How to Fight Hate with Humor : JAMIE ANDREWS

How to Fight Hate with Humor: JAMIE ANDREWS

An in-depth interview with Croydon’s Jamie Andrews

Andrews on facing adversity, rejecting labels and what it’s like being a part of the LGBTQA community in the UK

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After we finished sizing up each other’s accents—and I listened to Andrews put on his best Scottish accent, I soon discovered that what Andrews had initially referred to as leading a very “obscure life” has been anything but.  The way he spoke so casually about the violence he’s encountered throughout his life was initially jarring; but also intriguing. When I would gasp and say something like, “That’s awful!” Andrews would reply with a simple, “That’s life.”

Jamie Andrews, 33, currently studying for his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing at Falmouth University, has led quite a colorful life. He even said at one point that he used to co-host a radio show with a legend named Rod. He’s also just finished designing his own web site, where he can display art, writing, poetry, etc, which was 90% worked on by his friend Worayud from Laimy.

We began our interview talking about adversity.

“The National Front is a group who are essentially Nazis. They’re a UK political group. They would stand by the bus stops by the school and hand out badges when I went there.”

As a child?

Preparing to go into this interview just to talk about adversity that Andrews may have faced over his sexuality, I was instead unpleasantly surprised to hear about the violence he’s encountered his entire life over his race. He has been the victim of a number of hate crimes over being mix-raced.

What?

“I was one of five kids of mixed race in a school of 1200,” says Andrews. “I remember I was 13 and I asked out this girl because she’d been nice to me once or something like that and she spat in my face. I wasn’t even a human being to her. I remember she ended up becoming really popular because of this one incident.”

This stopped me in my tracks.  But it gets worse.

“I would get swastikas drawn on my locker and ‘Fuck off, Paki,’ which is ironic because I’m mix-raced, which is nowhere near Pakistani. I used to get just as annoyed with their inaccuracies!” Andrews says with a laugh.

Well, I had to ask, what mixed-race are you?

“South American…East Indian…Guyana—but my dad’s from London,” he says.

So, are you half and half, or…?

“No—I’ve no idea what percentage I am. Pretty sure it’s way down the line somewhere.”

That sounds like most of us Americans—I’m Irish, German, English and Scottish, I think. So from my point of view, where America is full of mixed races and blurred lines of heritage and people who might be an eighth Cherokee, it was so difficult for me to comprehend this hatred he’s had to face his entire life for his heritage.

He’s been stabbed twice (these incidents were not race related), jumped and beaten up his entire life—because his skin wasn’t the “right shade” for people.

It trumps the bisexuality issue, which Andrews has really faced little to no grief over.

In England it’s fairly commonplace to refer to someone or yourself who isn’t “white” as “colored.” In the US, this is a highly offensive term. And this is one of the many differences between US and UK culture struggles I pick up on while we’re talking.

“In Arizona, people just thought I was English, which was the first time in my life I wasn’t identified by my race,” says Andrews. “I had to go out of the country to experience that.”

“In England if I get in a cab and the driver is Afghan, he’ll think I’m Afghan. I’ve had every race thrown at me and try to claim me. ”

Really?

“I’ve been stabbed. I’m deaf in my left ear because I was attacked walking home one night by a group of skinheads,” says Andrews. “They perforated my ear drum.”

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It’s difficult for me to pick up and try and switch topics after hearing this. But he doesn’t seem to carry any sort of hard feelings or harbor any anger over these issues, which just dumbfounds me. I harbor anger about nearly everything, whereas he’s seen the worst in people and is able to find his happiness every day.

So, when did you come out?

“I don’t think I ever have. In fact, I never really had a second thought about it until you asked me the question of if I identified as bisexual.”

He’s a bit opposed to labels. “As strange as this sounds, I don’t really identify with any sort of sexual label. I’ve never bothered to give it a thought until you asked. I don’t go around introducing myself like, ‘Hi, I’m Jamie, I’m mixed-race, I’m creative and I’m bisexual. I’ve never thought about labeling myself.”

This is not to say that Andrews doesn’t consider himself a part of the LGBTQA community at large. In fact, he jumped to answer that question. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the community. I mean, in any sort of group of people who have been bullied or misunderstood and still can continue to be who we are…I mean, it’s great.”

What misconceptions that are out there about bisexuality irritate you?

“When people say that we’re being ‘greedy.’ It’s no different than someone who’s gay or straight. If I like someone, I like someone. If it’s someone I want to fuck, then it’s someone I want to fuck, do you know what I mean?”

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What’s your personal take on homophobia?

“I’ve always thought that homophobia is the fear that a gay guy will treat you the way that he treats women. The people I’ve known that are the most homophobic are quite misogynistic as well.”

When asked if he’s aware of the political scene and the equal rights battle for the LGBTQA community in the states, he balks at the question and says, “Of course. It’s everywhere; it’s all over my Facebook newsfeed. How can you NOT know what’s going on in the states?” I then went on to make a comment about how our two-party system is much like a three-ring circus. “Ours is terrible! Have you seen any of ours lately? My God.”

That, I did not expect to hear. It’s so interesting; there’s always so much more going on from another person’s perspective than we could ever dare to dream. The way that I feel about our political system is the same way Andrews feels about the UK’s political system.

Basically, as I said to my husband sweetly over dinner tonight, “Shit’s bad everywhere, man.”

But people like Andrews give me hope. “Gay rights are the same as women’s rights, race rights, etc. Everyone should be entitled to the same things.”

And I think that’s a damn good quote to end on if I do say so myself.

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Pen pals – by JAMIE ANDREWS

 Do you ever get so righteously drunk that you think it’s a good idea to prank your sober self?

I have.

The last time this happened I ended up registering for a pen pal finder website.

Two days later I get an email saying I have a message from a Japanese chap, aptly named Super K!.

Now, in retrospect, this is where I should have deleted the email, the profile, the pictures on my phone from the drunken night that led to this and a million other more sensible things.

Sadly, I’m not sensible… I’m an overly curious halfwit. So I decided to read the email and, as it turned out, this Super K! seemed like a cool bloke.

What’s the harm…? I remembered thinking to myself.  And so I messaged him back.

These messages went back and forth for about a month or so and Super K! and myself were starting to become buds (albeit online ones).

I even told a few of my actual, genuine, real life, human being, non-internet friends about it and bar from the odd bit of mockery for being a tosser (and rightly so), they seemed intrigued too.

Then I get an email from him…

Hey, Hey!

I’m in England, in Lewisham!! We should meet up!!!

Again, what I should have been thinking to myself at this point was, “Of all the places to visit and he chose to stay in Lewisham..? Really?”

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(Dustmen in Lewisham do things differently).

In reality I thought, “That’s awesome!” and messaged him back, “Why don’t you come to Croydon and we can go for a drink? You can meet the rest of my friends and it’ll be a right laugh.”

We arranged to meet up and ironically none of my friends could make it.

So I dragged along my little sister (she was really happy about this).

The first thing that struck me about Super K! was his hair (it was immaculate). This was shortly followed by the way he dressed (very, VERY well – if a tiny bit effeminate and sparkly). He was also pretty short and he had this curious way of making his hips wiggle as he walked, instead of his shoulders.

We went to the pub and had a few drinks, chatted about a range of light hearted subjects and seemed to be getting on well. I got him to confirm what the kanji tattoo on my right bum cheek says (another story for another time) and in general, he just seemed like good company.

Then my little sister asks him, “So why are you staying in Lewisham of all places?”

It turns out he’d moved there.

To become a hairdresser.

Six months ago.

Then he looked at me dead in the eye and said…”And for the gay scene… Do you know any good gay clubs?” then he put his hand in front of his mouth and managed a squeaky laugh that can only be phonetically written as ‘TeheEeeeeheeeheeah! Aha!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not what you’d call 100% straight (more 85-15%), but when you’re sitting in your local pub and an effeminate looking Japanese hairdresser announces: he’s lied, has been living in Lewisham for the last six months, then tries to stroke your thigh and lean in to kiss you on your near to non-existent neck, I think I was justified in recoiling in what can only be described as wide-eyed #whatthefuckdude-fuelled terror.

To top things off, my wonderful dearest darling little sister reacted the same as I can imagine any other little sister/witch would do in the situation. She stifled her laugh, said she was going to get another round of drinks in, then burst into fits of giggles as soon as she was out of earshot.

Then started telling anyone we knew in the vicinity of course…

Luckily for me there was a LGBT+ night at the local alternative bar close by. I suggested we gave the place a visit (my intention was to hook him up with one of my friends, then bugger off; no pun intended).

As it happens, this plan failed. And it failed badly.

Why?

Because even though I was introducing him to pretty much everyone in the club. Who in one case politely offered to ‘Fuck his tight little backdoor in.’

Super K! didn’t seem interested (although this got another ‘Eeeeeheeeheeah!’).

In fact, he had pretty much decided he was going to stick to me like shit to a blanket instead.

Now whilst walking around a bar, talking to your mates and introducing someone to them is normally considered a sociable thing. Two hours of being followed by an artfully camp, manboy, was starting to look like I’d made him hold onto my pocket (metaphorically)…

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(Apparently it’s the third front pocket you need to worry about)

Now as you can probably imagine, this entire situation was starting to piss me off.  Not wanting to seem to be rude I informed Super K! I was leaving, and if he wanted, I could show him where he needed to go to get the bus home. He took this as an invitation to partake in a spot of man-scuttling and near skipped out of the club (my image/orientation has been in doubt in that place ever since).

It took about ten very awkward minutes to get to the bus stop with Super K! In tow. It wouldn’t have taken that long normally but Super K! spent every waking second trying to hold my hand on the way.

We got to the bus stop.

We waited at the bus stop…

He tried to kiss me again.

I again politely informed him I wasn’t interested and asked him to stop. Then I patiently pointed out, that he was quite slight and if he carried on I’d level him.

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(Hello Mr Mystery diner. Today we have a special on fist and floor).

I think it was at this point that he finally realised I wasn’t interested and as far as I can tell took his go to option in that situation.

He went apeshit.

In between him screaming at me in broken Japanese and flailing his arms around like a hyperactive windmill, two salad-dodging community support officers decided to show up (their sense timing is notoriously amazing in situations like this).

It’s common knowledge that community support officers are good at two things: being self-entitled and being useless at anything that isn’t harassing teenagers. Unsurprisingly, upon seeing what was going on, they decided to intervene.

I was trying to explain the situation to one of these rentacops while Super K! Is screeching things like ‘HE SAI HE WAN NO TO FUK ME! *SOB* NOW NO FUK I GO HOME! I FUK HIM!’ in the background at the other officer.

Then it went quiet.

The wally in a uniform and I turn around to see Super K! running at some speed towards a night bus. He gets on it and the bus drives off.

I shared a moment’s worth of bafflement with the support officers, shrugged at them and went home.

Strangely enough I never heard from Super K! again.

Moral of the story..? Cultural exchange can go visit someone else itself, if it thinks it’s getting anywhere near my arse ever again.

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***Jamie is a renegade halfwit, writer, poet and ish-artist. Who when allowed out of his cage to be exercised, hangs around the beautiful English town of Croydon. The rest of the time he’s sat in a cave, fiddling about with himself and sporadically spewing out creative nonsense which can be found on his facebook page and on Twitter. ***

Ignorance is Met With Education in Denton : Kamyon Conner

Within moments of speaking with Kamyon Conner, 33, social worker, activist, daughter and friend to many, I can easily surmise that her candid way of speaking and gregarious aura are contagious.

She’s a rare breed of human who can temporarily make you forget about all those things that seem so bad and instead, help you to focus on the good.

“I really do apologize, I’m usually more on top of it,” Conner says about having to re-schedule our interview. Working three jobs, volunteering and maintaining a healthy relationship is enough to keep anyone’s plate full.

“When I went to the University of North Texas, I went there thinking that I was a cisgender [denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender] heterosexual woman. I remember going to my first GLAD meeting and I thought, ‘Wow. Being around all of these people facing the same issues as me allowed me to feel that it was okay to be myself and that I was not alone in my struggle.’”

Now busy serving as a steering committee of OUTreach Denton, a program devoted to providing mentorship and a safe space for LGBTQA youth, and the Texas Equal Access  Fund, Conner’s community involvement is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

“I didn’t come out for a long time,” says Conner; “While I was in college, it seemed that there was this culture of people being out at school but not at home, which can be common. The ability to move away from a familiar environment can allow you to grow and cultivate the most precious parts of yourself.”

After a pause she picks back up, “Coming out to my family took time and for me it also took some healing in regards to childhood sexual trauma. I remember coming out to my mom during the Vagina Monologues and divulging not only was I a lesbian but also a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I also told her that I had undergone my first heart-wrenching break up and that I had a very hard time healing from the loss of that love because I felt I could not share my grief with her for fear of being shamed for loving a another woman.”

When asked about her community involvement, Conner first mentions OUTreach Denton. “Our organization started the first transgender day of remembrance in Denton. It’s sobering when you actually hear the names of all the transgender people who were killed in the past year and how also hearing descriptions of their murdered such as, ‘blunt force trauma to the head,’ just makes it all…” Conner trails off. “Surreal, devastating and enraging. There is also mourning for those we lost with music, poetry and speakers. These events are held all over the country and the next TGDOR is going to be on November 20th so it is coming up soon.”

