don't look queer? And weren't confident enough to be out? Heck, I'm still rubbish at chatting up potentially queer girls in the real world.

4. Better bisexual characters

Again, growing up there weren't many bisexual characters in tv and films. Sure, there were characters who experimented or randomly came out as gay after having a healthy hetero-relationship (looking at you Willow Rosenburg). But those characters typically enforced negative bisexual stereotypes.

But a few years ago I got sucked into the Arrowverse and the bisexual character of Sara Lance. For the first time, I witnessed a bisexual character portrayed really well. She doesn't have a long-term partner on the show, so we see her date people of multiple genders - and she never "picks a side". And her sexuality is very rarely mentioned specifically - aside from an evil character here and there - it's just there. 

Since coming out I've dipped my toes into Riverdale, which boasts the bisexual characters Cheryl and Toni.

And while I haven't watched it, I've heard that Emmerdale of all things has a bisexual character now.

That's why I firmly believe in representation. Because when people can see themselves in things, it lifts them up.

5. My self-confidence

In last week's post, I shared that I struggled with self-confidence and anxiety while I was in the closet. But truthfully, my anxiety and my sexuality is a bit of a chicken-and-egg theory - which one came first? Because in the years prior to coming out my confidence had grown bit by bit. Yes, it grew exponentially the day I came out. But some of the work I did on growing my confidence since high school did lay the groundwork for me having the confidence to eventually come out.

And one thing that definitely did not help me get there sooner: 

People speculating about my sexuality

Despite being femme presenting and not obviously queer, I am more than aware that my sexuality was speculated about more than once. And I know the people who did so had their heart in the correct place, but it actually made me find a dark place at the back of the closet where no one would ever find me. The idea that people knew terrified me. Even on the odd occasion where I was specifically asked I laughed and denied it.

I won't name the family member specifically, in case I have the story wrong. But there is an older family member who has acted as if they have known since my mid-teens, but never directly asked. They did, however, start showing more of an interest in LGBTQ+ issues and stopped teasing me about boys. And that was the way to do it. Allowing me to know that they knew, they loved me regardless and would be there for me when I was ready.

Coming out is a personal choice that should be made by the person. And one of the best ways to be an ally is to give them the space to figure it out in their own time.

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Two years.

October is a bit of a funny month for me. It's home to a few major anniversaries and memories - some of which I'd like to forget. My childhood dog was put down in October, I've been dumped (twice!) in October, I was burgled, I've been made redundant, and (a good one this time) it's the month I moved to Glasgow. While I wouldn't consider myself to be a particularly paranoid person, I do feel like waving sage around my house when October comes around each year.

But there's another anniversary that makes me incredibly emotional - and in a good way.

And that's my outiversary.

While I might be unapologetically bisexual now: it was only two years ago, a month before my 27th birthday, that I stood in my kitchen one Friday night and decided I was done.

Last year, on #BiVisibilityDay, I wrote a blog post explaining why it took me so long to come out and I'm not planning to re-hash the entire story. What I'm going to focus on in this post is the coming out itself and how my life has changed since that night.

My coming out wasn't entirely out the blue and was a progression (or a reaction!) to another major decision. Somewhere in late summer 2017, a memory came up on my Facebook from many years ago. In the photo, were me and a frenemy who had been in my life since 2009. The person in question is a highly problematic individual and when I looked at the photo, I felt something switch in me. My awkward and shy face. Their creepy fucking smile. The timestamp that reminded me that I had put up with their shit for far too long.

While I had tried to distance myself a few times in the past, I had always ultimately chickened out. But something about the painfully awkward facial expression of my 19-year-old self made me snap. This time I was walking away from that person for good and anyone who enabled them.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm in my kitchen just minutes away from the moment where I'd snap about my sexuality.

You see, the weekend I came out was the same weekend as their birthday party. I wasn't going. I had been chased to go by mutual friends and I hadn't caved. I was really walking away. 

And within the adrenaline of all this, I found the strength to do something else: that night, I became an openly bisexual woman. The moment was so poignant to me that I remember that I was looking in my fridge when I made the decision. There's a running joke with my friends that I came out of the fridge rather than the closet.

