Bentfest talks

Next week, Bentfest will host a series of talks on their Instagram Live if you want to tune in. The queer punk London festival will host a few of us at 6pm BST:

Images: Bentfest.

Monday, 18th May, Kirsty Fife zine reading and discussion of class, DIY politics, academia and more.

Tuesday, 19th May, Sop will talk about embodiment, chronic illness, sound experiments and more art.

Thursday, 21st May, I’ll be reading a few poems from my upcoming collection Meanwhile, and discuss writing from the in-between.

So yeah, all these days, 6pm BST, go to Bentfest’s Instagram account, look at their live stream on stories, and join the conversation. 👁‍🗨

Isolated proximity in pandemic times

CW: COVID-19, health risk, self-isolation, quarantine

These times are scary and uncertain. People are ill and dying due to selfishness and inconsideration from the government and the general public. It was not until this week that universities and other institutions shifted their services from presential to online, while pubs and leisure centres were only closed last night – after a bunch of glazed hams packed their locals for a few cheeky pints goodbye.

As a person at high risk due to my chronic conditions, I have been self-isolating at home for about ten days now. It looks like I will spend the remainder of March indoors. We had to cancel our visit to relatives in Mexico (where there are fewer cases and quicker security measures) for Spring Break, as well as a university trip to Amsterdam and Brussels later in April. University is now providing online-only lectures. I had an informal one yesterday, catching up with coursemates and lecturer (who has the main symptoms of COVID-19 and is recovering at home). It was wholesome. I also joined a Zoom meeting from the Labour party with a lot of grassroots discussion featuring Jeremy Corbyn. The other day, I spoke on the phone to a friend; and I’ve been regularly in touch with family.

You can’t give from an empty cup. Particularly useful advice from Moon and Bear these days.

It’s quite odd, but in this state of isolation, I feel a lot more involved with the issues and people I love and care about than in “normal circumstances” aka semi-automated austerity heteropatriarchal underworld capitalism. Been saving a lot of spoons that I used to spend on preparation and commuting. No pressure to trek it into places that take time and money to reach. No longer having to put on a glam face, pretending things are fine, chasing arbitrary targets of success. We all just sit down, unkempt, in front of the webcam, and talk to each other in solidarity, sharing ideas much easier with the help of technology. Gaining access to free books, intimate gig streams, words of advice, movie-watching and gaming.

The possibilities have always been there. We could have taken them before all of this happened. But now that we have them and we know how to use them, we must not let them go.

Picture of myself on the screen waiting for a Microsoft Teams meeting. Home office.

Once/if/when we are back to normal, let’s make our events as accessible as possible. Affordable and comfortable in person and online. Reach out as many as possible. The chronically disabled, to whom the curfew never ends. Those kept apart from us by geography, economy, architecture, medicine, law. Make our practices available and sustainable, for our customers/audiences and ourselves. Don’t be afraid to say yes. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid. Be prepared.

Book Review: Jackie Hagan – Some People Have Too Many Legs

featured image credit: Life on the Slow Lane.

Going to start posting book reviews here every now and then because content.

Content warning: mental health, leg amputation, near-death experience. On video: this, plus family death, internalised fatphobia.

In 2013, Jackie Hagan was given the opportunity to work on a play about growing up. Around the same time, she was also given ankle blood clots, a long stay at the hospital and a near-death experience. From the healing process, Some People Have Too Many Legs was born.

Bisexual, bipolar, unipede. This is the script for a play that definitely needs to become a film. Like a Michel Gondry or Julie Taymor film. Or directed by Jackie herself. There are rainbow lights, unicorns, bubbles, Welsh maggots, teddy bears, and plenty of quotable quotes.

As per request, we cannot say that Hagan is brave for living in her own body, but she certainly is brave for speaking her truth with no additives and without trying to play it “nice”.

The review was meant to be only for the book, but we’re in for a treat! Here’s a version of the performance, as presented at Bristol Old Vic in November 2015 and filmed by Darren Paul Thompson. It’s almost an hour long, so sit down, get comfy, come into her disco forest grotto circus rocket and travel through decades, wine glasses and hospital beds. And if you need to iron some clothes, iron with a shoe, for Edna’s sake.

This video is a bit cute too.

WORD! Presents: A Generous Lover

On Thursday 12th September, I’ll have the privilege of opening for fabulous, kaleidoscopic, multimedia British-American performer La JohnJoseph. They will bring their show A Generous Lover to Attenborough Arts Centre.

AGenerousLover_P4-2-628x460

The true, and very queer tale, of one soul’s journey through the wasteland of mental illness, to deliver their lost love. Selected as one of The Scotsman’s top 10 pick of Edinburgh Fringe 2018. La JJ has presented performance work across the UK including the Royal Opera House, Bristol Old Vic, HOME and the Southbank Centre, as well as internationally.

