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

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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biofamily visit: discussing add-pi, racism, sex, poly, cuddles / clash w Ace / sharing lovetech
Earlier this week I explained ADD-PI to V and M, and they seemed to take it seriously which was a relief. I told M that I had learned some of my coping skills from them and explained, and M seemed to listen and feel pleased and connected.

Several times this week I've had discussions w Ace and M about race and they just... go nowhere. Ace doesn't seem willing/able to understand that their experience is not automatically representative of all experiences. I have tried to explain in several different ways. Also M had negative experiences as a white child in 80% black schools immediately following integration (and white flight into pop-up private schools) and they don't seem to be able to understand the misdirected anger any more than Ace. The worst is that every time I reference a fact M is not aware of, they dismiss it with "I don't know about that" and act like I didn't even say it. They told me they enjoy these arguments and when I merely raised my eyebrows in response, they asked if I enjoyed them. I said I would enjoy them if I could assign homework. They laughed. Since they didn't shake their head or offer rebuttle, there's actually a chance that I could do that and I may try.

Yesterday was fairly uneventful. Pibling L, cousin E, Ace, gparent V, and I went out shopping. We went to some thrift stores (I found several work-appropriate overshirts, two soup mugs, and an Upwords board game that was only missing 2 letter tiles) and a rocks/minerals touristy store. P had offered to put $20 towards getting me a present, and so I was able to get some stones shaped like eggs (which I'm going to use as meditation tools, rolling them in my hands).

Later P, E, L, Ace, V, M, and I played truth-or-truth again, this time just using the question sheets as backup. It was a good time, and interesting to have the contrast. A lot of questions centered around memories, some of which weren't at all personal, but everyone was enjoying it so it worked okay. At one point M asked me a question from the question sheets - (what are my thoughts on the parts of a person) and I gave a long rambly answer but people liked it and M later referred to us having green hearts as I mentioned I saw several of us that way. After M and V went to bed the rest of us kept on, and we did a merry-go-round of asking each person to list two qualities that they share with each other person. Everyone really loved that, and it gave me an idea for a similar project.

When people say goodnight I offer them a hug before bed, and E and L liked this idea. L said they want to make the same habit.

Today I spent most of the day online, having a good but intense discussion with someone about energy work, and then a giant terrible discussion/argument on my wall about the definitions of trans/cis and identity. I cried a lot. I don't know if I was having an extra ADD day or what but I felt like I could not explain myself and after a certain point it was like I couldn't even understand the words in front of me.

During lunch/breakfast I suggested a project: we all write down 3 outstanding qualities for each other person. Everyone said it was a good idea but they didn't want to do it then, and they scattered like cats.
At one point just after lunch, Ace and E were making a smoothie and I asked if I could make suggestions. Ace said no, and it hurt my feelings because they had already been doing stuff without me all morning, and I said that it hurt my feelings because it felt like they didn't want me to talk to them. Then E immediately said I could give suggestions and that made me cry. P and E were nice to me and Ace was upset. I asked why and they said they only wanted to discuss it alone. So we went into the room we're sharing and they said that they felt like I was crying whenever I didn't get my way (manipulatively). I told them that it might not seem like it but this is taking a lot of effort from me and I only ever cry in front of people when I am so overwhelmed I can't control myself (also, this was only the second time I had cried in front of anyone). I talked about how I was feeling and Ace said they felt like I wasn't trying to connect with them, that I didn't like them any more. I told them that wasn't true, I was just having a harder time with them because they're guarded. We talked a bit more and hugged and went back to work on the smoothie.They were all at the pool or grocery store from after that until to dinner.

Then we all had dinner and afterward M went immediately to bed, with V following shortly. I felt very upset that they hadn't kept thier word, and more upset because E and L were talking about being tired and I'd had no time with them all day. But they said they wanted to stay up a bit, so I asked everyone to share the story of their best sexual experience. P and E were not comfortable with this, so I changed it to top 3 necessary elements for a good sexual experience, and they all answered. We went on to talk about sex, poly, bdsm, and cuddles. And I revealed yet another layer of difference in discussing my polyamory (which L really took in stride, so much so that I think they must know a poly person). We shared our favorite cuddles as I asked everyone what theirs was. When I asked for a volunteer to show my favorite cuddles with, L offered! I was surprised because I guess I see them as being reticent. Then they came over and just curled up on the floor next to me, adorably. I showed them my favorite way to hold someone and also the infinity cuddle. They were a little nervous but they really liked it at the same time. At the end of the time, I showed everyone how to do a spiral hug and they loved that.

Also the other day I taught everyone the -5 to +5 scale for making fairer decisions, and we've used it since then (but only at my prompting, so far). I hope my parents learn to do that because it's so much better than "I want this and you want that, I'm more powerful so we do my thing."

I really want someone to say to me "wow, you've really made this trip a time of deep connection, thanks!" but I doubt that will happen. I wonder if they can tell that this is different because of the things I'm bringing to it.