My coming out was subtle and many people probably missed it. That night all I did was change my sexual orientation on my dating apps. And I only began to actually tell people when I began meeting girls off of Tinder. It would still take me another year to become the proudly in-your-face-bisexual that I am today.

The next four months of my life were some of the most emotional of my life. This is the time period where I began to come out socially. I mean, I count my outiversary as that moment in my kitchen but there was still some work to be done. I began dropping it into blog posts (the first time is here) and then told people as I began to go on dates. If you're one of the friends who I came out to directly (rather than just finding out from a blog post) I can remember exactly how it was done. Maybe you don't. But I remember where I was when I did it, and how the conversation got to that point. Those moments have never left me.

I also began seeing girls I knew on dating apps, so I guess the news was going to get out.

And while I'm at home with my story now there are still those moments where I look back - with an actual tear in my eye - and think: holy fuck I actually did it. 

For those of you who have never had to come out, the emotion I feel around this anniversary might be hard to understand.

But the impact coming out has had on my emotional and mental health has been profound. While, yeah, coming out might seem no more than a moment where I can go "woohoo, I get to date girls now" it was a lot more than that. In the year that followed that night, I felt like I was being reborn.

If you've known me for more than two years, you might recall how awkward a human I used to be. I never went to the GP so I'm hesitant to use the term and self-diagnose, but my younger self very likely suffered from social anxiety. The link between LGBTQ+ individuals and mental health problems are well documented. And for me, that manifested in struggling to connect with people, overthinking absolutely everything, being scared people were judging me for the tiniest of things, and struggling to make chit chat. I also suffered from arachnophobia (which, no, not officially diagnosed either but on more than one occasion I was left sobbing uncontrollably because a spider was in the house). I'm not a psychiatrist and have no idea if this medically adds up: but sometimes I think spiders were the physical manifestation of my anxiety. Either way, I don't have the phobia now (just a strong dislike).

Very recently I read Brave New Girl by Chloe Brotheridge. Chloe is a therapist who specialises in anxiety disorders and there was one tidbit in this incredible book that hit me right in the sweet spot: carrying a massive secret around can sometimes be the root cause of anxiety.


A lot makes sense now.

The thing is: after coming out I found confidence for the first time in my life. I began to move around the world with more ease, rather than shuffling around like I had done before. I looked people in the eye when they spoke to me. I could talk back if I needed to. I felt less weird having serious conversations. I could actually connect with people on a deep, emotional level.

Having the confidence to be honest about who I found attractive opened up the door for me to become honest about who I was in every sense of the word. I ditched hobbies that I only had a passive interest in and focused on my passions instead. My clothing choices became more consistent. I became confidently vegan rather than awkwardly pretending I wasn't hungry. I've also shared publicly that I would consider an open relationship. I applied to a university course last year that would have resulted in a change of career direction. I post things online that I know my family won't like, but I know now that I don't live for them.

I've become the most honest version of myself in every way possible. And, fuck, does it feel good.

And the thing is? Nothing bad came from coming out. All those years I was scared to be myself because I felt like I was too nerdy, too bisexual, too introverted, too awkward, or too vegan. Truth is: the only people I lost were the people I chose to walk away from in the summer of 2017. In the two years since I've come out, I've developed - for the first time in my life - a proper support system. Not just people to hang out with or people I talk to in a superficial way. But deep, emotional, and authentic relationships.

High school me would think you were lying if she was to be told that the 28-year-old version of her would say these words but...

....I'm popular now?

People like the real me. They really like her. Some people actually love her.

One of my friends Abbey - who I met about eight months after I came out of the fridge - told me that her favourite thing about me is that "Morag is just so Morag". I almost cried when she told me this as less than a year before I met her I was only just beginning to embrace the honest version of myself.

I've also received DMs from people thanking me for how open I am. And that shit always makes me cry happy tears. I want to hug the younger version of me and everyone who feels they have to hide from the world for something so trivial.

