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Thomas Jones 2021-07-08
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Too big a price to pay for decelerating your epigenetic clock?

If you're a gentleman looking to counteract the effects of ageing, a new study on sheep may have the answer – but you're going to have to say goodbye to your family jewels in return for a slowdown of your DNA's ageing process.…

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Thomas Jones 2021-05-28
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Caroline D’Arcy is a “somatic sexologist”, or masturbation coach, if you prefer.

She left her corporate career to teach women how to get off – because for generations, nobody else has. “Our minds have a negative bias, because if we’re not taught about something in a positive, exciting way, we’ll fill in the gaps and think it’s something shameful or dirty,” she tells HuffPost UK. 

“It’s about understanding that we can have so much more influence over our arousal and our libido than we ever thought possible.”

The 38-year-old, originally from the Wirral but now living and working in London, didn’t imagine herself as a sexologist – it wasn’t mentioned as an option during career talks at her Catholic convent school, funnily enough. 

But in her late twenties, she left an emotionally abusive relationship and began exploring BDSM, initially as a way to regain a sense of control. 

Masturbation coach Caroline D'Arcy

She was still frightened of letting anyone in emotionally, though, through fear of falling into another abusive relationship. But in time, she felt her walls come down as she learned more about sex, and leaned into the worlds of tantra and sex parties. 

“The exploration into my own sexuality – the power of being confident and turned on and in control – it took that fear away of getting myself in that situation again, because I knew myself and I understood boundaries,” she says.

“If you understand boundaries and you know how they feel in your body, those red flags that were always there, you can’t ignore them any more.”

After discovering sexologists via various podcasts, D’Arcy quit her job of 10 years in corporate health and safety and retrained in somatic sexology. 

Somatic literally means “of the body”. Those working in the field use a range of techniques to bridge the mind-body divide, helping us connect with our bodies better and have more fulfilling sex lives. 

“Long story short, that means you touch yourself a lot,” says D’Arcy. 

She now specialises as a masturbation coach and works with EKHO Wellbeing, a platform designed to help women find fulfilling sex lives. She wants to help women reconnect with themselves through self-love and pleasure and has designed a nine-week programme called ‘Touch’ to do just that. 

The first part of the course is a return to sex ed, or rather, an introduction to proper sex ed, says D’Arcy, because generations of women were not told about masturbation, pleasure, libido or the clitoris - “a whole organ!” – in schools. 

D’Arcy also works with women to shake off the patriarchal shame we’ve internalised about sex. “We’re taught that if you enjoy sex you’re a slut, you’re not loveable and you’re only good for one thing. But if you don’t like it, you’re a prude,” she says. “I spent the first year [after training] in absolute rage about the misunderstanding of women’s bodies and the thousands of years of shame and secrecy about what it is to be a sexual woman.” 

Once you’ve got into the right headspace, it’s time to get physical. 

D’Arcy says there’s no one-size-fits-all way technique to masturbation – “our sexuality is as individual as our preference to food” – and our needs also change throughout our hormonal cycle.  “When I’m ovulating, I’m happy to have sex with lots of different people. It’s amazing and it really turns me on,” she says. “When I’m on my period, I want to be cosied up and I’m much more sensitive, so I don’t really want to be having lots of intense sensations.”

She encourages women to try touching different parts of their body in lots of different ways, experimenting with their breathing, too, to find what feels good. This, she says, is a better method than diving towards your clit with a sex toy. “There’s nothing bad about that, but it’s limiting,” she adds. “It’s a bit like eating the same food over and over again, you’re going to get bored of it eventually and it’s not going to be effective.”

Having one go-to masturbation method can also be a problem if and when you interact with a partner, she says, because if they’re not emulating what your body has got used to, it’s not going to work.  

Learning to enjoy sex and masturbation without shame was life-changing for D’Arcy. Not only did it lead to a career change, it taught her she’s worthy of love and silenced the inner critic that had followed her for decades.

“I spent my entire life having a difficult time with my body, having real issues with my weight and being absolutely disgusted by my body at certain times,” she says. “When I went down this practice, because I was seeing the capacity of my body and how good it could feel and how amazing it was, it completely changed that relationship.” 

Now, she wants other women to experience the same. Here are her tips for getting started.  

5 tips for better masturbation  

1. Set the scene.

Your environment has a big impact on how you feel, so do some tidying first. “Look at your room and think about one or two things you could immediately do to make it feel like a sexy adult space,” says D’Arcy. “For me, that means making the bed, clearing any washing, making sure there’s no work about, setting a candle. Just ask: ‘Is this an environment that turns me on?’” 

2. Take the goal away

“As soon as you have a goal like an orgasm, it gives you a pass/fail, you’ve either passed and had an orgasm, or you’ve failed,” says D’Arcy. “When we put a goal there, we’re putting our body into its stress response – our body’s fight/flight mode – and that blocks our brain’s ability to pick up the sex hormones that are created when we get turned on.”

3. Set an intention instead

“An intention is a moveable direction, it’s not a pass/fail,” she says. “It’s something like: ‘I’m going to intend to experience as much pleasure using my body today as possible. If that ends in an orgasm, great. But if it doesn’t and it goes somewhere else, that’s great as well.’” 

4. Dial down the stress

We can’t always get rid of the stressors in our life –  a global pandemic or bills, for example – but we can adopt ways to dial down the stress we experience in relation to them. “Something that’s really good is going for a run or doing a physical exercise, like skipping, or punching pillows. Anything that replicates a fight flight response,” she says. “Other ways might be journalling or meditation.” Again, stress will block your ability to experience pleasure, so she recommends making this a priority

5. Touch yourself all over 

“The starting point is using different types of touch, all over your body, then moving up to your clit and just getting curious about what feels good and building from there.” 