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Truth-or-Truth, intense discussions about race/class, coming out in stages
These past few days are a blur and I am baffled. Mostly in a good way.

Sunday we stayed in, mostly, and at the end of the evening we played Dixit and Truth-or-Truth For Newbies. Before I left Topaz printed my 188 questions out (by request) and I invented an easier way for people to play. On first play almost everyone finds it difficult to decide who to ask and difficult to come up with a question, so I randomized those choices. I also created a possibility for a point system because Topaz says it's not a real game without one, but everyone opted out of that so I'm gonna discard it I think. I think I might turn ToTfN into a physical game I can carry, by making the questions into color-coded cards and buying a dedicated set of dice and making number cards. But that's a load of work, so maybe not. Anyway, we played them and everyone really enjoyed both games. And, to my surprise, my gparent V and parent M both participated and gave it their best. V actually said today that playing the games was their favorite time so far this visit. I felt really pleased that it went over so well and I'm looking forward to playing again!

I looked up local Champion Trees and found a nature tour that showed off a bunch of old live oaks (my - AND cousin E's - favorite tree) and the state champion red cedar (among other things) and told everyone about it and asked if they wanted to go. They did, so we got up early on Monday to go. The tour was great except that it was scorching hot and the group kept scattering and we moved pretty fast around things, all of which kept me from being able to truly tune in. But we came by this one Loblolly pine that I just fell in love with and really want to go see again. I felt such a connection with it, but it was near the end and everyone was so tired and hot and hungry that I didn't want to hold them up, so I just marveled for a moment and took a quick photo for memory and that was it.

Then we went to a restaurant which was a mess of disorganization - M wanted Golden Corral, everyone else wanted mexican food, we were in two cars and got separated without a shared destination address and then there was a horrid speakerphone call where everyone was saying something different and finally E hung up and I just texted them telling them we decided on the simplest plan. Pibling L was super stressed out by this and so was Ace, which I found interesting and bizarre, as it annoyed me but didn't stress me out. I tried to ask why it was stressful and didn't get much of an answer but I think it has to do with wanting to make everyone happy? If it was my friends having a squabble and not talking out the plan in a kind and respectful manner I probably would have been bothered by it but I think i would have reacted the same way, by making the practical choice for myself and letting them deal or not as they would. I think I only care about making people happy while they are willing to try and help. If they're just going to dig in their heels and shout, I no longer care if I make them happy right now.

Later that day we were going to go to the beach but it started raining right as we headed there, and thundering meant no one else wanted to go. So we sat by the pool and watched the sky until it was no longer thundering, but then everyone just wanted to be at the pool. It was sprinkling lightly for a while and then there was a gorgeous double rainbow! Also E asked me about my ex-spouse and I told them that story, including the years I was working through childhood sexual abuse while my ex-spouse supported me. I also briefly explained poly. And we talked about E and their person, and churches. I told them about my experience with Liberty and how that informed my requirements for future choices. I talked about the Quaker meeting I like and they said they want to go with me sometime.

Later it was just me, P, E, and Ace after everyone went to bed, and we played two rounds of Blockus which was fun and I realized that E is a determined creature, because they were almost completely blocked off but they refused a free move and figured their way out. I would have been despairing of my choices in their position.

Today I woke up to the sounds of an argument about immigration. I hoped it was over before I came out but it was not, so I waded in by explaining the extreme poverty associated with being undocumented and how creating monetary requirements for citizenship (including in the form of fines plus amnesty) is never a solution. Then I mentioned widespread poverty in the US and exploitation of the poor and Ace went off about welfare 'abuses' (from buying alcohol or a car to shopping at a gas station) and I just couldn't get them to understand that them seeing it 20 times or even 100 times doesn't make it true of the average peraon on welfare. M was certain that welfare makes people lazy and I refuted that with the Mincome experiment and various other countries very successful systems with social safety nets. M then refused to believe in the existence of these things and demanded that I show sources. I told them no, you don't get to put more stringent requirements on my arguments than on your own, and you have shown no sources for your statements. That was the end of it because other people got impatient with the conversation.

Later we went to the beach, which was fun but not really worth it to me - I guess I got spoiled by the trip with Topaz to that pristine bay beach last year. This water felt like human soup - it was still fun to be in the waves but it wasn't a serene experience where I could connect with nature. It felt polluted and overwhelmed, and it was so salty that it stung my eyes from the barest of splashes. But I think that was also the time of day, and I want to try going again around 7p to get softer light and fewer people. I got to share my boogie board and goggles with people, which made me super happy.

After two hours we came back and went to the pool. Ace and E and I hung out for a while talking about sexuality and racism, and E's stories of their person getting stopped for driving while black and then E getting thrown to the ground for videoing it made way more of an impact on Ace than anything I ever said. So I felt like a failure, and also vindicated and also like I need to memorize some stories because damn, don't nobody take macro-level facts seriously.

