Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Trigger warning – self-harm, silencing

Muddled post is muddled, I’m sorry. If I’ve done a massive fail, the normal thing applies.

It’s happened to most of us at some point or another – being accused of attention-seeking. It crops up in all sorts of contexts, and attention seeking is generally held to be a negative thing.

I’ve seen it used to denigrate (and, oddly, to provoke concern over) self-harm, to stop people seeking help for things, to shut people up who need to talk, to silence people who are actively combatting their oppression. Pulling out the ‘attention-seeking’ accusation is an attempt to trivialise, delegitimise and silence. It’s a ridiculously problematic accusation to make, since it reinforces kyriarchal standards and a culture where honest emoting is discouraged.

It’s also a term that gets applied along kyriarchal lines – it’s rare to see a normative, straight, cis, conventionally able, white male accused of attention-seeking, for example. People whose minds and behaviours don’t fit the kyriarchal standard are accused of attention-seeking for expressions that are natural for them (and then accused of it when they speak out against discrimination based on that). People who are seen as ‘feminine’ are accused of it because femininity is often held in contempt. All kinds of oppressed folks who speak up against their oppression are accused of it.

Point is, attention-seeking isn’t necessarily bad – even when it appears to be about trivial things. Many of us are raised to conceal our true feelings, so we may not feel able to ask for help when needed; that’s where behaviour may appear attention-seeking, when someone is trying to get help without saying it outright because of the messed-up culture that tries to discourage honest emoting. Like most other behaviours, it’s pretty neutral overall.

I’m all right. I’ve been trying to give myself some time out for self-care, but that hasn’t gone too well due to stresses and strains from other areas of my life. I’m going to try to write a decent post now though.

The kyriarchy enforces standards that are very, very rigid, and has produced a culture with Expectations. We are expected to conform to our social roles in the kyriarchy that are dictated by our ascribed statuses, and often that means that the marginalised are expected to be a lot less than they are and treated accordingly. Meanwhile oppressive behaviour is expected of the privileged. This culture also has expectations of people’s life courses and aspirations, and shows a high degree of contempt for those who cannot meet the expectations whether the reasons relate to a lack of privilege, a lack of opportunity or a lack of ability.

All of this creates a high-stress, low-compassion environment that negatively affects all of our lives. The marginalised, due to the fact that they are further away from the Standards because of the oppression they experience, are most affected and end up locked in a cycle of being prevented from reaching those standards and being blamed for that ‘failure.’ Meanwhile, the privileged absolve themselves of responsibility and feel justified in oppressive behaviour by the ‘failure’ of the marginalised and the ‘success’ of themselves as measured against the standards.

It’s one of the many ways that the kyriarchy is enabled. We absorb these standards (standards which have almost become separate entities looming in our culture) and ruthlessly impose them on ourselves and others. They are institutionally enforced, inflexibly and unforgivingly with no regard for the toll taken on the bodies and minds of people, especially marginalised people. And the very inflexibility propagates them, since when one is expending all one’s energy on meeting them one doesn’t question the system in which a privileged person can meet them with very little sweat and a marginalised person can work themselves to a standstill and still not meet them.

(This relates vaguely to the causes of my recent stress, which is almost certainly only going to get worse…)

Posted: September 13, 2011 in Bodies, Health, Personal

Hello folks, I know there hasn’t been a post in ages. I’m afraid that may not change for a bit; I’ve had a bit of a health emergency and while I am able to use a computer typing is uncomfortable and difficult.

At least I live in a country with public healthcare…

Anniversaries

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Internet, Personal
Tags: ,

This blog is a year old today. The year went pretty quickly in a load of ways, both on and off the internet, and I imagine that next year will probably go even quicker.

I started it because I thought I had enough to say and enough time to say it in to make it worth my while. Since then, my posts got longer and more nuanced and then less and less frequent. I’ve learned a lot in the year and made a bunch of mess-ups but it’s definitely been worth it, and I’m definitely not stopping. This has been somewhere to rant about the things that are messed up in the world while hopefully putting the rant in a place where it can possibly help others deal with their own situations.