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Thomas Jones 2021-02-28
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Beijing imposed a law in 2020 that allows China to set up a formal police presence in Hong Kong, which experts say strips the city's democracy.
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Thomas Jones 2020-10-29
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It's an affordable fitness watch that works as intended.
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Thomas Jones 2021-06-28
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Reportedly leaked Windows 11 Dark Mode screenshots appear to show the newly announced OS's darker side.
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Thomas Jones 2021-04-07
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The deal will value the SoftBank-backed technology group at about US$35 billion.
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Thomas Jones 2021-02-27
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A protester in Parliament Square in July, 2020, as the government proposed to scrap self-identification laws for trans and non-binary people.

“I would hate for the last thing that documents me and my life to be inaccurate,” says Ren Williams.

“The older I get the more I veer away from the binary, and so much of my life and the way people see me is already inaccurate. I dislike the idea that I’m going to be remembered as a binary letter and misgendered for the rest of my children’s lives, my grandchildren’s lives.” 

Ren is non-binary genderfluid, and after a health scare with necrotic gall bladder last year, began to worry about what might happen after they die.

“Every year I see stories about trans people buried as their deadname, the incorrect gender, at the mercy of family members that never accepted them in life and refuse to do so in death. I feel comfortable that wouldn’t happen to me, at least on the surface – I know my wife and kids wouldn’t deadname me after death,” Ren says.

However, currently, UK death certificates have only two options for “sex” – male and female, and no “gender” or “gender identity” options. It is mandatory for someone registering a death to include this data, leaving Ren and other non-binary people concerned about being misgendered when they die.

“No one should be expected to take on institutional transphobia in the middle of grieving for a loved one,” Ren says.

Ren Williams

When asked why there isn’t an option for people to record their gender as non-binary on death certificates, a spokesperson for the General Register’s Office, which oversees death certification in England and Wales, said only: “The law requires the biological sex of the deceased to be recorded on death certificates.”

Ash Hayhurst, a trans man, funeral director and author of the Queer Funeral Guide, points out the contradictions in advice given to registrars around recording data – that death certificates should record the name and gender that is believed to be true at the time of a person’s death, but that without an option to include anything other than two genders, this is sometimes impossible.

“If you take it back to the Equality Act, that’s indirect discrimination,” Hayhurst says.

“To not have someone’s gender identity recognised when they’re living is unjust and discriminatory. But to not have your gender identity recognised after you have died, that’s brutal.”

Ash Hayhurst

In 2015, Maya Scott-Chung highlighted the difficulties that even binary trans people are still facing. Her friend and prominent San Francisco trans activist, Christopher Lee, had died by suicide in 2012, but despite showing the coroner a driver’s license and other official documents that stated he was a man, his death certificate came back marked “female”.

“It felt like spitting on his grave,” Scott-Chung said in an NPR interview. “When they put RIP on people’s tombstones, it’s ‘rest in peace’. And I just felt like Christopher’s spirit will not rest in peace with a death certificate that says female.”

Suicide is an area where the lack of recognition of trans and non-binary identities on death certificates is particularly troubling.

An anonymous helpline worker told us that the lack of data around suicide has a big implication for policy work. They pointed to the fact that there’s no way to know if there is a spike or increased risk in any community if there is no data, and this has a big effect on how charities and governments can support communities at increased risk.

Considering that more than a quarter of young trans people have attempted to end their own lives, and nine in ten have thought about suicide, many feel that the lack of statistical data about how many trans and non -binary people actually do end their own lives is negligent. 

This isn’t just the case for suicide, but all causes of death. A recent example is official coronavirus statistics, which only capture deaths of “males” and “females”. There is currently no way to know how many non-binary people are dying because of the pandemic, potentially putting an already marginalised community at further risk.

“Data practices bring some lives into the foreground and cast some lives further into the shadows,” says Dr Kevin Guyan, a researcher based in Edinburgh soon to be releasing a book on queer data.

“It is vital that those who manage these systems consider how best to represent the people about whom the data relates, which might require approaches that look beyond binaries or identities fixed in time and space,” he says. 

Most funeral directors don’t know what non-binary is. How can they claim to treat someone equally when they don’t even know what the term is?Ash Hayhurst

In the USA, laws are slowly changing. In 2014, reflecting on Christopher Lee’s death, the California State passed the “Respect After Death” Act. It requires gender identity, rather than gender assigned at birth, to be recorded on death certificates in the state of California. On April 16, 2018, Oregon became the first US state to introduce non binary gender “X” on death certificates, and other states have followed.

But whether there will be changes in the UK soon remains to be seen. Last year, non-gendered campaigner Elan-Cane lost a campaign against the UK Court of Appeal to include an “X” option on UK passports.

However, there is some progress. This year, for the first time, there will be options to include non binary identity on the UK census.

Dr Guyan welcomes the change.

“Asking questions that enable people to answer in ways that best represents how they exist in everyday life is not abandoning ‘robust’ or ‘tidy’ data but a true reflection of the world we live in,” he says.

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, which also backed the campaign for a non-gendered option on UK passports, would welcome a change to how we record gender on death certificates.

“It’s vital more options, like an ‘X’ category, are introduced, so non-binary people are recognised for who they are in life and in death,” says the charity’s communications and campaigns associate director Robbie de Santos.

Funeral professional Hayhurst is hopeful. “The thing that needs to change is there needs to be an option to put your own gender in. It’s not just male, female, non-binary – there are many. With a recent audit of the funeral sector calling for more regulation, things are definitely about to change,” he says.

Lack of recognition of non-binary identity after death starts with death certificates, but it doesn’t end there. Hayhurst feels the funeral sector should be doing more to support non-binary people and their loved ones.

“I often hear phrases like ‘I treat everyone the same’ or ‘death equalises people’,” Hayhurst says, “but most funeral directors don’t know what non-binary is. How can they claim to treat someone equally when they don’t even know what the term is?”

In June 2016, trans youth charity Gendered Intelligence partnered with the Corpse Project to talk to trans people about how trans and gender variant bodies are treated after death.

In the resulting “Transfesto”, they called for paperwork to “remove unnecessary and invasive questions about gender” and an investigation into the funeral service industry with the aim of creating a “trans friendly practice”.