I asked E what they wanted to get out of the trip and they said they wanted to build relationships that would be more than talking while on vacation. I asked Ace and they said they wanted to be able to relax and build up some strength and confidence. Then E asked me and I said that I wanted to feel able to be myself. L joined us somewhere during this and asked if I felt I hadn't been myself. I said no, I hadn't, because I didn't correct people and people assumed things about me that weren't true of me. I used the example of someone asking me if I have a boyfriend - if I just say no, I'm not being myself because that assumption left unchallenged makes it seem like I'm straight. They seemed to understand that and feel sad for me that I had not felt able to be myself. I mentioned that getting to know Topaz' family made me realize that maybe my family could handle the real me and I should give them a chance to. Somewhere in this conversation I talked about being trans and (in response to E's question) mentioned that I want to change my voice and facial hair.

E asked me how I first knew I was trans, and I told the story in a better way than I had last time someone asked me that, explaining that I felt pieces of it for a long time but it wasn't until I had a mild breakdown that I realized that it wasn't just a set of feelings, but part of my identity. L had a hard time understanding what exactly I meant by genderfree/agender, partly because they hang out with mainstream gay people who are all binary. They couldn't imagine sex outside the hetero script (since even their gay friends use it) or relationships outside of gender and I had no idea how to explain. It's hard to explain because there are no cultural references to non-binary people. How do you even explain an absence of something? My identity with gender is actually not a presence of something but the absence of it. If I were bigender it would be easier to explain, I feel, and easier to accept. I got lost and felt blathery. E took it in and without missing a damn beat started using gender-neutral pronouns. Holy fuckin shit y'all, I hadn't even asked for them. I was so impressed.

L and E exclaimed when I mentioned that being 'ladies'd bothered me and I hastily assured them that I wasn't upset by them and that I hadn't mentioned it because I figured one step at a time, that I know it's tough to absorb. E was appreciative of that and I think L was relieved. I also said that it's okay to call me stuff like 'girl' if you do that with literally all kinds of people.

Later I ended up in a conversation with M and P about homelessness, veterans, and the intimacy of facing death and trauma together. It was fairly on-topic and not too horribly full of wrongness (M made one comment about personal choice to which I said "I'm not going to talk about that"), and it lead to a moment of what felt like real vunerability from M. I was saying that lots of the people who go to war have no experience with real emotional intimacy, and then they go into an intensely intimate experience with others where they share responsibility for each others' lives as well as living space and work - coming back, part of the trauma is loss of that intimacy with no tools available to them to get it back. Nobody teaches intimacy in a meaningful way except in therapy and even then it's iffy, and men especially are taught by society to avoid intimacy with each other, so not even the people who were there with you and came back are available to you when you get back. I said that this was just my guess, and asked for M's thoughts on it. They said it was true, and mentioned their own loss. Something interrupted, and they said that they needed to go lay down and walked into the other room. They did this same abrupt ending last night so I didn't think anything of it at the time but now I'm a little worried I may have stepped on a very sore place.

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Visiting parents, sibling, pibling, cousin, gparent: communication, priorities, name

This week I'm visiting my biofamily: parents M and P, sibling Ace, grandparent V, pibling (parents' sibling) L and cousin E. I don't have a laptop with me so I probably won't be able to read anything until September 2nd-ish, but I'm going to try to keep up with posting anyway.

Yesterday was the drive to meet my parents. Topaz brought me to my pibling's house and took me and Ace to coffee while we waited for everyone else to get ready. Parting with Topaz was difficult because we're both going to miss each other a lot, not least because we cuddle a LOT and they don't really cuddle with others and I am really particular about how I'm touched so negotiating cuddles with biofamily seems stressful and I fear I will just avoid touch (though, good job me, I asked for hugs this morning and got them). Wow run-on.

Before we left I was trying to convince Ace to consolidate their stuff into one bag to make space, and they got frustrated and told me that they were upset that I was bossing them around. I took that in and it took me like 30 seconds to respond, apologizing for being domineering. Usually when I see that my behavior is not ethical I immediately apologize without effort, but for some reason I had to really push myself to do it this time. I found that really weird. I know my biofamily tends to see that as 'losing' so maybe that made it harder. But once I did, Ace forgave me right away and it was done (and they were fine with consolidating stuff).

It took us forever to make the drive because we had to stop for a lot of different things. What we expected to take 4 hours took 8 and by the end my legs ached from being cramped up. But we had some good conversations while we were on the ride, about how to have a good partnership and lots of bits and pieces about memories.

I realized I get defensive when asked if I am hungry around my family, because I expect that they are asking because they think I eat a lot, as a fat person. (Actually part of the reason that I am fat is that I don't eat often enough and my body tries to store everything) But I think maybe they might be asking me for permission to eat. Especially my gparent, who is tinier than most 12 year olds and probably has the metabolism of a hummingbird. So I need to try to practice eating small snacks while I'm here, since I don't have to worry about running out of food.

Later P gave Ace a Canon DSLR. Ace was incredibly excited and I felt happy for them but at the same time I felt broken-hearted because it reminded me of being a kid, asking for a particular present, and being given a knock-off that did not even serve the same purpose, while my siblings got things that were more expensive and exactly what they asked for. I didn't handle it well, partly because I was already exhausted, and I went into my bedroom and cried. Ace came in and asked what was wrong and I explained, with a deliberate effort to be open. Then P came in and asked what was wrong and I explained that and that it reminded me of never being asked about my life as a child. P doesn't have the same memory, and I'm questioning my perceptions because I just don't remember shit. P told me that I won a science award for highest grade in my honors physics class which blew my mind.  Like, the way they told the story it sounded exactly like me (I didn't care about the award but wanted to win) and felt true, but I have literally no memory of it. I want to know who it was I was so invested in beating.

I also talked about how M spends money on stuff that isn't necessary while knowing that I am suffering and barely getting by. M just bought a new car, while telling me that they don't have the money to help me with stuff I need. If they're going to put their wants above my needs, they could at least do that across the board and not be more generous to my siblings than to me. I found out that I  get half of what my siblings do at christmas (each) and I just don't ask about birthdays. Mostly I put this stuff out of my mind. But when I can't, it really hurts. And it's why it is so fucking hard to even ask for the respect of being called by my name much less pronouns. If I ask and they refuse, they're not just being inconsiderate like now, they're telling me I don't matter every time they talk to or about me.

P was really defensive and I wish I knew if I  was wrong. I can't trust their perceptions any more than I can trust mine, because they cannot handle making mistakes and they do not admit when they did something they're ashamed of, or failed to do something they feel they should have. Somehow the conversation turned, I stopped crying, and P left the room (in a neutral way). Shortly after, L and E came in and asked me what was wrong, then P came in. I pushed myself and told them, as briefly as I could with as little blame to P as I could. I didn't want P to feel bad about giving Ace a camera because I am genuinely happy that they made such a huge sacrifice for Ace. (P is poor - they make minimum wage and M doesn't share their giant salary) I also wanted to be frank about my sadness and I think I did okay because P didn't get angry with me. E said they could feel my sadness from the other room and we made eye contact and I felt their sincerity and L gave me pats and empathy. I felt like they all (Ace, P, E, L) cared about my feelings and that was a new experience with my biofamily (except for Ace).

Later P said that they were going to get me a camera too, when they could, and I said that I appreciate the thought but before making such a huge purchase, talk with me because if I can't fix the bug that is breaking my renders, then tools for that would be a much better gift to me than a DSLR. I have wanted one for a long time, but I can take photos that I am proud of on my little camera, and not being able to render my fractals is eating my soul. I want to be seen as a photographer, but I am at least as much a fractal artist as photographer, and I feel like my fractal art gives more to the world. There are many people who can take good photos of nature but not many who can make fractals and almost none who make them in my style.

When everyone went to bed I started reading a book I got as a review copy from BloggingForBooks, and I couldn't put it down until I finished. Partly because I desperately needed brain rest, partly because I missed my second ADD-PI meds and therefore had less control over my focus, and partly because it was a really good read. I'm gonna try to do a review for it soon. But I didn't go to sleep until like 5am and slept badly because the bed was awful and then people started being loud at like 11am. E and L came in and tickled my arms and I grumbled at them. Ace came in and rubbed my feet which was a pretty great way to wake up, after they gentled up (I have extremely sensitive feet).  I got up and ready, slowly and tiredly.

I'm nervous about going swimming because walking around in a wet bathing suit gives me thigh chafing most of the time, and I super don't wanna deal with that. But I do really wanna go be in the ocean! So I'm gonna try it and hope for the best.

Ace uses my real name most of the time and E and L are trying. But that's because they asked me if I wanted them to call me by my chosen name and I said yes. I still haven't confronted anyone about my name. Yesterday I had a strange moment when Ace was introducing me to their girlfriend on skype and the girlfriend called me by my name and P said something like "they got your name right!" which felt really confusing because P usually gets it wrong. Maybe they aren't aware when they deadname me. M hasn't ever tried. Last time I talked to M about it was years ago and they didn't listen to me at all. I dunno how they'll react now but if the rest of the family is doing it they are more likely to be respectful.

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

valuing others' needs as much as (NOT MORE THAN) one's own.

valuing benefit (especially luxury benefits) to oneself over harm (by neglect or direct damage) to others.

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

being fully and passionately engaged in an experience or story, and expressing this in multiple ways (body, words, tone, actions, etc).

being disconnected from empathy and/or one's own emotion.

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review-by-elements: Sheri S. Tepper's "Shadow's End"
I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5: definitely worth reading at least once. [my rating system](1 star: worse than staring at a blank wall, possibly actively damaging to read. 2 stars: a waste of time, okay if you have lots of time to spare. 3 stars: worth reading at least once; you could borrow it from the library and be okay giving it back. 4 stars: worth reading at least twice; you should buy it if you can because you won't want to give it back. 5 stars: worth reading over and over because there is always something new to ponder or realize.)