This is also around the time of year I came out to people, a while since. A couple of months after the first coming-out, but about the same time as what was probably the most distressing, since the person concerned was closer to me than anyone else and neither of us handled it that well. I think I’ve changed since then, become more confident in myself and who I am – even if I do have the normal pangs of self-doubt – and I hope that I’m handling talking to others about it better.

Some things have got worse. I think my experience of dissonance got worse after I came out to myself – I’m pretty sure that having a name for it and the knowledge that it wasn’t just me meant that I stopped suppressing it – but on the other hand stopping suppressing it freed up some of my other emotions. Which was probably a good thing. Maybe.

So this is just a ramble. Thank you for reading, comrades, and I’ll try to get my post output up. Hopefully that will happen when I stop getting to hide my head under a rock, which I have been for a while and will be rudely jerked out of very shortly by the resumption of my education.

Trigger warning – pop culture oppressiveness, slurs, some violent imagery etc.

When we talk about social justice and popular culture, we find ourselves talking a lot about the twin problems of invisibility vs bad representations. Invisibility means the complete absence of marginalised group/s from the piece we’re analysing, and generally from most popular culture as well. That’s things like pieces that are white-only, that feature only conventionally-able folks, that erase non-het/cis folks entirely etc. Bad representations are exactly what it says on the can. Where someone from a marginalised group is present, but is presented in a stereotyped/reductive/negative/comical way due to the inherent fact of their belonging to that group. So we’re talking there the ‘lol chick with a dick haha ur gay now’ transhatred, the all-too-common portrayal of white people as the ‘good folks’ and PoC as the ‘bad folks’, the ‘Smurfette principle’ whereby in a group of men the woman’s only defining trait is her womanhood etc.

I tend to have this vision of myself as not much of a pop culture consumer and therefore tend to stay away from talking about it. It used to be true – until a few years ago, I could count the films I’d seen in the cinema on the fingers of one hand. I still watch basically no TV, and my consumption of books and music is generally confined to certain genres. These days, I’d say that even if I’m not an aficionado, I’m probably well enough up on things to comment in a general kind of way.

The invisibility vs bad representation dilemma is a hard one. I hate both – I want to see rounded, diverse, interesting characters of all abilities, ethnicities, gender/s/non-gender/s, sexualities, classes etc in all sorts of genres and media, placed there irrelevent of their divergences from the kyriarchy’s ideal. But that’s damned rare, especially for something to be non-oppressive in all ways. You can find a book that is queer-positive, but see racism writ large all over it. You can find a film that passes the Bechdel test, but is really cissexist. You can find music that is non-classist, but hear misogyny everywhere.

The distinction between the two types is hard to police. You might have a film that features no non-het characters and no discussion of non-heterosexuality – but it might say, ‘every man needs a good woman’ and blur the boundary by moving from implicit erasure to explicit erasure.

This started churning around in my head because, during a visit to some older members of my family, we saw some 70s comedy and I was told repeatedly that, ‘This is incredibly un-PC.’ Now, leaving aside the fact that PC is a terrible term, leaving aside the fact that there was badness in it even if it wasn’t the specifically-oppressive badness I’m more used to seeing, it was evident that my family expected me to be wildly ‘offended’. And I wasn’t. I sat there going, ‘that’s a bit sexist…there’s no-one in this who diverges from the kyriarchal ideal…that wouldn’t be funny if it was real even if it’s not oppressive…’ but I didn’t get sporked in the eye.

That’s probably partly because I have unfortunately seen quite a bit of mainstream modern ‘comedy,’* and am therefore a bit desensitised. But it was mainly because on the whole the problem was that of erasure rather than explicit bigotry.

I really hate that I find myself having to choose between invisibility and bad representation in popular culture, and I hate that I find myself actively favouring the older, more insidious option. But frankly, I’d rather not see oppressed groups being used for cheap laughs and I’d rather not stop consuming pop culture entirely. Which mostly leaves me with the option of things that completely erase marginalised groups. And I think I would have to say to creators that if they can’t create – if they’re too lazy to create – a character who is a member of a marginalised group without exploitation and bigotry, they shouldn’t be doing so at all. It feels like admitting defeat, and it’s not a strategy to guarantee better representation – the only thing that will do that is creators actually doing their research and making their characters diverse and rounded no matter who they are – but it at least means that we don’t get that terrible ‘I want to punch you through the screen/book/speakers’ feeling.

I don’t think that any representation is better than no representation. If the representation is oppressive, better not have it at all.

* Do not get me started about the modern ‘comedy’ that I’ve seen. Now, I’m not denying, some can be okay. Especially if it favours the ‘invisibility’ side of this equation. However, it appears that a lot of people who call themselves ‘comedians’ prefer getting cheap laughs out of their and their audience’s bigotry and oppressiveness rather than coming up with genuinely funny material. People who rely on oppressive crutches for their ‘comedy’ aren’t funny. (I saw a production of one of Shakespeare’s lesser comedies recently. The company had decided to make it into a parade of gay stereotypes. It was horrible. I squirmed in my seat. It relied on the audience’s misohomy for virtually all its laughs – and then when it stopped being a misohomist shitstorm, they managed to be funny. If they’d steered clear of the misohomy, they could possibly have pulled it off. But it left such a bad taste in my mouth.)

Meta stuff.

Posted: July 17, 2011 in Damned binaries, Personal

Almost certainly going to be unable to access this blog until Friday, I’m afraid. I should, however, get a few post ideas during that time and with any luck I’ll be back to a decent publishing schedule in time for the blog’s anniversary which is sometime in August.

I’m going to be among total strangers this week. I really hope I’m not being naïve for thinking that it should be all right, that people should be able to refrain from being transhating, misaheterist, binarist bigots. And I really hope I’m being oversuspicious for thinking otherwise and mentally readying myself for conflict. Meeting new people with no friendly backup is terrifying…

I’m being really bad with this blog at the moment. Not that that’s anything new. Hopefully I will reinvigorate myself sometime soon, but till then all I can give is my apologies and what posting I can do.

As a non-binary person in a binarist society, I find myself thinking about my (non)gender a lot. How people are reading me, how to come out, how people think of me once I have. Whether I can go to the toilet, talk to someone, take an action without negative consequences. All sorts of things. Little worries, huge worries. Was that weird look I got the end of the issue, or are they going to spew hatred at me? Is this person I’m talking to now going to go all weird on me when I tell them who I actually am? How much longer can my bladder last? (The answer to this last is generally ‘as long as it needs to’ – I’m lucky). Will dressing in a way I’m comfortable with mean that authority figures will think less of me?

It’s a huge part of my life. I sincerely wish it wasn’t – I would love my lack of gender to be a non-issue – but it is. Sometimes it seems like I’m overthinking things – but when I hear about people who are similar to me getting hurt because other people are bigoted shitspits, it doesn’t feel excessive at all. The worst part is, I know that it’s futile. The actions of bigots are not the fault of the oppressed. Privileged, bigoted people are responsible for their acts of bigotry.

We should not have to hide to protect ourselves. Mostly I try not to because mostly I figure that I can deal with the consequences of living openly. That said, I still lie by omission. I still allow authority figures to make incorrect assumptions about me, because I am afraid of their power. I shouldn’t feel that fear. Nobody should be afraid to stand up and say, ‘This is me’ – but the kyriarchy makes so many of us afraid to do so, with extremely good reason. It hides us. We cannot be blamed for refusing to walk into the firing line, but that doesn’t change the fact that there should be no fire. We should not have to second-guess everything to try to keep ourselves safe. Our safety, our rights should be guaranteed by the fact of our existence.

I hate not being able to forget. I hate being reminded that I am different, that I am Other, by the slightest things in society. And I hate that it makes me second-guess myself. Thinking about gender so much makes me wonder all too often whether I am who I think I am. So I look inside – and there’s still no crash-crash-crash there, and it still feels wrong when I try to think of myself with gender. And I think, yeah, I’m right. This is who I am.

Ten minutes later, someone will say ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ or I’ll need the toilet or whatever – and I’ll be back to thinking about it.

Because the reminders are always there. There is no space away from them. There’s no space to just exist, as a person – I have to exist as an armoured fortress to protect that which makes me abnormal.

Has it really been nearly ten days since I posted here? I am so sorry. Just… stress, and a couple of days out of town, and… yeah, I’ve got no excuse really.

