Misgendering

The following is an excerpt from a journal entry.*

When a cisgender person is misgendered, they are usually quite offended and justifiably so. They might even make a big deal out of it, without being seen as overreacting. When a transgender person (especially one who does not pass) is misgendered and dares simply to point out that they were misgendered, without getting offended or making a deal (big or small) out of it, they are often seen as being rude and not taking other people’s feelings into account. It occurs to me as I am writing this that I am so used to thinking about other people’s feelings at being corrected and so used to putting all of my effort into making the other person as comfortable as possible that I seldom or never think about my own feelings at being misgendered, and I am actually surprised when  someone asks that I correct them every time because they don’t want to get it wrong (and even then I am always saying that I really appreciate their effort and I am not offended when they slip up and that its totally understandable that it takes a while to get used to a new set of pronouns for a person).

I wrote this while thinking over a conversation I’d had with a friend who was telling me that I can’t be correcting her all the time when she uses the wrong pronoun. This left me at kind of a loss. I put so much effort into making sure that I am not correcting anyone too often that I sometimes wonder if I am not correcting people often enough.  Also, she generalized the conversation of one whole evening into “all the time”. As it happens, that was the conversation I chose to make a point that “no, I really did mean it about the pronouns” because no one had made any apparent effort to use the correct pronouns after the first conversation. Even then, I was trying to be very careful not to correct any more than absolutely necessary to make my point. I was, however, growing increasingly annoyed at her saying “she… sorry” and then never actually saying “he”. Was this more about my correcting her “all the time” or was it more about her not wanting to actually use my preferred pronouns because she is part of a transphobic religion? She is, in fact, the only person who has ever told me that they feel like I correct them too often. Eventually, she came out and said that she does not want to be corrected, at all, ever. The “all the time” generalization suddenly made a lot more sense.

How do I even deal with someone like that? I guess I can understand that some people really hate to be corrected on anything, but that’s not a blanket excuse that makes repeatedly misgendering someone suddenly ok. If someone refused to respect my preferred pronouns in an obvious way, I would just stop interacting with them (if possible). It’s not entirely clear that’s the case here, although it’s not entirely clear that it isn’t, either. If someone said “don’t correct me, ever” and then made a successful effort to use the right pronouns on their own, then I guess that would be alright. If they don’t make a successful effort on their own, though, it doesn’t really seem like there is any polite way left to try to get them to use the right pronouns. Well, maybe politeness is overrated. If they can go off on me for correcting them “all the time” then why can’t I go off on them for misgendering me (literally) all the time? Correcting someone may be a faux pas, but misgendering someone is downright rude (unless, apparently, they are trans… *grump face*).

This feels good, standing up for myself and saying that it is not ok for people to misgender me (even if I am trans and don’t pass yet), and yet I am still spending so much time thinking about other people’s feelings about being corrected that I have barely any idea what my own feelings about being misgendered are.

* This was totally supposed to be a lazy blog post where I just posted something verbatim from a pencil and paper journal entry, but then I ended up writing a bunch of other stuff, so I guess you’re just going to have to deal with having a real blog post.

Advertisements

Why I Haven’t Been Posting Recently

I have not been posting as often as I would like. There are several reasons for this. It’s around that time again, when fall classes start. This has been keeping me busy. I also seem to have caught a cold, and I’ve been feeling unusually fatigued (whether from being sick or being depressed or some combination thereof, I do not know). This has left me wanting to lie around doing as little as possible until I stop feeling like crap (I really don’t want to have to either miss classes or feel like a jerk for possibly spreading my cold, so I hope this happens before Monday). I had a falling out with my roommate… We used to be friends. Now she is moving out and I find that this actually makes me glad. She said some things that hurt me more than a punch to the face ever could. I actually had a panic attack because of the things she said. Even though she apologized later, I can’t stop being afraid that she will hurt me again. I am even afraid of being hurt in similar ways by other people, and now I’m always trying to think of ways to protect myself. This is crap. I feel broken.

I am afraid this will make my depression worse and make it difficult to complete even the few classes I am taking. It might not. It might just be a short term upset. But I have no idea how to tell which way things will go ahead of time. I hate not being able to predict how much I will be able to handle, and I keep having to go with low estimates, so that I do not overestimate and then crash and burn later. That’s what happened last semester. It was too much, and when I started to get depressed, everything just fell apart. I failed all of my classes. I followed up a semester of straight A’s with a semester of straight F’s. I finally decided it was time to see what help I could get from the disability office. They turned out to be pretty awesome, actually, but I still feel like, every time I have to talk to a teacher about disability accommodations, they are going to think I am just trying to take advantage of the system. Because I look fine. Because I don’t have any trouble with classes 80% of the time. Because I still can’t quite accept the idea that I actually need the help.

Being depressed sucks. It sucks in ways I never would have predicted. When I got so upset at what my roommate said that I went off to my room to have a panic attack, she thought I was going to kill myself. I wasn’t, by the way. It didn’t even cross my mind. Now it feels like, if other people know I am depressed, I won’t ever be able to be genuinely upset at things that are worth getting upset about without someone else thinking I am going to be suicidal. This makes me not want to tell people that I am depressed, because now I’ve seen a whole new way people could use that knowledge to hurt me. Because if people know I am depressed, next time I get upset and storm out, will I find myself being held in a hospital against my will? This is so ridiculous. I shouldn’t even have to think about this. When I am upset and angry with someone because they said something nasty, I should not have to be the one comforting them. Period. Not even if I have committed the crime of getting upset while being depressed. And yet, if I don’t comfort them, I risk winding up in a hospital. Am I the only one who sees the potential for manipulation, here?

One of my favorite bloggers has been blogging about his own experience with depression. His blog is about subjects completely unrelated to depression, but when he is talking about what is going on in his life because it is interfering with his blogging, he won’t hesitate to say words like ‘depression’ or ‘mental illness’ or even ‘suicide attempt’. It really means a lot to me when people do stuff like that, talking openly about mental illness and refusing to be properly ashamed about it. There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness. People speaking up about mental illness, refusing to be quiet, this fights against the stigma. I want to be like that. I want to be like that on my blog, and I want to be like that in the meatsphere. Which, of course, just adds to the conflicting feelings I have when, on the other side of the coin, I am trying to protect myself. I don’t want to tell my teachers I am depressed. They have a certain amount of power over me, and it could potentially harm my chances in a class if they saw my depression as just an excuse to be lazy. All they need to know is that I have a disability and that I have been approved for certain specific accommodations. I want to be open about what and why, but protecting myself is the more vital need in this circumstance. I already had a bad experience with a teacher this summer when all she even knew was that I had a disability (even though I looked fine), much less which specific disability. I don’t want to have to protect myself like this against friends, too.

And here I thought I would have to add some gimmicky thing to a short note about why I haven’t been writing blog posts in order to come up with a full post.

Musings On Religion

So, I’ve been doing more reading on Islam of late, and, since this is really my first non-trivial exposure to a religion other than Christianity, it’s probably inevitable that I would be starting to notice some interesting things about religion in general (though some of the things are probably specific to Abrahamic religions–which makes me look forward to researching non-Abrahamic religions–but really, it is always going to be difficult to say much about religion in general without excluding some type(s) of religion).

One thing that really sticks out is all the prophets. I’ve got to wonder, if god(s) wanted to speak to humans, why would they limit themselves to speaking through specially chosen humans? God(s) are generally thought to be very powerful or even all-powerful, so surely they could choose more reliable modes of communication. So, why use flawed, biased, forgetful (and possibly malicious) individual humans to communicate with humankind? This is not a method of communication that makes sense if god(s) want humans to be able to tell messages from god(s) apart from messages from con artists and crazy people. Even assuming there is at least one true prophet out there, how could they be distinguished from all of the con artists and insane/deluded people who claim to speak to god(s)? Well, I suppose god(s) could add something extra to the communication, like giving their prophet miraculous powers or accurate predictions of the future, but these things can still be faked by con artists in ways that people will readily believe. There are claims of miracles and fulfilled prophecies in many different religions, some of which directly conflict. They can’t all be right. So how can I tell apart the false prophets from the true ones? If anyone actually has a convincing argument for why one particular prophet must be true, I would sincerely love to hear it, but I am not at all convinced that any sensible god(s) would choose such a method of communication when it is so frequently faked by humans.

Another thing that sticks out is religious people framing people who don’t believe in their god(s) as denying god(s)’ existence. In the translation of Abul A’la Maududi’s “Towards Understanding Islam” that I have, he says in the section on the nature of disbelief that a disbeliever “…does not exercise his faculties of reason, intellect and intuition to recognise his Lord and Creator and misuses his freedom of choice by choosing to deny Him.” My Christian roommate seems to have a similar view of unbelievers, consistently phrasing my lack of belief as a denial of god’s existence, no matter how many times I have tried to explain that atheism is simply a lack of belief in god(s). There is a significant difference between a lack of belief and denial. Denial implies wrongness, and it hints that, deep down, the person who is denying a thing knows it is true (especially when used in the phrase “in denial”). It can be a condescending word, implying that the person talking about another person’s denial knows more about what is right and more about what that person really thinks than that person does. I wouldn’t go on about the usage of the word denial in Maududi’s book, however, since it is a translation, except he says explicitly what my roommate only implied through word choice, and he goes one step further by specifically calling it a choice. I take issue with this. Beliefs may be influenced by choice, but they are not directly chosen. I cannot simply decide to stop believing in gravity, for instance, and I cannot simply decide to start believing in fairies. If, however, I see some odd, scary shape in the darkness, I may be able to exercise some degree of control (though not complete control) over whether I end up believing it is a monster or a pile of clothes.

The preceding paragraph, though, is really just a good example of another thing I’ve noticed. Religion can shape a person’s entire world view (when I was a Christian, I saw pretty much everything through the lens of Christianity). It’s not surprising that this would lead to people seeing things in subtly, or not so subtly, different ways (lack of belief vs. denial, for instance, or natural human sexual behavior vs. sexual perversions). When people start with different premises, of course they are going to see things in different ways. This is why I think it is important for a person to recognize what they are basing their world view on (religion, science, materialism, idealism, whatever) and to critically analyze that thing in case it is a bad/contradictory/useless premise.

Asexuality 101

So, I’ve been meaning to write an Asexuality 101 post since, like, the day I started my blog. I figure it’s appropriate to do that before I start writing more in depth posts about asexuality. If nothing else, it looks like the Carnival of Aces is going again, and I want to participate in that, preferably without confusing the readers who come to my blog for other topics and have no idea what the heck asexuality is. Constructive criticism and questions are encouraged and appreciated on this post (on all posts, really, but especially on this one).

Sexuality is all about who you are attracted to. Straight people are attracted to people of the “opposite” gender. Gay people are attracted to people of the same gender. Bi/pan people are attracted to people of either/any gender. Asexual people are not sexually attracted to anyone. Note how I went from talking about attraction to sexual attraction specifically, here. Romantic attraction and sexual attraction tend to get lumped together and talked about as simply attraction. It’s important to separate these things when talking about asexuals, though, since asexuals do not experience sexual attraction. Many aces (ace is short for asexual) can and do experience romantic attraction. But even if an ace is romantically attracted to someone, they still won’t be sexually attracted to that person.

In depth explanations of sexual/romantic attraction would probably be helpful here. It’s a bit hard to explain, though, since people tend to have a variety of different experiences of things like sexual attraction. It seems like a thing that if you’ve experienced it you know what it is, and if you haven’t, no amount of explanation is ever going to make you entirely understand. Unfortunately, I’m one of those who hasn’t experienced it and will probably never quite understand it, so I’m just going to say that sexual attraction is the sort of attraction that makes you want to do sexual things (foreplay, groping, sex, kissing?) with a specific person, and romantic attraction is the sort of attraction that makes you want to do romantic things (kissing, cuddling, having candlelit dinners, sharing a drink, having a romantic walk on the beach, or whatever you find romantic) with a specific person.

I’m now going to talk about several different types of categories within asexuality, in the hope of providing a better and more nuanced understanding of what asexuality is, and is not. Continuing on with the discussion of romantic attraction, one of these categories within asexuality is romantic orientation. Homoromantic aces are romantically attracted to people of the same gender. Heteroromantic aces are romantically attracted to people of the “opposite” gender. Biromantic/panromantic aces are romantically attracted to people of either/any gender. Aromantic aces are not romantically attracted to anyone. These categories aren’t always applied just to asexuals, though. There are other people out there whose sexual and romantic orientations don’t line up. For instance, a person might be a homoromantic bisexual (sexually attracted to people of both genders, but only attracted romantically to people of the same gender), or an aromantic heterosexual (sexually attracted to people of the “opposite” gender but romantically attracted to no one), or what have you.

A less important distinction between asexuals is level of libido. Like sexuals (while I agree that sexual is kind of an odd descriptor for the category of people who aren’t asexual, and some people don’t like it, I haven’t come across a better term), asexuals vary greatly in how high of a libido they have. An asexual might have a high libido, or a low libido, or virtually no libido, or an average libido, or an extremely high libido, or anything in between.

Another way asexuals differ is in their attitude towards sex. So-called repulsed asexuals are really squicked out by some, or all, sexual acts. Other aces are indifferent to sex. They could take it or leave it. Other aces enjoy sex. They still aren’t sexually attracted to the person they are having sex with, but they enjoy the physical act. A lot of people seem to be confused by the idea that a person could be asexual and still enjoy sex, but asexuality is simply a lack of sexual attraction (to anyone) and nothing else. There may seem to be three distinct categories of asexual attitudes towards sex here, but they’re really just loose categories, and not everyone fits nicely in one category or another. An ace might be repulsed by one type of sexual act but enjoy another, for example.