"Shadow's End" inhabits a subset of sci-fi I'd sum up as "future humans interacting with alien species on non-earth planets." Three women from different cultures/classes are unwillingly pulled into a quest to learn how to stop an unexplained extermination of humans. It includes themes of: ecological responsibility; justice (especially sex-related); definitions of sentience, intelligence, and personhood; what it means to be noticed/visible; definition of deity; habits and uses of religion.

I was fascinated by the culture of Dinadh (the world where most of the story takes place) as it was slowly revealed and by the various unique creatures. I love the commentary on religion especially in its use of beauty and mortality as motivation, and the sense of connection between the narrator and the main character. I was left wanting to know more, while feeling satisfied with what I read.

Content note: TW for a ritualistic rape while restrained: it is not described directly but it is clear that it happens. Also possibly triggering is the method of indentured servitude, which is controlled through technology that does not allow resistance.

Characters: The characters are all cis, nearly all white, nearly all non-disabled, nearly all straight, nearly all upper-class. The main characters consist of: a brown highly-educated woman, two empath-race men, a king, an assassin who exemplifies patriarchy, an under-class woman in tech-enforced indentured servitude, an uneducated lesbian agrarian woman, a fat woman whose fat is constantly referred to in extravagant language, and a child who is considered 'non-human' because they do not speak, have sensory issues, and do not abide by societal norms. Out of the non-defaults, I think that the writing shows understanding of the under-class woman and the lesbian, but I am not so sure about the fat woman and cognitively disabled child. The fat woman is shown as a multifaceted person with skills that are valued, which I appreciate, but none of the other characters have traits which are referred to so constantly, so it feels objectifying. Still better than all the characters being the same shape. The cognitively disabled child is alternately presented as a burden that is undeserving of life or as a magical symbol, both of which are ableist tropes. I'm not sure how to take the wrap-up of the child's story, but most of the book does not treat the child respectfully.
I also felt queer-baited by [possible spoilers this paragraph]

< -- possible spoilers -- > the way that the main character spoke about two others. I thought they were implying an eventual poly lesbian triad, which did not happen. Also, the lesbian character did not get much time with their partner, so while it was great that they weren't all straight, most of the love and relationship in this book was straight. < -- end spoilers -- >

Imagination: As usual Tepper is vividly imaginative in creating creatures and cultures. Unfortunately to describe them is to spoiler you, as they are slowly revealed and explained. The use of taste as a sense is used in this book in a way I have never experienced and quite appreciated. The combined horror and mystery of "the beautiful people" is fascinating, more so as you come to understand them better. The main cultures, Dinadh and Firster, were easy to understand in the context of their history while still being unique. The main characters both critique and defend their cultures, sometimes within the same person. The poverty of the mostly-barren planet was shown in cultural habits and a seemingly simple agrarian society was revealed to have quite a number of layers.

pacing, plot, setting, POV, dialogue, writing style, length, cover, author info, reviewer contextCollapse )
connecting: ,

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bits from lately: Topaz' stress, friendship w Allison, healing reconnecting w Topaz, Topaz' family
icon: "summer in Georgia (photo of a line of trees curving along the highway, with the sun shining through)"

July 29: I've been keeping up with daily posting which is a BIG deal for me. And while I'm still very stressed, I have realized that a lot of my ambient stress is worry about Topaz, who has endured more crises in a quarter century than most people live through in 50 years, and a lot of it has been in the past year. Since realizing that I've started trying to be more careful about how "fixit" I get. Apparently I'm not actually any better at taking on responsibility for other people's happiness, I've just figured out some workarounds (like a minimum amount of alone time) and I lucked into a relationship with someone who actively desires for me to NOT take on their suffering. I'm feeling a little annoyed at myself for not having gotten better at resisting the urge to throw my entire self into caretaking for the entire time the person is in crisis, but at least I have workarounds. I need to keep this in mind and stay firm about my alone time and at-home time. I keep feeling guilty about not helping more and I'm not really sure what to do with that except try to ignore it.

Had a great conversation with Allison last week and I feel like our friendship is becoming solid. I have felt increasing closeness for a while but always felt like it was tentative and might disappear. I guess I wasn't sure if they were invested enough to maintain indefinitely, and I have old habits (from high school! Allison has known me the longest) that kept me from even thinking of asking about their intentions, like I would with people I'd met in the last decade. But yeah, thinking about it now I feel like we've moved to a new level. And they said that their person genuinely likes my tribe, which is awesome for lots of reasons. They'd said something like it before but I didn't take it seriously, I guess because I felt worried they were just trying to be nice. But when Allison explained the specific things they like, I could tell it was sincere and that made me feel really happy.

Aug 10: So disappointed that I broke my daily writing streak! I was so pleased with myself :-<

This weekend Topaz and I were supposed to go visit Kat and one of Topaz' friends but the money escaped us (well, escaped Topaz, and I don't have transportation that can handle more than a 2-hour trip nor would I have the money for gas - I was pretty much along for the ride). But it was good to have some days off for Topaz, as their job is frankly abusive. And it was happy for me to have some time with them where they were neither exhausted nor heavy with dread about going back. We didn't do a whole lot, overall, because it was mostly recovery time. But we had a lot of really good talks about stuff OTHER than stresses, which had gotten pretty rare lately because it takes a certain level of energy to have those talks.

We spent an evening with their family, where I was much more relaxed than usual because there were fewer people and none of them that would be bothered by me wearing something comfortable (which with my body, means that my boobs are going to be pretty noticeable). I think that was the first time I was around Topaz' mom where they seemed to genuinely relax around me. We all played a game that's like a spectrum from taboo to charades, and I enjoyed it -- the only games I like are ones where people are being expressive or are practicing reading each other in some way.

Yesterday Topaz and I went to a coffeeshop on a river and spent a few hours there. I hadn't realized how long it had been since we did something so relaxed (even when we have gone to nature it has been with a time limit that made it a little stressful). This felt really nourishing and I could feel their happiness and contentment at putting their feet in the river, which I'm just now realizing is the first time in months I've felt that coming from them, the poor creature. I had planned to meet someone else there earlier but they had to reschedule, so I asked Topaz if they would go with me, and I am so glad I did. It feels like a very serendipitous plan change, because setting that up and it getting changed at the last minute is the only way we would have ended up doing that.

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a positive moment in dealing with the symptoms of rape culture
icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

So yesterday someone posted an image on a friend's fb status that was a two-panel photo, as a joke. [TW implied rape]
---- TW: implied rape ----
The first panel was a photo of what looked like a person sexually penetrating another person who is looking at the camera with a blank expression. The second panel zooms in on that face and adds the caption, "you said netflix and chill." I commented that this was gross, and later went back to add an explanation, that the text turns the image into a story of violated consent.
---- end TW ----

I asked why they would post such a thing. They responded and said that they weren't trying to be an asshole but they were sorry that they ended up being, and deleted the original comment. I had composed a response and when I went to post it it didn't go because the thread was deleted, so I sent it to them in a message.
About the photo on [my friend]'s thread- I appreciate you responding seriously. Rape jokes are harmful in that they invalidate the experience of victims and they make perpetrators feel at home. People often react very defensively when it gets pointed out, because they almost never intend to do that, but it has that effect anyway. Thanks for your willingness to listen.

It's ok. I appreciate your saying something so that I could remove it and not bother anyone. Honestly I try not to take anything too seriously so I often find humor in things where there shouldn't really be any in actuality. Coping mechanisms, laughter is the best medicine, etc. I meant no harm and don't wish to hurt anyone, not for a laugh or any other reason.

I get that and I think it's fine with a chosen group of people that know your real attitudes about consent and people who you know won't be triggered, but in public there is almost always a victim or perpetrator around because it just happens so often. Anyway, thanks again for the compassionate response.

My pleasure. I am definitely all for enthusiastic consent. And I prefer DVD rentals to netflix [winky face]

I was all geared up for a long and fruitless discussion (mostly because it was on the status of a friend who I know is sometimes triggered by rape jokes, and they told me they felt lost on how to deal with it), and instead it was easy and effective! at least in the moment. It's such a relief to find someone reacting by caring more about avoiding causing harm than about defending their intentions.

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Open letter to self-proclaimed reasonable white dudes
icon: "strong (a photo of me in warm light with my hair down around my face, staring intensely into the camera in a defiant mood)"

Dear 'intellectually-minded' white men who just want to have a 'reasonable conversation':

You start out by asking me a question after I have pointed out something problematic. Even though I know that it's rare that people in general are willing to learn from a stranger, and that as a white dude you're far less likely than average to be willing to learn, I give you the benefit of the doubt. Just in case you're sincere (and for the sake of non-responsive readers who might actually seek knowledge), I offer you a starting point for you to self-educate. This is partly because it would take a minimum of several verbal hours or 20 written pages to explain even the basics, and partly to test your willingness to learn. You respond by explaining why that starting point is wrong (after a max of 20 minutes of web searching). You think this is a conversation between equals.

I know it's really fun for you to have a theoretical discussion where you get to feel all 'edgy' with your advocating for the devil. You feel mentally stimulated and awake for the first time in who-knows-how-long. It's a startling novelty to you for someone to bluntly disagree and it's refreshing to go down new neural pathways. You're excited to find yourself on a new intellectual jungle gym. Also, you feel really sure you can win because you think clever conversation is about playing tricks and laying traps and you think there is no objective answer, so you can claim to win no matter what. In fact, your rule for winning is "get the last word."