Coming out of the closet also helped clear up another issue that had followed me around for years: my inability to commit to someone romantically. I've only had two official relationships in my life, but these were both when I was a lot younger. I have spent the bulk of my twenties single. Which has been fine, as being single is not a bad thing. However, one reason I was hesitant to commit to anyone was that I wasn't being honest about who I was attracted to. Yes, I could have just married a man because, duh, I have always been genuinely attracted to those creatures. But I couldn't do so while knowing that I hadn't given myself to full opportunity to date all the genders that I really wanted to before picking that one special person. There was that nagging thought "do I really want to end up with a man, or would I prefer a girl?". If I end up with a man now, I'll confidently know that it's just how things worked out.

A few months after coming out I started dating a girl in the late spring of 2018. It ended a few months after it began, and after we parted ways the idea of a serious romantic partner to whom I was committed to was no longer scary. I no longer felt like I would be missing out on something that I secretly craved. Bisexuals don't have to have slept or dated a person of every gender to be valid but, for me, I didn't want to go to my grave having not done so.

Since then I've been fine with the idea of romantic commitment. I've not found anyone, but I have given random suitors a real chance. Not long after things ended with that girl, I began to develop my first big crush on someone in years. It was a man, and the idea of committing to him didn't seem scary. I mean, it didn't work out in my favour but it was nice to have a big crush on someone without being scared to do something about it (new Morag wasn't scared to pursue and did speak up!)

I've also given some thought as to how I would like to identify. I love that language has evolved to include new identities that explicitly describe someone's sexual attraction. I've chosen bisexual mostly because its the mainstream term and you don't need to explain it to people. Though the word bisexual does come with stigma, because when you get technical (and pedantic) about it: it means attracted to two genders. I do not believe there are only two genders and I am attracted to people across the gender spectrum. But I wouldn't say I'm gender blind, which is why I've always rejected the term pansexual. But there is a power in reclaiming words that have negative connotations and I would love to see the meaning of the word bisexual shift to reflect the modern world. But sometimes I worry that this is my cis-privilege showing (call me out if I need it).

However, two other identities I feel comfortable with are polysexual and fluid. Polysexual means attracted to many genders, but not all. Which does more closely sum up how I feel. But I have had to explain what it means to people - even people on queer dating apps! And fluid means that someone's sexual orientation can shift. My attraction has always been fluid, and I have no "fixed point" on how attracted I am to different genders. Months can pass by where I feel monosexual, but then I shift back into the centre.

Coming out about my sexual attraction also created an environment where I began to explore my romantic attraction and attitude towards relationships in general. I wrote about it in-depth earlier this year. When I began dating a girl in spring 2018, it was the first time where there was a big conversation about what we were, rather than just making assumptions based on labels. We were romantically and sexually involved, but we agreed that we were not life partners and were free to date other people (but be honest about it). To be fair, I had mentioned in passing before coming out that I felt curious about polyamory and open relationships (me and my first ever boyfriend talked about it!). Since we parted ways a year ago, I have tried to make a habit of talking openly to any sexual and romantic companions on how we show up on each other's life. This chat always goes down better with queer people. Even bisexual men are in tune with the idea that it's not okay to assume what you are to someone (straight men are still very bad at assuming).

Dating as bisexual woman has had a few pitfalls. I'm now a prime target for those pesky unicorn hunters. And while threesomes are a very valid sexual fantasy, the way these couples go about wooing bisexual women is so...odd. So odd, in fact, that I have a half-written guide in my drafts about how to do it ethically!

And then there's the Gold Star Lesbians who would never touch a bisexual girl. In fact, the bulk of girls I've flirted with online have been bisexual (or something similar). Very rarely do I have gay women in my DMs.

But here's my personal favourite: straight dudes who I've matched with asking what my preference is. One, it's a very personal question to ask someone who is no more than a Tinder match. And two, it stinks of the myth that bisexuals can't help themselves and will ultimately cheat on you with someone of another gender so, hey, let's check that she's more into men than girls so that I can trust her. Okay, I don't know their reasoning behind asking that question, but that's how it feels to be asked. Also: my preference doesn't stick for long (this week alone I've switched my Tinder back and forth between men and women).