Also I have no inspiration. I’ve written barely anything for a week or more. Again, I’m sorry. I promise I will put up a proper post, with substantial content and social commentary, up on Thursday. Hopefully if I say it I’ll do it and hopefully I’ll buckle down to it then because I have a day off.

I hate microaggressions. I really hate them. It seems like absolutely everything in my life is out to get me or other marginalised people. I’ve had dyadist and binarist statements from authority figures, rape jokes from people others have invited into my ‘safe circle’ of people. I’ve sat through sexist lectures about clothing, had to interact with people who’ve been really shitty towards me, listened to ableist remarks go unchallenged, had my non-gender misrepresented persistently.

Doesn’t help that the abnormally hot weather is making my body dissonance ten times worse since the heat means I can’t wear the normal layers to disguise the shape of my body. I dislike heat at the best of times, but with body dissonance around sweaty bits that rub on each other it’s utterly intolerable. And it makes me feel really bad about my anosmia – I literally will never know if I’m stinking the room out. Which means that everything is awkward because I’m always thinking, ‘do I smell, do I smell?’

I don’t really hate being anosmic. I hate that people assume I can smell, and the idea of smell scares me… but I’m generally all right with not being able to. I’m just more all right with it in winter when I know it’s unlikely I’ve been sweating enough to smell. Or at times when I’m not actually going to be around people. The body odour negativity thing, I dislike it, I don’t see why we try to eradicate something that just happens naturally, but I realise that I’m not someone who has to be smelling it.

Sarcasm mode : enabled. Sorry…

Hey, I’m really happy for the people who find my lack of gender funny. I mean, it’s just comedy genius, isn’t it, that I would ID this way? You know, I spent hours working on that gag and then dressing so that people would ask me ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ and I could respond with ‘neither’. So utterly hilarious! I should be a stand-up comic, shouldn’t I?

Sarcasm mode : disabled.

But seriously, it’s not a joke. And if you think it is a joke, you’re a foul piece of shit who needs a lesson in basic human decency. This is my fucking life, my self. I can’t change it, I can’t escape it. Frankly, I don’t want to – what I want to change or escape is this terrible binarist society I live in. And you know what isn’t funny? Being a person that the world sees fit to erase, sometimes forcibly.

Yeah, this happened. A person with a history of asking ‘Are you a boy or a girl’ loudly and in public sees me, I think decides to put on a display for friends, asks and when I snap ‘neither’ back and move away quicker, everyone bursts into peals of laughter and start yelling something about ‘half a dick.’ Don’t even ask, I don’t know.

I just get so tired of it. It happens all the time, and then sometimes it catches me on a bad day and gets me down. Why the hell do people think it’s appropriate? Why do people think it’s acceptable? I’m just a person, for fuck’s sake.

Does it offend them, that I am outside of the binary? Does it impinge on their lives, does it affect their safety, does it even matter to them? No, it bloody well doesn’t. My gender or lack of it is my business – there’s no need to ask an almost-total stranger who doesn’t quite fit into your convenient little boxes. I don’t mind answering if directly asked – especially when the asker is both smaller than me and not between me and a way out – even if the person asks repeatedly because you know, minds change and that’s what I want them to, even though I don’t think asking loudly in public is ever acceptable or appropriate. It’s fucking dangerous. Just because I’m prepared to run the risk of answering doesn’t mean the asker gets a free pass.

But what is so funny about it? No, seriously now. I like a joke. I need more jokes in my life, since the world is such a shithole. I’d kinda like to know if there’s any genuine humour in the situation or whether it’s a ‘hahahaha different people are funny because they’re different hahaha let’s target them now haha’ kind of foke (not sure how you’d do the faux/joke portmanteau…)

If you think it’s a joke, and you think I’m the punchline, I think you need the bloody punchline explaining to you. Because I’m not a punchline.

Again, posting has lapsed to sporadic, and I apologise – I’m in the middle of exams, but it’s not like I’m not having time for anything but revision.

*   *   *

This is a personal post, and is intended to apply to me and only me.

I honestly have no idea how to walk the line between my comfort (being out) and the possible consequences. I’m now in a situation where I don’t have to declare gender – and haven’t declared birth name – but would feel a lot more comfortable declaring who I am. I haven’t done so yet, and am extremely undecided about ever doing so, because I am afraid that bringing my self to the attention of people in positions of authority would put a black mark against my name.