But then I don't want to play, and at first you just don't take my no seriously. Then, when you realize I mean it, you're deeply offended. You just offered me the greatest gift of all - your attention - and you expected me to respond with eager attempts to persuade you to join my side. You really feel I owe you my attention because you gave me yours. You handed me a one-in-a-million chance to affect your thinking and I just threw that treasure in the trash! You feel insulted that I didn't cradle and nurture that rare chance - after all, you rarely give it to someone who isn't of your class. It's like your opinion doesn't even matter! On top of all that offense, you feel cheated out of your fun, and worst of all there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Not that that stops you.

I tell you I don't want to talk to you, and like a bad telemarketer you respond by pulling out all the stops to try and force me to talk to you. You trot out a few carefully-aimed insults and explain to me all the wonders I'm missing out on by not talking to you more. You're super reasonable and if only I had tried a little harder you probably would have given me that carrot. Instead, my obstinence has removed the chance of you giving a shit about justice. I've ruined everything by not convincing you, the bastion of reason and kindness, that there is a problem you should notice and act on. Too bad for all those people suffering injustice (who were nonexistent before I stopped bothering with you).

Too bad for you, I've heard every single bit of this bullshit already.

I don't care about winning and I genuinely don't care what motive you ascribe to my disengagement. I know you will refuse to believe that it's because your ignorant regurgitation of societal norms bores me and talking to you wastes my time and effort. You, boring? Inconceivable! Literally! You can't imagine it! Instead, you decide (and you let me know) that I just don't care enough about my causes, because if I did I would put in the work to win you over (and you pretend that's a possibility; you may even fool yourself). Your ideas are unique and vital and of course I've never been in this situation before. Or perhaps you decide that I don't know enough to argue, that if I did I wouldn't be able to resist laying it all out to win. Maybe you decide I'm lazy, or that I was lying.

Guess what? I don't give a shit, because I know the difference between an argument and a conversation. I will not argue, especially with someone whose ratio of knowledge to me is kindergartner to PhD. You cannot contribute anything meaningful with such a knowledge imbalance, any more than a U.S. kindergartener could tell a Swedish history professor about the various aspects of Swedish government over time. When you act like your ideas have relevance it's just annoying. I know that if I try to explain that your ignorance makes your opinion useless, you will get excited by further argument without even considering the possibility that you might actually be ignorant.

I know damn well what an actually reasonable person does when they learn of an injustice they were previously unaware of. They do not try to 'disprove' it: that is not a reasonable reaction to learning something new. They self-educate. If it sounds ridiculous to them, they look up what experts on the subject who agree with this position say*. A reasonable person knows they cannot learn about a topic by looking up things that contradict it. If it is a faulty position, you can discover that by the lack of evidence (if you know enough about the subject to create a decent search). If it's true, you won't find that out by searching for how to argue against it.

When you reacted to my initial offer of resources with "those aren't legit because..." I knew that you weren't speaking from years of study. I knew you weren't actually interested in learning. You're just trying to win. You want to play with other people's lives like game pieces and wax on about your ludicrously fact-less theories instead of discussing practical methods of righting injustice. I will not give you pleasure at my expense.

[an example of reasonable effort to understand]* For example, when someone told me that men are oppressed by women, I responded by looking up articles in support of such a theory, even though as an expert on the subject I could safely assume that they were simply wrong. Their legitimate examples of oppression were misattributed to women when in reality they were caused by sexism and racism (unable to dress how they want, getting imprisoned more often, etc.) Most of their examples were illegitimate because they were factually wrong. For instance, white men tend to get custody when they ever make an effort and the apparent disparity in custody disputes is primarily due to lack of desire. There was nothing I hadn't heard before, and the whole concept displayed a ludicrous lack of understanding as to how oppression works. If I hadn't already known the statistics involved I would have needed to look them up. If I hadn't already done many hours of study on how oppression works, I would need to have done that in order to tell that what they were calling 'oppression by women' was not.

See also: The White Folks Who Need “Proof of Racism”: "The whole point of them asking me to convince them is so that could pretend and tout that they made a good-faith effort all while hiding the fact that the goal was always to never be convinced."

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

willingness to deliberately step out of one's own comfort zone.

the memory of pain (from one's own experience or shared memory) sparking the desire to avoid something.

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188 intimate, intense questions & prompts to get to know friends & lovers (or yourself!)
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

I've been compiling questions for truth-or-truth as well as to re-do my own get-to-know-you survey, and I want to share. Please feel free to take these questions and ask people, or use them as writing prompts, or whatever. I think I will come back and edit whenever I come up with something good to add! Feel free to add any questions you like to ask people in order to get to know them.