They also produced a guide about what trans people can do to make sure our wishes are respected after death, as much as possible within current legislation. The guide recommends writing a will, naming an executioner and writing a letter of wishes.

Hayhurst points to some of the changes already happening. Ceremony Matters, an organisation that supports and trains funeral celebrants, last year hosted a series of super conferences on marginalised identities.

Hayhurst spoke at “Non-binary identities: understanding LGBTQ+ identities”, and was excited by the turnout. He feels there is a real desire within the funeral sector to consider how to respect queer and trans identities in ceremonies.

“It goes back to the AIDS epidemic,” he says. “Good funeral directors will make sure that queer family are held at funerals, for example when the ceremony is for someone who has only been out to some people and not others.”

Hayhurst remembers one funeral where the biological family had disowned the deceased person, but after their death were trying to “take over everything and invalidate their identity”.

The family insisted on entering the funeral first and being in the front row. When the person’s queer family came in second, the funeral director said: “And now for the important people.”

Hayhurst has also heard of funeral directors who have scribbled out “M” and “F” options on cremation forms and written in more suitable gender options. “To lie on one of these forms is an offence,” Hayhurst says, “so therefore to lie about a non binary person’s gender is technically an offence.”

He also stresses that people can change funeral directors if they’re not satisfied and that there is no legal requirement to even use a funeral director. “If there isn’t somewhere in your local area you trust to hold a funeral, then you can do it yourself,” he says, and a section of his Queer Funeral Guide outlines how. The Good Grief Trust has also began running a weekly online café for bereaved partners of LGBTQ+ people.

February is LGBTQ+ history month, but the UK is still rewriting trans people out of history and present. Hayhurst believes death certificates are the best start. “Once we start recording non binary deaths, it will become part of the status quo. Then non-binary becomes part of our language, and this filters down, changing the whole funeral sector.”

Useful websites and helplines:

  • The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
  • Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
  • LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
  • Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
  • Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK
  • London Lesbian & Gay switchboard (LLGS) is a free confidential support & information helpline for LGBT communities throughout the UK | 0300 330 0630
  • Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard is a free support, information and referral service for the Manchester and North-West area | 0161 235 8000
  • Stonewall for more information on other LGBT services and helplines | 08000 502020
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Thomas Jones 2020-08-18

FuckJerry-style aggregation meets campaigning

Continue reading…

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Thomas Jones 2021-06-14
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Euphoria season 2 is expected to return on HBO later this year – here's what we know so far.
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Thomas Jones 2021-03-21
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It’s been a long old wait for the new series of Line Of Duty, which was an early TV casualty of the pandemic last year when filming was suspended for six months. 

Sunday night finally saw the famous trio of Fleming, Arnott and Hastings back in action – although things were very different in the set up of AC-12 to when we last saw the team. 

It was revealed that DI Kate Fleming had left the anti-corruption unit to joining the major investigations team (MIT), who appeared to have just made a breakthrough in their investigation into the murder of journalist Gail Vella. 

However, a decision to stop the police convoy en route to arrest the suspect – on a mere hunch that an armed robbery was taking place at a betting shop – immediately put MIT boss DCI Joanne Davidson under AC-12’s spotlight. 

It soon became apparent that this new story has plenty of links to previous series, and left us with a hell of a lot of questions as the credits rolled...

Line Of Duty stars Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Kelly Macdonald

1. Who really killed Gail Vella?

We are not buying that Terry Boyle was responsible for Vella’s murder, as we have previously seen him manipulated and bullied by the OCG in both series one and series five. That means the likelihood is that they are setting him up as their fall guy. 

2. Why was Gail Vella killed?

The motive for Vella’s murder was not explored in the first episode, but from the series trailer, we know she had previously reported on police corruption and officers’ involvement with organised crime in her capacity as a journalist. 

Perhaps she was working on a big exposé prior to her death that the organised crime group (OCG) and the corrupt officers in league with them found out about, and thus ordered her death?

Journalist Gail Vella is murdered having previously reported on police corruption 

3. Who is “Ross Turner”?

Is this a real person or just a false name? 

4. Who is Carl Banks?

Banks’ prints were found all over the Beechwood House flat, and the name Banks immediately made us think of OCG member Lee Banks, who Hastings visited in prison during the last series. Could he be a relation?

5. Who killed the CHIS?

The informant who had tipped MIT off about “Ross Turner” was found dead after falling off the top of a building, after presumably being pushed. Despite not seeming to not know his identity, could Davidson have ordered his death so she could pin the charges on Boyle and close the case?

6. What did Jatri mean when she said “you don’t know what [Davidson] is capable of”?

Kelly is playing AC-12 latest adversary DCI Joanne Davidson

Because of their previous relationship, Sgt Farida Jatri obviously knows DCI Davidson better than any of her colleagues, and warned DS Steve Arnott that she was dangerous.

What has she witnessed in the past to make this allegation? Or is she merely a scorned ex mourning the loss of her relationship and seeking revenge?

7. Have Fleming and Davidson had an affair?

While Davidson dismissed Jatri’s accusation that she’d been having an affair with Fleming prior to the end of their relationship, there was a moment of tenderness between them at the station that suggested there could be some truth to Jatri’s suspicions. 

We also know that Fleming has split once again from her partner, having reunited with him and their son in the last series. 

8. Why is Davidson lying about her family?

During her row with Jatri, Davidson claimed she “didn’t have” any family, but when she returned to her apartment, there was a photo of her with someone we assume to be her mother. We then saw her becoming angry and throw a glass at the photo, so what is the real story between Davidson and her relatives?

9. Why does Davidson have so many locks on her door?

Does she believe she is someone’s target? Or is there something in the flat she is desperate to stop someone finding?

10. Is Fleming’s life in danger now she is a CHIS?

Vicky McClure as DI Kate Fleming

Despite having left AC-12 behind, she’s been pulled back into the world of anti-corruption when DS Arnott asked her to act as an informant on her new department. 

