Dr. James Barry and the specter of trans and queer history.

This Journey Without A Map

James_Barry_(surgeon)05 (1)
Dr. James Barry, circa 1813 by an unknown artist. Probably painted sometime before he left for India.

Barry was probably born 1789-ish, to either Mary-Ann Bulkley or her sister Margaret. Both were sisters of the successful Irish painter James Barry. The Bulkley part of the family struggled for money so there is some suggestion that James Barry (the painter) took some members of that family into his household in London for a least a short period of time. Some people have also suggested that David Erskine, the 11th Earl of Buchan or General Francisco Miranda provided for the family after Barry’s death, there is some evidence of this but it is scanty at best.

The first substantive evidence of any kind of James is two letters he writes himself. Both of the letters he wrote to his family’s solicitor in 1809. One announces that he was sailing to Edinburgh with…

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notes on poetry, grief, and the ghosts of boyfriends-past

To my best friend, who has swallowed the parasite of her grief and hosted it happily in her lungs for nearly twenty years …and has written yet another poem about it:

  1. For fuck’s sake go to therapy.
  2. Maybe the first hundred times this was novel but now it’s boring; you can write better poetry than this.
  3. You can write better poetry than this.
  4. I will say it until I’m blue in the face: you can write better poetry than this.
  5. Most importantly, though, and I really want you to remember this one: this isn’t how love works

You’d think you would know.

After all, everything you write is about love. Even when it’s about student loans or your relationship with your mother or how desperately you think running away to Paris will solve everything– you always bring it back to your lack of romantic love like romantic love is the only kind that matters

like a girlfriend will solve all these problems overspilling your palms

like you think dating people you only half-like will be the thing that makes you less lonely

like somehow a boyfriend will give your life stability despite statistical proof that most long-term heterosexual partnerships are unstable crapshoots.

everything you write is about romance. and everything you write about romance is a car crash metaphor or else a drowning metaphor or else a black hole metaphor. love, in your view, is something that is done to you. an implacable outside force you don’t choose or work for or even necessarily want. it wreaks destruction from which you either walk away or you don’t and that’s all there is to it, nothing more.

maybe if you saw all those poems laid out like dying starfish in the sun, all those hours of your life spent telling the same stories, all those years wasted asking the same questions and refusing the answers because they were hard—

I don’t know what would happen. I’m not fucking psychic.

But I like to hope that maybe, just maybe, you’d work this shit out once and for all. That you’d start something new instead of pretending you’re well-adjusted and able to cope with the weeping, concave wound in your chest that’s never healed over. That you’d stop feeding the wriggling thing living inside the meat of you that’s been stealing your lungs and dissolving your bones ever since you were a little girl.

Of course, I don’t say any of this because it’s not what you want to hear. Maybe that makes me an asshole.

Sure, okay, I’m an asshole.

I’m also tired of watching you feed this thing that is killing you. I’m tired of reading this poem. I’ve read this poem. I’ve read this poem and I’ve read this poem and I’ve read it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again–

 

Aren’t you tired of writing it?

writing is hard

This isn’t going to be petty except for every way that it’s going to be petty. It’s not going to be selfish except in for every way that it’s going to be selfish. Because you keep doing and saying– or not doing and not saying– things that feel like an ending, a breakup, a quiet demolition or an implosion and I feel worse and worse for every second I don’t say something.

Continue reading “writing is hard”

this again?

My mother’s husband’s brother dies and the news comes late at night. The brother he hated, if we’re being honest, they were never close.

But it doesn’t matter because the result is the same, because it could be anything– a scratched bumper, a crooked picture, a contrary opinion, an eye roll, a burnt meal– that sets him screaming and destructive, punching walls and breaking crockery and throwing himself downstairs and into plate glass, threatening lives and violence like breathing.

Part of me hopes that this will be what kills him.

Part of me knows better.

The part of me that remembers eighteen and shaking holding a door shut with my spine while he slammed his weight into it again and again and again until the shitty particle board groaned and cracked and he murmured to me through it like a seduction that he could get into my bedroom if he really wanted, that, of course, he had only ever given me what I had asked for, that I couldn’t keep him out forever with my bruised knuckles and aching back braced and burning against that broken door–

That part of me feels sick because it knows. Because he and I are monstrously alike. Nothing anyone or anything has done to him has killed him yet and I know in my bones that neither will this. He’ll survive and so will I and, eventually, the door will break.

To the Victor, the Spoils

Or: Rae reviews romance with lots of boils

Last night I read Laura Thalassa’s Pestilence. I went into this without reading anything about the book other than the fact that it was about someone who falls in love with one of the Four Horsemen of the Christian apocalypse. I thought to myself, This is a book about a preternaturally powerful embodiment of disease laying waste to the Earth and striving to end all life as we know it. If that’s not powerful eldritch monsterfucker fuel, I don’t know what is.

I was disappointed. Deeply disappointed.

The spoiler-free review amounts to this: 3/5 stars. If you would like a tropey romance novel that’s a little bit more action-packed than standard while still playing it “safe” narratively, then go forth into the wilds of this book and enjoy. It requires the standard amount of suspension of disbelief. The highlights for me were: clever name puns, the fact that Thalassa doesn’t shrink from writing gore, and Trixie Skillz the horse. This is definitely not going to be for people who are… hardcore in their Christian leanings. This is not a book I would recommend to people traumatized by gun violence or intimate partner violence.

And now I get to stop caring about spoilers.

Continue reading “To the Victor, the Spoils”

get skinny or die trying

mmmmno.jpegCapitalism has found out about body positivity– I’m sure y’all’ve noticed:

Be-you-tiful.

A body for everybody.

Choose beautiful.

#Lose hate not weight.

It’s everywhere. Self-love and a healthy relationship with food are only one purchase away!

You think these things sound familiar. You think it might be nice to fall for it. You think these people are goddamn fools if they think I’m going to even consider loving a thing that has been trying to kill me since the day I was born.

You think of your mother. You think of her taste in men.

You look at your body again and you think maybe I can be tricked into loving you after all.

This kind of abuse runs in families anyway.

rlb 9.21.18

what’s eating me

You asked me to stop talking to you about writing.

I wonder if you remember that our entire friendship is predicated upon writing.

I expected it, though.

I’ve been trying to get that mistletoe-need pruned back into something that didn’t touch every aspect of everything I did, said, wanted because it has always been too much information, too overwhelming to process, too complex to follow. No one wants to hear it. But I didn’t try hard enough. This year, though, I managed it. Thanks to you.

You asked me to stop talking to you about writing and I finally uprooted the goddamn thing and threw it into the street where it wouldn’t take root in hot asphalt.

I have stopped talking to you about writing.

Now, every week or so you’ll text me about some new disaster at work or home. Once in a while, I’ll send you a meme. Once a month you might send me poetry, looking for critique. You are miserable at work and at home. You don’t respond to the memes for days at a time. I can’t bring myself to give you critique on something I’ve forgotten how to talk about. You asked me how my life was going and all I could tell you is, “Nothing’s really changed,” because it hasn’t. Do you understand? The only points of interest that exist in my life are all from writing: the things that inspire me, the people I write with and for, the constant research into obscure fields, the endless collection of pinterest boards and commonplace books. I have never been very good at writing but it’s the only thing I have ever wanted to live for. Without it, I have nothing to talk about.

You asked me to stop talking to you about writing. So I did.