Tag Archives: queer

Bean Damage

Recently, I began talking to a woman on Pink Sofa* who suffers from a mild case of prosopagnosia. In other words: face blindess. Oddly, it’s a lot less rare than people think, and up to 2.5% of the population (including Brad Pitt, and Oliver Sacks – the neurologist who famously wrote a book of essays entitled ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’) have this condition, where they have an impaired ability to recognise people they have met before, even their own friends and family.

There are two types of prosopagnosia: congenital and acquired (either through stroke or brain injury). In Sacks’ case it was hereditary. I’m not sure about Brad Pitt, but I suspect he was probably born with it too. My friend on Pink Sofa was in a car accident; and her symptoms were so subtle that she didn’t think anything was wrong with her, until she realised that two new acquaintances she’d recently met at separate slimming clubs, were actually the same person AND this person was a work colleague.

The thing is, even though I mostly struggle with other aspects of visual processing such as topography and spatial awareness, I can strongly relate to the difficulties that people with prosopagnosia experience: For example, I have lost count of the number of the times I’ve bypassed people in the steet who I’ve simply not recognised; or I’ve tried to talk to a complete stranger because I thought I knew them; and often people will accost me in the street, and I’ll find myself nodding and agreeing with them and pretending I know who they are and what they’re talking about, because it’s easier and less embarrassing to say otherwise. Because people often get very offended when you don’t remember them. And they think it’s because you’re rude or self-obsessed or (at best) uninterested in them, especially if you’ve met them more than once.

Years ago, I left my then-girlfriend waiting for me outside a shop in Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station whilst I went to use the loo, and when I re-emerged I couldn’t find her because I not only forgot which direction I was meant to be heading in, but what she looked like! She was mortified to say the least and she ranted on at great length about how she couldn’t believe I’d walked right past her, and how could I not recall her

She just didn’t get it. But then most people don’t. Which why it’s often easier to just feign ditziness, to pretend you’re busy in your own wee world.

Another thing that me and my new friend from Pink Sofa have in common is that we both have difficulty following films and TV programmes. Usually I muddle through, relying on accents, hairstyles, clothing and distinctive hats, but there have been a few things I’ve found particularly challenging to watch: ‘The Passion Of Christ’ was one of them – simply because the characters were mostly middle-aged men with beards and I couldn’t tell which one was Jesus! Another was the American gangland drama, ‘The Wire,’ because most of the characters were all young black men with cornrows and I kept getting confused with who was in who’s gang; the principal detective was white so I was able to differentiate between him and the people he was trying to arrest; it was a wee bit trickier, however, with the two leading ladies in the show who were both red heads.

Whenever I go to potlucks or social gatherings I try to transfer my TV-watching strategies to recognising people I’ve already met, but you can’t pause or rewind real life; and as Antonia recently pointed out ‘people don’t always wear the same hat’. They don’t always have the same haircut either; and there’s always the chance that someone I know will get a mohawk or dye their bonce a different colour and if that happens I’ll just have to deal with it as best as I can.

And if I do happen to dither on past you as I’m trying to navigate around town, please don’t be insulted. And, if in doubt, do re-introduce yourself.

When Vag Met Veg

It has been a very exciting week: first of all I managed to buy the first ever edition of ‘Vegan Life’ (a mainstream magazine which promotes cruelty-free living in the UK) in my local WH Smith; then my much-anticipated copy of ‘Out There’ (the first Scottish writing anthology in over twenty years dedicated to showcasing the work of LGBT authors) dropped into my mailbox. Throw in an episode of ‘Wentworth’ season two, and a tasty romantic meal in a Vietnamese restaurant in Colchester where the waiter didn’t even blink at the two thirty-something gay ladies cozied up in the corner sharing their vegetable spring rolls, and life really couldn’t get any better. Or so I thought.

Earlier today, Antonia and I reached the highligh of our week when we took a trip to Cineworld in Ipswich to see ‘Pride’, a movie about a London-based gay and lesbian group who changed history when they campaigned to raise money for the families affected by the Welsh mining strikes in the summer of 1984. Now, I rarely find new films these days that make me laugh out loud, never mind ones that pack an emotional punch that leaves my guts twisting and my eyes watering at the end. But this one did. And I recommend that everyone – gay, straight, in between or undecided – buy a ticket to see this.

I think the part of the film that resonated most with me was when Gwen, an octogenarian Welsh lady played by Menna Trussler, asked the principal female couple if it was true that all lesbians were vegetarians. One of them replied, ‘Actually we’re vegan.’ This prompted a gleeful response from both myself and Antonia, and since then I can’t stop thinking about Portia and Ellen Degeneres and Ellen Page and all the other visible celesbivegans. (The jury’s still out on Anne Hathaway’s bisexuality) Not that I am suggesting that all lesbians have an aversion to animal products. Or that all vegans have a predisposition to gayness. It’s just that in the days before I joined the VEG (Vegan Edinburgh Glasgow) group, the only vegans (or lapsed ones) I’d ever met were queer women (or ‘leaf munchers’ as I like to call them).

Anyway, I remember having this conversation at VEG before, about what can happen when one persecuted minority group meets another persecuted minority group, and I think we all agreed that people who opt for an ‘alternative’ lifestyle are usually more openminded and have more sympathy for others who are in some way marginalised.

Personally, I found coming out as vegan more problematic than coming out as gay. And it was other folk’s attitudes and the scarily aggressive stance they took when they found out I was a meat avoider which hindered me: ‘But it’s not normal,’ they’d say looking terribly offended, or ‘well, I don’t agree with only eating vegetables’; and heaven forbid if I was to suggest dining at a place that didn’t serve steak.

To quote Wentworth’s Nicole Da Silva aka Frankie Doyle: ‘I don’t eat sausage… I’m a vagitarian.’

And I’m bloody proud.