Near the tail end of 2018, one of the mutual friends with the aforementioned frenemy popped up in my Messenger Inbox. We'd remained friendly-ish but she ultimately acted as if she expected me to change my mind and come running back (probably because I had in the past). I was invited to her NYE party, where I knew that person would be. I declined. Right after the new year, she messaged me pleading saying that she missed me and that she would ditch this person if it meant getting me back.

Ultimately, I didn't take her back (but hear me out).

A lot had changed since that night in my kitchen. She didn't miss me. At least she didn't miss the real me. She missed the super obedient, shy, and non-confrontational version of me that I used to be. She missed a girl that was similar to me, but ultimately wasn't me. Not true me, anyway. And our friendship had always been wooden because of that.

But also, I knew from my days in the closet that she doesn't believe bisexuals are real. As in, I've heard her say that word for word. That's the thing with spending a chunk of your adult life in the closet: you know who the secret bigots are. And she was one. You don't need to be a brain scientist to make the connection between my decision to walk away from that particular group of people and my decision to come out.

And when I turned her down, she stayed friends with the person who was stood with me in that photo - despite knowing how badly they had behaved over the years. She was never going to walk away from that person because it would have been the morally right thing to do - she was only offering to walk away if it meant salvaging a friendship that lacked any real depth (hi if you're reading).

These days I am loud and proud about my sexuality. And I know that annoys some people. There are the flat-out bigots who just want everyone to marry someone of the "opposite" sex and make babies (they probably believe women should be in the kitchen too). Then there are the "I'm not against it but why do we need Pride" types.

Quite frankly: fuck you.

I spent my teenage years terrified that someone would catch on to the fact that I fancied a girl two years above me. I tried to fight it for most of my early twenties. It caused me to have social anxiety. I became frightened of my own feelings. I've missed out on pursuing girls who I liked in a mushy way because I didn't want to admit that I liked girls in a mushy way.

I was scared to love. And no one should be scared to love.

Coming out is my proudest achievement, but it shouldn't be. What kind of world are we living in that someone's proudest achievement is learning to love themselves in a world that still tells them not to? Or overcoming the gaslighting from a society that tells us that bisexuals don't really exist?

Coming out is bullshit and shouldn't be a thing. It's easier now to come out of the closet than it was a decade ago. But not everyone can live life freely. Even though I'm a millennial and don't belong to a generation fuelled with hatred, it still took me over a decade to come out. I also live in a safe enough country, but it still took me over a decade to come out. Yes, society's changing attitude helped me slowly get there - but ultimately it was letting go of the wrong people.

But despite coming out on the internet, there are still situations where I choose to stay quiet.

I'm lucky enough to be out at work. It's the travel industry, an industry that is typically dominated by women and a lot of the men that do work in it are LGBT+ themselves. I also work in digital marketing, which is hardly the most corporate occupation ever. But I do sometimes fear the day when I move on and have to come out all over again (or choose not to!).

But I have also discovered bi-erasure first hand. Very recently I met a new person who, when I mentioned I was going on a date, immediately used male pronouns. On this occasion, I was going on a date with a man but I wasn't sure if I wanted to randomly start a conversation saying "hey, on this occasion, it is a man I'm going on a date with but just so you know...".

And then there are the people who know fine well I'm bisexual but still seem to forget.

I have made the decision, however, not to explicitly come out to my family. Since I'm loud about it online, I know a lot of them must know. It's not a secret; they are allowed to know. Largely the reason I've never told them is that the topic has never arisen. When I came out to my friends, it was when I began going on dates with girls and non-binary people. I didn't say anything until there was something to tell them. But because I've never had the kind of relationship with my family where they'd know about random flings and Tinder dates, the natural opportunity has never come up. They only know when I'm dating someone if the person I'm dating becomes an official partner - and that's why I've ultimately made the decision to only explicitly say "I like girls" if I meet a girl I want to commit to on a serious level.

And I know there might be an element of "bi-privilege" to this but: I might still end up with a guy anyway, and I'd rather not put myself through an awkward conversation with family members about liking girls only to never bring one home.

Saying that I am very grateful for the family members who have liked posts on Instagram and Facebook that acknowledge my sexuality. That's all I'm looking for. I don't really feel like having an in-depth chat about my sex life with family members, thank you very much. I chose to come out in a natural way, and I'd prefer for it to be acknowledged in a natural way.

Would my life be different if I had come out sooner? Yeah, probably. But given I was surrounded by biphobic assholes for years, I was never safe to. And I stand by that. Words can be weapons and having friends who denied the existence of bisexual people caused me to doubt my own sense of self. I've not forgiven the people who made me feel like I had to hide the real me - and probably never will.

There is nothing wrong with not being out. We all have different stories and varying levels of safety. I'm not even sure if I would come out sooner if I could do my life again. All I care about is that I am out now and sharing my story loudly so that fewer people have to feel the way I did for over a decade. If just one person accepts themselves after reading this 4,000-word ramble then I consider the multiple re-writes to be worth it.

When writing this post I chose to not hold back. Part of me did almost remove certain anecdotes (mainly the parts where I discuss family and ex-friends) but I wanted it to be the real story of how coming out changed my life. Not a wishy-washy version of the story where I'm like "yeah, everything's great now and I'm not angry at all".

But all things aside, the last two years of my life have been the happiest and most peaceful of my life. I'm finally sitting right in my own skin and I'm no longer frightened of everything. And all because I did something as simple as admitting to myself that I could fall in love with someone regardless of their gender or sex.

That night in my kitchen I never imagined that coming out would lead to the level of happiness I now feel. The idea that finally accepting the very thing that I had tried to run from for over a decade was the very thing that would set me free still seemed too bizarre. I was scared really fucking scared, but it turned out I had nothing to be scared about. Because that night was the night my life really began.

Anniversaries are always special, no matter what they celebrate or mourn. But some just hold a larger significance.

And for me, the most special anniversary of all is the one where I took a deep breath and gave myself permission to love. Not just permission to love people of all genders, but permission to love myself in all my bisexual reality.

13th October 2017.
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A Batgirl fangirl's guide to starting a comic book collection

Society might tell you that comics are for children and emotionally stunted men who live in their mums' basements.

I am neither a child nor an emotionally stunted man, but I love comics. In fact, I collect Batgirl comics and it's one of my life goals to collect every single issue. Including the variant covers. I'm saving to buy my own flat right now and when I finally do have my own place I intend to display my collection in a way so that everyone who visits will be graced with Barbara Gordon's amazing wit and intellect. 

Maybe I am a nerd who needs to get out more. 

But if you thought this was a childhood obsession that got a bit out of hand once I was a grown-up with my own income, you would be wrong. I started reading comics at the age of 24. 

Yes, at the age of 24 I randomly decided that I wanted to become a comic reader. I didn't know specifically at that point that I'd end up collecting Batgirl comics but something about reading comics spoke to me. I had always been obsessed with pop culture and over the years began to gravitate towards superhero films and comics were a natural progression.

But it took me a long time to find out what comics appealed to me, and that I wanted to pursue a Batgirl collection. There are a lot of comic genres and creators out there, and even if you have a rough idea of what you want to read you still have to find out what issues to start on and where to buy said issues.

I have girls in my DMs every now and then asking for my advice on this very topic because it can be confusing knowing where to start. And a lot of the guides out there are male-centric. So I've pulled together my own guide to help anyone who might be struggling to find a starting point.

Know your comic book terms

First things first, know the lingo. Here's a fantastic reference sheet for you.

Start with graphic novels

Step away from the single issues! I only recommend you start collecting single issues when you've settled on a character or universe that you absolutely love (like me and Batgirl). Graphic novels are a great way to read a whole story run in one go and get to know different characters, universes, and locations. Many graphic novels are actually single issue comics brought together once a whole run has finished publication - it's like waiting to binge the entire box set rather than watching something episode by episode.

If it's DC you're looking to get into Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, Batman: A Death in the Family, and Batman: The Killing Joke are generally considered the best of the best.

Look into the comics of your favourite film and TV shows

While I might be a big DC fangirl now, when I entered the world of comics I kept an open mind between DC and Marvel. I loved Rogue from X-Men and purchased a few graphic novels that focused on her, but then discovered that film Rogue and comic Rogue were very different. Batgirl hasn't been in that many film adaptations so I wasn't prepared for the idea that I'd fall in love with the character. But I've always loved Poison Ivy in the films, and I love her just as much in the comics.

While you might end up surprised by the differences between the source material and the Hollywood reincarnations, I'd still recommend picking up a graphic novel that focuses on a character that you're already familiar with.

Other films and TV shows that have comics as part of the shared universe includes Buffy, Transformers, Star Wars, Riverdale, Sabrina, and The Walking Dead.

Find characters that are similar to you

When I began dipping my toes into Marvel and DC I focused on the female characters. It's natural to favour characters who are similar to you and I know my fondness of Barabara Gordon is because I see parts of her in myself.

Here's a mini-guide the main DC ladies:
Poison Ivy - eco-warrior, sexy, redhead, scientist
Harley Quinn - giggly, gymnast, hyper
Catwoman - sexy, morally ambiguous
Batwoman - lesbian (since 2006 anyway) and strong as hell
Wonder Woman - a bit self-righteous, beautiful, strong
Black Canary - feisty but heart in the right place, and a rock chick

You don't need to start at Issue #1

Some comics and characters have been around for decades, so a few re-boots have been in order. Some characters have managed to die several times, then the whole thing is re-booted and they're back. Or they get paralysed, are in a wheelchair for years and become the brains of the organisation. Then the comic gets re-booted and they can walk again with no explanation. Just saying.

In the comic book world, series are called "runs" and what is more important is that you start at the beginning of run - but it doesn't matter which run that is. Here's a list of the 100 best runs to start your imagination.

Feel free to Wikipedia the character's backstory

I mean, if you insist on reading all of DC Comics from day one, be my guest. But if you start somewhere in the present day you can stop by Wikipedia to read up at some of the character canons.

Hobby Lark is also a great resource for filling in the blanks. As is Comicstorian.

Know which superheroes cross-over with each other

Even though X-Men comics and the Avengers are both Marvel, you won't find much cross over. In the world of DC, Batgirl is regularly joined by Black Canary, Dick Grayson, and Batman - but you probably won't find The Flash or Green Lantern popping up too often.

DC's publications, post-New 52 at least, are split up into the following 7 categories.

  • Justice League
  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Green Lantern
  • Young Justice
  • The Edge
  • The Dark

Personally, it's the Justice League and Batman categories that I read. Batman tends to focus on characters that are in the Bat-family (Batgirl, Robin, Alfred, etc ), their nemesis (Joker, Penguin etc) and other characters who canonically live in Gotham (e.g. Detective Jim Gordon). While The Justice League is made up of the big-name heroes who have shown up in the films, such as Aquaman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

Comic cons are great for picking up back issues

When you've read a few graphic novels and have decided on the characters and story arcs you'd like to focus on, then I recommend attending a comic fair or con. Generally speaking, comic shops sell graphic novels and new single issues, so if you're wanting to collect back issues then it's either online shopping or comic con.

A few shops that sell back-issues include Plan 9 Comics in Aberdeen, Forbidden Planet in Manchester, and a random one-man comic shop in the Afflecks Centre in Manchester.

Some comic book shops are better than others

There is a little bit of truth to some of the negative nerd stereotypes. Some comic shops do smell bad and are looked after by people with questionable people skills. There was a comic shop in Dundee that barely had any lighting, was dusty af, and was owned by a guy with the social skills of a rabid hyena. Then another comic shop was opened in Dundee by a woman who painted the walls light blue and actually looked after the damn place. I think you know which one I preferred (and which one no longer exists).

My favourite Scottish comic shop is Plan 9 in Aberdeen. They sell a good mix of back issues, new issues, and graphic novels - as well as geek memorabilia and board games. I always make a point of stopping by when I'm visiting my family.

Forbidden Planet is a chain and is usually new issues and graphic novels. Though the one in Manchester sells single back issues.

Digital Comics are half the price

I still love the feel of a physical book or comic in my hands, so I've never got into the e-book craze. But there are a lot of comics on offer in digital form, and usually for a fraction of the price. Comixology is one of the best places to start looking for digital comics.

Libraries sometimes have free comics

Many government-owned libraries have a graphic novel section. It's worth stopping by your local library to see what they have.

Borrow comics from your friends

Admittedly I wouldn't lend out my single issues, but if we're IRL friends I'm more than happy to lend you a graphic novel (or three).

Free Comic Book Day

Admittedly, I don't make use of this as I usually have a list of issues I want to buy and don't want to clutter up my room with comics I won't read. But I know some long-term nerds who always head out on this day. It usually falls in late spring and early summer and a lot of comic shops will hand out free single issues to customers.

Some more resources

My guide only scratches the surface of the world of comics - and, uh, mainly focuses on DC and Batgirl. There are several guides out there that cover the medium more widely from people have been into comics since childhood. Here are some of muy favourites:

Comic Book Herald
Patrick (H) Willems
Nerd Sync
How To Love Comics
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Is Final Destination 5 the best sequel ever made?

The Final Destination franchise - where every film starts with someone having a premonition, a bunch of teenagers escape death, but then death catches up and kills them in elaborate ways - has always sat on my "yeah I like it, but don't fangirl for it" film list.

I've always loved the concept of the films - that death has a design and no one can cheat it - and the kills are always brilliantly creative (if unlikely), but the annoying teenage characters grated on me. And, unlike many franchises, there wasn't a consistent final girl to root for or a villain to hate. What all the films have in common is the idea and concept, rather than a character, location, or backstory.

Currently, James A Janisse of Dead Meat YouTube fame (who is one of my favourite creators and every horror fan should be following him) is covering the Final Destination franchise on his Kill Count series. So far he has covered films 1-4, all of which I have seen and I pleasantly enjoyed James's snarky commentary. So in preparation for him covering Final Destination 5 next week, I decided to pop it on Netflix for some Friday night wild times. 

Since the fourth film, The Final Destination, was a hot piece of garbage (and just the low-standards that tend to plague sequels in general, let alone the 5th instalment) I went in there with really low expectations. 

But instead, 

I found, 


the world's 

greatest film sequel, 


I'm going to warn you now, that this blog post is not a review but instead a mind-dump of OHMYGODHOWFUCKINGCOOLWASTHAT? There's a massive twist at the end, which is foreshadowed throughout but I still didn't see it coming, and I will be revealing it in a few sentences. 

So, like, go watch it first and then come back and squee with me in the comments. 

You also need to very familiar with the franchise to appreciate the twist when it comes.

But those of you who know what happens, let's hyperventilate over everything Final Destination. 

Are your eyes away now?

The outdated cultural references felt out of place but I put it down to poor scriptwriting. Even when they talked about moving to Paris the whole fucking movie I didn't make the connection with the first film. When they got on the plane my initial reaction was "why are they doing a plane scene again? You did that in the first fucking film. Have we ran out of elaborate death ideas?". 

It wasn't until I saw Kerr Smith being dragged off the plane by security that I was like HOLY FUCKING BATMAN THIS WAS A PREQUEL THE ENTIRE TIME AND THEY ARE GOING TO FUCKING DIE ON THE PLANE CRASH FROM THE FIRST FILM. 

It hit me like a bus. 

LOL. I make myself laugh (if no one else).

The only clue in the film that really stood out to me, but I ultimately put it down to a scriptwriting choice, was that they never made reference to the other films. In the other sequels, the teenagers received guidance from news stories and commentary about Flight 180 - and in the second film, they even sought the consult of a survivor. As noticeable as this was to me, I just got annoyed about it rather than making the connection that this film was set before the events of the first film. My internal dialogue was wondering why the characters weren't Googling their way out of this situation - but duh: smartphones weren't a thing circa the millennium and most homes still had dial-up.

The only advice they received was from the Coronor who randomly walks up to them at a funeral.

