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  • Writer's pictureH.R. Owen

Episode Eighty

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Monstrous Agonies E80S03 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Eighty.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through country music, a voice saying “-Santa's gonna be here-”, pop music, choral music and a voice saying “-regarding events in Ukraine-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-a path of stars branching off from the dull, grey pavement.

If you've just tuned in, you're right on time for our weekly advice segment, where I answer listener's questions on life, love and all things liminal.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

Everywhere, every when, on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Our first letter tonight is from a listener wondering what to do with some newly-received information.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

A few months ago, I accidentally become the high priestess of a minor god of hidden knowledge. I don't want to talk about how. It's, uh... kind of embarrassing. That's also why I rarely mention my status, because the first thing people always want to know is, “How did you accidentally become the high priestess for a minor god of hidden knowledge?”

That isn't me assuming things, by the way; one of the gifts I received is the knowledge of the questions people want to ask but choose not to. "Hidden knowledge", and the desire for such but which is itself hidden; it falls under the domain.

For the most part, this doesn't affect my life any more than a casual hobby would. I have duties that go along with my status, but most of them are minor devotions I can easily incorporate alongside my everyday life.

And the more important rituals are specifically for times when people wouldn't be doing anything anyway. Or, more specifically, not paying attention to things. Think 5PM on a Sunday, or first thing in the morning on New Year's Day.

But I also receive revelations. Sometimes, when I meet someone for the first time, I receive a revelation that tells me something about that person that they themself don't know yet. That isn't common, but it's always something potentially very important to that person.

As an example, I learned that my neighbours' oldest child is deathly allergic to bee stings, which she hadn't known because she'd never been stung. After much awkwardness and soul-searching, I managed to casually (I hope) turn a conversation with her father around to the importance of properly stocked first-aid kits. Crisis of conscience averted.

But... [sighs] The new hire at work. I received the revelation, “He doesn't know he's a man”. And what am I supposed to do with that?

I don't even know how I should refer to them. They present as female, use feminine pronouns, and I-I don't want to undermine that. Even if they realise they're transgender in the future, they may prefer to stay closeted, and it would just be wrong to make that choice for them.

Still, with this knowledge, it-it feels equally wrong to call them “she”. [sighs] I don't know. We're not close. Even if we were, I couldn't very well go up to them and say, “Hello, how was your weekend? By the way, you're transgender.”

I have some personal experience on this matter. Years ago, a friend told me I might be aromantic. I was appalled. That couldn't be me, I'm “normal”! (Yes, I cringe at the memory too; amatonormativity is one hell of a drug.)

But I had to understand and come to terms with my sexuality in my own time. Parts of my life would have been much easier if I had come to that realisation earlier, but it couldn't be forced.

So, what should I do for this person? I'd already been supporting efforts to make our workplace a trans-friendly environment. Should I leave it at that and wait for the person to realise matters on their own time? Or should I try and give hints? Or is there some third option I haven't even considered?

The Presenter (as themselves)

I understand your desire to help this person, listener. You are no doubt aware from your own experience how confusing and difficult life can be when one has not yet become aware of a significant part of one's identity. However, you also know personally how difficult those conversations can be if one is not yet ready for them.

Even if you were close friends, this would be an incredibly delicate situation. As it is, such a conversation is frankly impossible. As well-intentioned as you are, it would be deeply unfair and unkind to use this information directly, given to you, as it was, without your co-worker's knowledge or consent.

Your co-worker is living, as we all are, in a society that takes transphobia as a given. They and we are constantly barraged with messages telling us transgender people – or anyone who falls outside society's norms – are a novelty at best and malevolent disruptors of social order at worst.

It's this kind of othering that makes it so difficult for individuals to come to recognise themselves as transgender – or, as your experience demonstrates, as any marginalised identity. “I can't be that,” we think. “I'm normal.”

But “normal” is not an objective reality. It's nothing we can grasp in our hands, nothing we can articulate clearly, without contradiction. Its edges are watery and ill-defined, a judgement bestowed or withheld by the people around us, whether we value their judgement or not.

You can't tell your co-worker they're transgender. But you can work to create a culture – in your workplace and, I hope, beyond – that celebrates all forms of difference. Lay the groundwork to help your co-worker unpick their ideas of what normal means and why – or indeed, whether – it matters.

This goes well beyond being trans-friendly. You need to be welcoming to all identities, across all axes of difference. A creature-friendly workplace is a body-positive workplace is an anti-racist workplace is a feminist workplace is a queer-inclusive workplace.