This is the line we have to walk. Until we declare ourselves, we are held not to be our selves, we are held not to exist – but we are allowed to survive, hidden away behind the panels of the kyriarchy. When we declare ourselves, we risk everything – being labelled a freak, being denied, being rejected, hurt, discredited or worse. Until we pull the panels away, we don’t know what the place we will enter is – a room full of soldiers in kyriarchy’s service, or a room of healers, or whatever – unless someone is already there, finding out.

So as more of us come out, more of us will come out because there could be a voice in the room beyond the panel saying, ‘I don’t know if any of us are in there, but I am out here and it is livable,’ and we will come out because we want to see daylight. Don’t write it off as a trend. Just because we were walled in here, too scared to break out, does not mean we never existed. Do not make the mistake of taking the dominant group’s view as fact, when all other groups have hidden in the woodwork.

(more…)

I claim my identity because if I do not, a label will be forced upon me. All words are merely a concept given shape, and the words I use for my identity are no different – except, they make sense. The concept they have been formed from is one that resonates with me, and the words themselves feel right.

While they are there, I have the weapons to fight being non-consensually labelled. I can say, ‘No, I am not [assigned gender]; I am agender,’ and the word I use will be a shield to protect me from the assumptions and the labels others slap on without thinking about it. While I have those identities, the labels that I have chosen, the socially-assigned ones cannot cling to the stuff of my self and twist it to their own will. People may assign them – but I can cast them off because they never fit, and they cannot stick to the shield of my own self-identification.

I also claim my identity to allow for community – to signal to others like me that we are alike, we face similar things, I have your back. I claim it so that others know my standpoint, but first and foremost I claim it for my own self, my own piece of mind.

Some people choose not to ‘label’ themselves, not to claim the words for their identity, to allow it to go unnamed. That’s fine. But it’s not okay to police people’s choice to use them. I have claimed these words as a shield against non-consensual labelling, and that works for me. Some of us need to claim the words, shout them out or treasure them in their heart. We are not ‘fencing ourselves in’. We are ships seeking anchorage in a storm, and the identity is a place where the waves are broken before they can break us. Or we are merely seeking a way to describe our experiences, words that will not erase or oppress us, and when we find those words we are using them, settling down among the blankets and creating a nest with them, using them to carve ourselves some space of our own in a world that would much prefer us not to exist. We can expand the words, use them as they are or define them for ourselves, in line with our own experiences. Or we can choose not to use them at all. And that’s something only the individual person can know; what words, what usage they will be comfortable with.

…since I can’t get together a coherent post about evo psych and how much I hate it, hate being taught it, hate its kyriarchist apologism and hate being erased by it, I’ll talk about the news. News. That should make me feel better. Oh wait…

Forcibly retired West Midlands police have been invited back to work… for free. Yeah because that’s not exploitation at all. Discharge them as a cost-cutting measure then get them to work for free. Okay, some people might be financially secure enough to do that – but it’s not a given, and it’s still not a good policy. Some may want to and that’s fine – but it is not good to try to exploit them all like that.

TW: discussion of self-harm in this paragraph. The 2011 Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales has come out, and reveals, among other things, that hospital admissions for self-harm were in 2006-8 approximately 138% of the levels for 2003-5, that chlamydia levels have risen but that this is thought to be due to increased awareness, that sexual health appears to be improving, that the numbers of 15 year olds drinking and smoking have dropped and that approximately one third of children in Wales are now living in poverty. A mixed bag, really.

It has also been pointed out that there is scope for the abolishing of EMA to be discriminatory. Now, in theory the individual schools might be able to target resources better – but in practice this is not going to work because of a little thing called KYRIARCHY, which is in teachers’ heads just like everyone else’s and will influence their decisions. It’s also problematic because seriously? Schools and colleges do not know as much about their pupils as this seems to assume they do.

Ooh! This seems somewhat better news! Leaked documents suggest that the Government is having second thoughts about outsourcing public services. Now, I can see what the supporters of outsourcing say, but 1. I don’t trust the private sector because of its capitalist values and lack of accountability and 2. just ask the MOD how outsourcing worked for them. With extensive outsourcing to private companies – not talking about cooperatives or other models, mainly private companies here – could come a massive opportunity for worker exploitation, irregularities in key services and ‘cost cutting’ measures that could easily lead to degradation of services. So I’d rather the Government kept services under their wing, even when the Government is less than ideal.

There’s a lot more that I could comment on, but… I’m still feeling terrible after being taught that bit of evo psych (luckily we don’t do much). Sexism, cissexism, binarism, heterosexism… urgh. Urgh. And scientific wooliness, to say the least.

I’ve been thinking about analogies, metaphors etc for gender/s/non-gender/s, ways that I can describe how I know I am agender and that can be used to apply to people who have gender as well, and I’ve come up with an idea. It’s better when I’m saying it out loud because I use hand gestures, although it would be best on a drumkit.

So basically, I was assigned one of the binary genders. That, throughout my life, has been a bass drum coming from outside of my own head going bang-bang-bang-bang. However, if I was my assigned gender, I would have had a cymbal inside my head going crash-crash-crash-crash in time with the bass drum. Being agender, the cymbal isn’t there.

Perhaps the other binary gender assignation is bang–bang–bang–bang – the bass drum is being played at a different tempo. So that would mean that if you were assigned one and were the other, the two beats – cymbal and bass – would be out of sync with each other. And non-binary gender/s/non-gender/s would have different rhythms again. Genderfluid people’s cymbals would change tempo, or there might even be more than one tempo going at the same time. Some people might have different parts of the drumkit inside their head – some folks with very little gender might have just a metronome instead of a cymbal, for example.

However, you can’t consciously change the tempo of your cymbal, although some folks’ cymbals change naturally – mirroring the fact that we can’t change our gender/s/non-gender/s. The bass drum can change its pace if society recognises us for who we are and accommodates us.

This metaphor would also encompass why cis folks can often claim that they don’t believe in gender and don’t have an innate gender. The cymbal crashes from inside have been drowned out by the bass drum of the birth assignation, and because the two sync up they can’t tell that they’ve got the cymbal there unless they think about it. But for non-cis folks, the discrepancy between the bass drum and the cymbal would make it painfully obvious that they were both there.

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Personal

Okay, folks, I won’t be available for a couple of weeks. My apologies, and I know posting’s been shit recently. Apologies for that too. I’ll try to schedule a couple posts for the next couple of weeks tomorrow, but words aren’t working very well for me at the moment so they may be a bit bad. There is a slight possibility I may be able to reach the internet once or twice, but I’m not counting on it. As for comments, you’re welcome to – they just won’t get moderated/replied to.

Dream away

Posted: April 3, 2011 in Bodies, Gender, Personal
Tags: , , ,

Last night, I had a lucid dream. I knew I was dreaming, knew I was going to wake up – but I was in total control of everything that happened. I was even able to send myself back to sleep when I felt as though I was waking up again.

There was… a setting. I don’t remember what. And there was a mirror. And there was me as I appear in waking life, standing in a pair of boxers in front of that mirror. And I thought, if, in a lucid dream, I can control what happens – why can I not control what I look like? So I thought about it, and in front of my eyes my body changed. Not drastically – not in bone structure – but the sex characteristics reconfigured themselves into the way they should be, the way they are in the deepest core of my self.

It was a special mind space, a special way of thinking – different from the thinking process – that caused me to change, in the dream. After I’d found out it was possible and spent a while just gazing at myself, touching the body that felt like mine for the first time, I tested out a couple of different body configurations so that I could say I had. Then I returned to my body, and spent the rest of the dream just walking around in a haze of unbelievable content and happiness, touching every part of me that newly felt right.

I opened my eyes again, to feel the burden of the wrong body parts resting against my flesh and the desolation of loss.

There’s no reason for me to post this. But this is what happened, and it made an impact on me. It hurt, but it was glorious as well. I have seen my self in a mirror, even if only in a dream (to be fair, I’ve had the right body in dreams before – but in those ones, it was merely a vessel, something that I used, not something that I saw and was conscious of). If only waking life change was as easy as a couple of changed thinking patterns.