“Both campy and moving, this story of love and insanity mixes humor with pathos.” – The New York Times

“Elegant, incisive and intoxicating …powerfully mobilises the distinctive forms and sensibilities that make them such a rich, compelling artist” – The Scotsman

“Horrifying and funny and defiantly beautiful” – Frieze

La JJ has presented performances at the Royal Opera House, Deutsche Oper, Bristol Old Vic, Barbican, Schaubühne (Berlin), Art Basel Hong Kong, MoMA (SF), Dixon Place (NY), Martin-Gropius Bau (Berlin), Fancy Him (Tokyo), La Java (Paris) & MAC (Rio). They have also joined such luminaries such as Justin Vivian Bond, Taylor Mac, Arcade Fire and Paloma Faith onstage.

La JJ is the author of five plays, including “Boy in a Dress” (2012) and “A Generous Lover” (2018) which will be published in a joint volume by Oberon in Sept 2019. La JJ’s book, “Everything Must Go” was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and a Lambda Literary Award. They are currently writing the follow-up.

Tickets for A Generous Lover by La JohnJoseph are avalailable on the ATT website. It would be amazing if you came over and saw it.

(Re)Learning

Collage of a person with glasses, the lid of their head off, showing their brain and a lightbulb. There are roses, bridges, tentacles, gin bottles, ostriches, a river and hands holding tumblers and chalices.
Image: lisaleo via Morguefile.

Previously, I told you I would talk more about neurodivergency later, so here is that later.

As I’ve said before, I am doing a part-time Master’s Degree because I felt like doing a full-time one would be too much work, specially since I hadn’t been in Higher Education for ages and I needed some time to get used to learning again. Re-learning, one would say.

I have been through a lot since then, and I felt like I left a chunk of my brain rotting in a cupboard in a past life. Reading is now more difficult than when I was 18 gulping Sartre’s Nausea in five days while listening to ISIS (the band) on my discman, sitting on a comfy couch at the multicultural centre at seven in the morning. Now it takes me hours to get out of bed and if it wasn’t for my cat, I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Or at all.

Digital abstract art of brain network in black, blue, green, purple and pink.
Image: lisaleo via Morguefile.

Words are confusing. Music is distracting. Senses overload. I soak up too much information at the same time while understanding, digesting and producing is slow and painful. Even writing this feels like dragging myself through the North Pole, snow up to the knees. Making things make sense to me is complex. Making my things make sense to you is a lot worse. It’s like chewing up, swallowing, chewing up, swallowing, spitting out, then having to chew it up again because it’s shite.

The disability department at DMU did some screenings at the start of first term. I went to take them to see what this was all about. If it was just good ol’ PTSD and shock doctrine regressing me into a toddler stage. I took a dyslexia group screening and an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder interview. I was already diagnosed with ADHD in Mexico around three years ago and had some extensive research done when I was four years old which showed that while I was bright, it would take me ages to reach that stage of brightness because I was away with the faeries and basically a fucking changeling jumping into a swimming pool wearing a pretty dress in October. But the NHS was taking none of this. They probably think I went to a witch doctor — I didn’t, but so what if I did.

After these initial tests at uni, I went through deeper tests. A lot of the exercises reminded me of the ones I took when I was a child. I could almost say they were fun. I loved the one where you look through the yellow pages while counting the beeps on a telephone. Maybe that’s why I love writing while listening to podcasts now? See, while it might take me a while to not be an executive dysfunctional tadpole, I like multitasking. Just don’t ask me to do it RIGHT NOW. Don’t ask me for perfection, because I already beat myself over achieving perfection in every way. Ask for things, but not too soon. “They’re not enchiladas”, we would say.

Black and white mirrored picture of telegraph poles, cables all connected to each other.
It’s all connected. Image: quicksandala via Morguefile.

Some other testing parameters, like questionnaires and therapy talk, were a lot more painful. I think I cried in a few of them. Sam, the ADHD therapist, poked so many sore points and put some TCP on the wounds. It stung like a bastard, but it helped to heal somehow. It made clumsiness, confusion and patterns make more sense.

Early this year I got the results confirming ADHD and dyslexia. Of course I wish circumstances were easier, but it is such a relief to know what is going on. Not only that, but to know that the school is on my side. They have Assistive Technology and tutors are a lot more lenient about deadlines and note-taking. I have been taking a lot of workshops and learning to use some software. I’m still waiting for news about this, but I might even be eligible for some extra studying assistance and devices.

I am also in the queue for counselling and therapy because of my regular dysthymia and emo drama. ADHD and dyslexia are more neurological and about the wiring of the brain. The dysthymia/mood issues are more psychological and psychiatric. They are not related to each other, but they certainly don’t help each other. We’ll see how it goes.

Picture of a child and a Saint Bernard in the snow, catching snowflakes with their tongues out.
Bork. Image: Roxanneh, via Morguefile.

I still need to be more lenient on myself and don’t be so self-judgmental. I have friends, family and people who love me no matter what. I have accomplished quite a lot. Going through these tests, for instance, knowing that I could have just called deuces and quit everything. I still went through and still go through. Walking through the snow, side by side with a Saint Bernard dog carrying a keg of brandy across their neck.

Back into The Habit of Journaling

Extreme close up to an open notebook, squared paper, with a series of words . handwritten in black ink. Some of these words include "Fitted", "PARALLEL", "ASSEMBLE", "Balance", "Workshop" and "HABIT".
Image: DMedina via Morguefile.

Gee, I haven’t been here in a g e s. Last time I wrote something was in October, which more or less happens to match with the time I started my Master’s Degree in Cultural Events Management at De Montfort University.

After my last adventure into Higher Education — a full-time Master’s in History of Art at Bristol University around eight years ago
— , I decided to take it “lightly” this time and do it on a part-time basis: two years instead of one, two subjects per term instead of four. However, while DMU is really good at practical and creative courses, it is also really, really, really strict. Assignments that have to follow certain parameters, high emphasis on primary research (e.g. interviews, surveys, observation) rather than secondary (e.g. books, journals, the Internet). I love it, but it kicks my arse, but I love it, but it kicks my arse.

A person in front of a large wooden table, with open books, notebooks, folders and printouts. The person holds a black and white pen on their right hand, and it looks as if they are revising a stapled printout consisting of several light blue sheets of paper.
Image: Sarahthecat via Morguefile.

The great news is that through constant one-on-one tutorials and library workshops, they basically take your hand and teach you how to go through each process. More efficient research, formatting, time management, and so on. And if you’re neurodivergent — I’ll talk more on this later —, they have brilliant Assistive Technology and can be a bit more lenient about deadlines and note-taking.

One of the loudest words of advice from my tutor was to get into the habit of reflective journaling. Writing a few words each day about lectures, interesting stuff I find out, life in general, to get used to spill letters quicker and stronger. This should be easy, considering the fact that I do a lot of poetry and songwriting in general, but I’m also an executive dysfunctional self-loathing machine who lets a lot of excuses get on the way. The biggest excuse of them all, asking myself “why bother, no one’s gonna read it”.

A person on a wooden table, under the light of a desk lamp. The person is about to write something with a red pen on a lined notebook. To their right, lies a mobile device (either a smartphone or a music player) and a tumbler full of markers, highlighters and pens.
Image: Sarahthecat via Morguefile.

So I’m going to try to fight that right now.

A Body Project: Cynthia Rodriguez On Their Chin(s)

A few months ago, I went to Manchester for a photoshoot for the online magazine Bustle. It was for the series A Body Project, led by the talented journalist Marie Southard Ospina and portrayed – on its Manchester leg – by Paddy McClave. The series highlights people of all genders, races and sizes, and particularly focuses on what each of these people might consider “their trouble areas”, that particular body part they can’t seem to make peace with no matter how far they are into their self-love journeys. My monstrous body part, of all the possibilities, was my chin. My chins.

The photoshoot itself was fun, albeit a bit soul bearing at times – chin bearing? Sitting inside an egg talking about Rebelde, scratching my head doing that comedy pose all the Russells love to do in their tour posters, cuddling Marie and Paddy’s beautiful baby Luna. Trying not to hide, trying not to use flattering angles for the first time in perhaps decades. Later, the bigger challenge came when answering Marie’s questions by email. That was a lot bigger and harder to hide than the chins themselves.

Either way, here is the article for you to read. I warn you, some bits are quite heavy as I talk a lot about extreme bullying in primary school, CSA and internal and external fatphobia and self-loathing. But it’s got a bit of a happy ending, I hope. At least I hope it does to you too, and you get to make things, take up space and be awesome.

The Tube of You

All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.
All these tubes are yours. Image: MorgueFile.

Dunno if I’ve mentioned it already, but when my therapist found out I was trying to do “poetry stuff”, she told me to film myself and upload the videos on YouTube. It sounded terrifying. I mean, I’m going to therapy and stuff. Why would I want to be so “exposed” to mockery and disdain? That’s why I uploaded most of my film work and footage to Vimeo instead. No chance of sick comments, very niche, from filmmakers to filmmakers. Plus, none of that soul-selling copyright nonsense. I didn’t know YouTube let you register your films under Creative Commons!

