I wrote a queer medieval romance novel!
(It's about Penn and Raff, and is called One Night in Hartswood. You can pre-order it now!)
One Night in Hartswood is about why kissing a mysterious guy in the woods the night before your arranged marriage (and then running away with him) might not be a very good idea, especially when you’re both lying about who you really are (and he’s the brother of the woman you’re supposed to be marrying.)
It's an even worse idea to fall in love with him.
One Night In Hartswood is a perfect, addictive, steamy romp set in the 1300s. It's cosy, the characters are brilliantly crafted and the plot makes it impossible to put down. It's full of adventure and has just the right amount of angst and twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. There's nothing to fault with this story.
- Goodreads Review
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Long post. tl;dr: you never know where your earnest words may end up, and what they might accomplish, so keep putting them out there. (Also: I wrote a guide to nonbinary identities a little over two years ago and I’m still very proud of it.)
Back in August 2020, I emailed my day job line manager: “Hey, so, I’ll be coming back to work [after the world’s worst-timed unpaid, year-long sabbatical] in three weeks... we should probably have a plan...?”
He agreed, and decided to do a long-overdue video call that week. In our defence, we’d had a lot of Other Things to think about in that period.
Approximately 15 seconds before the call connected, I remembered that my beard had been growing out for about 6-8 weeks by that point and was not something you could pass off as a trick of the light, if you were so minded. What would this nice, supportive, but ultimately cishet, Christian, family man have to say about my incontrovertibly gender non-conforming experience? I’d never even told him about being non-binary, always swerving when conversation got close to the topic.
As the video image expanded, he leaned into the screen, put one hand to his own hairy chin (very different from the clean-shaven man of memory) and said “Huh. It’s not as good as mine!”
Me: “Well, uh, hah, to be fair, you’ve had longer to, uh, develop yours.”
Him: “How long have you been growing yours then?”
I’m not sure that there could have been a better response, if I’m honest.
We moved onto different topics after that but, like a two-ring circus, I was chatting about the departmental shifts, the changes in personnel, how everyone was coping with permanently working from home... and thinking: “Could I finally come out completely at work? Like: COMPLETELY? Would that... I hadn’t even... what...?!” and said, just before signing off, with utter lack of articulacy, that it would be good to talk about, uh, pronouns, and changing them in work, sometime.
We worked the mechanism out between us, me slowly revealing my new appearance to close colleagues one at a time, most of whom were either a) relieved that I wasn’t telling them I’d suffered horrendous burn scars (thanks for that very specific leap of imagination!), b) cis men complaining mildly that my beard was better, or c) having to be dragged back a step from the notion that I was transitioning to a man and would be changing my name, etc., d) or some combination of the above. And then we decided to use November 2020’s National Coming Out Day as a good point to aim for. I was already set to write an article about coming out as nonbinary for the organisation’s LGBT+ Network (due to be shared generally with anyone in the business who cared to read it or any of the others for that day – apparently mine made some people cry).
In the meantime, I searched out the announcement that a former colleague’s line manager had made to the business when she came out as trans and forwarded it to mine – here’s a good template, and yes: the annoucement coming from you will help legitimise it. At which point, it became clear that my boss and colleagues were going to need some further guidance from me.
“I was thinking of writing a thing about how to use pronouns...”
“Oh!” He was nakedly relieved. “Yes, pronouns. That would be great. Thanks!”
No problem. I knew how to use my own, and how to communicate that clearly. No worries. One page about ze/zir/zirself, with a general background on neopronouns. Coming right up.
It occurred to me that I didn’t know whether any of my (ostensibly uniformly cishet) colleagues had any idea why why someone would use third person singular pronouns other than she/her or he/him, so I added in a bit about nonbinary identities. A couple of pages should be fine, right? The nonbinary identity section grew, and split into subsections: definitions, history, legacy, how much more common such a thing is in cultures other than “Western” ones.
Maybe it needed more context. After all, to understand nonbinary, you probably need to understand binary trans identities. A new section blossomed.
In order to understand transgender identities, you need to understand gender identity. Okay. Another section. Let’s throw in all the definitions re: sex, gender, cis, trans, nonbinary... with some links to other resources.
You know what this needs? Diagrams (id in alt-text). And a contents page. And a glossary.
Honestly, I’m amazed it’s only thirteen pages long...
