There is a beautiful quote from The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan that by its nature will always be relevant:

“We are all flawed and creatures of our times. Is it fair to judge us by the unknown standards of the future?”

A thought-provoking question.

To put it in context, here’s the whole passage:

“Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owned slaves; Albert Einstein and Mohandas Gandhi were imperfect husbands and fathers. The list goes on indefinitely. We are all flawed and creatures of our times. Is it fair to judge us by the unknown standards of the future? Some of the habits of our age will doubtless be considered barbaric by later generations – perhaps for insisting that small children and even infants sleep alone instead of with their parents; or exciting nationalist passions as a means of gaining popular approval and achieving high political office; or allowing bribery and corruption as a way of life; or keeping pets; or eating animals and jailing chimpanzees; or criminalizing the use of euphoriants by adults; or allowing our children to grow up ignorant.”

I often think of this.

One occasion was not so long ago, when I got involved in a conversation about the future with my friend Ben and another guy, Ryan. We were talking about the weird casual racism of old white people.

Ryan asked us: “What do you think in the future will be considered totally offensive and unacceptable that is normal now?”

I said eating meat (as Sagan predicted) and Ben said gender-based categorisation.

I think possibly both.

I don’t each much meat any more. It’s bad for the environment and we don’t need to. As hunter gatherers we would not have eaten meat every day, and red meat, certainly, we would have eaten infrequently. Physically, we have not altered since those times – our digestive systems still work in the same way. Just because we gorge ourselves on beef nowadays as a norm, that doesn’t mean it’s what our bodies need. It is actually beneficial to avoid red meat altogether, as more people – certainly people of my generation – are becoming aware.

Dairy, also, is not necessary, and is not apparently – contrary to decades of propaganda – good for our health.

Also, if you are going to give up meat for environmental reasons or because of animal cruelty then not giving up dairy as well makes the whole exercise largely pointless.

As I said, I’m not vegetarian or vegan.

My reasons for not giving up meat completely are mixed. Mainly, I am a curious person with a strong sense of adventure and if I found myself somewhere where someone offered me some bizarre animal-based delicacy I would absolutely one hundred percent say ‘Yes, I’ll try that.’ That tends to be my answer to most things.

Secondly, it is not always practical. Sometimes you are travelling somewhere and you just need to eat whatever is available.

Another reason is more shallow – I like nice restaurants and I want to try beautiful food created by talented chefs. A lot of this food contains meat and dairy. I will not limit my life completely in that way.

On the flipside, I rarely buy meat to cook myself at home these days – so I am making a difference. Although it is a reasonable to question whether this difference is enough. I question this myself and things may yet change.

Another point to consider is that my reasons are mainly to do with the environment and not to do with animal cruelty – although I obviously don’t condone the ill treatment of any creature.

Also, sometimes being too militant about your beliefs can just be downright rude. If somebody’s 80 year old grandma has kindly cooked you tea and they haven’t understood or known that you are veggie or vegan – unless it will cause you illness or you are truly physically disgusted by it, you should really just eat the food. Not eating it won’t bring the animals back.

Overall, by your daily choices you are making a difference – and that is the important thing.

So why am I eating less meat?

Well it actually started because I got ill after taking antibiotics (I had a chest infection and a sinus infection and I’m not supposed to take penicillin so was prescribed doxycycline, which is not good for your insides). Following the doxycycline I found the chest and sinus infections cured and replaced by a stomach ulcer (I think. I have avoided any investigation.) Anyway, I found that less beer and less meat vastly improved my condition.

I had briefly been a veggie as a child. When I was very young – eight or nine – my mum was friends with some hippie types who were into all sorts of ace stuff and were vegetarians. I was quite impressed by their cool lifestyle – as I considered it as a child – and I became a little hippie myself and decided to give up meat. This did not last very long as people kept giving me food with meat in anyway, and I was hungry and ended up eating it. One observation I have made is that it is more expensive to not eat meat unless you are satisfied with eating very plain foods. It shouldn’t be this way. Plain foods that are dirt cheap are unfortunately more filling (and terrible for you). Also, my main motivation was sheeplike rather than philosophical. I just thought these guys were really cool – I was impressed by the aesthetics of their lifestyle and so I thought their way was the right way without really understanding the thinking behind it. I think this is forgivable for an eight year old. Unfortunately many people still behave this way as adults. People should be educated. Being fed crap goes way beyond just food.

