A selection of my best writing in 2022
2022 has been a really interesting year for me professionally. My role at Now Then magazine, where I was a community correspondent focusing on reporting on the LGBTQ+ and disability communities, changed as I took over as editor for six months to cover the regular editor’s parental leave. Since he has come back to work, we are sharing the role, and I am still focusing on my original remit as well.
I spend half my working week at Now Then and the other half freelancing. Most of my freelance work this year has been editing, whether at Global Comment or doing sensitivity editing for a range of authors and publishing companies. As a result of that, most of my writing this year has been either for private clients, mostly in a copywriting or content marketing capacity, or for Now Then.
So I wanted to round up some of my favourites of what I’ve written this year. It’s been eclectic but focused, and looking back through it all I can see that passion and determination to create positive change is a thread throughout. That makes me feel proud.
I was tipped off that Sheffield City Council had left the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme, despite their website saying they were still a member.
I was concerned that an atmosphere of transphobia had led to this decision so I did a Freedom of Information request to see the discussions that had been had within the council about Stonewall. I was relieved to find that transphobia had not been the motivating factor and that it was more about cost and human resources.
I was also really impressed by Amy Darlow, a Sheffield woman who plays boccia.
The government was prevaricating over whether or not to ban anti-LGBTQ+ conversion therapy and I really wanted to cover how damaging the experience is for queer people.
But, try as I might, I couldn’t get anybody who had experienced conversion therapy in Sheffield to talk to me. I understood why – it’s a difficult topic.
I ultimately decided to talk about my own experiences, not of conversion therapy itself – thank goodness – but of being offered it twice. I figured that if I could talk about how damaging it was to even be offered it, the implications of actually going through it would come across clearly.
As a result of this piece, I also appeared on a Humanists UK panel, talking about the problem of anti-LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.
I also got the opportunity to interview broadcaster extraordinaire Jon Ronson, which was incredibly exciting. His podcast, Things Fell Apart, was a really good listen and it was fascinating to be able to ask him questions about his ongoing work looking at the culture wars and talk about cognitive biases, him wanting to avoid being “Mr Shame”, and how much social media fuels how haywire everything feels.
In April, using data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, I found that disabled children from Sheffield were being educated as far as 165 miles away, while disabled children from as far afield as London and Sussex were being educated here in the city.
That month, I also interviewed Abtisam Mohamed, who is now the next Labour candidate for the Sheffield Central constituency at the next general election when Paul Blomfield, the current MP, steps down. She was talking about a plan to close a lot of local GP surgeries and replace them with a handful of all-singing, all-dancing new, shiny practices.
In May, I had the pleasure of interviewing writer Shon Faye about her book, the first trans MP, and her overall vision for trans liberation.
And using data I got from submitting a Freedom of Information request, I wrote about a soaring increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime in South Yorkshire.
And I interviewed lesbian folk singer Grace Petrie
Public bodies publish their answers to selected FOI requests on their websites and, using one published by South Yorkshire Police, I learned that out of 381 sexual offences reported in South Yorkshire schools over four years, there were only four charges altogether. As this was incredibly worrying – along with the types of offences and ages of victims – I wrote about it.
And I spoke to Nathan Geering, who had just left Theatre Deli, about his accusations of racism against some of his former colleagues.
The biggest piece I wrote in July was without question where I challenged Sheffield DocFest on their disabled access. I had had a massively disappointing experience in such a range of ways that it was not just the odd lack of provision here and there.
I hoped – and still hope – that what I wrote will have an effect on the planning of DocFest 2023.
I also interviewed a local councillor about an anti-spiking campaign in the city that seemed, to me, to not be going far enough. And to be overestimating the impact that posters telling perpetrators not to drug people’s drinks would have.
Inspired by the Gender Pay Gap Bot on Twitter, which highlighted the gender pay gaps of companies that were tweeting about International Women’s Day, I wanted to find out what the disability pay gap looked like. I chose both universities in Sheffield as a snapshot of larger employers in the area.
So at the end of August I published an article that was the culmination of a lot of number crunching and months upon months of wrangling to get the data I was legally entitled to. When it came, I found what I suspected: disabled staff are paid considerably less than non-disabled staff.
Following the piece on anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime earlier in the year, I covered the equally depressing stats on disability hate crime in South Yorkshire this month.
In September I got the chance to interview one of my comedy heroes, Mark Thomas. And despite embarrassing myself within minutes of the call starting by recounting some swinger-related news I’d just heard, he was a joy to talk to and had a lot of funny and inspiring things to say.
In October, anti-choice protesters were holding vigils outside the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and when I looked at their materials, I found some incredibly disturbing advice and recommendations. As well as making unscientific recommendations for medical procedures that are unproven, they also had some dark, dark advice for people who are seeking a termination because their baby is going to die.
But the highlight of October’s work, by far, was getting to interview the inimitable Eddie Izzard about her bid to be the city’s newest MP. Seeing her on stage in a former working men’s club, rather than an arena, was quite the experience, and I loved my conversation with her.
In November, I went to see my childhood hero Floella Benjamin as part of the Off the Shelf festival. What I learned was that she is also my adult hero, so I wrote her a love letter.
Thanks to everyone who spoke to me, who DMed me with tips, who inspired me and who kept me on my toes. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!
Image: Etienne Girardet