A trailer for the new series suggested a character’s life would be on the line, so could Fleming’s latest covert operation go horribly wrong and end up seeing her pay the ultimate price – especially after what happened to the last CHIS? Writer Jed Mercurio has previously refused to rule out the possibility a major character could be killed off... 

11. Is there more to Fleming’s exit from AC-12?

In a conversation between Fleming and Arnott, she claimed to have moved on from AC-12 after the department became tainted, thanks to the official investigation into Superintendent Hastings’ conduct. 

Some fan theories have previously suggested that Fleming could be the fourth officer working with the OCG, and if this is true, then a move to MIT would certainly have enabled her to help cover up any potential involvement they had in Vella’s murder. Could this be the real motivation for her sudden career move?

12. Why has someone taken the fridge in Boyle’s flat?

It was revealed that Boyle’s flat was cleared out and cleaned up, apart from the pictures of Vella hanging on the wall that were found to have traces of semen on them. 

What you might have missed during this interrogation scene though – especially if you are a relative newcomer to Line Of Duty – is the significance of the moved fridge in his kitchen. 

Last series, it was revealed the fridge is where the OCG were storing some remains of Jackie Laverty – the former lover of series one antagonist DCI Tony Gates, who was killed when the OCG broke into her house and used her murder as leverage to manipulate the cop. 

Parts of Jackie Laverty's body was being stored in a freezer in Terry Boyle's flat

Parts of Laverty’s remains were later disposed of along with John Corbett’s body by the OCG in the McDade & Company Breakers Yard in series five. 

So why has the fridge been moved? Are there more of Laverty’s remains out there? And if so, what does the OCG plan to do next?

13. Did DCI Buckells mess up the surveillance on Beechwood House on purpose?

The address where Boyle was found wasn’t watched for three hours due to Buckells messing up the paperwork, meaning the real “Ross Turner” could have escaped during this time. 

While he did pop up in series four, we can’t help but think his reappearance in the story at a time when the Laverty story is being revisited is significant. Is he also caught up with the OCG?

14. Is Davidson really a bent copper?

Davidson stopped the convoy on a hunch they were about to witness an armed robbery

Well obviously we’re not going to now how corrupt she is just yet, but things are definitely not adding up when it comes to Davidson’s decision to stop the convoy to attend to the armed robbery at the bookies’...

Line Of Duty continues next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One. 

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that some of Laverty’s remains were disposed of by the OCG in series five. 

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Thomas Jones 2021-02-15
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Wanda and Vision's house guest from another universe fits right in, suspiciously enough.
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Thomas Jones 2020-07-30
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Listen to our weekly podcast Am I Making You Uncomfortable? about women’s health, bodies and private lives. Available on Spotify, Apple, Audioboom and wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Watch a sex scene on TV and – more often than not – it’ll be painfully heteronormative and focus on penetration, with the woman orgasming easily after two minutes of wham, bam, thank you ma’am. 

In real life, female pleasure rarely occurs that way. So, to encourage more accurate (and feminist) representations of pleasure in pop culture, two women have created ‘The Clit Test’ – think of it like the Bechdel test, for sex scenes.  

The Clit Test celebrates TV shows, films, books and music that acknowledge the clitoris, not the vagina, is the source of orgasm for at least 80% of women and people with vulvas. 

Normal People

Frances Rayner, 34, from Glasgow, created the test out of frustration with sex scenes she’d seen on screen, which often imply women are always able to orgasm through penetrative sex. Irene Tortajada, 25, from London, joined her, as she felt little progress had been made to help her generation understand female pleasure.  

“Growing up, I was entirely clueless about my own pleasure because no one had told me about the clitoris,” Rayner says. “From a young age, I knew about blow jobs, penis in vagina sex and male masturbation, but nothing I consumed taught me how women’s bodies worked beyond periods and pregnancy. 

“This misleading ‘sexual script’ is one of the main reasons women and girls who have sex with men have alarming rates of disappointing, bad and even painful sex.” 

A ‘Clit Test pass’ occurs any time the clitoris is acknowledged, say Rayner and Tortajada. This could be a head or a hand disappearing under the covers, a mention of women masturbating or even someone expressing disappointment with sex that was only penetrative.

Recent passes include Olivia Wilde’s teen film, Booksmart, Michaela Coel’s TV comedy, Chewing Gum, and Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other.

Chewing  Gum

The campaign is supported by two leading academics on the female orgasm: Professor Elizabeth Lloyd, author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, and Dr Laurie Mintz, author of Becoming Cliterate.

Emmy and Golden Globe-winning star and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom, has also shown her support, as have bestselling writers Holly Bourne and Wednesday Martin.

Sex Education 

The Clit Test campaign launches on Friday July 31, to coincide with National Orgasm Day. To mark the day, the women behind the Clit Test are calling on members of the public to share their favourite sex scenes that pass the test, and thank the people who made them.

You can share your passes and fails on social media using the hashtags #ClitTestPass and #ClitTestFail. 

“In the context of market-driven porn being accessible to children as young as 7, there’s never been a more important time to reset our shared norms around pleasure,” says Rayner. “The Clit Test celebrates the people who are getting it right, in the hope we will inspire others.” 

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Thomas Jones 2021-06-13
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An argument over face masks led to the abuse of attendants on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte on June 7.
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Thomas Jones 2021-03-14
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Hundreds of pastors are decrying Christian nationalism as conspiracy theories consume churchgoers. Insider spoke to two pastors who tried to fight it.
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Thomas Jones 2020-12-24
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While there’s no denying that TIDAL has taken a rather unique approach to music streaming, it’s also clear that the service hasn’t pulled a significant amount of market share away from the giants of the space – specifically Spotify and Apple Music. On that front, TIDAL may get some help from an unexpected buyer, as rumor has it that Square … Continue reading
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Thomas Jones 2020-07-24
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Our robot colleague Satoshi Nakaboto writes about Bitcoin every fucking day. Welcome to another edition of Bitcoin Today, where I, Satoshi Nakaboto, tell you what’s been going on with Bitcoin in the past 24 hours. As Marx used to say: Talk to a stranger on a bus! Bitcoin price We closed the day, July 23 2020, at a price of $9,581. That’s a minor 0.56 percent increase in 24 hours, or $53. It was the highest closing price in twenty-nine days. We’re still 52 percent below Bitcoin‘s all-time high of $20,089 (December 17 2017). Bitcoin market cap Bitcoin‘s market cap…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Bitcoin,YouTube
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Thomas Jones 2021-07-08
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Too big a price to pay for decelerating your epigenetic clock?

If you're a gentleman looking to counteract the effects of ageing, a new study on sheep may have the answer – but you're going to have to say goodbye to your family jewels in return for a slowdown of your DNA's ageing process.…

Thomas Jones 2021-06-14
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Euphoria season 2 is expected to return on HBO later this year – here's what we know so far.
Thomas Jones 2021-05-28
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Caroline D’Arcy is a “somatic sexologist”, or masturbation coach, if you prefer.

She left her corporate career to teach women how to get off – because for generations, nobody else has. “Our minds have a negative bias, because if we’re not taught about something in a positive, exciting way, we’ll fill in the gaps and think it’s something shameful or dirty,” she tells HuffPost UK. 

“It’s about understanding that we can have so much more influence over our arousal and our libido than we ever thought possible.”

The 38-year-old, originally from the Wirral but now living and working in London, didn’t imagine herself as a sexologist – it wasn’t mentioned as an option during career talks at her Catholic convent school, funnily enough. 

But in her late twenties, she left an emotionally abusive relationship and began exploring BDSM, initially as a way to regain a sense of control. 

Masturbation coach Caroline D'Arcy

She was still frightened of letting anyone in emotionally, though, through fear of falling into another abusive relationship. But in time, she felt her walls come down as she learned more about sex, and leaned into the worlds of tantra and sex parties. 

“The exploration into my own sexuality – the power of being confident and turned on and in control – it took that fear away of getting myself in that situation again, because I knew myself and I understood boundaries,” she says.

“If you understand boundaries and you know how they feel in your body, those red flags that were always there, you can’t ignore them any more.”

After discovering sexologists via various podcasts, D’Arcy quit her job of 10 years in corporate health and safety and retrained in somatic sexology. 

Somatic literally means “of the body”. Those working in the field use a range of techniques to bridge the mind-body divide, helping us connect with our bodies better and have more fulfilling sex lives. 

“Long story short, that means you touch yourself a lot,” says D’Arcy. 

She now specialises as a masturbation coach and works with EKHO Wellbeing, a platform designed to help women find fulfilling sex lives. She wants to help women reconnect with themselves through self-love and pleasure and has designed a nine-week programme called ‘Touch’ to do just that. 

The first part of the course is a return to sex ed, or rather, an introduction to proper sex ed, says D’Arcy, because generations of women were not told about masturbation, pleasure, libido or the clitoris - “a whole organ!” – in schools. 

D’Arcy also works with women to shake off the patriarchal shame we’ve internalised about sex. “We’re taught that if you enjoy sex you’re a slut, you’re not loveable and you’re only good for one thing. But if you don’t like it, you’re a prude,” she says. “I spent the first year [after training] in absolute rage about the misunderstanding of women’s bodies and the thousands of years of shame and secrecy about what it is to be a sexual woman.” 

Once you’ve got into the right headspace, it’s time to get physical. 

D’Arcy says there’s no one-size-fits-all way technique to masturbation – “our sexuality is as individual as our preference to food” – and our needs also change throughout our hormonal cycle.  “When I’m ovulating, I’m happy to have sex with lots of different people. It’s amazing and it really turns me on,” she says. “When I’m on my period, I want to be cosied up and I’m much more sensitive, so I don’t really want to be having lots of intense sensations.”

She encourages women to try touching different parts of their body in lots of different ways, experimenting with their breathing, too, to find what feels good. This, she says, is a better method than diving towards your clit with a sex toy. “There’s nothing bad about that, but it’s limiting,” she adds. “It’s a bit like eating the same food over and over again, you’re going to get bored of it eventually and it’s not going to be effective.”

Having one go-to masturbation method can also be a problem if and when you interact with a partner, she says, because if they’re not emulating what your body has got used to, it’s not going to work.  

Learning to enjoy sex and masturbation without shame was life-changing for D’Arcy. Not only did it lead to a career change, it taught her she’s worthy of love and silenced the inner critic that had followed her for decades.

“I spent my entire life having a difficult time with my body, having real issues with my weight and being absolutely disgusted by my body at certain times,” she says. “When I went down this practice, because I was seeing the capacity of my body and how good it could feel and how amazing it was, it completely changed that relationship.” 

Now, she wants other women to experience the same. Here are her tips for getting started.  

5 tips for better masturbation  

1. Set the scene.

Your environment has a big impact on how you feel, so do some tidying first. “Look at your room and think about one or two things you could immediately do to make it feel like a sexy adult space,” says D’Arcy. “For me, that means making the bed, clearing any washing, making sure there’s no work about, setting a candle. Just ask: ‘Is this an environment that turns me on?’” 

2. Take the goal away

“As soon as you have a goal like an orgasm, it gives you a pass/fail, you’ve either passed and had an orgasm, or you’ve failed,” says D’Arcy. “When we put a goal there, we’re putting our body into its stress response – our body’s fight/flight mode – and that blocks our brain’s ability to pick up the sex hormones that are created when we get turned on.”

3. Set an intention instead

“An intention is a moveable direction, it’s not a pass/fail,” she says. “It’s something like: ‘I’m going to intend to experience as much pleasure using my body today as possible. If that ends in an orgasm, great. But if it doesn’t and it goes somewhere else, that’s great as well.’” 

4. Dial down the stress

We can’t always get rid of the stressors in our life –  a global pandemic or bills, for example – but we can adopt ways to dial down the stress we experience in relation to them. “Something that’s really good is going for a run or doing a physical exercise, like skipping, or punching pillows. Anything that replicates a fight flight response,” she says. “Other ways might be journalling or meditation.” Again, stress will block your ability to experience pleasure, so she recommends making this a priority

5. Touch yourself all over 

“The starting point is using different types of touch, all over your body, then moving up to your clit and just getting curious about what feels good and building from there.” 

Thomas Jones 2021-03-21
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It’s been a long old wait for the new series of Line Of Duty, which was an early TV casualty of the pandemic last year when filming was suspended for six months. 

Sunday night finally saw the famous trio of Fleming, Arnott and Hastings back in action – although things were very different in the set up of AC-12 to when we last saw the team. 

It was revealed that DI Kate Fleming had left the anti-corruption unit to joining the major investigations team (MIT), who appeared to have just made a breakthrough in their investigation into the murder of journalist Gail Vella. 

However, a decision to stop the police convoy en route to arrest the suspect – on a mere hunch that an armed robbery was taking place at a betting shop – immediately put MIT boss DCI Joanne Davidson under AC-12’s spotlight. 

It soon became apparent that this new story has plenty of links to previous series, and left us with a hell of a lot of questions as the credits rolled...

Line Of Duty stars Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Kelly Macdonald

1. Who really killed Gail Vella?

We are not buying that Terry Boyle was responsible for Vella’s murder, as we have previously seen him manipulated and bullied by the OCG in both series one and series five. That means the likelihood is that they are setting him up as their fall guy. 

2. Why was Gail Vella killed?

The motive for Vella’s murder was not explored in the first episode, but from the series trailer, we know she had previously reported on police corruption and officers’ involvement with organised crime in her capacity as a journalist. 

Perhaps she was working on a big exposé prior to her death that the organised crime group (OCG) and the corrupt officers in league with them found out about, and thus ordered her death?

Journalist Gail Vella is murdered having previously reported on police corruption 

3. Who is “Ross Turner”?

Is this a real person or just a false name? 

4. Who is Carl Banks?

Banks’ prints were found all over the Beechwood House flat, and the name Banks immediately made us think of OCG member Lee Banks, who Hastings visited in prison during the last series. Could he be a relation?

5. Who killed the CHIS?

The informant who had tipped MIT off about “Ross Turner” was found dead after falling off the top of a building, after presumably being pushed. Despite not seeming to not know his identity, could Davidson have ordered his death so she could pin the charges on Boyle and close the case?

6. What did Jatri mean when she said “you don’t know what [Davidson] is capable of”?

Kelly is playing AC-12 latest adversary DCI Joanne Davidson

Because of their previous relationship, Sgt Farida Jatri obviously knows DCI Davidson better than any of her colleagues, and warned DS Steve Arnott that she was dangerous.

What has she witnessed in the past to make this allegation? Or is she merely a scorned ex mourning the loss of her relationship and seeking revenge?

7. Have Fleming and Davidson had an affair?

While Davidson dismissed Jatri’s accusation that she’d been having an affair with Fleming prior to the end of their relationship, there was a moment of tenderness between them at the station that suggested there could be some truth to Jatri’s suspicions. 

We also know that Fleming has split once again from her partner, having reunited with him and their son in the last series. 

8. Why is Davidson lying about her family?

During her row with Jatri, Davidson claimed she “didn’t have” any family, but when she returned to her apartment, there was a photo of her with someone we assume to be her mother. We then saw her becoming angry and throw a glass at the photo, so what is the real story between Davidson and her relatives?

9. Why does Davidson have so many locks on her door?

Does she believe she is someone’s target? Or is there something in the flat she is desperate to stop someone finding?

10. Is Fleming’s life in danger now she is a CHIS?

Vicky McClure as DI Kate Fleming

Despite having left AC-12 behind, she’s been pulled back into the world of anti-corruption when DS Arnott asked her to act as an informant on her new department. 

A trailer for the new series suggested a character’s life would be on the line, so could Fleming’s latest covert operation go horribly wrong and end up seeing her pay the ultimate price – especially after what happened to the last CHIS? Writer Jed Mercurio has previously refused to rule out the possibility a major character could be killed off... 

11. Is there more to Fleming’s exit from AC-12?

In a conversation between Fleming and Arnott, she claimed to have moved on from AC-12 after the department became tainted, thanks to the official investigation into Superintendent Hastings’ conduct. 

Some fan theories have previously suggested that Fleming could be the fourth officer working with the OCG, and if this is true, then a move to MIT would certainly have enabled her to help cover up any potential involvement they had in Vella’s murder. Could this be the real motivation for her sudden career move?

12. Why has someone taken the fridge in Boyle’s flat?

It was revealed that Boyle’s flat was cleared out and cleaned up, apart from the pictures of Vella hanging on the wall that were found to have traces of semen on them. 

What you might have missed during this interrogation scene though – especially if you are a relative newcomer to Line Of Duty – is the significance of the moved fridge in his kitchen. 

Last series, it was revealed the fridge is where the OCG were storing some remains of Jackie Laverty – the former lover of series one antagonist DCI Tony Gates, who was killed when the OCG broke into her house and used her murder as leverage to manipulate the cop. 

Parts of Jackie Laverty's body was being stored in a freezer in Terry Boyle's flat

Parts of Laverty’s remains were later disposed of along with John Corbett’s body by the OCG in the McDade & Company Breakers Yard in series five. 

So why has the fridge been moved? Are there more of Laverty’s remains out there? And if so, what does the OCG plan to do next?

13. Did DCI Buckells mess up the surveillance on Beechwood House on purpose?

The address where Boyle was found wasn’t watched for three hours due to Buckells messing up the paperwork, meaning the real “Ross Turner” could have escaped during this time. 

While he did pop up in series four, we can’t help but think his reappearance in the story at a time when the Laverty story is being revisited is significant. Is he also caught up with the OCG?

14. Is Davidson really a bent copper?

Davidson stopped the convoy on a hunch they were about to witness an armed robbery

Well obviously we’re not going to now how corrupt she is just yet, but things are definitely not adding up when it comes to Davidson’s decision to stop the convoy to attend to the armed robbery at the bookies’...

Line Of Duty continues next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One. 

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that some of Laverty’s remains were disposed of by the OCG in series five. 

Thomas Jones 2021-02-28
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Thomas Jones 2021-02-15
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Thomas Jones 2020-10-29
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Thomas Jones 2020-07-30
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Listen to our weekly podcast Am I Making You Uncomfortable? about women’s health, bodies and private lives. Available on Spotify, Apple, Audioboom and wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Watch a sex scene on TV and – more often than not – it’ll be painfully heteronormative and focus on penetration, with the woman orgasming easily after two minutes of wham, bam, thank you ma’am. 

In real life, female pleasure rarely occurs that way. So, to encourage more accurate (and feminist) representations of pleasure in pop culture, two women have created ‘The Clit Test’ – think of it like the Bechdel test, for sex scenes.  

The Clit Test celebrates TV shows, films, books and music that acknowledge the clitoris, not the vagina, is the source of orgasm for at least 80% of women and people with vulvas. 

Normal People

Frances Rayner, 34, from Glasgow, created the test out of frustration with sex scenes she’d seen on screen, which often imply women are always able to orgasm through penetrative sex. Irene Tortajada, 25, from London, joined her, as she felt little progress had been made to help her generation understand female pleasure.  

“Growing up, I was entirely clueless about my own pleasure because no one had told me about the clitoris,” Rayner says. “From a young age, I knew about blow jobs, penis in vagina sex and male masturbation, but nothing I consumed taught me how women’s bodies worked beyond periods and pregnancy. 

“This misleading ‘sexual script’ is one of the main reasons women and girls who have sex with men have alarming rates of disappointing, bad and even painful sex.” 

A ‘Clit Test pass’ occurs any time the clitoris is acknowledged, say Rayner and Tortajada. This could be a head or a hand disappearing under the covers, a mention of women masturbating or even someone expressing disappointment with sex that was only penetrative.

Recent passes include Olivia Wilde’s teen film, Booksmart, Michaela Coel’s TV comedy, Chewing Gum, and Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other.

Chewing  Gum

The campaign is supported by two leading academics on the female orgasm: Professor Elizabeth Lloyd, author of The Case of the Female Orgasm, and Dr Laurie Mintz, author of Becoming Cliterate.

Emmy and Golden Globe-winning star and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom, has also shown her support, as have bestselling writers Holly Bourne and Wednesday Martin.

Sex Education 

The Clit Test campaign launches on Friday July 31, to coincide with National Orgasm Day. To mark the day, the women behind the Clit Test are calling on members of the public to share their favourite sex scenes that pass the test, and thank the people who made them.

You can share your passes and fails on social media using the hashtags #ClitTestPass and #ClitTestFail. 

“In the context of market-driven porn being accessible to children as young as 7, there’s never been a more important time to reset our shared norms around pleasure,” says Rayner. “The Clit Test celebrates the people who are getting it right, in the hope we will inspire others.” 

Thomas Jones 2021-06-28
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Thomas Jones 2021-06-13
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Thomas Jones 2021-02-27
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A protester in Parliament Square in July, 2020, as the government proposed to scrap self-identification laws for trans and non-binary people.

“I would hate for the last thing that documents me and my life to be inaccurate,” says Ren Williams.

“The older I get the more I veer away from the binary, and so much of my life and the way people see me is already inaccurate. I dislike the idea that I’m going to be remembered as a binary letter and misgendered for the rest of my children’s lives, my grandchildren’s lives.” 

Ren is non-binary genderfluid, and after a health scare with necrotic gall bladder last year, began to worry about what might happen after they die.

“Every year I see stories about trans people buried as their deadname, the incorrect gender, at the mercy of family members that never accepted them in life and refuse to do so in death. I feel comfortable that wouldn’t happen to me, at least on the surface – I know my wife and kids wouldn’t deadname me after death,” Ren says.

However, currently, UK death certificates have only two options for “sex” – male and female, and no “gender” or “gender identity” options. It is mandatory for someone registering a death to include this data, leaving Ren and other non-binary people concerned about being misgendered when they die.

“No one should be expected to take on institutional transphobia in the middle of grieving for a loved one,” Ren says.

Ren Williams

When asked why there isn’t an option for people to record their gender as non-binary on death certificates, a spokesperson for the General Register’s Office, which oversees death certification in England and Wales, said only: “The law requires the biological sex of the deceased to be recorded on death certificates.”

Ash Hayhurst, a trans man, funeral director and author of the Queer Funeral Guide, points out the contradictions in advice given to registrars around recording data – that death certificates should record the name and gender that is believed to be true at the time of a person’s death, but that without an option to include anything other than two genders, this is sometimes impossible.

“If you take it back to the Equality Act, that’s indirect discrimination,” Hayhurst says.

“To not have someone’s gender identity recognised when they’re living is unjust and discriminatory. But to not have your gender identity recognised after you have died, that’s brutal.”

Ash Hayhurst

In 2015, Maya Scott-Chung highlighted the difficulties that even binary trans people are still facing. Her friend and prominent San Francisco trans activist, Christopher Lee, had died by suicide in 2012, but despite showing the coroner a driver’s license and other official documents that stated he was a man, his death certificate came back marked “female”.

“It felt like spitting on his grave,” Scott-Chung said in an NPR interview. “When they put RIP on people’s tombstones, it’s ‘rest in peace’. And I just felt like Christopher’s spirit will not rest in peace with a death certificate that says female.”

Suicide is an area where the lack of recognition of trans and non-binary identities on death certificates is particularly troubling.

An anonymous helpline worker told us that the lack of data around suicide has a big implication for policy work. They pointed to the fact that there’s no way to know if there is a spike or increased risk in any community if there is no data, and this has a big effect on how charities and governments can support communities at increased risk.