Anyway, thing is: it’s gone a LOT further than any of us ever imagined. It started with people on Facebook saying “Well, I don’t understand [non-binary people/ the need for gender-neutral language]!” in various groups/ on other friend’s posts, so I’d sweetly offer them the guide. (Turns out treating what can look like huffy denial as a good faith request for more information (with bonus diagrams) gets many more positive results than you’d imagine.) Then I idly posted the link in a couple of more friendly places. And THEN it started getting weird. “Can I share this with my colleagues?” Sure. “Can I bring this to my kids’ school?” Go for it. “I’d like to circulate this as a resource at the NHS Trust I work for.” Uh. Okay! “So, I saw [the guide] on Twitter. Can [organisation I greatly admire] use that as guidance for our organisation?” Buh, uh, yeah! Please! “My wife is a prison psychiatrist, may I share it with her?” Blimey. By all means.
And then the more personal stories started coming back: “You made me realise something about myself.” “I shared this with my family and they understood.” “We’re in love and your paper helped me reconcile that.”
This little guide has gone a lot further than I ever imagined it might.
Today a senior colleague told me, in passing:
fwiw I shared your pronoun guide with my (very old white cis hetero) choir and it has generated SO many good questions
so there are choir grandkiddos all over the world thanking you for their grandparents being more awesome
Which, considering I was braced for an awkward business change management conversation, was not where I was expecting to end up this afternoon, emotionally speaking.
If I was doing this from scratch now, I suspect there would be differences (a longer glossary; an excursion into intersex identities, maybe? definitely better diagrams...), but then, a lot of what I know now came from doing the research for the guide, so maybe not so much! But one thing is for sure: I’m never going to take the impact of words shared freely quite so lightly in future.
A discussion of unwanted physical touch in Young Royals
[specifically between Wille & Simon ]
| TW : discussion of unwanted physical touch, I'm aware this discussion is sensitive for some. If this is something that could make you uncomfortable, please take caution while reading this analysis! |
While the conversation of Physical Touch is EXTREMELY special and vital to the relationship Wille and Simon have, that doesn't mean it's always welcome.
There are many times where Wille will reach out to Simon, or vice versa and that love language will get rejected. It's very rare, but it's important to discuss.
This is a kind reminder that just because someone may have physical touch as their love language, that doesn't mean they owe it to you, or welcome it.
I can't be around you right now.. [ Season 2 EP 1 ]
This is a really good example of Simon making it clear to Wille that his love language isn't welcome in the conversation between them, at that moment. That has a really intense effect on Wille, and it makes him realize just how badly he's messed things up.
This is also a rare occasion where Simon is using his words to express how he's feeling to Wille, which he doesn't do a lot. He's very guarded. He almost gets irritated at Wille for him not really listening, and just acting like they used to.
Wille isn't understanding what he's saying UNTIL Simon makes it clear that he's not really allowed to reach back out like he usually would. That he needs space and that's something Wille isn't good at handling.
Please I just want to go home. [ Season 2 Episode 6 ]
The relationship is healed for the most part, well more than what we started the season with. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean Simon will always allow Wille into that physical touch space.
Simon has just been absolutely hit with a BOMB of horrible information, and he can't handle it. Wille can't really express his feelings with his words, so he tries to with his actions.
We just saw this hug happen in a previous episode, and it was beautiful and consensual and loving.
Wille genuinely thought he could recreate that here, but this situation is VERY highly charged with emotions and trauma. That isn't something Wille took into account.
In this instance, he gets rejected because this is too much for Simon to handle and he can't have Wille pushing for that connection. It doesn't mean he doesn't love Wille, it just means he's overwhelmed and that's okay.
This is a really good example of their communication not being the best across the board. We love to talk about the physical touch love language discussion between them, but not the other love languages and how important those are.
I'm going outside, do you want to join me? [ Season 1 Episode 1 ]
This one is left out of the discussion a lot which is kind of a bummer, because it's just as important as the others.
Wille and Simon are just starting to interact right, but we know Wille is already whipped as hell for Simon. He is ALREADY bringing the language of physical touch in between them, but Simon is caught off guard almost by it.
Simon is genuinely looking around at what is going on almost wondering why Wille is already so casual with him, since they just met really they barely have a relationship.
That causes Wille to react, by looking over at him when he takes his hand down. The love language has already been cut short here, and it catches both of them off guard.
could you lend me a pencil? [ Season 2 Episode 2 ]
This one makes me so sad because we see Wille try to emulate that moment they shared at the manor house watching that horror movie, but here that doesn't work.
It almost actually does the opposite, because the memory of that is painful for Simon right now.
Wille is really TRYING to get Simon to communicate, and seriously it's making this whole thing worse. He's doing everything he can to either get physical communication out of Simon OR he'll even take verbal at this point. Because he is that desperate.
Yes Wille uses physical touch to communicate, and yes Simon usually does as well.
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean it's always welcome regardless of if you're in a relationship or not.