I’m going to finish up by talking a little about grey-asexuality. Remember earlier when I told you that an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction, period? Well, what about someone who has only experienced sexual attraction once or twice in their entire life? They might identify as asexual or as grey-asexual. A grey-asexual (or grey-a) is someone who experiences sexual attraction only rarely or only in specific circumstances or in some other way that makes them fall somewhere into the grey area between sexual and asexual. Grey-a’s are considered to be part of the asexual spectrum. Some, though not all, grey-a’s identify as asexual. This makes plenty of sense to me. Sometimes it is not worth making a distinction between “never” and “almost never”. On the other hand, some grey-a’s consider themselves to have more in common with sexuals than asexuals, although they are different from both. Grey-a is kind of a broad umbrella term.

Random/Scary Dream Stuff

I woke up in a surprisingly good mood today, considering I’d had a nightmare. Probably something to do with switching from run and hide tactics to stand and fight. And holding my own. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I was a kid, I was terrified of dogs. I’m mostly over it by now (unless they’re barking or growling, my reaction to dogs these days is usually “awww cute” instead of “eek! a dog!”), but a rather high percentage of the nightmares I have still feature dogs. I can think of two off the top of my head that were just normal random dreams until I saw a dog, which lunged at and/or bit me, and I woke up right after, still freaking out. (One of the dogs was a hellhound. I knew this because it was painted red. Heh, dream logic…) Today’s dream was a lot more drawn out than that.

I was in the backyard, seducing some cats. I think I made friends with a dog, too. Another dog comes along, though, and it is not the friendly type. I retreat towards the garage door, and when it gets close I shoot it (weird dream stuff–I have no idea where I got a gun, or what happened to it after I used it), but the dog’s still coming after me. I only succeeded in making it angry. I manage to close the door before it reaches me. It tries to push through, but I lock the door, too. I’m not sure how long it will hold though, so I go into the house to find a better hiding place. Of course, all of the rooms have windows. I end up deciding to hide in the bathroom, because it has the smallest and highest window. Then, after I lock the door, I notice that the glass pane is missing from the window. I freak out and retreat further into the house, trying to figure out where I can hide. The dog gets in, somehow, but I manage to bash its skull in with a sauce pan, hitting hard and repeatedly until I’m sure its dead. There’s blood everywhere. I wash it off me, but I’m sure the other dogs can still smell it, and they won’t like what I’ve done.

Sure enough, another dog attacks me later, when I’m in the backyard again. I decide to fight this one without weapons. Maybe I’ll avoid the same mistake I made with the gun. I put up my fists and wait for it to come. It lunges at me and bites my left arm and holds on (more dream weirdness–it doesn’t hurt, although I know it’s possible to feel pain in a dream, because it’s happened to me before), but I beat the dog with my free right arm. It decides to leave after that.

So, I’m not a big fan of violence and fighting, but, in the immortal words of Malcolm Reynolds, “Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ’em right back!” It felt really good fighting those damn nightmare dogs instead of just running away or being attacked, like usual. I felt all sorts of empowered and strong. Yea, I’m a badass. Don’t mess with me, nightmare dogs, I’ve got a mighty sauce pan!

Speaking of scary dream stuff, I had a more scary than usual sleep paralysis experience the other day. The usual level of scariness of sleep paralysis is pretty low for me, though, since I’m so used to it by now, and I don’t usually hallucinate things that are all that creepy while it’s happening. I was drifting in and out, between sleep paralysis and groggy wakefullness, trying not to move too much when I did seem to be awake, since I was hoping for a lucid dream. It’s really hard to tell when I’m properly awake or not when it’s like that, and it’s supremely difficult to use my favorite reality checks, which involve being able to move, while paralyzed.

So, I saw a bird flying in my room. It was just a harmless sparrow, and I’m not at all afraid of birds, but I couldn’t move, and I wasn’t sure if I was awake or not–if I was seeing things that were really there or not. It landed near me on the bed, and I was freaking out, trying to move with no success. Then I saw it sorta go through part of the blanket, and I think that’s about when I figured out it wasn’t real, since when I’m awake, multiple objects tend not to be able to occupy the same space at the same time.

Sometimes I wonder. It’s this hard to figure out when I’m awake or not when I’ve got loads of experience with sleep paralysis. My first sleep paralysis experience was long before I figured out what it was or that there’s a name for it or that it’s harmless and even normal. If during my first experience I had hallucinated little grey aliens instead of a giant spider, if I’d seen something such that it would have been no more weird to see run away away and disappear through a wall (after actually waking up) than to see it in the first place, I wonder if I would be an alien abduction believer? I mean, the most obvious explanation for a spider disappearing through a wall is that there isn’t really a spider there, or that it didn’t really disappear through a wall. But with little grey aliens, there is another obvious explanation, which is that they just have some really amazing technology (which would be kind of necessary for them to be there in the first place). I mean, the thing that made me certain that I didn’t really see a giant spider in my bedroom was that it couldn’t have run away through the wall. If I’d seen aliens, the only reason to think they weren’t real (in absence of knowledge about sleep paralysis and hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations) would be that they were aliens, and, frankly, we can’t know yet that aliens don’t exist.

I guess I’m just saying that I can kind of relate to people who have experienced weird stuff and interpreted it as proof of some manner of woo that skeptics scoff at (even though I am a skeptic), because I have experienced, and still do experience, a lot of weird stuff sometimes. I mean, it’s unreasonable to stick to such woo when presented with all sorts of evidence to the contrary, but I can understand how someone would believe the woo in the first place, if they’d had just the right (or wrong) sort of experience.

Doing “Bad” Things

When I was a kid, my parents (especially my mother) taught me that certain things were bad. These things included lying, being gay, murder, stealing, being trans, reading other religions’ holy books, learning about other religions, magic, witches, New Age stuff, acupuncture, dressing up as a witch on Halloween, playing Dungeons and Dragons, reading books with magic in them (oddly, “The Black Cauldron” made it on the banned list but “The Lord of the Rings” did not), reading books with sex in them, watching movies with naked people in them, porn, sleeping with anyone you aren’t married to, polygamy, same-sex marriage, same-sex sex, non-vanilla sex, rape, assault, fighting, dressing provocatively (almost exclusively applies to females), gambling, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, swearing, skipping class, skipping homework, cheating, plagiarism, evolution, abortion, not being Christian enough, having too many (religious) doubts, not forgiving people, being angry, hating anyone (ironic when compared to the rest of the list), listening to music of other religions, listening to “Satanic” music (nevermind that most bands only use Satanic lyrics/symbols for shock value), being Pagan, being atheist, being Muslim, being Mormon, etc. etc.

I spent my entire childhood and most of my teenage years trying to be “good”. I was the good child in the family, the well-behaved one that gets good grades and stays out of trouble. I never broke the rules or even went through the rebellious teenager phase (unless you count playing Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, after convincing my parents that those games aren’t eeeevil).

Fuck that.

That’s a damn silly list of “bad” things. I don’t think of my parents as fundies or as unusually religious, but after writing that list, I think I might have a difficult time defending that view. There are lots of things on that list that are not bad in any objective sort of way, and yet I still can’t do most of these things without feeling at least a little uncomfortable. I’m tired of feeling guilty over things I shouldn’t feel guilty about. So I am going to go out of my way to do these things (the ones that aren’t actually bad and that I have any desire to do, anyway) until I stop feeling guilty or uncomfortable with them. I’m going to learn about evolution. I’m going to read the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita and the book of Mormon and any other holy books/writings of other religions I can get my hands on (it’s good to learn about other religions in a culturally and religiously diverse world). I’m going to read “The Black Cauldron”. I’m also going to reread “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman (my mom didn’t ban that one, per se, but I bet she would have if she knew how it ends). I’m going to resist the urge to turn the volume down when I listen to songs like Blutengel’s “Lucifer” or Faun’s “Hymn to Pan”. Why should I step softly around only non-Christian religious-ish songs? So what if my roommate doesn’t like that I listen to one whole song about Lucifer. If she wants to complain about it, she needs to stop blasting her Christian worship music or she hasn’t got a leg to stand on. And the fact that I am even worrying about this just reflects on that stupid internalized warped sense of “bad” things I inherited from my parents, because my roommate has not given me a single sign that such things would bother her aside from mentioning that she happens to be Christian.

And here I haven’t even mentioned things like how it is to find out I’m trans after being taught to have a visceral rejection of transgenderness. That one’s going to take more than reading a couple of books to deal with, I think. Thank FSM my brother is accepting, at least. That helps a lot, and he was raised hearing these messages, too. I think he had an easier time rejecting the ones that were stupid, though. He was always the less well-behaved, rebellious one in the family. Maybe that’s why?