how to ollie

SPOILER ALERT! love is worth everything

the neighbourhood - single (she’s your little baby, she’s my soulmate; i don’t want you to worry, she’ll be so safe) | oh wonder - technicolour beat (i feel life for the very first time, love in my arms and the sun in my eyes) | billie eilish - ocean eyes (i’m scared; i’ve never fallen from quite this high) | oh wonder - sharks (standing on the world outside, caught up in a love landslide, stuck still, colour blind, hoping for a black and white) | broods - heartlines (and i won’t let go cause i want you close) | frank ocean - thinking about you (it won’t ever get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit) | olivver the kid - the woods (we walk down to the ocean, your sarcasm heavy laden on me; your eye contact leaves a message, my love stacked on top of the trees) | lorde - a world alone (i feel grown up with you in your car… i know it’s dumb)

[8tracks | spotify]

Analyses: Transgender Slam Poetry

As well as written poetry, it is important to look at spoken word, or slam poetry, because it allows trans authors to convey their poetry in an even more tangible way. Having an audience present works to reify the ideals of community and solidarity. Underlining unity is powerful, both within the trans community and for the purpose of coalition building, moving toward support that goes beyond the art world.


In the introduction to the Transgender Studies Reader, “(De)Subjugated Knowledges,” Susan Stryker discusses the language of gender and the ways in which material determinism permeates Western culture. She states, “The relationship between bodily sex, gender role, and subjective gender identity are imagined to be strictly, mechanically, mimetic – a real thing and its reflections” (Stryker 9). Transgender studies challenges this idea, focusing on social construction through language and cultural narratives.

All three of these poems interact with this idea of sex, gender roles, and gender as it is experienced being lumped together. Such a fabrication leads to the assumption of other individuals’ gender identities, as the person doing the assuming attempts to make sense of an expression that does not fit their binary philosophy.

“How to Love Your Body in 10 Easy Steps” by Ollie Schminkey

It is immediately clear in the first few lines that this poem grapples with mental health, as Schminkey’s first step involves unhealthy eating habits: “eating less will make you feel as if you have control.” They also talk about binding in unhealthy ways in order to “trick yourself into feeling complete.” Without societal acceptance and the supposed stability of the gender binary, the search for control of the self and self-image can manifest in potentially dangerous ways.

Schminkey describes the impact of rejection, “Man, woman, whatever./You are the whatever.” Outside of the binary, people are essentially dehumanized and labeled deviant. This creates a hostile environment where dysphoria may take its root. The poem continues, “Do not call it what it is/do not call it transgender/do not say dysphoria/just say depression, no qualifier” (Schminkey). Calling it dysphoria is to recognize a problem stemming from society and normative standards of gender expression, beauty, and so on. With this poem, however, Schminkey calls attention both to the condition of dysphoria and to its silencing.

“Ritual” by Muggs Fogarty

Fogarty talks about material determinism extensively in this poem. “What parts of you are heavy with fluid?/which direction do your shirt buttons button?/where do your glands swell?” These lines refer to the ways society writes gender on bodies without asking, only concerned with fitting physical appearance into socially constructed category. They use repetition to signify the numerous instances they have been asked for their name assigned at birth, as if the listener hears their poetry and continues to ask, looking for “gender lies,” some trace of inauthentic expression (Fogarty).

When referring to binding their breasts, Fogarty declares, “I was so afraid others would notice their absence, especially if they had never noticed mine.” This makes more powerful the message the poet is delivering, that bodies are more valued than the minds, expressions, and identities that they hold. Especially in reference to the commodification and objectification of women, this poem is relevant to trans studies in its critique of society’s attention to the presence or absence of certain anatomical characteristics in determining gender judgments.

“A Letter to the Girl I Used to Be” by Ethan Smith

In this poem, Smith reconciles the memory of himself and his dreams growing up with the reality of his current life and the ways in which those dreams have shifted. He begins by addressing his former self – using his name given at birth. This serves as a way to separate himself wholly from the person he was before transitioning. He speaks of memories told to him by his father which he does not remember, but moves on to discuss family, which complicates the narrative of the poem. As he describes beginning hormone therapy, Smith expresses, “I thought about your children, how I wanted them too.” His desire for children is separate from his gender expression, yet the way that bodies are looked upon by society produces a dissonance, dysphoria. In order for his body to fit within norms for his experienced gender, he no longer retains the ability to produce life, something that had been precious to him. In saying this, Smith removes trans bodies from a pathologized and objectified space and focuses on a future oriented one, where trans-identified people express the desire for new families of their own. He validates that struggle and represents narratives different from the fight for recognition in one’s current family, which is usually the only family related issue discussed in such a context.

At the end of the poem, after telling of his former struggles with mental health – “In therapy you said you wouldn’t make it to twenty-one. You were right” – and coming to terms with his gender expression, Smith provides an optimistic viewpoint. He affirms there was and still is a place for the memory of himself growing up, ending with “P.S. I never hated you” (Smith).


Sources

Fogarty, Muggs. “Ritual.” YouTube. Button Poetry, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 03 Apr.
       2017.

Schminkey, Ollie. “How to Love Your Body in 10 Easy Steps.” YouTube. Button
       Poetry, 21 July 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

Smith, Ethan. “A Letter to the Girl I Used to Be.” YouTube. Button Poetry, 16
       May 2014. Web.  03 Apr. 2017.

Stryker, Susan. “(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender
       Studies.”The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006.
       1-17.

3

“We have, I think, an obligation to help people in need. We should be welcoming people in. It’s an issue that’s very important, everyone is very aware of it in this time, which is good. But I think anything that can help bring awareness, anything that can help people engage with the topic, is a good thing.” - Olly Alexander

Flowers - Alfie Solomons

Can I ask for an Alfie imagine? His wife is his total oposite, sweet, calm and hes totally whipped. Im just a sucker for romantic Alfie😍 

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“Mornin’ Ollie!” I call as I walk into the ‘bakery’.

“Mornin’ Mrs Solomons,” he mumbles before turning back to whatever he was doing.

It’s always the same when I walk in, a mumbled greeting and then complete avoidance of eye contact. I don’t take it personally because I know Alfie’s threatened each and every one of these men, individually, about making eyes at me, but I still always make the effort to know them all and engage in friendly conversation.

“How are you feeling now Ollie?”

“Umm, not too bad I suppose,” he replies, keeping his eyes on the book in front of him.

“Honestly? Because if you need some time to rest up you can-”

“No! Alfie would kill me, he needs me here.”

I’ve learnt over the years not to argue with Ollie when it comes to Alfie; his loyalty will always prevail over common sense.

“Well, I know a doctor who’ll see you out of hours. Want me to give him a call?”

His lack of objection says enough.

I place a gentle hand on his arm. “Take it easy though, yeah? You don’t need to go at 100% all the time.”

He nods and mumbles his thanks before rushing off clutching his books and papers to his chest.

I carry on towards Alfie’s office, greeting the men I pass on the way.

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