Considering that more than a quarter of young trans people have attempted to end their own lives, and nine in ten have thought about suicide, many feel that the lack of statistical data about how many trans and non -binary people actually do end their own lives is negligent. 

This isn’t just the case for suicide, but all causes of death. A recent example is official coronavirus statistics, which only capture deaths of “males” and “females”. There is currently no way to know how many non-binary people are dying because of the pandemic, potentially putting an already marginalised community at further risk.

“Data practices bring some lives into the foreground and cast some lives further into the shadows,” says Dr Kevin Guyan, a researcher based in Edinburgh soon to be releasing a book on queer data.

“It is vital that those who manage these systems consider how best to represent the people about whom the data relates, which might require approaches that look beyond binaries or identities fixed in time and space,” he says. 

Most funeral directors don’t know what non-binary is. How can they claim to treat someone equally when they don’t even know what the term is?Ash Hayhurst

In the USA, laws are slowly changing. In 2014, reflecting on Christopher Lee’s death, the California State passed the “Respect After Death” Act. It requires gender identity, rather than gender assigned at birth, to be recorded on death certificates in the state of California. On April 16, 2018, Oregon became the first US state to introduce non binary gender “X” on death certificates, and other states have followed.

But whether there will be changes in the UK soon remains to be seen. Last year, non-gendered campaigner Elan-Cane lost a campaign against the UK Court of Appeal to include an “X” option on UK passports.

However, there is some progress. This year, for the first time, there will be options to include non binary identity on the UK census.

Dr Guyan welcomes the change.

“Asking questions that enable people to answer in ways that best represents how they exist in everyday life is not abandoning ‘robust’ or ‘tidy’ data but a true reflection of the world we live in,” he says.

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, which also backed the campaign for a non-gendered option on UK passports, would welcome a change to how we record gender on death certificates.

“It’s vital more options, like an ‘X’ category, are introduced, so non-binary people are recognised for who they are in life and in death,” says the charity’s communications and campaigns associate director Robbie de Santos.

Funeral professional Hayhurst is hopeful. “The thing that needs to change is there needs to be an option to put your own gender in. It’s not just male, female, non-binary – there are many. With a recent audit of the funeral sector calling for more regulation, things are definitely about to change,” he says.

Lack of recognition of non-binary identity after death starts with death certificates, but it doesn’t end there. Hayhurst feels the funeral sector should be doing more to support non-binary people and their loved ones.

“I often hear phrases like ‘I treat everyone the same’ or ‘death equalises people’,” Hayhurst says, “but most funeral directors don’t know what non-binary is. How can they claim to treat someone equally when they don’t even know what the term is?”

In June 2016, trans youth charity Gendered Intelligence partnered with the Corpse Project to talk to trans people about how trans and gender variant bodies are treated after death.

In the resulting “Transfesto”, they called for paperwork to “remove unnecessary and invasive questions about gender” and an investigation into the funeral service industry with the aim of creating a “trans friendly practice”.

They also produced a guide about what trans people can do to make sure our wishes are respected after death, as much as possible within current legislation. The guide recommends writing a will, naming an executioner and writing a letter of wishes.

Hayhurst points to some of the changes already happening. Ceremony Matters, an organisation that supports and trains funeral celebrants, last year hosted a series of super conferences on marginalised identities.

Hayhurst spoke at “Non-binary identities: understanding LGBTQ+ identities”, and was excited by the turnout. He feels there is a real desire within the funeral sector to consider how to respect queer and trans identities in ceremonies.

“It goes back to the AIDS epidemic,” he says. “Good funeral directors will make sure that queer family are held at funerals, for example when the ceremony is for someone who has only been out to some people and not others.”

Hayhurst remembers one funeral where the biological family had disowned the deceased person, but after their death were trying to “take over everything and invalidate their identity”.

The family insisted on entering the funeral first and being in the front row. When the person’s queer family came in second, the funeral director said: “And now for the important people.”

Hayhurst has also heard of funeral directors who have scribbled out “M” and “F” options on cremation forms and written in more suitable gender options. “To lie on one of these forms is an offence,” Hayhurst says, “so therefore to lie about a non binary person’s gender is technically an offence.”

He also stresses that people can change funeral directors if they’re not satisfied and that there is no legal requirement to even use a funeral director. “If there isn’t somewhere in your local area you trust to hold a funeral, then you can do it yourself,” he says, and a section of his Queer Funeral Guide outlines how. The Good Grief Trust has also began running a weekly online café for bereaved partners of LGBTQ+ people.

February is LGBTQ+ history month, but the UK is still rewriting trans people out of history and present. Hayhurst believes death certificates are the best start. “Once we start recording non binary deaths, it will become part of the status quo. Then non-binary becomes part of our language, and this filters down, changing the whole funeral sector.”

Useful websites and helplines:

  • The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
  • Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
  • LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
  • Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
  • Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK
  • London Lesbian & Gay switchboard (LLGS) is a free confidential support & information helpline for LGBT communities throughout the UK | 0300 330 0630
  • Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard is a free support, information and referral service for the Manchester and North-West area | 0161 235 8000
  • Stonewall for more information on other LGBT services and helplines | 08000 502020
Thomas Jones 2020-12-24
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Thomas Jones 2020-08-18

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Thomas Jones 2020-07-24
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Our robot colleague Satoshi Nakaboto writes about Bitcoin every fucking day. Welcome to another edition of Bitcoin Today, where I, Satoshi Nakaboto, tell you what’s been going on with Bitcoin in the past 24 hours. As Marx used to say: Talk to a stranger on a bus! Bitcoin price We closed the day, July 23 2020, at a price of $9,581. That’s a minor 0.56 percent increase in 24 hours, or $53. It was the highest closing price in twenty-nine days. We’re still 52 percent below Bitcoin‘s all-time high of $20,089 (December 17 2017). Bitcoin market cap Bitcoin‘s market cap…

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