Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for letting me read this ebook! Before reading, I just want to say that I can’t figure out if this is spoilery or not. It’s not fully spoilery, but I do think it would be best to first read Young Mungo with little knowledge (apart from the triggering warnings), before reading a post like this. I’m also writing this immediately after reading, so this isn’t so much about my own rating of the book, or a ‘review’ of sorts, but for now it’s more a collection of thoughts. I will say before continuing, I do think trigger warnings are very important going into this book. It will make you feel rage, distraught and helpless at times.

‘’He was Mo-Maw’s youngest son, but he was also her confidant, her lady’s maid, and her errand boy. He was her one flattering mirror, and her teenage diary, her electric blanket, her doormat. He was her best pal, the dog she hardly walked and her greatest romance. He was her cheer on a dreich morning, the only laughter in her audience’’.

‘’Her brother was her mother’s minor moon, her warmest sun, and at the exact same time, a tiny satellite that she had forgotten about. He would orbit her for an eternity, even as she, and then he, broke into bits’’.

The first thing I noticed in this story, and love, is that Douglas Stuart’s stories always have semi-autobiographical elements. I’ve never heard him speak in person, and have only listened to a couple of interviews, but I get the sense through the lens of Shuggie and Mungo that Stuart is an artistic, incredibly kind and perceptive dreamer. I love that these stories feel real because they have elements of Stuart’s character within, and because any Glaswegian can feel the stories come alive in a setting that feel so familiar. It is the innocent and dreamy qualities of both Shuggie and Mungo that make their stories so sad and poignant. Douglas’s books feel like one world, where the characters from each book could meet. The themes in Young Mungo are similar to Shuggie Bain, yet almost shifted in focus; Shuggie’s relationship with his mother is to the forefront, whilst Mungo is older and growing to focus on his sexuality. Class and the cycle of poverty continues to play a large role in this book, which I feel is highlighted particularly strongly in this quote:

‘’You know, that’s not for boys like you;’…’’You’re not cut from university cloth’’.

Cycles of poverty and class are contained by the unjust society we live in, a society where people who stigmatise and believe in their own prejudice aim to segregate those who live in poverty from a young age, pushing them into boxes. The class division in Glasgow and Scotland remain strong today, and I realise that this is something incredibly difficult to break. I am privileged in that I have never had to worry about money to this extent, and that I have grown up with a loving, nurturing family. I know that there is not much I can do as one person, but as a teacher, I aim to always work in areas of deprivation like the one I grew up and live in, and I hope to use my voice to be the nurturing figure that some children are reaching out for. It is very important not to ignore privilege, and not to imagine that hope alone can overcome these barriers, but it is equally important to teach every children that dreams and ambitions are theirs to have.

A strong theme within Young Mungo is future, and choice within constrained options; or rather, what feels less like choice but may be predetermined fate due to the social structures of this family. Choices surrounding a sense of family loyalty, the bounds that can hold us when someone we love is suffering, the impact of making these choices- or rather, lack of choice- at such a young age, and how these can limit your own sense of identity. Choices become tied up with burden. I was therefore interested in the part minor characters had to play in this story. For example, Poor-Wee-Chickie’s reflections on his past choices and the life he leads now will resonate for lots of people, but I feel particularly people living in areas like Glasgow, where prejudice still exists. I believe his reflections will also resonate with many LGBT people. My choices have been impacted by my sexuality- consciously or otherwise, growing up hearing the negative connotations of being gay. This has resulted in a hesitancy in myself and a fear of taking chances. I enjoyed the parallels between Poor-Wee-Chickie and Mungo, and his part in the story of pushing Mungo to contemplate his own future.

‘‘Poor-Wee-Chickie has been surrounded by love. Where had it all turned for him?… ‘’What should I do, Mister Calhoun?’’… ‘That’s easy son. Put yourself first for once’’.

I also love Mungo and Jodie’s relationship with Mrs Campbell. She is facing deprivation amongst other issues and strives to support these children despite barely being in a better off situation herself. I believe this strongly shows the character of Glaswegian communities. This is why I feel that is so important that Douglas is a Glasweigan writer; this first hand knowledge, and love of Glasgow allows this story to be so nuanced. Douglas knows what it’s like to live here, and really explores the different levels of deprivation within this community. This story is not a 2-dimensional account with the theme ‘Glasgow is poor’. Encounters from Mrs Campbell and James highlight that the characters in this story experience differing degrees of deprivation, but that their other experiences can still equate to an equal impact on mental health and opportunity.  And this story highlights that people in these communities will always help each other despite the burden of their own pain. In this way, I feel that Young Mungo discusses two of the most famous or infamous paradoxical impressions of Glasgow: that it is a city of violence and poverty, and that people make Glasgow.

Please let me know what you thought of this book! I’d be really intrigued to hear others opinions 🙂

Sexuality (Part two I guess haha)

So last July (I think), I wrote a rambling stream of consciousness thing about sexuality and starting to come out as a lesbian (pls see that if you’re interested in the rambling). As of today, I’ve come out to my mum and sister and most of my friends. Everyone has been so incredibly nice (again see last post where I talk about my mum and sister) and I’m so thankful for the reaction.

I guess the main reason for writing this is almost like my own wee diary to look back on and reflect on the progress. It might not naturally seem like it to some, but I think coming out is a moment to be proud of, it’s an incredibly hard scary thing to do, and as an anxious person, it’s something I’ve at times believed I’d never manage. As well as reflecting on my own sense of achievement I guess, I’m maybe writing this update to readers of the last post and any LGBT+ people out there; I feel an overwhelming sense of relief and almost weightlessness, freedom, and I really think it’s important to hear of other’s positive stories and reactions.

I think with having anxiety I tend to catastrophise (although I’m simultaneously an incredibly chilled out person, so it’s a very unusual mix haha), and this is one of the main reasons I struggled to come out. I mentioned my perceived worries in telling friends in the last blog- friends potentially feeling uncomfortable or assuming that I like them etc, but my friends were ridiculously kind. Yesterday we went for covid walk 1817364783 and I mentally prepared myself to finally tell them, revealing the big build up that has led to the brink of many a panic attack. I should also mention that I was also contemplating jumping in the loch and swimming away from my problems hahaha. However, after giving myself time to reflect more on my identity, and some of my family knowing, I knew that yesterday was the time. It felt almost like a gut reaction that now was the time to come out, and regardless of any potential negative reactions that I may have received, I knew that I’m at a place where not talking about and being myself is worse. I mention this because I know how hard it is, and I do not feel that you should have to come out if you are not ready (or ever come out). I believe you need time to yourself and you will know when it’s right. Once you know, and once you come out, you will feel a sense of freedom, a sense of relief. But you will also feel a sense of, not being underwhelmed that’s the wrong word, but normality, continuation. I spent so long catastrophising that the reactions of my friends were so incredibly minor, so incredibly ‘normal’ that I almost couldn’t process it for a wee while hahaha. I don’t mean to say that coming out cannot be scary and I understand that people unfortunately experience reactions far less positive than mine, and I appreciate how lucky I am. However, what I’m really trying to say here is that if you are similar to me, please know that the stress and panic you are putting on yourself is likely causing far more anxiety than coming out as yourself.

This leads me on to internalised homophobia, something I’ve been reflecting on over these months. I’ve naturally gravitated to books and videos that discuss this and reflect on the self-inflicted struggle that LGBT+ people can experience due to the homophobia in the world. One definition I found is: ‘internalised homophobia is both a conscious and an unconscious reaction to external negative attitudes toward people within a sexual orientation minority.’ This may appear to make little sense to people out with LGBT+ communities, however, the homophobia that is in the world can filter into your brain, especially when you are contemplating coming out, and can be difficult to overcome . This can lead to a lack of self-acceptance. I have always been incredibly accepting of others and I’m proud to say that I try to be as non-judgemental as possible, however, I am often very hard on myself and factors like homophobia that I have witnessed (towards others or through media) has affected my self-esteem and self-image. This has in turn led to the catastrophising of coming out and being open about my sexuality. I’m also a very shy person in general and do not really like to talk about myself- although that’s all I’m doing here hahaha- so knowing that being LGBT+ still draws lots of attention and opinions from some is a little bit stressful to me. However, I have reflected that I managed to convince myself that I would not be accepted, something that is my own doing and which does not reflect the caring nature of my family and friends. Ps. When I say my own doing, I really mean the doing of those in society who are unfortunately homophobic and who create this sense of discomfort and a lack of safety.

The relief and happiness I feel today are not to say that I will never struggle with my sexuality again; I know that I will still find it hard, for example, to tell colleagues over the years and there are definitely some members of my own family that I am still very unsure about telling. These family members *cough* grans *cough* are good people and love me very much, however, have made openly homophobic comments about people on tv etc without being aware of my sexuality (which has actually been quite funny and had a strong sense of dramatic irony). I am not necessarily upset on my own behalf, but upset that homophobia continues to exist, and sad that people believe that their comments on social justice issues that don’t affect them are more important than the extreme sense of anxiety and guilt they can cause for the people taking in these comments (I also refer here to sexism and racism, although this is not an area which I have the right to discuss, being white and very privileged). I hope that the more people that come out, who look after each other and who treat each other with kindness (everyone, not just LGBT people), the easier and kinder the world will be. Who knows what will happen next, what will happen with the people I’ve yet to tell, will I look into counselling for anxiety/internalised homophobia (maybe I’ll write a part 3 hahaha), but I feel free and I feel happy just now.

I haven’t planned any of this (evidently hahah) or read over what I’ve written, but the points I want to get across are really that I know how incredibly difficult it can be to be LGBT+ whether you have experienced homophobia  directly or have experienced anxiety due to indirect or unconscious experiences of homophobia. I know how hard people can be on themselves, how much some people are struggling just now. I really wanted to acknowledge these things in this post, and recognise the strength that LGBT+ people have and the hope that things will continue to get better. I want to express that you do not have to come out, but if/when you’re ready you will feel free and you will lose such a sense of the burden that you have been carrying. I wanted to share this positive story because I know there is lots of negativity out there, and I wanted to create a tiny lil space where people can talk to each other (if you want), or just read anonymously and hopefully feel a small sense of comfort. Sorry for the rambles if this makes no sense hahaha.

I truly mean it when I say I am here to speak to anyone who feels like they need someone, if you would like to, please comment here or feel free to message me on Instagram (carlybooksandmusic).

Also, please write your own positive LGBT+ experiences in the comments! They are so helpful! Thank you so much for reading, I hope you’re happy and doing well 😊

Sexuality

As a warning, this is probably more a stream of consciousness than anything else haha. I’d also like to make a little disclaimer here- I sometimes feel a bit selfish or self-involved whilst writing because there’s no conversation between people (apart from when you comment, thank you because I love reading comments!) so I have to use the word ‘I’ a lot which feels self-indulgent. I know this is kind of the point of a blog post haha but just know that I’m aware of it! This is also just a place to ramble, I am incredibly lucky to been safe and happy with a home, friends and family and there are so many larger issues going on. Lastly, I don’t represent everyone in the LGBTQIA community. That said, I would like to use this post to ramble about my sexuality.

Whilst I have always known that I have no interest in guys, I have also always been very aware of the prejudice, stigma and discrimination that can come with being labelled as gay or a lesbian. Whilst actively doing what I can to support LGBT causes, I have been very hesitant to come out as a lesbian. I have, however, now told my Mum and sister. I have social (and maybe general) anxiety which is maybe not always evident by looking at me- I often get told that I look incredibly laid back or relaxed which I always find amusing as I’m running through a million thoughts in my mind. In general, I am a laidback and chilled out person which makes for a very strange contrast to my simultaneously anxious ways. This anxiety is a combination of lots of things, from my introverted personality to losing my Dad as a child, and I feel like sexuality or relationships in general have contributed a lot to it. It can be very stressful discovering who you are when being gay still creates such an emotive response in society; I have accepted who I am and I would have been able to do this and meet people a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the prejudice that exists (not by everyone, many people are amazing). In general, society assumes that being straight is the norm. This in itself is not necessarily a problem, however, society (generalising) also condemn people who do not ‘come out’ as lying or concealing their sexuality. In order to live a truthful, fulfilling life that may include having a relationship, LGBT people therefore have to come out, resulting in sexuality (I’m focusing more on sexuality than gender in this ramble) becoming a big revelation. This would maybe be okay if people were accepting; many are, however, there are still significant numbers of people who are homophobic. Therefore, if you are gay or bi, you are either ‘lying’ and hiding something, or you are vocal about your sexuality and therefore face prejudice (from some). This is a very, very difficult situation and has definitely contributed to my anxiety. I have spent most of my life single- in part, I have been very happy with this, I enjoy solitude and the freedom that comes with this. However, there are times- particularly when I think about the future (society also make you feel old by 24 hahaha)- that I feel lonely. I have been able to rid (supress) some of my anxiety in the past by ignoring my sexuality, however, if I do this for long enough I have become depressed. We therefore must do something about the world we live in where people experience anxiety for being themselves, or depression that comes from repressing your sexuality. Thank you so much everyone who is already taking steps to do this and support LGBT rights. My Mum and sister have been incredibly kind and supportive and have been upset only by the fact that they have seen how ill I have made myself in worrying about what to say and what people will think. However, I am still incredibly nervous to tell others and potentially experience prejudice or negative assumptions. There are also a number of men who genuinely believe that some more feminine girls lie about their sexuality to attract male attention, or who sexualise lesbian or bi girls (again, I am not referring to all men, I have so much respect for most people).

I don’t know where I’m going with this post but in a way it’s allowing me the chance to think about and vocalise some things that I have maybe suppressed. I think one of the things people are usually curious to know is when somebody ‘decided’ to be gay or realised- if I really took the time to think about my sexuality, I probably could have come out at any age. I have a specific memory of being around 6 and my friend talking about marrying a man and having children. Even then, I replied that I want children but don’t want to be married. The first time a guy kissed me I was in panic attack mode for around two days- this was the type of guy who, if I was straight I would have been attracted to. The fact that I felt nothing/anxiety when he kissed me signalled that I would not be able to lie to myself and I found this extremely stressful. I have never wanted a relationship with a man and have thought about it only in the past as a resolution to being forever alone- there were times when I considered pretending to be straight almost to make life easier. However, ultimately, I knew that I would become ill with anxiety and more importantly I could not lie to another person. I would be negatively affecting someone else’s life if I did this and I could not allow myself to do this. This would be incredibly unfair.

 Now that I feel free to admit that I’m not attracted to guys, I have space to think about my feelings. I have liked guys on a surface level before (because I put lots of effort into making myself hahaha, what a disaster) and I still blush or get nervous if an extremely attractive guy talks to me, however, this is the furthest my attraction goes, I have never wanted to be in a relationship with a guy. Interestingly, guys that I have dated in the past are bi or now have boyfriends- I feel like we both instantly felt safer and more relaxed with each other because we knew we were not straight hahaha (this post is probably quite something for a Fredian psychologist). Ironically, I feel like after I come out to everyone, I will be able to have stronger relationships with males. I’ve never really felt very close to guys, and having no brothers, I wish I had close male friends. However, I have always been concerned that if I am very friendly towards guys I meet that they will take it as flirting or assume I like them (not that they’d necessarily like me back, I don’t want to come across as being very vain because that’s not what I mean at all haha). It has been very stressful thinking of 1000000 reasons to reject guys that have asked me out (again, not saying there have been many) without hurting their feelings or being questioned by my friends (I’m honestly so curious as to what my friends think my sexuality is hahaha, my sister said she kind of thought I liked girls but also kind of thought I’d secretly dated more guys and just hadn’t told her, or just haven’t dated many people because I’m so shy/anxious).

 Because I am so stereotypically feminine, people assume that I am straight- despite a few subtle stereotypes such as being a crazy cat lady, loving Hozier, Lana del ray songs, Orange is the New Black, Killing Eve, doc martens and being vegan- also the subtle hint in that I show absolutely no interest in guys (I’d be intrigued to learn if anyone on here thought/assumed anything of my sexuality, I find it interesting to know). This is in some ways a blessing as I do not encounter negativity ort abuse from strangers who assume that I am gay, however, it also means that I will have to consistently come out throughout my life and experience the reactions that may not necessarily be positive.

Anyway, the point was I’m looking forward to hopefully building closer relationships to guys in the future because we will both know that it is entirely based upon platonic friendship. I think I’ll eventually be more confident and more able to be myself in general- hiding your sexuality wears (wheres?) you down over time. I’ve felt tired whilst socialising and spent a lot of time holding back, feeling secretive, or lying about which guys I find attractive. I am now worried that some girls may jump to the wrong conclusion that I must secretly like them, and this is something I find extremely stressful in the prospect of telling my friends that I like girls. I always try to go for the approach of saying nothing about guys where I can rather than directly lying, but as I mentioned earlier, having to ‘lie’ is not something to be ashamed of- it is unfair of society to condemn people for hiding their sexuality when the world can be homophobic.

I’m also excited to now feel able to think about what I want in the future, where before it was an anxious disaster cycle of deciding whether to be alone forever (which I still might be, who knows hahaha, and ps. It’s completely fine if you want to be), being with guys which I know I would not be able to sustain long term or coming out. I think this time to think is necessary, as contrary to what some people believe, coming out does not mean you have all the answers and you are going to be in a relationship straight away. I now have more questions that before, for example, thinking about how I will have children and the issues/questions that will arise from this. However, the point is I am starting to feel free to think about these things, I am beginning to feel excited about the future and it is starting to have form. I believe that in coming out you are gifting yourself the freedom that most straight people take for granted (again, I am not reflecting on a number of important social justice issues here, I understand that there are significant problems and abuse that can take place in heterosexual relationships, I am simply reflecting upon the absence of issues specifically relating to sexuality). I have a long way to go and a lot more stress and anxiety to work through before reaching the ‘other side’ (this is very cheesy) but I feel freer already.

If you are currently in the place that I have been in, please feel free to talk to me (my Instagram is carlybooksandmusic), I will never reveal anything you say to anybody else. Also, please know that you do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Thank you if you’ve read this whole ramble haha, as soon as I post this I will probably be incredibly stressed (good old anxiety hahaha). I hope you’re well 😊 

privilege

guilt

equates to defensive acts

used to mask the privilege

that maintains ignorance.

But guilt

Is counterproductive

If only we’d listen

And question

Meritocratic structures

That allow the guilty

To maintain ignorance

And equate it to equity

And deny that it’s privilege.

It is time to start listening

It is past time to listen

We should feel guilty

But we should use this productively

And affect change

By becoming educated and listening.

bailproject.org

blacklivesmatter.com

change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd