Thursday, 26 January 2017

Does penpal gender matter?

Earlier this month, I read from cover to cover the National Geographic's special issue for January 2017 on the Gender Revolution. I had never read any of their magazines from cover to cover, so this is a first! I found this issue so illuminating. Only in the last 25 or so years have I become aware of other sexualities/genders. 

The humanist Gene Roddenberry was a great influence on my teenage and young adult years. There was one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation introducing the Trill to the crew of the Enterprise. One Trill fell in love with Dr. Beverly Crusher and they had a romance. He was injured and he was dying but the symbiont inside needed a new body to act as host. However, it was too long a wait for a new Trill host to arrive but an interim solution became available - transplant the symbiont into Picard's No. 1 - Will Riker. This worked for a while and the romance continued with the dear doctor. When the new Trill host arrived and the symbiont transplanted, I recall the look of utter horror/disgust on Crusher's face when she sees the Trill is female. The Trill female still had the feelings of romance for the doctor, but Beverly felt uncomfortable. 

Continuing, Deep Space 9 has a Trill officer - Jadzia Dax. She meets one of her symbiont's past host's spouse's symbiont's new host and the love was still there; the two symbionts still loved each other even though their respective hosts were female. This showed me that there is more to love/attraction than the outward appearance.

So, what has this got to do with letter writing?

Traditional online penpal ads/profiles often state that they only want  female penpals. Some of these go on to add, "out of respect for my husband." I looked up the definition for respect - due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. How does having a male penpal go against the right of others? If I rewrite and infer... "Because of my husband's wishes, I am not allowed to make friends with men, as he thinks I will want to throw my body at them, have affairs with them." I wonder then how this husband would cope with his wife having a lesbian penpal; would he fear she'd tempt her away and corrupt her? And would he have opinions on transgenders who were female or who are now female, or what about those who are intersex, examples - 1) a model has come out recently as intersex, having been born with undescended testicles, and the testes removed when she was 10, and 2) a writer and film maker grew a beard and had a period aged 12. So, would you discriminate on grounds of gender or sexuality? Should spouses (or even parents) dictate who you should be friends with?

The word I like is prefer. This allows you to keep an open mind. I did prefer to write to females 20 years ago, but I did also have some male penpals and I was pleasantly surprised. 

The February letter writing projects can give the freedom to write to new people, to discover the world. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

InCoWriMo's official site has been updated.

But, I would take what is written with a big pinch of salt.

This is just part of The List. You may need to click the picture to read the wording.
These 28 people (and one crustacean) would love to receive your correspondence!
Don’t let a lack of at-the-ready recipients keep you from accepting the InCoWriMo Challenge. With this list, you don’t even need a personal address book.
All of the names on this list are real, live people (well, almost all the names). I’ve spoken to each personally (trust me) and while they may not be able to respond to the flood of letters that InCoWriMo provokes, they each confess, proclaim, and affirm that they crave your correspondence.
Then, look at one of the names..

The official site is now open to people to add their own address/comments via Disqus, having been updated by Eric who seemingly couldn't be bothered to update the site at all for 2016. For those who took part in 2015 and checked the site regularly, you may recall the site disappearing altogether along with the fountain pen forum.

Monday, 9 January 2017

February creeping up - InCoWriMo-2017 is on the horizon.

It is almost that time of year for the February letter writing frenzy. I will be taking part in InCoWriMo-2017, organised by a snail mail enthusiast I have the pleasure of calling a penfriend, from an InCoWriMo event in the past. InCoWriMo-2017 is for "ordinary" people: I say "ordinary" in a good sense because everyone can take part and send some letters to each other, not just to fountain pen company CEOs and celebrities listed on the InCoWriMo site with currently nowhere for "ordinary" people to sign up. You don't even need a fountain pen to take part, but the project would like you to send a handwritten letter everyday.

A similar project, A Month of Letters Challenge (LetterMo) for sending letters every postal day also allows the use of typewriters. There are little challenges within the main challenge, e.g. posting at a different postbox, using nice stamps, wax seals.

The fountain pen is my weapon of choice, but the gel pen used to be an implement of choice before I rediscovered fountain pens. I am happy to receive letters written in fountain pen, ballpoint, Sharpie, fineliner, even typewritten... 

The paper can be ordinary. In my teenage years, a friend moved out of the area and went to a new school. She wrote letters on refill pad paper during some of her lessons! There are writing pads, lined or plain, white or cream or other colours, perhaps patterned or with a logo. If you are lucky, you could find some nice writing sets, but the ratio of paper to envelopes is often too low. If you have a printer, you can print your own designs (or use one of the many templates available online).

Some people like to decorate the letters with stickers, or washi tape. Some might say this is childish, but someone said that penpalling is only a children's hobby. I am in my 40s and I use stickers and washi/deco tapes. I have received letters with stickers on from people even older than me, and even received a missive from a gentleman in his late 50s on Diddl writing paper. 

I have differentiated between InCoWriMo and InCoWriMo-2017. The original InCoWriMo was updated in February 2015, and then nothing until this month. InCoWriMo did still occur on a fountain pen forum and the original site in the comments section of the 2015 list, for 2016. However, with the original site looking dead in the water, my dear penfriend and snail mail enthusiast took it upon himself to create a new website for InCoWriMo-2107 in October. There are over 60 real people signed up already and the first week of January is only just over. So, it is with pleasure I support InCoWriMo-2017, for real people. 

Letter writing is fun, both the writing and the receiving. I do hope newcomers to InCoWriMo-2017 will enjoy sending and receiving missives. Letters are for life, not just for February and you may find yourself finding new friends - penfriends are real friends too. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

KeptSafe over the holidays, stay safe for 2017!

I was going to be at my mother's for the holidays but did not know when I was going to leave home and when I'd be back. So, with the risk of not being able to get back into the house with mail posted through the front door, I used Royal Mail's KeepSafe service. It worked a treat and this is all the nice post from penpals & correspondents around the world (excluding business post and the Christmas cards from family & non-postal friends) accumulated from the 19th December 2016, arriving today (4th January) 2017. It took me almost 2 hours to go through the post! 

Look at all those lovely stamps. With many more people getting post for the festive holidays than at other times of the year, they get to see more stamps. However, if they do not collect stamps, where do the stamps go? Some end up in the bin, I'm sure, but there is a better solution - send the stamps to charity. I have been trying to compile a list of charities around the world. So far, it has been easy to find charities in the UK accepting stamps (and there are at least two companies you can send stamps in to with the name of a particular charity from a wide variety), but not having as much luck around the world. Oxfam in Canada has a webpage for collecting stamps, but Oxfam in the US doesn't. So, if you know of any charities outside of the UK wanting stamps to raise money, please let me know.