Friday 21 October 2016

Anna Nolan: In terms of gender fluidity, we should judge less and just go with the flow

Jonathan Rachel Clynch
Jonathan Rachel Clynch
Caitlyn Jenner
Melanie Hill
Louise McSharry

I wrote a piece about gender fluidity last week and how it's OK to be confused by this issue.

A lot of people were not happy. Messages from England, Scotland, America and all over Ireland came into my Twitter account. The extreme tweets ranged from "shut the f**k up" to describing my piece as a "brain fart". That one made me giggle.

The general feeling from the messages was that my piece was offensive and ill-informed.

So I decided to do some further research into gender fluidity to get a bigger picture. (I made a documentary about gender and the gender spectrum for the BBC almost 15 years ago. The motivation for my original piece in the Herald was from a place of listening to other people and their confusion).


Firstly, the mistakes. I referred to Caitlyn Jenner as a 'he'. Caitlyn is a she. She used to be a he, hence my slip-up. I know transgender people find this misplacing of pronouns a big no-no, so I'm sorry.

Secondly, I recounted jokes I read that were a reaction to the news that Jonathan Rachel Clynch was gender fluid. You know what? That was hurtful to Jonathan Rachel. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

Finally, I mashed up transgender, gender fluidity and sexuality all into one pot. Which is wrong. Many people told me to look up what "gender fluidity" actually is. So here goes.

Gender fluidity is having an overlap of, or indefinite lines between, gender identity; having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender); having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois); moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid). Clear? Not on your nelly.

I though it might be better if I asked my friends who are in the LGBT community or people I know who are transgender.

I asked a transgender person (who doesn't want to be named) what they thought of the piece.

They loved the honesty and openness of it. They also agreed it was a complex issue. They felt that gender fluidity could well be part of transgenderism, though if a gender-fluid person doesn't want to change gender, they might well be more accurately associated with a "transexual" group or tag.

I spoke to Louise Hannon, the first transgender woman to win an equality case against her employer. She also thought the article was good, but gave me a great definition of gender fluidity.


She told me "gender fluid is just as you describe. The over-lying term politically would be gender queer, which generally means people don't identify as either male or female. But within that, gender fluid is a separate term much as it reads, meaning those whose gender feelings are neither male nor female all of the time".

Louise explained that the diversity within trans experience is quite wide and even though at a certain point in time a person may identify as at one part of the spectrum, they may not always remain there and can in time move to live fully in the preferred gender.

Being gender fluid today has its complications for all involved. I admire anyone who has the strength to be open and honest about being gender fluid, and the rest of us need to be fluid in our reaction.


Growing problem of painkiller addiction is a real headache for Ireland


A MODERN-DAY middle-class addiction is everywhere. No, it's not gulping too much Nespresso. Nor is it trips to the beauticians. It's something much more serious. Painkillers. There is a culture of popping pills that is getting out of control.

I recently read about Coronation Street star Melanie Hill and her dependency on Cocodamol painkillers while recovering from a hip replacement.

The drug had codeine in it - that most alluring and appealing ingredient of any drug. After two years, it took her three months to get off them.

I have known that draw to popping a pill. It's extremely addictive. There are two types of pills that Irish people are taking too regularly (I won't name them 'cos I will get sued to bejaysus). One is a very strong painkiller that gives a lovely, dull, hazy, chilled feeling when you take it. The other one is also a very strong painkiller, but it gives a lovely, buzzy, energy-inducing kick when you take it.


Painkillers bring £500m into the drugs industry every year in the UK. It's big business. One that would be reluctant to bring any more warnings to its 'happy' regular customers.

I use them far too regularly. If I'm hungover, I'll reach for a tablet. If I need a pick-me-up, I think of a tablet. If I can't sleep, I'll reach for a tablet. Here's the thing. Painkillers can become highly addictive if you take them for more than three days. Hence the interrogation each time you go to the chemist. They are tough on your liver and kidney.

The signs of painkiller addiction are obvious - you take them for no good reason other than you simply want one. You start to take them secretly. You get anxious when you don't know where the next one is coming from.

In the past, pharmacists have warned that thousands of Irish people are addicted to painkillers. But I believe this silent addiction is steadily growing - and codeine is becoming a best friend to too many people around the country.


Louise's bravery shines through


I recently watched Louise McSharry's documentary about dealing with cancer.

I was so struck by her openness and ability to express what she was going through in an honest and sometimes heart-breaking way.

One thing that stood out for me was the love and support she had from her then partner (now husband) and her friends.

I can only imagine that this is a vital part of anyone's treatment and - hopefully - recovery in cancer treatment. Or any treatment for that matter.

Well done, Louise, for this wonderful documentary. Here's to many years of health and happiness.


A feast of sport - and it's not over yet


I actually don't know if I will be able to cope with all the rugby over the next six weeks. I am suffering from sports overload.

The Dublin Kerry All-Ireland final was fantastic. Well, for the Dubs it was (up the Dubs!).

The Irish rugby match was a breeze, but still enjoyable. As for the Japan and South Africa rugby match... I have never shouted for Japan in anything, yet there I was on Saturday - with my nose practically against the television screen and tears in my eyes - yelling for those brave Japanese heroes.

Any more weekends like that and I will be a wreck for the rest of the year.

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