Change what is within your power to change, reject the cult of normal, and give your co-worker the mental breathing room they need to start their own process of self-reflection and discovery.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Tonight's second letter is from a listener trying to parent in unusual circumstances.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I am not a necromancer. I am not someone who dallies with the dead, who digs up graves, or bothers the deceased. I don't and never will create creepy walking corpses without a hint of life or sanity or sentience left in them. I don't do that. I do not create abominations against the laws of life. I don't!

I just... bend the laws of life a little.

I am very good at healing magic. So good that I can heal a skeleton back into a body, for example. I can revive a rotted brain back to life, that sort of thing. It's not necromancy! It's healing magic. Rot and decay is just another bodily affliction. A-a malady to the entire works. What is rot but a very advanced infection?

You don't say a machine is dead just because its wires are all rusted. It just needs to be fixed. I am not a necromancer. But I do confess, I may have done something a little... necromantically adjacent.

Most of my family is dead. My mother has no family worth being around, and my clan on my father's side all died before I was born or soon after. Growing up it was just my mum, my dad, and my grandfather.

Grandfather passed nearly 20 years ago, of old age. I, uh... I haven't the heart to wake him up again. But he had a sister who died very young, some 90 years ago. She was three years old. I am not a necromancer, but I might have, uh... necromanced? Necromancied? ...necromitized? [sighs] Resurrected my great aunt.

I love her to pieces, her little ears and tail are so adorable. She's a little tortoiseshell, and a complete chatterbox! [laughs] And just the sweetest thing. Of course she's three, she needs me to look after her. She's become like a daughter to me.

I was prepared for this, and I am more than willing to take care of her. And I want the best for her. I want her to have a chance to live that she never got before. I want to see her grow up and thrive. I want to give her the life my great grandparents couldn't.

But, I have found myself facing a few issues. First of all, I have no idea how to go about getting her legal existence in order. She has no birth certificate, no records. My father has no idea where the papers would be if they even exist.

And I'm... [sighs] nervous about being a parent. I want my great aunt/daughter to have the best life she could ever have, but I'm worried I'm in over my head. Do you have any advice to settle my nerves?

The Presenter (as themselves)

We'll start with the practical matters, I think. You need to get your great aunt's legal status in proper order. You say she was born 90 years ago, which I know seems a terribly long time when measured against a sapio-typical lifetime. But when it comes to the machinery of government, the 1930s are really not so very long ago at all.

The General Register Office maintains a public index of every birth recorded in England and Wales since 1837, and it's been a legal requirement for births to be registered since 1875. By the 1930s, all but the most remarkably reclusive genuses would likely have been engaging in this facet of mainstream society, if little else.

Your great aunt is almost definitely on the index somewhere. You just need to find her, and request a copy of the birth certificate. Your local librarian may be able to assist you, as they often have experience in matters of researching one's genealogy.

In the unlikely event her birth wasn't registered, you'll need to remedy that at your local registry office. Please, make this a matter of urgent priority. Without this, your great aunt will simply not exist as far as the government is concerned, and will find it extremely difficult to interact with any kind formal societal structures, including healthcare and education.

Practical concerns aside, I hear your worries about becoming a parent. No matter how prepared, nor how willing, you were to take on this role, it will still be a huge learning curve. The challenges you will face will be specific to you and your great aunt, and so I hesitate to speak too directly to your situation.

I will say this though, I think you would both benefit from a little more honesty about how she came into your life. You may not identify as a necromancer but that doesn't negate the absolutely undeniable fact that you have performed necromantic magics on this little girl.

I do not say this to shame you. Far from it. Families come about through all sorts of circumstances, and not a one of them is more valid than the other – not birth, not blood, not adoption nor invocation nor resurrection.

But unlike a child with a more typical family background, your great aunt is not going to have endless books, films and television programmes reinforcing that validity. It falls to you, as her parent, to show her that she belongs with you.

To do that, you need to be honest about how your family came to be. Treat her resurrection with the matter of fact mundanity it deserves. You rose her from the dead, and that's fine. It's a little unusual, but it's not the defining fact about your family, or about her.

What matters is what comes next: how you treat her. How you love her and show her that love. How, together, you can build a family rooted on love, delight, celebration and respect, regardless of how that family began.

Next up, if you're facing Christmas with the family this weekend, stay tuned as we count down our top ten tips for maximising carnage and coming out on top in the inevitable post-dinner bloodbath...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through folk music, a voice saying “-further strikes-”, a voice saying “-yes please!-”, pop music, a voice saying “-carrying out such a violent attack-” and more pop music before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Eighty of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was submitted by Jan Caltrop, the second letter was from Louis, and this week's advert was based on submissions by Mythic-menagerie and Vulpine. Thanks, friends.

If you're enjoying the show, please consider supporting us on Patreon, at, or make a one-off donation at You can also help us grow our audience by sharing with your friends and familiars, and following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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