Image: MorgueFile
Image: MorgueFile.

Then, Pangaea World Poetry Slam came. Submit your videos, people can vote, you may win money, and will definitely get to be known internationally. However, you have to upload them on YouTube. Nowhere else. Get naked. Also, there are some cool free workshops on Hangouts that will help you to improve your game.

Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.
Thank you, Pangaea, for making the impossible, possible.

So I followed my therapist’s advice and here goes nothing! The official Cynthia Rodríguez YouTube channel. I’ve been uploading pieces for Pangaea once a week for the past three weeks, and will upload one very likely next week. From live footage to just talking to the camera from interesting places to full-blow film montage, I’m just looking for different ways to share stories and messages as they might benefit, amuse or *inspire* others. It’s already helping me improve and become less camera shy, and people have already started doing their own spoken word/films and looking for open mics to share. Sharing is caring!

Last week’s delivery was “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. I want as many people as possible to see that one because the world needs you, obvs. Before that, it was footage of “Pepper Spray” from the open mic at Coventry Pride.

This week, the weather was so nice I sat on the grass at Victoria Park and relaxed a bit. I was so chilled out that I ended up filming and uploading my entry for Pangaea right there and then. An old-ish poem, from three months ago or so. It’s called “Frivolous”, and I wrote it after the Open Stage at The Y where I read a lot of my hardcore pinko shit and then came the adorable Anna My Charlotte with an ukulele (she plays harp too! <3) and said she would see a bit frivolous after all my stuff, and then proceded to sing and play the most charming and nostalgic stuff ever. The perfect songs to play in the park on a peaceful sunny day.

So yeah, follow, like, share, whatever, and if you have videos and words, share them to the world!

VIDEO: How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble

leavethehouse1

The world sucks sometimes. You’ve read on “Craig David” about a lot of the boogers that happened in the world, and that was just for ONE WEEK. The following weeks kept getting worse and worse in small and great scale: police brutality, terrorist attacks everywhere, your parents damning this country to hell and validating those who hate us to be more outspoken about it, horrible people inside and outside taking sneaky pictures in the changing rooms and laughing at those who don’t exactly please Grandpa Hugh Hefner’s rotten standards, etc.

It can be awful daring to step outside with the piercing fear of being attacked one way or another, but then there’s also the fear of ourselves that, if we stayed indoors all the time, we might never be able to come out and our voice will be muffed and lost. The fear of not coming home alive, the fear of not leaving house alive. This is for you, for us.

leavethehouse2

It’s a poem/film/guide thingie called “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. For those of us trouble by agoraphobia, being members of one or many “minority” groups and seeing our worst fears come through every day. There’s still a world outside, and this world still needs you. So get ready and earn some courage however you can, if possible.

The poem was written as an exercise at a Writing Poetry Google Hangout Workshop with Dean Atta. He gave the queue of making a how-to poem on any topic of our “expertise”. Later, I turned it into a short film for the Pangaea World Poetry Slam, who organised said workshop. It was lovely to merge three of my loves — writing, filming and sharing — and use them for a good thing.

Here comes the fun part: click, like and share with as many people as possible. Particularly people who would benefit from the message. You never know the ordeals someone could go through just to live a “normal” day. If I ever make money out of the streams, shares and likes (LOLS), I’ll give it all to a mental health organisation, particularly one which helps queers, POC and/or people who may not speak English and need someone to advocate for them. It comes with subtitles/captions if you don’t understand my accent, and I’m working on a Spanish translation. Subtitles in any other language are more than welcome. ❤

There are a couple of things that might be misunderstood. The “wear something that doesn’t attract negative attention” is not slut-shaming. We should be free to wear whatever we want, but some people don’t know or don’t want us to know this, so they attack. On low “spoons” days, you don’t even feel like fighting or defending yourself, so you keep your energy levels to a minimum and just try to roam by in a way that attracts as few bigots as possible.

Also, the “you’re still a woman on trainers, you’re still a man on stilettos” bit includes cis and trans people alike. A lot of trans people I know fear wearing items that are associated more with the gender they were forcibly assigned at birth. They don’t want to be “read” as “impostors”. A trans woman is still a woman on her Nike Air Force Ones. A trans man is still a man on his Louboutins. An NB is still an NB on whatever they want. Also, the fear of fragile masculinity or the fear of not being “seen as a woman” even if you’re cis because your exterior doesn’t match the “desirable standards” (women of certain colours not recognised in feminininininity, fat chicks like us seen as “one of the boys” by our crushes, et al). So yeah. I love you. If you find any fuckups in my work, let me know.