The filmmakers also created a nice balance between sneaking in a few nods to early 00s culture and technology, while not going so overboard that you immediately realise that this film is set in the past. There was a flip cell phone at one point (which I didn't notice), and there was a Lisa Lobe reference (which I did notice, and was like "wasn't that the chick who had one big song in the 90s then...nothing" I was nine when the millennium passed, so I wasn't super culturally-aware yet).

But there was something about the decision to return to the first film that stood out to me culturally, but only after I realised what was happening. Both films are set in 2000, but the second film was actually released in 2009. And between 2000 and 2009, the world witnessed 9/11 which had a big impact on the entertainment industry.

The first Final Destination film is painfully pre-9/11. To clarify, the first Final Destination film, where an aeroplane blows up, was released 18 months prior to 9/11 - which is uncomfortably close. If someone who is old enough to remember 9/11 watches Final Destination, without knowing its release date and storyline, they might find it a bit jarring as clothing, actors, and technology give away that its an early 00s film and was culturally in the same time frame as 9/11.

Final Destination 3 did come under fire for referencing 9/11 in a photograph.

(We also know, that these days, someone screaming "the plane will crash" will probably be shot straight in the chest, even in films.).

But because 9/11 is too powerful an event to ignore, filmmakers tend to stay clear of blowing planes up. That's why the return to the first film took me a little by surprise. The first film was made in a pre-9/11 world, while the last was made in a post-9/11 world (even if it was set at the turn of the millennium). But they looped it right back. Don't get me wrong, I'm not offended by it and I don't think we should ban film producers from using planes as plot devices, but it was a reason why the decision stood out to me. 

However, it wasn't just the twist at the end that made Final Destination 5 such a great sequel.

Firstly, the opening sequence. Most of the opening premonitions in the Final Destination franchise play on our biggest fears: flying, car crashes, and rollercoasters (but weirdly the fourth film went for a race track blowing up?). The final film goes for a bridge falling apart. Now, I don't know about you, but bridges have always made me feel uneasy. I'm not afraid of them to the point where I'll plan my entire journey to avoid them. But when I'm on one, I am consciously aware of how far off the ground (or water) I am. That's why this opening sequence unnerved me more than the others.

Secondly, the characters are fleshed out. As mentioned at the start, the Final Destination films throw stereotypical teenagers together, then concentrates on creating gory deaths. That's cool. But it's also the reason I don't think I've ever been a massive fan. They spend a lot more time on character development in this film, where the characters all know each other already (through work). Especially Peter, who develops trauma off the back of his near-death experience where he then has to discover that death will catch up with him anyway! Once upon a time, we showed trauma survivors to be "strong" and ready to prove everyone wrong, but it's becoming more common to show characters with PTSD symptoms.

Then there was the extra mythology. Since these young adults, are (chronologically) the first people to cheat death in the franchise, they don't have previous experiences to rely on. So the writers had some fun with the advice given by the coroner. The new tweak to the formula? If you kill someone else you can take their place within the living, as death will accept their life instead. This is questionably not correct as Peter does take the detective's life and then Sam takes Peter's life - but Sam and Molly still die? But it was still an interesting take on how death works and adds an extra philosophical question to the theory of death's design.

Then finally: the elaborate deaths. Now, this has always been something that the Final Destination franchise has done well. But what I really liked about the deaths in Final Destination 5 is that they were in, some ways, more believable. I, for one, am creeped out by the concept of laser eye surgery (or things coming near my eye, full stop) so a death scene involving a burnt eye got right under my skin. Then there was a gymnastic routine gone wrong (though, I did burst out laughing) and there was a straight-up murder. Then the eventual plane crash that killed Sam and Molly wasn't overly far-fetched either (previous instalments have had people flattened by signs and bathtubs falling through ceilings). It taps into real fears, albeit in an elaborate way.

And oh, the final scene of Final Destination 5 is in sync with the plane crash from the first film:

Final Destination 5 wrapped up the franchise nicely, and I hope it gets left alone. A reboot in another decade could work. As would a tv, stage, or graphic novel adaption. But this timeline of events is one that has nicely tied up loose ends and it would be great to see it left the way it is. 
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