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            According the Texas Department of Public Safety’s web page, hate crimes in Texas have risen by 22.9% for reported incidents, 22.8% for reported offenses, and 13.1% for reported offenders followed by 8.0% for reported victims just up in one year, from 2013 to 2014. This doesn’t even take into account the incidents that were not reported. 

“The total number of reported Texas hate crime incidents in 2014 was 166. This represents an increase of 23 percent when compared to 2013. These incidents involved 190 victims, 198 offenders, and resulted in a total of 167 offenses.” (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/crimereports/14/citCh6.pdf)

“In 2014, the largest percentage of hate crime reports in Texas were race/ethnic/ancestry in nature. The second most commonly reported bias motivation was sexual orientation. The third most common bias was religious. The fourth most common bias was disability.” (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/crimereports/14/citCh6.pdf).

To that end, Conner said, “There are a large number of transgender people who are also people of color—everything is an intersection of something else.”

So, what is the Texas Equal Access Fund? What role does Conner play in this organization?

“We help provide funding for people in North Texas who can’t afford an abortion.” Abortion continues to be a controversial, polarizing topic of conversation especially in Texas with the passing of HB2. “There are 1 in 3 women who get abortions. We probably receive anywhere from 70-90 calls per week per week from individuals in north Texas seeking abortion access, so it’s not like no one is having abortions. We only hear from those who are truly in need of financial assistance and we are never able to assist everyone who requests our help.  The idea that abortion is rare or that it should be rare is an archaic notion. The truth is you’re not faced with that situation until it actually happens to you and at that time we make decisions with our futures, our families, our religion, our health and our safety in mind.  I remember when you had your abortion and how badly I felt that you were there all by yourself and more so that I could not be there with you during that experience,” she says.

Wait, you remember it that vividly?

“Yes, of course. We talked that day and the next. I remember you telling me that when you sat and looked at all the other women waiting next to you, you were temporarily bonded, but knew that you would all part ways and probably never talk about it again, and possibly never tell anyone. More people should talk about it.”

Conner and I met at Wichita Falls High School, during the school year of 1998-1999, also known affectionately to residents of Wichita Falls as simply, “Old High.” After becoming fast friends, we have kept in touch all these years.

“Reproductive healthcare is my life,” Conner says, summing up her involvement.  Conner is the intake coordinator and board member for the Texas Equal Access Fund, Co-chair for OUTreach Denton, and a board member for the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Conner isn’t all work and no play. She has a personal life, too.

“I have an addiction to reality television. It is so terrible and I know with all my feminist sensibilities that I should give it up. I often say it is social work research.” she says, laughing. Earlier in our conversation she spoke of her recreational involvement in the Vagina Monologues. “Doing the Vagina Monologues was a really healing experience for me. It was the first time I’d talked about sexual trauma in a group setting.” Saying it was cathartic is an understatement—it seems to have been life changing for Conner.

“I’d been holding back things from my mom that were impeding us from becoming as close as we could be. I told her about the childhood sexual trauma and that I had been in a relationship with a woman for almost 2 years but that we’d broken up a few months prior. That’s how I came out to her in 2006,” she says with a quiet laugh. “It’s also when I told her that I was dating Jackie, my current partner.”

“My mom and dad are pretty accepting. They like Jackie—they treat us like a couple and we are so grateful for that. There are many people who do not have any support from their families in regards to their relationships.”

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So, what are some of the daily challenges she faces?

“Being out at work. Everybody’s pretty accepting, but there’s still that sense of privilege that the people who aren’t LGBTQ have. There is also the difficult experience of having to constantly tell every new person, staff or intern, BTDubs, I’m a gal lady.” She continues to say, “Also dealing with people from all parts of your life on social media requires a lot of skill. I have started deleting people that say ignorant and harmful things. As a current LGBT leader in my community, I cannot and will not condone hatred on my news feed. The activist and social worker in me always tries to educate people prior to deleting them, but sometimes you have to preserve your own sanity.”

 How does she handle adversity and stereotypes?

 “I have done a lot of work with the aging community and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I was with one of my clients in a waiting room and Ellen was on the television. She said something like, ‘I always liked her, but I heard she’s a lesbian!’ and I responded by asking her what she liked about Ellen before and if she now thought this woman was a bad person just because she was a lesbian when she had always liked her before. She said, ‘Well, no, I guess not. Maybe being a lesbian isn’t a bad thing.’ So I tried to come at the situation from a place of education and relatability.”

Thoughtful, sharp, and eager to educate as well as learn, Conner is a kind, caring soul who is dedicated to her day job of social work and helping out others through her volunteer work. She just also happens to be a pretty cool lesbian.