Anyway, after the stomach ulcer, I thought seriously about how eating meat is not good for you, and being a person who reads a lot and gives a lot of thought to what is happening in the world, I couldn’t not consider my own impact on everything.

Back during my childhood stint as a veggie one of my friends said to me ‘Why are you a vegetarian? You don’t even like people.’ That was the beginning of the end. It’s a bit of a sweeping statement and definitely not true, but I knew what they meant. I remember as well saying to another friend that I thought that they should be a vegetarian because they wouldn’t eat meat off the bone as it reminded them of where it came from and it made them upset to think that it was a dead animal.

Unfortunately, I’m not like that. I’m the kind of person who will gleefully say things like ‘look, that’s its spine!’ as I’m eating chicken at a barbecue. It causes me no horror to think that I am eating something that once walked around and interacted with the world and felt pain just as we do. I’m not mean or cold, but I think my natural empathy – unless I really try and think deeply about how someone or something else is feeling – only goes so far. I’m not without it, though – I wouldn’t be able to have an animal as a pet and then, having been pals with it, decide that it was dinner. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that when I read that post that was going round about could you put a kitten in a blender for five grand that I could definitely NOT put the kitten in the blender. I worry sometimes that I am a bad person.

A long time ago a friend told me that I lacked normal human emotions because we watched a documentary about battery farms and I said that it wouldn’t put me off eating meat. For a long while this would concern me from time to time until years later I realised that the friend had not given up meat himself. I found this quite amusing. And I genuinely do think that modern farming methods are terrible. They are like concentration camps and the animals have horrible lives. Also, the meat that results from that way of rearing animals is particularly bad for your health. The animals are stressed, they are fed processed food and they are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. The only true beneficiary of any of this are the people who make a lot if money from it. It murders all others involved.

Also, we just don’t need to do it. As a friend said, at a party, not long ago. ‘In the modern world, with our standard of living, we don’t need to eat meat’ and that’s true. I remember when I was younger thinking there was validity in the ‘but animals eat other animals’ argument, but there isn’t. A lion on the savannah has to take what it can get. We don’t.


The gender thing is an interesting one, too. To me, the outcome is a lot less clear than for the meat issue.

It is quite normal to me to hear that somebody is trans and it is part of the protocol of modern life in the UK for it to be acceptable. I have two friends who have primary school age siblings who are trans and know quite a few people who are either going through gender realignment or have been through it.

Now, for some reason that is unfathomable to me, some people really don’t like all this. Seriously – for the life of me I can’t understand why. Firstly, I don’t see what difference it makes to their lives if somebody they barely know who was born a man concludes that he will be happier and live a more fulfilled life if he became a woman. Like so what? People get very deeply offended by things that fall far outside the periphery of their lives and I find their anger strange. I think maybe they are angry about something else.

One friend explained to me that it concerns him because he has children. Now that I find hilarious in its prejudice and lack of logic. I mean firstly trans people are not going round trying to convince everybody to change gender, if that’s what he’s worried about. And I am pretty sure that a child of either gender who is not feeling trapped in the wrong body won’t be pushing their way to the front of the queue for gender realignment surgery. It would be a lot of hassle and is probably quite harrowing even if you do genuinely want and qualify for it, never mind if you don’t. Secondly, say one of his children were to be trans, so what? Does he think that’s wrong?

Also, I will often read things on Facebook such as ‘there are only two genders. End of.’ Well actually no. If you have any knowledge of biology you will understand that that a ‘defective’ (the word used in the account of the research, not my word) chromosome means that a person can be born not quite male or female. There can be another reason as well. If a person is exposed to either too much testosterone in the womb, having started out as a female, or too much oestrogen as a male, this will result in homosexuality or gender misalignment. Being transgender is not a mental illness and it is uninformed and cruel to say that it is. My friend who was worried about his children explained that there is a much higher suicide rate amongst trans people, and considering that many people have attitudes like his towards them, I am really not surprised.

I totally get people not identifying with either gender as well. Some people are very male or very female (in the traditional sense of either) and some people aren’t at all. I feel a bit that way myself.

I’ve often thought that if I didn’t look like this (I suit girl clothes and make up and all that kind of stuff) then maybe I’d just be a total boy and go with the not identifying as a girl myself. I have genuinely thought to myself ‘It would just be such a waste of this if I was a butch lesbian and dressed like a man’. I’m not a lesbian incidentally. I’m not straight either. My lovely friend Rich – who sadly is no longer with us – used to say that everything was on a spectrum and he was so right. I think that most people, if they would truly admit it to themselves, are somewhere on the spectrum of bisexuality. And I think that even giving this a label is quite old fashioned. I remember being very surprised when last year at an illegal rave a guy came up to me and announced that he’d come out. ‘Really?’ I asked ‘Do people still do that?’

I’m always unsure if gender traits have a biological basis or if they are completely societal. One thing I do know is that all my life I always end up hanging out with the lads and it’s never been something I set out to do, it just naturally happens. As a generalisation I feel more at ease around guys. This has happened since I was old enough to talk to other people. But I haven’t had a particularly traditional upbringing and have largely been left to my own devices so perhaps that explains it all. If you are not given a ‘norm’ to conform to then it won’t be the norm and you will most likely not conform to it.

But then also perhaps there is more to it than that. There’s this silly funny meme of a black and white picture of loads of soldiers and in amongst them is a polar bear (apparently this was an amusing German ‘thing’ in the 19th and early 20th centuries). Anyway, it says ‘Day 45: I have earned the Grermans’ trust: They still do not realise I am bear’. Well that’s a bit like how I feel whenever I’m in a group of girls. It’s strange. They just talk about things sometimes in a way that I don’t quite understand. Also by some weird freak of ill health I don’t have to suffer periods. Which makes me feel separate from women. But then I don’t have a cock and I feel quite at home in a group of lads. It’s something I could try and figure out forever and never get anywhere, and to be honest this is probably the most deeply I’ve analysed it in my life. Because it doesn’t really bother me in any way.

It’s not a trait that doesn’t go unobserved. People notice. And also sometimes people don’t and I notice them not noticing. Sometimes a combination of the two has hilarious consequences. Like the time when some poor lad bought me flowers. Which is a really normal boy to girl thing to do. And it was a NICE thing to do. But I – not being someone who had ever wanted anybody to buy me flowers – was, more than anything, surprised by the whole thing. And the worst thing was that when this happened I was sat with a big group of mates – all lads – and me and one of the crew at exactly the same time looked at this poor boy and went ‘Flowers?!’ as if he’d brought me a jar of shit. Then, to make things worse, another one of my mates said ‘Yeah, what the fuck did you buy Roya flowers for? Why didn’t you just buy her a pint?’ I remember him looking very dejected, and of course it didn’t work out. And the whole thing seemed perfectly normal at the time. I didn’t even realise how mean it all was until I told someone else about it years later. And the funniest thing is that I actually like flowers. I mean, how can you not? They’re beautiful.

I will add that have had lots of non-serious boyfriends and a couple of long relationships and nobody else has ever bought me flowers.

Ultimately, for me, your body is just the suit that you are in. Possibly for people who are more strongly gendered this is not the case, but that’s how I feel. I can quite honestly say that I could wake up tomorrow and be a different animal and I’d still feel exactly like I was me. It’s your mind that makes you who you are. The shell is just exactly that. But I can understand that not everyone feels this way. Perhaps if they did then at some point in the not too distant future people would change genders several times through their lives just for the hell of it in the same way that we dye our hair or get boob jobs.


Things change. Deep and important things, and things that, in a greater sense, to most people, probably don’t matter that much. Apparently millennials don’t buy fabric conditioner. I have no idea whether this is true, I’ve not done a survey. I can definitely say with my hand on my heart that I have definitely never bought any myself. Life’s mundane frivolities are transient too.

I would hope for a more free and open minded future. But probably almost everyone has. As an old guy said to me a long time ago: ‘When we were young we were fighting for freedom and we’ve got less now than what we had then.’

So yes, another possibility is that we’ll end up in the middle of an almost uninhabitable earth and a collapsed political system and we’ll all live in a hell where we’ll have to cut each others’ throats to survive. In a world like that, people will eat whatever they can get and what gender they identify as will be pretty low on anyone’s list of priorities. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. That would be the real offence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *