dream (wait for food, get denied) / name change poverty waiver denied
icon: "tenebrous (a shadowy orange-light photo of my face, looking down, with an achingly sad expression)"

apparently my bad dreams are coming true. Last night I dreamed I was at the beach with Topaz, and we went to a food truck. Topaz went to do something else and I waited in line, patiently, even though there was no one ahead of me and they didn't call me to the front. I waited for half an hour. Then they announced that it was 6pm and they weren't serving any more, looking to the side of me as if I wasn't there. I started crying and woke myself up with it.

Then today I check the mail and I have received a response to my name change with pauper's affidavit attached. They denied it. No reason, just "no." The cost for a name change is more than a third of what I make in a month. I do not have even an extra $20 much less an extra $200+. I think they denied me because they knew they could get away with it and they don't want to help people who can't pay, just on principle.

I feel so fucking hopeless. I made two trips to court and two trips to the notary to get this done. It was one of the hardest things I have done in at least two years. I can't even explain how difficult it was to do. I have a huge amount of fear around filling out any paperwork that says 'make a mistake and we throw you in jail' even if I am being really careful and don't think logically that that would happen. Driving to places is hard because every time I drive I am hyper aware that my car could break down, and because gas costs money which I don't have enough of. Dealing with paperwork is hard because I fear trapping myself somehow. Talking to people who are involved in the legal system is hard because I hate it and being around them feels like wading through a pool of sleeping piranhas.

All that work, and stress, and pushing against overwhelming fear, for nothing.

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dream about familial exclusion / triggered about fam-by-love / craving touch
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

I dreamed last night that I happened to go to my ex-spouse's family's old house, and they were all there hanging out and playing, and my biofamily (aunts and cousins) were there too. And they were like "what are you doing here?" with surprise but not even embarrassed that they had left me out and I knew. If they had any emotions about it, it was slight annoyance that I was there. I hadn't consciously been thinking about family but apparently knowing that I was going to be hanging out with Topaz' family today was bringing stuff up already.

Then while we were there today there was a moment where I felt abandoned and it triggered old feelings (of being abandoned, ignored, and lied to) which apparently haven't lost their power? Must I go through this every time I am around someone's biofamily? I'm so tired of it. But I feel like I'm always on probation and always will be, because I can't be enough of myself to even tell if they would accept me if they actually knew me. So... forever uncertain, constantly on edge.

Sydney was there and they had some really good talks with Topaz and me. I wish they lived closer so that I could spend more time with them.

Today was just really hard. I'm craving touch but have a hard time asking for it because if I ask without being able to handle a 'no' that's pressurey and gross, but there are only so many 'no's I can handle per period of time. So if I ask and get a no, it takes a while before I can ask again. And I associate having to ask for touch with being unloved, so it's this tangled mess -- I feel the need for reassurance that I am loved if gifted touch doesn't just happen.

Because when I love someone I crave touching them, so even though I logically understand that that isn't true for everyone, I don't emotionally understand it. Lots of people feel a strong urge to pet a kitten or puppy when they are nearby - I feel this about humans I love. It can be physically difficult for me to hold back (if we are in public and they aren't comfortable with PDA for instance).

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psa: flist pruning

icon: "garrulous(a photo of my lips with the skin greyed out and the lips overlaid with a green and blue fractal pattern)"

I just cleared out my friends list of people who I hadn't interacted with significantly in at least half a year, including some read-only journals. I had never taken inactive journals off if I wanted them to read my stuff, but I decided I'd rather know who is actually here. If you still use your LJ to read and want me to re-add you, let me know. Otherwise, if you feel a desire to maintain contact elsewhere, I'm cool with being friends on FB (facebook.com/belenen).

also, I keep meaning to respond to that question -- do I like responses even when I don't reply: YES. I love reading people's responses. Especially if they contain emotion words or a description of thought process. I always intend to respond, but it often gets away from me. It is always appreciated though! never fear annoying me with too many comments -- it really won't happen.

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ways that TBC is a safe space and an unsafe space, for me.
icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

This is a thing I shared in the TBC facebook group.

I'm a bit scared to do this, but it is important, so here goes. I'm going to talk about why TBC is important as a safe space for me, and also the qualities that make it an unsafe space for me.

First, TBC is the closest thing I have ever experienced to being fully understood, respected, and appreciated. In all other spaces except my own home, I am forcibly assigned gender and covered in a layer of assumptions, and almost every conversation I have is fending off one awful idea or another. TBC is damn-near sacred to me. But that doesn't mean it is perfect.

Ways that TBC is a safe space for me (please keep in mind that this is just my experience and others may have had very different ones):

-No one assumes gender. I am asked about my pronouns, and people know what they mean and respect them.

-No one polices gender. I am not asked invasive questions about transition or presentation. I am not looked at as not-belonging because I appear cis and femme.

-No one states sexist stereotypes as if they are fact (at least they didn't in my perception). I don't feel I have to do the endless resistance of that that I do everywhere else.

-No one assumes sexuality: this year at least I didn't feel people assumed I was allosexual or any particular orientation.

-No one assumes relational style: I didn't feel that anyone assumed that I or people in general were monogamous or non-monogamous.

-No one shows fatphobia. I didn't feel like there was a general expectation of thinness, or an expectation that if one is fat one must be high femme. I didn't catch any negative reactions to my body size.

-No one assumes neurotypicality. I didn't feel like I had to try to appear 'normal' in my thinking, and when I got stuck or lost my train of thought (or when others did) there was no response of impatience or shame. I felt safe knowing that if I needed to escape people, no one would think I was rude, and there was a place to go. I almost cried when I saw the shape/color cards prepared for people to flag how social/interactive they were feeling.

-No one assumes all people have the same access needs. I felt safely confident that if my friend needed to wear sunglasses to deal with a migraine or other issue, that no one would treat that as weird or ask tiresome questions. For most of the conference I felt safe that if I needed to have something repeated or slowed down so that I could parse it out and hear it, that would happen, and I felt safe that there would be no overwhelming loudness (the one time I did not feel safe in this way was from someone yelling into a mic for comedic effect).

-No one assumes everyone has money. I so very much appreciate the low price of TBC (less than 1/3rd what most gender/progressive conferences charge) and the fact that they are dedicated to maintaining a scholarship fund for those who can't afford that. I think it could be even better if part of the scholarship fund went to one or two hotel rooms which scholarship fund folk could use. I know that for me, if I didn't have help I could not go even if it was free, because of the cost of travel and board.

However, there were ways in which TBC made me feel unsafeCollapse )

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TBC 2015
icon: "feminist (the trans-feminist fist symbol colored in a rainbow gradient, with the words "intersectional or bullshit" on top)"

TBC started with an intense session, the "Being That Person" workshop. I think it was the most intense it has been, because there was one person who immediately called out the racism that permeates many queer events. I wanted to discuss it directly but felt like I couldn't just jump in, I couldn't think of what to say. Fortunately we kind of talked our way around it and into it some. I think that the white liberal bullshit might be worse in the north, generally speaking, but that might be because the only non-writing activism I do is with Black-led organizations (sounds really obvious now). I think class plays into it a lot too, as the person who brought it up referred to people having never been poor. We all talked about elitism, self-care strategies, how people perceive us and how that affects our effectiveness, how oppressions are not flat or solid (for instance gay people can be oppressive to bi/pan people), how everyone has work to do.

I think I need to stop using the word racist because I use it very sloppily to mean 'actively states white supremacist views (that they may not realize are supremacist)' as well as 'has subconscious oppressive behaviors to work on' and I am the latter and will always be to some extent but not the former. And those are very very different things, so I need to be specific.

Next, I presented a talk and workshop about intimacy and intimacy practice. It went really well, and I felt like it was better than before because I had more depth of understanding. I included more examples, like the kind of small resentment that is good to share so it doesn't become a big resentment and also so that it can be a way to be vulnerable. Then we had a little mini-IP (every single person opted in!), starting with a bit of silly play. I had to push myself VERY hard to be the first to be silly, all alone, in a room of 15 people while everyone else stared at me! But hey, it was certainly very good practice at vulnerability, and people participated well on the second go. Then we played truth-or-truth (I was super annoyed with myself for forgetting the question list) and most people asked very good questions! I was happy and impressed, and I could feel the web of connection coalesce. I felt closer to several people after they spoke. I was too frazzled to be any good at talking to people after but there are at least 4 who I'd like to hang out with.

Also, I took a pause to mention that I felt the urge to finger-snap my agreement and wanted to explain that it meant 'I feel ya' and tikva said they were glad I explained because sometimes people do that to mean 'hurry up' and I was aghast and relieved that I explained first because that would have been the opposite of my intent. Glad to have not made that cultural fail! I did make a mistake in talking about eye contact - I remembered that not all brain-types can get good from it, but I completely forgot that blind or low-vision people probably won't get any good from it either. *embarrassment*

Next Topaz and I went to a talk on polyamory for beginners. I was mostly curious as to how someone gives an intro on polyamory because I don't know how I would do it. It was a dense talk with a lot of information (most of which I had heard before as someone who has been practicing poly for more than 6 years now) but it covered the basics and went into the most important (in my mind) parts which are: don't compare external facts, just check to see if your own needs are met and boundaries are respected; avoid rules in general and don't make rules that have to do with feelings ("you can fuck people but not fall in love") or rules for anyone else's relationships; when you feel bad or an urge to control, use this as a sign that there is an unmet need and try to figure out what that is. The discussion of needs was one I already knew, but it sparked a whole huge realization about my needs and reactions, which I will put in a locked post.

Later Topaz and I went to the pool party for a little while but I had started menstruating so I didn't get in. I walked around the pool as Topaz swam along and we introduced ourselves to people. We didn't really get into conversation with anyone (except I talked with someone I already knew from last TBC), but I was glad to break down the fear a little bit by doing that.

Saturday started off with a SUPER INTENSE discussion as I lead my talk "Disowning Your Forefathers: Examining the Intersection of Spirituality & Privilege." It was a world of difference from the last time I did it -- I felt some resistance from a few people but most really engaged with the ideas and seemed to be there for growth and understanding. I felt like it was more of an actual discussion (whereas last time when I paused and asked questions, people just looked at me and waited for the answers). I really wish I wasn't the one to do this talk, or that I had more understanding, because I feel out of my depth -- but I feel like it is doing good, at the very least at getting people to consider the source and the effects of their actions. At the end of this I really liked at least three of the people but had forgotten my cards and couldn't bring myself to just ask for an exchange of contact info -- this made me very sad but I thought, I can do it later, it will be okay.

Then I was part of a panel about asexuality, bringing in a demisexual perspective. One of the panelists left shortly after the start, and I couldn't quite hear what it was they said to me, so I worried that I had been rude in my thoughtlessness. I moved a chair from the front so that their wheelchair could fit, without asking (without thinking), and they had to say that it was moved from the wrong side (so I moved the other one instead). I don't know if that was rude. I didn't even stop to think, and I don't know them so I can't apologize for acting on their behalf without asking. Anyway, the panel itself was good, we talked about dating as an asexual or demisexual, about when we disclose and how the expectation is on asexuals to disclose rather than on allosexuals to state their expectation that a romantic relationship involves sex. We talked about the structure of relationships and the danger of not disclosing right away versus the cost of disclosing right away (blocking out people who might be scared off by a stranger but might be willing to learn about someone they already know). It was a fairly easy flow and people asked very good questions!

Then was the shared lunch followed by Faith Cheltenham's keynote speech. Here are my takeaways from that, in tweet format:
we need to support each other to live and succeed in a world that isolates us -Faith Cheltenham
"I didn't know you could be queer and bisexual... I didn't know that labels could go together!" - Faith
when someone opens an opportunity for you, consider how you can keep that door open for the next person - Faith
42% of bisexual women report being raped. More than 60% endure domestic violence. 50% have dealt with suicidal ideation. -faith
in 2010 bisexual was put on google's block list https://t.co/et6n2LaZjx
one of the benefits of being bi is the opportunity to restructure relationships so that we don't repeat cycles of violence. -Faith
"they marched on us and we marched on them. Sometimes you just gotta protest... Letting them hear your voice can educate them"
justice is needed within LGBT - the discrepancies in funds between LG and BT is massive.

Also, I realized that yet another amazing activist who made my life better was black. Faith referred to a black trans man (I can't remember the name) who had been doing work for trans folk for decades. I really want to learn more about this person but a google search gave me nothing.

Next I went to "Preemptive Radical Inclusion: Everyone is Always in the Room" by Cindy Beal, and it blew my mind and made me cry. I felt such a sense of hope that someone else was taking language and accessibility so seriously, and presenting it in such an easy-to-understand way. Here are my tweet-notes from that:
"what does it feel like to enter a space and have your needs met?" the greatest relief... It's a daily battle to exist
when we join a space that is not inclusive, what does it look like to be inclusive? Take action, ask questions, offer warning
when a space is made larger, it must be redesigned by the whole group in order to be inclusive.
first-borns and white people especially have to watch out for a tendency to speak for others
"we have to remember that we are not at the center... The ways that we are privileged limit our ability to perceive what is real."
we need to recognize our privilege, authority, responsibility, and figure out what is ours and what is ours to support.
support is not 'this is how you should do it' but 'how can I help?'
inclusion: treat others' needs as normal; trust what people state as their needs; acknowledge & validate conflicting experiences.
inclusion: don't bring problems into a space; assume everyone is always in the room; plan for people ahead of time.

Then I went to the disability panel moderated by tikva, which was amazing of course. My tweet-notes from that:
"we're pathologized or we're nothing" -Raycho on the medical approach to disability
autistic adults are influenced away from seeking an official diagnosis because so recently, people have been imprisoned for autism.
there is a generational stigma about the word "disability" -- the aging and disability communities need to connect, share learning.
being othered can make it easier to come out or make it much harder -'already weird, oh well' or 'they can't take more difference.'
most people want to be their full selves all the time but one has to compare losses - decide, is it worth it?
on stigma toward dementia or DID - "not having full control of your mind is something you don't want anyone to know"
"people with disabilities are constantly scrutinized for faking"
on 'differently abled' "I can't fly, honey" and 'handicapable' "I will end you" I love Raycho.
some are against person-first language: people are disabled by inaccessible environments.
"assume nothing and ask" and self-educate about disability, find what disabled people say about themselves (often easy online).

Then I hosted a mini-IP in a room that wasn't being used (because several people had expressed that they were sorry to miss my intimacy talk), and had three people participate with me. It was a pretty intense session, and I felt like it really connected with everyone. At the same time, I realized right before that it was too much to lead another session after doing a talk and panel already and a talk yesterday too. I made it through and it was worth it but I was wiped out. I went up to the room with Abby and Topaz and we hung out and talked for a while (I gave them both hair pets, first Topaz then Abby), and then we went to dinner.

We tried going to the comedy show, thinking that it would be safe from slurs and problematic stuff, but it wasn't, which was very disappointing. *deep frown* Topaz had been so excited, too. Later we went to the dance, and we both danced a little. I had a great time except I got super overheated, and Topaz wanted different music. I had planned to give my info to some people there but most of them weren't there and I couldn't get up the guts before the ones I wanted to share with left. ARGHHH.

Sunday Abby and I got up super early to go to "Questioning Gender, Questioning Faith: Spiritual Resources to Explore Identity" by Andrew Leigh Amanda LeAnn Bullard, and it was worth getting up early for. The tool offered is something I can imagine myself using to understand a variety of sacred texts more deeply. Afterward the three of us packed up and checked out, realized we'd have to leave mid-panel if we stayed for the next set, and then went to lunch before going to the airport. On our way out I felt deeply crushed that I hadn't managed to give out my contact info to literally anyone, and realized I could go back up and put my cards on the info table which would be SOMETHING but I didn't. I think I felt too fatalistic, as people almost never use them to actually find me, I have to find them.

There's more but I'm typed out.

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too much driving / bell hooks / anxious? meds? / bad dreams
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

Today was intense as shit. I drove way too much. To the pharmacy, to get gas, then to the middle of Atlanta (I stopped halfway to have coffee and let my car rest), then to east Atlanta to eat with Kylei, then I missed my exit and my maps app crashed and I drove 20 minutes longer than I had to to get home, then I drove back to Topaz'. Ughhhhh.

But! I got to see bell hooks and Gloria Steinem talk. I didn't know much about Gloria before that, but now I think they're a badass too. Did a little too much talking, in a way that I associate with people who are used to getting all the attention so don't question how much of the spotlight they should share, but overall the balance was okay and I liked most of what they said. bell hooks blew my mind. The justice in healing is something I too often forget. I wish I could contribute more. Here are the quotes I tweeted:
"'tired' is a kind of privilege... When you work for freedom you cannot rest." if you're weary, pass the torch don't just check out -hooks
Men from prison expressed that they felt women were the only ones talking about sexual violence -Gloria Steinem
"Where is the space for us to honor our dialogue with one another?" We need to demand the space to process -bell hooks
"You must educate for critical awareness before you can have communication" -bell hooks
imagine in the world of social media being unable to read "if we want to talk about black male lives we have to talk about education" -hooks
"We're in a moment of participatory fascism... people don't want to take violence seriously" but until we do we can't end patriarchy- hooks
"domestic violence is the biggest indicator of all other violence... Police families have 4 times the rate of others" -Gloria Steinem
"Women are made to feel that their bodies are ornaments, not instruments" -Gloria Steinem
bell hooks on laughter: a sign of self-possession, of subjectivity, thus a threat to oppression.

I felt keyed up before going to see bell hooks and I thought it was excitement, but it lasted late into the evening, and it started to hugely wear on me. I hate that feeling of 'just missed getting into a wreck' going on and on and on. I think my body is reacting badly to the stop-start of missing my meds (I'm back on them as of last week but missed them for a number of days). I associate this feeling with depression and am really really wanting it to move on. I would like to be able to enjoy things.

*deep sigh* I laid on the floor for a while and that helped. I don't know why but that is calming for me like nothing else. Maybe it's a grounding thing.

Topaz said goodbye this morning while I was mostly asleep and for some reason my brain thought it was a forever goodbye, like they were dying or leaving the planet. It lasted about 2 seconds before the panic woke me up enough to realize that it wasn't like that. My brain can be incredibly pessimistic sometimes.

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emotion explosion - great intimacy practice but terrible stuff brought up, connection despair
icon: "disconnected (a gif of the lovers from the tv show "Moonlight" standing on opposite sides of a door and both looking devastated. One leans their forehead on the door and the other leans their face on their hand on the doorsill. Underneath the repeating gif is the word 'pain' in a handwriting-font.)"

Yesterday and today have been overwhelmingly emotional. Yesterday was emotional in general, but especially intimacy practice. We had two newbies and usually that means a somewhat low-key practice as newbies usually need at least one practice to get familiar enough to participate fully. But not this time! Everyone shared very openly and there was a lot of resonance around the circle. Everyone had intense topics and even truth-or-truth was intense, yet we finished in 3 hours and as far as I could tell everyone felt nourished. Topaz was actually energized! Afterward Topaz and Heather played "pump it up" (I graciously declined). It was the first time we'd had newbies in a long time, over a year I'm sure. I remembered/realized some things that I will explain when I do the intimacy practice talk at TBC.

But it brought up some stuff I had been repressing - my sense of failure at making new friendsCollapse )

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if you mourn only for the deaths of white people, your empathy is broken. and racist.
icon: "snarling (a photo of a snow leopard snarling in profile with teeth bared, whiskers back, and ears flattened)"

I realized today that I give a lot of seemingly compassionate people the benefit of the doubt when they don't deserve it. I assume that the reason that they don't talk about or publicly express any empathy for the many, many black people, trans people, disabled people, and women who are murdered in their own country, state, city (often at the hands of those who are supposed to protect or love them) is that they don't want to talk about death or murder or torture. I subconsciously assumed that they maybe can't deal with how awful it is, maybe they are too emotionally fragile. I can understand that; sometimes that is me.

But no. Now that some white people got killed in a different city, a different country, a different continent, these same people are all focusing on death with expressions of deep emotion, showing solidarity by covering their face with a flag. Clearly they are capable of talking about suffering, of expressing empathy publicly. They just don't feel like that about black people. Maybe they don't know that trans, disabled, and female people are murdered regularly and that's why they don't show any care about that, but there has been enough national coverage of the death toll of being black in the US that I really doubt that could be true about black people. So if you're a white person who hasn't shown any empathy or mourning or symbols of solidarity for black people killed in the US in the past year and you're doing that for those killed in Paris*, I'm noticing, and I'm judging you.

*Note: obviously if you have a personal connection, that's different. It always hurts more when it is your friend who is hurt or in danger.

See also:

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updated my layout to this decade, mostly.
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

well I just got SUPER hyperfocused stuck on updating my LJ layout (worked on it for about 7 hours solid), but I got rid of the tables and cleaned it up a lot, and made it work better on small devices (shrink your browser window and it will transform). I'm trying light background with dark text for a bit to see if it is kinder to my eyes. Check it out and tell me what you think! *grins* Also, if you notice any accessibility issues please let me know (now or anytime). I'm trying to minimize them as much as possible.

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what i have learned from Topaz, from being w Topaz, and from the last 3 years in general
icon: "connate (the characters Keenan and Joan from "Playing By Heart," facing each other with their faces so close that their noses almost touch, both with eyes almost closed, wearing slight smiles)"

(from Topaz) What, if anything, do you think you've learned FROM me; And, what, if anything, do you feel you've learned from being with me; And, what, if any, big things have you learned since we got together?

Ummm... I have learned a huge lot and my memory is full of holes, so I'm not even gonna try to make this comprehensive.

From you?
I have learned what media really means. I learned that even hostile anti-theists can have understandings of the world that fit with my spiritual beliefs. I learned that nail polish can be butch. I learned that chameleoning can be a powerful tool against oppression and that it doesn't always touch your soul. I learned that Carl Sagan is wonderful, and that wonder is a core value of mine. I learned about and came to love Michael Jackson, M.I.A., Lowkey, Melissa Ferrick, Sonia Leigh, and Ani Difranco. I learned that I dearly love giving presents to people who love getting them and have a variety of interests. I learned that sometimes, doing dishes can be worth it. I learned that I can enjoy cauliflower. I learned that I like many kinds of sex that I hadn't been interested in before. I learned that sometimes climbing a mountain is not the worst thing. I learned what a migraine is, and why it is so not the same as a really bad headache.

From being with you?
I've learned to be more patient with communication, and that 'I can't tell you yet' is not necessarily code for 'I'm going to put this off until you forget.' I learned that I can't deal with much indirect communication, and I learned how to respond to it in a useful way. I learned that I really love sweetness. I learned that I can ask for what I want without fear of pressuring someone into giving it. I learned that I really value (maybe need) independence in a lover, mixed with willingness to express needs and desires. I learned that I can brush someone's hair for literal hours, and that I miss having hair long enough to brush.

Overall big things?
I learned I don't believe in an afterlife or in spanking (both from logical conversations with you). I learned a ridiculously huge amount about racism, cissexism, ableism, and oppression in general. I learned that I have talent in stats. I learned that my ADD is bad enough that I can't really function without meds. I learned that my fractals are beautiful to more people than just me. I learned that I suck at picking people and need to get input from my insightful friends. I learned that LJ is still alive and that I can be 'in' it like I did years ago. I learned that I can motivate myself to do things with colorful stickers. I learned that my mental health is negatively affected when I don't eat breakfast and lunch. I learned that I can forge on ahead with something completely new, even when my future rests on that thing. I learned that parts of my biofamily are kinda great and that my bioparent M is the most selfish person I've known. I learned that I need group focus time as well as one-on-one. I've learned that I need for my lover(s) to combine specific compliments with touch for me to feel desirable or aesthetically pleasing. I learned that nourishing connections are increasingly difficult for me to find. I learned that similarity of inner self or similarity of overall goals doesn't make a connection nourishing: that I need connections with people who are on a growth spiral and not too far away from me. I learned that my privilege as a colonizer race means that it would be inappropriate for me to profit from doing spiritual healings or divination (since I only have access to these things due to historical and modern spiritual theft). I learned that I can build spiritual practice that is more growth-inducing, challenging, and meaningful for me than any externally-created practice I have come across.

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the art of hugs

icon: "kissy (a photo of me outside in soft light, blowing a kiss)"

Hugs are the usual greeting in my group of friends, and are not uncommon among my family and the families of other southern people I know. (some people take this so far as to hug others without asking first, which is horrible) It's also a really common method of comforting via the internet, at least everywhere I have been. But a lot of people don't put any thought into a hug beyond "we encircle each other with our arms and then stop." But there are such a variety of hugs!

the christian side-hug
A hug that involves people being side-by-side and wrapping the near arm around the other person's back, bringing the far arm around to touch the other's far shoulder and leaving a circle of air in between, usually looking away.
The only people I allow to do this to me are my bioparent M and Topaz' family. With my bioparent, it's because they have self-imposed limits of bodily contact with those they perceive as women. With Topaz' family, I let them set the parameters of hugs.

the straight girl A-frame
This is a variant of the christian side-hug where you face each other and put your arma around each other, but do so with your bodies at least a foot apart and your backs arched so that your chests don't touch.
I do not tolerate this kind of hug. I'd rarher have a handshake, or nothing at all.

the limp noodle
This is when someone goes to hug you but doesn't place any firmness into it, holding all of their parts away, barely touching you with their arms and chest, sometimes giving a light tentative pat at the end.
GROSS GROSS GROSS I hate this kind SO MUCH. It makes me feel like I'm covered in slime and you're trying not to get it on you. This kind of hug makes me want to punch whoever is doing it.

the quick squeeze
This is when someone hugs you for about 1.5 seconds - just wrap arms around, give a quick squeeze, and immediately pull away. This is the usual greeting hug among hippies.
I like this one okay. It's better than no touch.

the back-cracker
This is when someone hugs you with such a hard squeeze that it could crack your back (or in my case, cause your boobs to ache).
I hate this one. People do not seem to realize that the fact that it feels good to them doesn't mean it feels good to me. There's also a sub-variant, where the person isn't squeezing too hard but is squeezing at the wrong place and it is smashing my boobs. PSA: if you are hugging someone with large breasts, squeeze them around the waist ONLY not around the chest (or ask).

the favorite hug
This varies from person to person I'm sure. For me, there are several elements that make up my favorite hug; time length, emotional presence, arm placement, body height, pressure, hand movement, and above all posture softness.

For length, I prefer longer (in the 8-11 second range usually) but I let the other person end it as quickly as they wish. As soon as they lift their head from my shoulder, drop their hands from my back, or otherwise shift to end the hug, I mirror and let them out of the hug. Otherwise it's not good consent.

To be emotionally present for me means we're silent, eyes closed, fully emotionally focused on each other, not thinking about other things, not hurried.

Position-wise, I prefer to have my right arm over their left shoulder, with my other arm wrapped around their waist and them mirroring - this is an idea passed on to me from someone else that solves a lot of the squishing problems and also is more egalitarian. But one person's arms under the other is a better hug for comforting, I feel - with the person giving comfort having arms on top because they feel like a shield then. I want bodies to be close, either with us sitting next to each other thighs touching, or standing face to face with feet staggered and foot-circles overlapping.

Height should be adjusted for the hug. So, a standing person should sit or kneel to hug a sitting person. A standing tall person should widen their stance or bend their knees to hug a standing shorter person, or they should find something for the shorter one to stand on.

Pressure should be firm but not suffocating- applied only from the hands and the chest, not the whole length of the arms like a boa constrictor. Imagine folding around the person like you would fold one paper around another. Pressure should also be at the top of the back and the middle of the back, because lower back is sexual for many people and so you should ask first (I certainly don't want anyone touching me there without asking).

Hand movement should be thoughtful and not too hard of a rub, nor too much in one spot, NO PATS.

Posture should be softened (if possible) with shoulders loose and spine curved: if one person stands up straight that forces the other to bend twice as much and it feels awkward and uncomfortable.

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trust: what builds it and what burns it, for me
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

How do you define trust in your relationships? Do you believe it is a black and white issue or a grey area one in that you can trust people in different ways?

Trust comes in various levels, for me. I start everyone at about 60%: assuming that they respect me, they want to avoid hurting me, and they're not going to lie to me.

Things that add to that trust are:
- not hurting me often (which requires them to be careful with their language and actively practice removing slurs and stereotypes from their thinking),
- being remorseful and productive instead of defensive when I have told them that they hurt me,
- telling me as soon as they can when I do something that upsets them so that I can adjust my behavior,
- being willing and able to share their feelings and experiences with me (self-aware and open),
- taking action to care for our relationship,
- sharing freely with me without me needing to prompt them,
- showing curiosity and thoughtfully engaging with things I share,
- practicing good self-care, especially in such a way that they can have more quality time with me,
- openly (especially publicly) admitting when they made a mistake or realized a change they need to make.

There are probably more actions that build trust for me, but that list alone would bring someone up to 90% at least.

Things that lower my trust in someone:
- deceiving me,
- hiding things from me that they know I would want to know,
- not telling me when I bother or upset them,
- showing that they don't respect me or others,
- showing that hurting me doesn't matter to them,
- using slurs,
- mocking people for anything that is related to their status as an oppressed person (seriously anything),
- making fun of anything that is part of who someone is (like their laugh, their name, their style, their body shape, etc),
- trying to push someone into doing something (ANYTHING) they don't want to,
- affirming stereotypes,
- trying to 'win' in an argument or agreement,
- showing a lack of self-awareness,
- showing that they value me more than themselves,
- disliking all conflict,
- avoiding giving direct answers when I ask direct questions.

Any one of those things would drop my trust at least 10%. Not all of these are things I think are bad, but they are all things that show I cannot be very close to that person.

Things that have little to no effect on my trust, usually:
- keeping plans we made (all I care about is desire and effort, not success)
- being on time
- being available when I am in need
- remembering anniversaries/birthdays
- responding in a timely manner
- backing me up in a conflict
- showing me that I am more important than others
- staying consistently in my life

I notice many people expressing desire or need for these things but frankly, that stuff is mostly stuff that only neurotypical people can do, or stuff that creates a hierarchical relationship. I have had maybe two relationships with neurotypical people and they were ages ago. I don't really forsee myself being in any of those in the future and if I did, I hope I would not become reliant on those things as markers of trust. They have not at all correlated with people who remained nourishing, non-damaging connections for a long time.

So overall, yes I trust people in different ways. I trust Topaz probably about 98%, Kylei, Heather, and Hannah about 92%, and other people vary from 0% to about 88%.

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people demonize spanking because of classism / how corporeal punishment damaged me
icon: "honesty (a photo of me in soft sunlight, gazing directly into the camera with a somber expression)"

If you were spanked as a kid, you have to accept it as morally OK in order to be able to cope with it. Growing up, you are told that you are spanked because you are loved, that this is intended to help you become a better person, that this is necessary for your growth. To reject that, you have to accept that your parents hurt you and they should not have. That's painful for a lot of people. I didn't even consider that there might be anything wrong with spanking in my early adulthood, and until meeting someone who had never been spanked I didn't even know that it was possible to actually raise children and have them become decent people without spanking. It is a damn good thing that I realized this before having kids, because it would be extremely difficult to acknowledge it as wrong after I had done it. A great lesson to teach, such a reversal of behavior, but facing the fact that I might have damaged my kids? Painful beyond imagining.

Spanking also gets blown out of proportion in relation to other suffering. Many common parental actions can be far more damaging, depending on the kind of spanking that is used. The stigma against spanking is purely in relation to class behaviors. Spanking is considered a lower class behavior - direct expressions are all treated this way. Abuses which are seen as upper class parenting are seen as more acceptable by society despite the fact that they can be every bit as damaging and in some cases more damaging. These abuses are dismissed or tacitly encouraged -- like forcing them to behave in cisgendered ways, calling them names, ignoring their needs or feelings, mocking/denigrating their bodies, encouraging them to reject empathy and see others as tools, teaching them racism and rape myths and ableism and classism etc.

Spanking after the age of eight (when a child is fully capable of reasoning) is a failure of communication and in my mind, it is abuse, ESPECIALLY after puberty. I don't know about before that - it might be useful but it may also be damaging. 

When I was about 5, I lied to my teacher. I went to a private christian school where the teachers were permitted to spank us. So my teacher took me into the bathroom, explained why lying was bad, spanked me with a ruler (not very hard) and then hugged me and emphasized that she did not want to cause me pain but wanted me to remember. I felt she was being sincere, and I felt more loved by her after that than I had before. And frankly I felt an increase of trust. I remember very little of my childhood but that memory is vivid. I don't think that caused me any damage at all. That was not the kind of spanking I got from my parents.

I have been thinking about this for the past few days and realizing how deeply this has affected me. TW: physical and psychological abuseCollapse )

What being spanked taught me was not anything related to right and wrong - I learned all that through logic, reading, and talking with people. What it taught me was 'don't piss off authority or it will overwhelm your will, humiliate, and violate you.' If I had not been physically hit and intimidated by my parents, I don't think I would struggle so much with visceral fear now. Even when I can logically understand that I am not in legitimate danger, I have a very hard time pushing myself to perform any resistance to people who are in relational authority to me or who legally can control my body (bosses, some professors, cops). I think I could do it if I felt it was necessary for someone else's safety, but not for my own. Resistance for someone else doesn't spark so much fear because I didn't get attacked on behalf of others. If I am being attacked by authority, I freeze and feel deep shame and fear, and if it seems to be a deliberate attempt to hurt me it will cause a full-on breakdown. I would flat-out be a better person had I not been trained into this deeply subconscious fear of people in authority.

Since I would want my children to feel willing to resist authority for good reasons, I would not spank them. I also don't fucking ever want to motivate people through fear, and I don't want my children to listen to me because I control them body and will. I want them to listen because they trust me through me proving that I have good ideas that make their life better, because they love me and want to make me happy, and because I show true appreciation (and when appropriate, give rewards).

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after learning more about microbes, I no longer believe in an afterlife
icon: "spiritual (a photo of a snow leopard with (edited) violet eyes staring straight into the camera)"

darkestgarden asked me: have you ever felt that you were just plain wrong somehow about prior [spiritual] beliefs?

Yes. I used to believe in an afterlife, because I believed human bodies contained one soul and that soul left the body at death and went to another existence. Then I began to think about the fact that I am made up of literal billions of creatures, and I see all creatures as having a soul, so there is more than one soul in my body. I don't remember the conversation, but sometime after considering that, Topaz and I were talking about an afterlife and I realized my previous beliefs no longer made sense with my understanding of myself. Since I have only ever lived together with these billions of souls, what makes me think I would be the same creature if I was no longer influenced by them in incomprehensible ways? The logical thought is that I would not. So, poof, an afterlife as I had imagined it doesn't exist. I am frankly very disappointed to realize this, as my perception of afterlife involved getting to create from the raw stuff of the universe. But I can't believe in it just because it sounds nice, it has to make sense to me.

However, I do believe all memories are stored in a shared consciousness*, and so in some ways I would still exist, just not as a singular consciousness in a recognizable configuration. I think that sometimes a pattern of thinking matches previous patterns so closely that one can recall them easily (past lives). And sometimes a pattern is imprinted on a place or person so strongly that people coming near it are faced with that memory (ghosts). And I believe that when people die their memories are 'uploaded' and in near-death or technically-resurrected experiences, a person's consciousness is observing their memories be uploaded. I think that the reason that they often experience a transformation is because they can feel the interconnectedness of all things in that moment. I think they see their deity many times because that is a pattern of many memories that is really important to them. I think that it is possible to access this feeling without dying, but I have not done it.

I believe these things because they make intuitive sense to me and they explain a lot. If it somehow ceases to make sense to me, I will stop believing it.

where I first talked about this

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an analogy to explain why the privileged are responsible for ending oppression
icon: "powerful (Frazetta's "Sun Goddess": a person with large breasts and belly and thick muscular thighs, standing with arms out and head back, knife in one hand, sabertooth tiger snarling by their side)"

Imagine that a racist babysitter is watching after a white kid and a black kid. And she has two cookies that she's going to give to the kids. She likes the white kid better so she breaks one of the cookies in half and gives the white kid one and a half cookies while giving the black kid half a cookie. This isn't the white kids fault - they didn't ask for more cookie than the black kid, it just happened whether they wanted it or not. But if they don't give that extra half to the black kid then they are just as guilty as the racist babysitter of making the black kid's life worse.

It can be hard to give that extra piece back. After all it was just given to you, shouldn't you be able to keep what you were given? no, you shouldn't, because it wasn't just, it was wrong. Just because you didn't do the initial action of stealing the cookie, doesn't mean that it was okay for you to have one and a half cookies while the other kid gets only a half.

If that white kid doesn't want to benefit from racism, they have to not only give that extra half back, they have to tell their parents to fire the racist babysitter, and until they're fired, the kid has to keep giving it back every day and telling their parent every day. In this analogy, the white kid is white people of today, the black kid is the black people of today, the babysitter is the white people who started this shit, and the parents are the structure of institutional racism. If you as the white kid do nothing, you benefit from racism. This is why it is white people's responsibility to fix racism (which is way more complicated than the cookie situation).

It's white people's responsibility to undo racism.
It's men's responsibility to undo sexism.
It's cis people's responsibility to undo transphobia and cissexism.
It's non-disabled people's responsibility to undo ableism.
It's straight people's responsibility to undo homophobia and heterocentrism.
And so on.

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Q & A about my beliefs regarding deities
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

if a god (or gods, or goddesses, or some other kind of divine entities) has ever factored into your spirituality, what drew you to them?
Many have. First was Jesus, and that was very early, at age 4. What drew me was probably partly my parents fascination (my dad would sit and memorize bible verses often, my mom sang a lot) and partly that Jesus was the way I interpreted my mystical experiences. I saw a glow in a person once, and another time I had a vision about my mom that scared me and I prayed with my dad and found out later that my mom had been in a wreck at the same time (and was not hurt, which we attributed to the prayer). Later I was drawn to the ancient Egyptian pantheon, especially Nuit, Geb, Hapi, and Renenutet. I loved the whole pantheon because of the central tenet of Ma'at, embodiment of truth and order, and because there was no subordination of women or intersex people. Other than these, I have been drawn to a few deities because I felt their presence, and afterward learned about them.

how did you perceive them at the times you felt most connected with them? as beings that exist, or more as mythical constructs? something else?
My concept of existence is based on my senses, mediated by my mind. So they do exist, but perhaps only in my reality. I do not know - or care - if deities exist in the grand-blended-everyone's-overlap reality.

did you ever feel that you genuinely had a two-way means of communication with those entities (say, for example, through prayer or meditation), or were they silent?
Not in a truly verbal sense, no. I have had feelings, both physical and emotional, which I perceived as communication from deities. More commonly than that, I will notice something that seems to me to be a sign from a deity. I don't often talk to them, though, so it makes sense to me that I have not gotten to a higher level of communication (I do feel that is possible).

have you ever felt that a god has intervened in your life directly, for better or for worse?
I mean... Yes? But not in any dramatic way. Small things, usually reassurance when I feel hopeless. Like the time I was heartbroken about breaking up with Hannah and Nick and I found a piece of colored sea glass, which I had never found before. I felt that was an intervention from a deity. I didn't know or care which one, I was just grateful for a little hope.

if you did feel like you had a two-way communication with a god, or felt that they intervened in your life, but later your beliefs changed, how did you perception change of those experiences? did you feel mistaken about the nature of those experiences?
My beliefs have certainly changed. When I was monotheist and solely Christian, I perceived everything as the work of that god, and I believed they intervened in the world in ways that broke the laws of the natural world. I once prayed without stopping for over an hour for someone who was very sick with pneumonia and bronchitis while also having asthma (the doctor said something like 'you should be dead'), and I felt my prayers and god were the reason that person lived. I didn't consider any other factors as relevant. Now, I still believe that such an action would have power, but not miraculous power that is better than medicine. Just a small push, which might be vital if someone is near the edge. I feel I was mistaken, but that it wasn't an important mistake because the choice would have been the same either way.

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icon: "curious (my face, looking straight forward with one eyebrow up and a sideways smile, head tilted down a little)"

I've been wondering...

Poll #2027008 facebook habits/etiquette

when do you friend people on facebook?

after you meet them in person, no conversation necessary
after you have talked with them briefly
after you know them well
after you asked them if you could friend them and they said yes
never - you only let people friend you

what criteria do you use to friend people?

connecting: ,

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avoiding being sick with zinc and b12 - so far so good
icon: "brewing (a photo of a ceramic mug with sticks of cinnamon poking out and steam rising up)"

small random PSA: I take zinc and b12 every day, and I haven't gotten sick in over a year and a half, despite being around sick people often enough. I consider the two things highly related, and as the pills aren't too expensive, I shall continue to take them. I also drink lots of water and avoid sugar, especially if I know I have been exposed to something.
connecting: ,

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review-by-elements: Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean"
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean with fish and coral around: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

"Door Into Ocean" is a subset of sci-fi, "varying humanoids on multiple planets." It follows a young adult human from a patriarchal planet as he interacts with the single-sex pacifist egalitarian race of the nearest planet, becoming involved in their efforts to maintain balance on their planet and resist exploitation. It includes themes of: ecological balance, consensus versus coercion, economic exploitation, phallocentric perceptions of sex versus relational perceptions, language as it creates and defines culture, definitions of mental illness, and responsibility as it relates to adulthood, self-knowledge, and civic identity.

Honestly I can't express just how intensely I love this book. I just finished my fourth re-read, and I got more from it than ever before. It is an amazing allegory on so many different levels, most of all about the nature of hierarchy and reciprocity. I love the thoroughness of world-building, the depth and evolution of characters, the variety of personalities, and the many layers of meaning. If I could get everyone to read one fiction book, this would be the one I would choose.

more detailsCollapse )
connecting: , ,

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Soothing social time?!? / the evolution of my relationship to art
icon: "artistic (a photo of a hand holding a glass heart, all of it colored in purple)"

This Saturday Topaz and I had a tiny bonfire with Heather, Brian, Cass, Kelsey, and Elliott. It was really relaxing and nourishing. I often feel worried in social situations if I think someone is uncomfortable or unhappy, but I didn't take responsibility for anyone's happiness this time, and I didn't try to facilitate connections. I think I was able to do this partially because Topaz seemed mostly at ease, and quite enjoyed some parts. (Heather and I grinned gleefully at each other while overhearing Topaz and Brian talk about being bros) I got to cuddle with Cass and Heather at different times. I think there was just a lot of similarity in communication styles and that made it really easy. I want more of this in my life. I want to feel an ease and a balance like that with a local group.


I've decided to try to finish the prompts given to me ages ago. This one was from Topaz.

Has your interest and preference for art changed over the years? What sort of art styles and genres were you interested in as a child, teen, in your 20s, vs now?
Yes, by a lot! When I was a child and teen, I liked realistic paintings of the ocean and dragons. Christian Reece Lassen and Michael Whelan were my favorite artists.  Lassen painted hyperreal epics with orcas, dolphins, and many kinds of fish, with waves that looked like glass.  More than anything else I loved the light and the water and the way they were magic together (I wouldn't have minded if the animals weren't there). When Whelan created a website where I could actually see all their art, I realized that more than the dragons, I loved their symbolic art. There is this one painting of a child sitting next to a tiny square of grass in an otherwise totally concrete space, with light coming through a slim crack in the wall. Another is a woman wearing only a hooded sand-colored cloak, holding their arm out straight with a red ribbon hanging from their hand, at the end of which which is a translucent red heart. The most powerful one for me is the one of a figure in flowing white from neck to ankle, running and dancing along a thin yet dense ridge of deep green brush that waves back and forth. I'm just now realizing that this stuff is very white. My only irritation at the time was that everyone was thin, but I felt that the women weren't sexualized, which I liked.

Then I discovered body positivity and with it, a yearning to see art of bodies that looked like mine. Anders Zorn and Tamara de Lempicka were my favorites; Zorn I loved for the nudes in nature, and the soft curve of bellies with deep navels, and Lempicka I loved for the luxuriant abandon of their subjects, who sprawled as though a self-conscious feeling had never touched them. I also really liked a lot of artists that I now understand to have reified white supremacy through the production of beauty norms. Sad and gross. And I liked a lot of terribly appropriative 'native' art.

I also discovered portrait photography and became enchanted with many artists on deviantart who shared their beings through their faces and bodies, often nude. Clothing is most often a distraction, I feel, and I don't like it in art. I see it as the same as having brand names or fast food in the art. Sure, sometimes that is part of the meaning, but in general it just takes the person from immediacy and places them into a time and culture. I don't think it should be included unless it is relevant to the meaning of the piece.

Deviantart also showed me that art didn't have to be photorealistic or even proportional to be meaningful. Pupasoul (real name unknown) painted many symbolic pieces with figures clearly intended to represent humans, but without faces or hands or feet, and never in any skin tone. I loved them, and finally stopped being snobbish about realism.

Through deviantart i also discovered fractals, though i did not think that I could ever make them. My favorite was sideoutman, mostly because they created asymmetrical fractals which spoke to me far more than others. This was the first time I had ever felt drawn to abstract art, which I previously thought very little of.  When I began making my own fractal art, it became very important to me. I love my own fractals and I love the fractals of others.

Has your interest range become more specific or has it widened, or both? Why?
I would say that both are true - I love many more styles now, but I specifically dislike art which uncritically reproduces white supremacy and unfortunately, that's most of the stuff that exists that includes white people as subjects. I used to love photorealistic art and disdain everything else. Now, I prefer abstract, surreal, and symbolic art, though I still enjoy photorealistic if it has an actually interesting subject, and I do love photography, especially self-portraits and nature.

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Nablopomo #1
icon: "pensive (my face at a 3/4ths angle, looking down, with a pensive expression. I am wearing a dark purple glitter goatee but no other makeup, and behind me is a sunny forest.)"

I want to try to post every day this month. It's not going to be easy because I have a million and a half things to do, but it will help me feel more like a person. And maybe I can actually finish some of these half-written posts that have been languishing. I miss you all.

Do you have any things that help you to keep up with posting?

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how I manage my neuro-atypicality in relation to others
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

I've been thinking about this for a while and today I had a breakdown that brought it very sharply to mind. I'm worried that I won't be able to express this in a way that makes sense and is clear but I'm gonna try. Please read with the understanding that I may phrase things badly and need questions so that I can clarify.

As a person who has dealt with severe memory issues and attention issues and depression, I know that I am not reliable. I can be draining. I can get stuck in an old trauma and pull others in. I can get blamey. I can't help these things. They're part of my brain. But I can try to temper the effects.

There are a number of ways I do this. Number one is using whatever support resources I have. When I have access to the right medication, I take it. This isn't just for me, but to allow myself to be fully present and at my most capable to deal with my own volatile emotions so that I don't hurt others. If I had a therapist who actually matched me (asked me meaningful questions and prodded me to greater self-understanding, while not applying false rubrics to my life), I would also be in therapy.

A close second is practicing self-awareness as much as possible.  I want to be able to tell people what I want and need, so that they can decide if that is something they are willing and able to give; if I am not self-aware, I am literally incapable of doing that. I also want to be able to talk myself down if that is possible - note my feelings and check where they are coming from. Many times this is all I need to do to resolve a feeling. One aspect of self-awareness is when I have an emotional breakdown (like I did today) I analyse where the feelings are coming from and don't apply them to the wrong person. I will often explain why I'm feeling these things to the person who has sparked the feelings, and if I have no issue with their behavior I will assure them that I do not think they did anything wrong.

A backup for self-awareness that I use is willingness to be checked by the people I trust to know, respect, and love me. In practice this list is mostly Topaz, Heather, and Kylei, but there are many others who have known me for a long time who I would also value checking me. If they notice that I am going down a path that seems bad for me, or they feel like I am overreacting to something, or that in any other way I am lacking awareness of myself or my behavior in a potentially damaging way, they have my permission and encouragement to call me on it. My ability to notice things is vastly increased by adding more observers.

Last is self-care. This is vital. I know that all of my worst issues are exacerbated when I am not practicing enough self-care, so I do. I spend at least one evening per week alone (usually a day: I know this is a huge privilege). I have on my daily goals list to read, write, share openly with someone, take a photo or make visual art, connect with my body through movement and/or connect with nature, and sing aloud and/or do a spiritual practice. I have weekly goals of cleaning, crafting, accomplishing something scary, spending time with 2 or more friends, and a few other things. I don't ever manage to do all of these, but keeping them in mind as a goal means that I do far better than I otherwise would.

I need these practices in people close to me. I can handle people blowing up as long as they are willing to be told "I think you're blowing this out of proportion" or "please go take some time and calm down before talking to me about this." (Kylei is great about this) I can handle people taking my words in a way I didn't mean and getting very upset at me as long as when I say no, that isn't what I meant, they take it in and choose to believe me. (Topaz is very good about this) I can handle people making any choices for their own life as long as I am not expected to react any way other than honestly. (Heather is the one who I can be most brazen with: for instance I can tell them how disgusting I think meat is without them taking it at all personally) I can handle people crying and wilding out around me if they explain to me what is happening and don't blame me for their reactions. I can handle people sometimes treating me badly as long as when I point it out and ask for change, they check within themselves and do their best to make that change to keep from hurting me again. And it's so important that I be able to get very upset or sad without the person taking it personally, because only then can I feel safe sharing all my feelings with them.

These needs I have from others are also very important practices of mine, so that I can offer a balance.

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Feel bad about not writing / utter failure at making friends / SDS
icon: "pensive (my face at a 3/4ths angle, looking down, with a pensive expression. I am wearing a dark purple glitter goatee, and behind me is a sunny forest.)"

October 2:
I feel alienated from myself due to not writing. There's just so much going on all the time and I crave rest and feel like I never get any time. I start writing something on my phone, get halfway or even 90% done and stall. Yet I have been so productive in some ways. I've been doing things that are hard and scary for me. I've been keeping up with my heavy reading load, plus reading some extra. I've made two chokers and a pair of earrings, completed a very involved spiritual tool, worked on my forest crown, and completed an artwork for Kylei (a wall scroll with adjectives for the qualities I love most about Kylei). I just feel like I have no time for writing because I'm always either busy or brain-fried.

October 8:
Dreamed that I met and fell in love with a tall gangly black transwoman and woke up sad that they don't exist.

I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about this but I'm crushed about how incapable I am of making friends in-person. I don't know if I got worse or if I just never felt a desire to try before. I literally feel incapable. I sit there and try to push myself to talk to someone and nothing comes out. Yet I can make easy conversation with strangers whom I don't feel a desire to befriend. Maybe I'm just burnt from all my fails at making in-person friends. I don't really understand why it feels like such a giant need. I have Topaz and Kylei and Heather -- all local, meaningful, mature, nourishing connections. It's maybe not that I need more people but just that I need to be able to talk to people and I feel cut off when I can't. It's hard when I can't talk to people because they're full of terrible ideas but it's actually worse when they're not terrible and I just can't get my brain or mouth or anything to go. I really do have to make cards or else I don't think I will get past this.

How's this: "I'm terrible at initiation with interesting strangers but I would like to have a conversation if you wanna answer one of these questions [3 interesting questions] - or ask me anything!"
"I'm terribly awkward, hi! I would like to have a conversation...[same finish as previous]"

Godde I'm ridic.

It also hurts my feelings every single time that no one thinks I am interesting enough to initiate a conversation with me. They talk to each other so clearly some of them are curious enough about each other. What is wrong with me? Do I radiate some negative vibe or just seem unapproachable? I really wish I knew.

In better news, I did get the talk on spiritual appropriation done for Sex Down South and it inspired useful conversation though I don't think most people liked it. I think two or three people liked it, at least 3 disliked it, and the other 5 or 6 didn't say much. There was a white yoga teacher who spoke in a way I found confusing, so I'm not entirely sure what they were saying but as I was critiquing the whole idea of a white yoga teacher I can't imagine they liked it. I hope everyone at least went away considering how they consume if not how they practice. I'm gonna do some edits before TBC, definitely want to add more quotes and probably set up a slideshow to illustrate (which I will describe as each image comes up).

Also Topaz is going with me to TBC this year, which is exciting and hugely relieving. I have a project payment from work that should go to other things but it isn't, because skipping TBC is way worse than a broken fridge.

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abstract concepts: my definitions of patience, generosity, loyalty, and humility
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

willingness and ability to wait and/or meet people at their pace.

willingness to give what resources you don't need, with zero desire of reward.

willingness to work shit out if and only if the other party is also.

being willing to accept critique and re-examine one's own behavior/ideas.

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too many variations to out myself in a sentence / wordweaving & thought remodeling are central to me
icon: "queer (the Transcending Boundaries logo with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0" overlaid on it)"

I realized as I filled out the national trans survey that the reason why I don't explain my gender to people more often is that I have too many variations from the default that would need explaining, and I don't want to center gender in my identity. Also I don't really have a gender so much as a negation of gender, and few binary people can even grasp the outside edges of that.

But far more central to my identity is wordweaving and thought remodeling: ethical use of language and concepts. I don't use slurs and it hurts me to have them used by others. I avoid oppressive language and coercive language and seek to listen and balance voices. I self-educate constantly. I dismantle stereotypes and problematic expectations in my own mind. This doesn't 'count' as an identity but more than anything else it separates me from others.

more on this...Collapse )

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abstract concepts: my definitions of conflict and peace
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

opposition of goals or resistance due to the belief that goals are opposed.

lack of conflict. Good peace comes through aligned goals, bad peace comes through elimination of opposition.

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review-by-elements: Octavia Butler's "Imago"
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

"Imago" is a subset of sci-fi, "far-future humans on earth after alien contact." It follows a neuter-gender alien-human biracial person named Jodahs as they mature into an adult and navigate the difficulties of being the first of their kind. It includes themes of: primary motivation of sentient beings (suggesting the options of control/hierarchy versus consensus/learning), the value of fertility, and the importance of place. It complicates questions like what makes humans human? what is desire? What is sex? What is consent? What is a disease?

I most enjoyed the sex scenes, short though they were. They were of necessity not focused on genitalia, which is unusual and more creative than most depictions of sex. I also enjoyed the concept of an organ attuned to learning genetically, and feel disappointed that this was not explored more in-depth. I feel like there were many sensory aspects that were glossed over, but I quite enjoyed the small bit of exploration done of non-human sensory capacities. The need that the main character had for connecting to the environment is something I felt great resonance with.

Content note: possible triggers are the passive violation of boundaries (knowing that if something is left alone it will remove the possibility of choice for someone, but choosing not to inform them so that one can benefit from what they are forced into). [[[Spoilers this sentence: Jodahs allows their mates to become addicted to them without informing them.]]] It ruined some of the book for me.

Characters: The characters are all cis, all non-disabled, all straight. The main characters consist of: neuter-gender alien-human (Jodahs) who chooses to look 'male' and latinx, Jodahs' five parents (male alien, female alien, neuter alien, male brown human, female black human), Jodahs' twin (neuter-gender alien-human), Jodahs' human mates one male one female (both Spanish-speaking and brown), and a few side characters, all brown. The minor characters are interesting and unique. Other than Jodahs, there is little exposure of characters' feelings and motivations. There seems to be no prejudice except by some humans toward aliens, and by almost all characters toward the human-alien neuter-gender (though not toward the purely alien neuter-gender, such as Jodahs' agender parent). I felt that the story was very plot-driven, and not enough attention was paid to developing the characters. At only 220 pages I think it was simply too short and too thin, like a first draft.

Imagination: Concepts I hadn't seen before included a race which can perform genetic alterations with an organ in the body of the third (neuter) gender; organic spaceships/buildings which communicate with the alien race who designed them; sensory arms which function as sexual organs and have the ability to grow microscopic filaments which can reach into the flesh of other beings to inject substances or perform surgery or perform genetic alterations; sensory spots and sensory tentacles which allow for the sending and receiving of information and pleasure; reproduction by the conscious mixing of genetic material in the neuter-gender parent before incubation in the female parent; a race motivated by novelty/exploration on the micro level; desire for touch and sex controlled completely by pheromones.

Issues: Many of the interesting concepts just took too many assumptions. I felt this was extremely ciscentric and heterocentric, as the new family size was EXACTLY five, with two males and two females and one neuter. Trans people cannot exist in this world, intersex people cannot exist, polyamorous people cannot exist. The idea that after marriage, there is one hub who is the only way that any of the other four can touch ANYONE: this is horrifying but no one expressed horror. No one was horrified that they would cease to be able to be touched by anyone of the 'opposite' sex. It was assumed that all touch with the 'opposite' sex had to do with sex. I don't care how great being with one person is, I would not be willing to give up touch from half of the world. I really wanted to like this book, but it was so full of mental control and gender binary that I found it extremely frustrating.

Plot: the plot was quite well-paced and intriguing, though fairly simple as a coming-of-age story. It would have been easy to finish this in one sitting.

Setting: this is set on a future earth which has been ravaged by war and then healed for many years with assistance. Most people live in alien-human families in cities which are made from a single organism. Groups of humans called 'resisters' live in the wild and re-forested earth, some aliens live on spaceships, and Mars has been made into a colony for resisters to go live as exclusively human. Most of the book takes place in the re-born jungle.

Point of view: 1st person (Jodahs), but it doesn't feel intimate. Usually first person draws me in more to the character and helps me feel like I'm in the story, but I actually thought this was written in 3rd person until I double-checked. I feel like the book suffered from not being in 3rd person.

Dialogue: There's about the same amount of description as dialogue, making this a very easy read. The dialogue maybe passes the bechdel test- questionably, as the author writes Jodahs in a way that conforms to masculine stereotypes. Tone is hardly varied from person to person. I would say that the variety in speech patterns is less than average: notably too-similar, to the point that I have to double-check names to see who said what.

Writing style: Quite emotive, but spare. Many of the actions of characters are described with their emotions (which makes sense given that the main character is highly emotionally intuitive). It didn't create much of a visual but it created very clear moods in scenes with people.

Imago book cover Length, cover: 220 pages in paperback. The cover pictures a thin brown person with a narrow waist standing with back to the viewer, hair as tentacles, tentacles coming from elbows and fingers, lower half blue and scaly. They're topless, wearing a brown skirt, and a starry night sky is the background. Either the artist did not read what the main character was supposed to look like, or they created something they thought more likely to appeal to humans reading it (the sensory arms are supposed to come from underneath the strength arms, and should be much thicker). I think this speaks to Western white sensibilities, since multiple arms don't have a negative connotation in some Eastern cultures. The feel of it is extremely self-absorbed and passive, because the person is staring at their finger tentacles. It conforms to pose rules for female models, which is why it does not look neuter at all.

Author: Octavia Butler, feminist, black, age 42 at the time of writing this in 1989, dyslexic, cisgender, straight American woman. Butler wrote from the age of 10 (while growing up under Jim Crow), and this was approximately her 9th novel. In 1995, she was the first science-fiction writer to be awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Context of this reviewer: White, afab, genderfree, trans, queer, non-disabled, poly, add-pi neurodivergent, poor, intersectional feminist, age 32, from southern US.

on amazon: biracial agender alien coming of age. A great story but too spare, too short: needs more fleshing out.

My favorite author and biologist, Joan Slonczewski, wrote a review on this book and its two prequels (the last four paragraphs on the page cover this book).
connecting: , ,

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abstract concepts: my definitions of kindness and self-control
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

the unwillingness to deliberately cause harm, and the effort to avoid causing it accidentally.

ability to say no to one's impulsive desires in favor of long-term desires and to manage one's own emotions.

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overwhelmed exhausted / Topaz dealing w family / dear self, take down-time dammit! / links pls?
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

In case you couldn't tell from my sudden lack of presence here, I've been overwhelmed. I managed to post while visiting with my biofamily, which is a great accomplishment! but I never really got a rest, and I didn't get a chance to read my flist while I was there. It has been one thing after another. As soon as I got back, my car wouldn't start and my phone wasn't working and I was behind on bills so I was overwhelmed with money stress. At the same time, Topaz had two family members have serious health issues requiring hospitalization. Topaz was busy every day and on call when at home as both of their parents (who do all the caretaking in the family) were run ragged. So, I did my best to be supportive, but I didn't get the rest and healing time with Topaz that I was counting on after my family excursion.

We ended up having a fight near the end of the week, which only ever happens when we are both totally out of energy. Usually I can set aside any defensive or selfish reactions and empathize when Topaz tells me I upset them, but this time I didn't. I think I could have, but I was in the middle of the process when Topaz asked how I was feeling and the immature selfish part of me took that as an excuse to stop the process and talk about why I was feeling defensive instead of empathizing. And neither of us had the energy to do the self-calming necessary to pull it back to a calm discussion. We didn't do anything cruel like call names or attack character, but we had this whole unneccessary painful feedback loop where we both felt blamed and attacked. And really it was my fault, because I can look at the exact moment when I could have been more kind and I chose not to. I really hate that I reacted that way. And I know I wouldn't have if I had had more energy, because it's not what the majority of me would want to do, but getting defensive and focusing on my own feelings is SO much easier. We did get to a healing point and forgive each other, but I think we both felt upset at how much time was wasted on unneccessary pain.

Then Topaz went on their family vacation, and so I have been going back and forth from my house to theirs every day, taking care of my cat, the visiting cat, and Topaz' rat. I hadn't really seen Heather or Kylei for ages, so I made plans with them and spent time with Heather, Taz, and Hope on Saturday (at a book festival that was HUGE and full of people), then did Intimacy Practice with Heather and Anika on Sunday and met up with Kylei at a flow event (where people get together to hoop and spin fire and basically play with toys in a dancy way), spent time with a bunch of strangers, and spent the night with Kylei and hung out with them on Monday. Then Tuesday I got up early to go to the courthouse with Heather who accompanied me for moral support, picked up some paperwork, and then went to a thrift store that was having an outrageous sale and got some cool stuff for the free store I'm hosting next weekend.

Okay I'm feeling a little better about being so wiped out and drained, after I wrote all that out. I didn't realize I hadn't had a day free of intensity at all this week. It was too much. I must not plan anything else between now and Sunday, so that I can actually get the house in order (which I SOOO don't have the energy to do today).

I'm going to start back keeping up with LJ now, but please, if there is something that you wrote that 1) has great emotional significance to you, or 2) you think would be right up my alley, or 3) you want my input on, please do comment with links. I'm not going to be able to go back and catch up on everything.

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lonely in any crowd / spirit-to-spirit contact / conflict is a tool of intimacy
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

I feel like no one talks about the loneliness of rejecting oppression. It's like being a creature that looks like its surrounding creatures but isn't, while the surrounding creatures just don't have the ability to connect with you the way you need. How there's this missing piece in most interactions. Their words, their kindnesses, their touch, their thoughts, just don't reach.

I can never tell by looking. I can't tell by touching. I can't tell by smell or taste or sound. I have to investigate their mind, and it takes such work, and the longer I go the more it stings when suddenly I fall into a poisoned thornbush of defensive privilege and refusal to empathize or learn. It takes so very much risk for me to connect. There are so few people who are safe. There are some who are safer than others, because I know where the thornbushes are and there are few enough that I can avoid them. But it still takes work because conversation changes the landscape and I can't predict when a thornbush will show up. I can never relax.

I marvel and shake my head at people who don't have this experience. Getting to know people, for them, is just about shared hobbies and lack of deliberate attacks, plus good intentions. Those are so easy to find, comparatively. So EASY!

Most humans need skin-to-skin contact. If they lack it, they feel a thing called "skin hunger." I spent my minor years in such a state of skin hunger that I would feel rage when people touched me accidentally, because I blocked it out and the slightest touch would open it up, which HURT. I think there is a similar thing for spirit-to-spirit contact.

I need spirit-to-spirit contact. But I can't have it with most people because if I run into a thornbush in that state, it will shut me down. It's shocking and painful: a sudden dehumanization while being in the most vulnerable state. And so many people don't even know how to make that contact to begin with. So there's already almost no safe people. And then there's even fewer who know how to make this kind of contact; yet fewer who aren't in such a state of spirit hunger that they won't devour you accidentally.

Sometimes I find someone who I can tell could share this spirit-to-spirit contact with me, but they're surrounded by thornbushes. That's the worst, but it also crushes me when they're mostly free of thornbushes but the world sucks so much from them that they don't have the energy to connect. That happens almost every time, because people don't usually clear their thornbushes unless they have endured the trauma of oppression, and that trauma drains your energy.

(I feel like I just realized why mixed-status relationships are more common than I would expect- the effort it takes to call someone out (if they are empathetic and growth-focused) may be less than the effort it takes to support someone else through their oppression while daily dealing with your own. I've never been genuinely close to someone who didn't have at least two axis of oppression, but I can imagine it's a relief to rarely be called on to comfort your close ones' suffering.)

Every person with whom I have felt that 'click' that should allow for easier, deeper connection but did not because of  thornbushes or trauma or lack of energy or space or time -- every one of those people I feel a gap in my life. Even if I think they are full of awful hateful ideas, I can still feel what SHOULD be and I still crave it.

I'm so passionately dedicated to creating intimacy wherever I can because I feel the holes where it should be. I know that some people probably see me quite negatively for for my furious and often rude resistance of evil. But human intimacy cannot exist without conflict because humans vary and that causes conflict. And in a world full of oppression, there's a shitton of trauma connected to that variation, which makes conflict way more common and way more difficult.

I used to avoid conflict because I wanted to be seen as a loving person. I wanted to be seen as loving more than I wanted to change this hateful world to one where love could flourish. I have given up being seen as loving. People who understand intimacy will understand that I am loving and that is enough.

I need more connection. I need to not have to fight endlessly through barriers to feel connection. I need it to exist for me in more than just two or three people in my 32 years of life! This is part of the reason I work to do whatever I can to create justice. It is only in a more just world that I have any chance of having my needs met. I don't just crave a world that doesn't damage people. I crave a world where I can meet a person, feel a click with them, and explore that with joy, knowing that there will not be evil dysempathetic ideas lurking or so much trauma and energy-drain that I cannot connect with them.

I have not killed off my naive former self who literally wanted to be intimate with every human. I fight against those who attack intimacy with oppression and denial, so that maybe someday another spirit like mine will have more of a chance of doing what my child self wished. I fight for all those who suffer and I fight for that little part of me that can't help hoping. I won't ever stop. I will not avoid conflict. It is not only a necessary tool for creating intimacy, but perhaps the greatest one.

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abstract concepts: my definitions of art and craft
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

a unique (not mass-produced) creation made as an aware expression of self or observation of that which is outside oneself. Awareness is necessary for art to be good; regurgitating societal norms without change or critique is not art, it's propaganda.

a unique (not mass-produced) creation made to be used in some practical manner. Some crafts are art, some are not.

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review-by-elements: Kirsty Logan's "The Gracekeepers"
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

"The Grace Keepers" is "Scottish magical realism" according to the author. I would describe it as a subset of sci-fi, "humans on earth moved far into a dystopian future." It follows a carnival worker named North and a funeral director named Callanish as they cope with a world almost entirely covered in water. It includes themes of: evolutionary development; the interactions of environment and religion, especially in regards to scarcity; relationships between humans and animals; sex as currency; gender as performance.

I most enjoyed the multifaceted way the author approached the change of culture that would arise from such a shift in environment. The connectedness and yet cliquishness of the carnival workers, the worship of that which is scarce while degrading and avoiding that which is plentiful, the refusal to accept nature's offerings in favor of continuing the way things have always been -- these all rang true to human nature. I also enjoyed the weird mix of beauty and horror in the carnival and in grace-keeping.

Content note: possible triggers are the threat of rape (not carried out) in the minds of some characters. I was tense expecting it, but it did not happen. Also, abuse to animals happens throughout.

Characters: The characters are all cis, all white, nearly all non-disabled, nearly all straight. The main characters consist of: a ship-dwelling carnival woman (North), a land-dwelling funeral director woman (Callanish), a messenger man, an over-the-top jealous pregnant woman, a woman who has dementia, and two men (ringmaster and son) who see women as objects. The minor characters are interesting but not distinguishable from each other. The only characters who have depth are North, Callanish, and to some extent the messenger man. While class is certainly part of the story, it seems to exist externally to the characters, as none of them apply stereotypes individually. I felt that the story was very plot-driven, and not enough attention was paid to developing the characters. I did like that gender did not interfere with love, but I didn't feel that that was supported in the culture of the book. If it was taboo, the characters should have had turmoil or fear about it, and if it wasn't taboo, then the carnival wouldn't have used it as part of their show.

Imagination: Concepts I hadn't seen before included the performance of gender as a paid job (but I was disappointed that this was not developed to make sense within the world culture), and the use of ritual to limit mourning periods in a world that faces too much death. Many of the interesting concepts were just not well-developed enough for me, such as the clash between revivalist and pagan traditions. I felt the revivalists would surely create a myth of the waters receding if enough people 'came back to god.' I mean, they had a flood myth already, it seems really obvious. And I would think that the pagans would worship the sea as much as the land, and give extra honor to people born with traits that could enable them to live in water. I feel like not enough research on the source religions was done.

Plot: the plot was the best element of this novel. I was intensely curious as to why Callenish felt so guilty, and also as to how North would escape a fate that seemed to be closing in. I read the last 75% of it in one sitting.

Setting: this is set on a future earth which is almost entirely covered in water. Most people live on ships, and the primary class difference is between those who live on land and those who live at sea. Somehow, everyone is white.

Point of view: 3rd person, usually watching North or Callanish but occasionally other people.

Dialogue: There's significantly more description than dialogue. The dialogue passes the Bechdel test easily, and tone is varied from person to person. I would say that the variety in speech patterns is about average: neither notably too-similar nor notably unique.

Writing style: somehow both rich and spare. Rather than multiple lines of description, the author layers description into the action. I found it less evocative than some but very effective nonetheless. It gave less of a visual image but more of a sense of mood.

The Gracekeepers book cover Length, cover: 308 pages in hardcover. The cover pictures a thin white woman walking among birdcages that are floating in water with a foggy background: the image is mysterious and to me, implies endless repetition and a sense of hopelessness. I'd take from the image that the audience is meant to be people who like the surreal and thoughtful. The summary on the inside jacket sketches a quick image of the lives of the two main characters and describes the story as their quest to end their loneliness.

Author: Kirsty Logan, 29-year-old white (seemingly non-disabled & cisgender) queer Scottish woman. This is her first full-length novel. She describes herself as a professional daydreamer, studied creative writing at university, and works as a literary editor as well as writing.

Context of this reviewer: White, afab, genderfree, trans, queer, non-disabled, poly, add-pi neurodivergent, poor, intersectional feminist, age 32, from southern US.

I received a free copy of this book from BloggingForBooks in exchange for my unbiased review. Also posted on amazon: fascinating plot, great concept, underdeveloped world-building.
connecting: , ,

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abstract concepts: my definitions of confidence and conceit
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

Trusting oneself and being aware of one's own skills, while being able to easily handle being wrong. Not needing external validation nor the status of being right.

Lack of willingness to look at one's own undeveloped spots, assuming that one's own ideas & perceptions are the best without ever testing them.

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