The levels are based mostly on how much I think you could learn about a person by asking them, but it is biased toward questions I have particular interest in (like the one about critical analysis).

level 8 - most revealing questionsCollapse )

level 7Collapse )

level 6Collapse )

level 5Collapse )

level 4Collapse )

level 3Collapse )

level 2Collapse )

level 1 - least personalCollapse )

Most of these I made up (the top two levels are all me). 10 of them I took or edited from the "36 questions" which frankly are mostly mediocre. How are you supposed to answer what role love and affection have in your life? that is way too vague to make a meaningful answer. I dunno if I complained about this before but that article -- and the fact that a billion people I know shared it -- is something I find irritating, because I've been saying the same thing, written way better and more in-depth and effective, for years. But people don't care because I don't have a doctorate and I'm not a default. Also got a few level 1 or 2s from hellogiggles & maybe 10 from the weirdly nested saviodsilva site, and two or three from Relationship Dialog Questions (that one has good questions but they're aimed at relationships not people). I got about 25 of the lower-level questions from collegeessayguy. And then there are some from questions that have been asked of me or around me by volamonster , darkestgarden , hardigrin and call_me_katya .

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

The willingness to spend effort in order to help the self and/or someone else grow and/or be nourished.

The yearning to consume or be enveloped in someone/something's presence or essence.

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wonder at nature is rare because it takes vulnerability
icon: "plant magic (a photo of pink tree buds with a forest in the background, taken early spring)"

A deep feeling of wonder at nature is not common and not something many people want to enter into on purpose (though they might if they are high on romance or drugs or something). It takes a level of willingness to be vulnerable, because wonder is associated with children and those deemed 'mentally deficient.' Most people just don't believe that a rock is or should ever be an emotionally-relevant object in its own right, and out of those who do believe, they're usually not willing to explore that. Most of the photos you see of people at places like the grand canyon are not of people feeling awe. They aren't really even noticing. They're just like "I'm in a place that has high status! look at me!" or maybe "this makes a great backdrop for my hike" or even "this is aesthetically appealing." But actually being emotionally moved? it's rare, and for me it is incredibly important.

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depression is not a cramp, it's a broken bone: a 'mild' situation has intense effects when depressed
icon: "hissing (a photo of a snow leopard hissing with mouth open, whiskers back and ears flattened)"

I don't have chronic depression, but I have spent enough years of my life depressed to know about various effects. One of them is that seemingly 'little' things become huge and horrendous. Someone says something and (probably accidentally) implies something negative about you, and it hurts incredibly deeply. People will then respond with "oh it's not that big a deal" or "don't let it bother you" which is fucking ridiculous. It's not just perception; when you are already injured, small further injuries will have greater impact than they would if you were fine!

It's like depression is having a hand with broken bones in it, when the worst hand damage most people have experienced is a paper cut. And someone is like "why can't you high-five me, it's not that hard!" and sure, it's not much effort to lift your arm and aim your hand at the other person's hand. But you KNOW that it is going to hurt, it is going to cause you damage, and so you say "I just can't do high fives right now." And they get miffed that you're not willing to suffer a little to bring them some joy, because they high-fived you when they had a paper cut. Or someone shakes your hand and you cry out, and people are like "psh, that doesn't hurt, I do it all the time!" Or they tell you "oh it's probably just a hand cramp, I had one before and just needed to massage it out" and they grab your broken hand and start rubbing it! It sounds really obvious in metaphor but people really will try to apply their own diagnoses and then give you their 'cure' when it is absolutely going to make everything far worse.

Depression doesn't just sit in one spot, like disappointment or sadness, because it is not a fucking emotion. It is an illness, and it gets in every single part of your being. It's not something you can compartmentalize. It's not something you can ignore. It's something that has to be managed, and anyone who has been depressed for a length of time is far more of an expert on how to manage it than you are, if you haven't lived it.

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4 elements needed for me to feel sexual attraction: consent, bodily respect, awareness, generosity
icon: "brewing (a photo of a ceramic mug with sticks of cinnamon poking out and steam rising up)"

As a demisexual, I need to feel some kind of emotional connection with the person for there to even be a chance of sexual attraction. Often this is a connection on the spirit, soul, or heart level, but sometimes it's purely a mental connection in that we have shared a lot of intimacy in our conversations. Once I have this, the following four elements together may create sexual desire (in order of importance, not chronology).

The number one thing that determines my sexual desire is consent, both ways. To desire someone I need them to tell me that they want sex with me. No, I don't mean say flirty things or act attracted, I mean actually flat-out say "I want to have sex with you" or say an unequivocal "yes" if I ask if they want to. I'm pretty sure I won't ever feel sexual desire for anyone who doesn't feel it for me. I might have in high school (before I ever had sex), but not since I became sexually active. I also need them to be fully invested in my consent, not just asking but also showing awareness of my reactions and adjusting accordingly.

Next in importance is bodily respect: them not having terrible ideas about bodies, sex, or gender. No assigning stereotyped personality traits to body parts including genitals. No assigning body types/parts as attractive or unattractive (this is gross no matter what shape you decide is best). No ideas about more or less legitimate kinds of bodies. No believing in rules for genders. Never imposing gender on me. Not interpreting my fat as a cause or effect of my personality. Basically, not being sexist, cissexist, or looksist.

Next is awareness; self-awareness, awareness of me, ability and desire to maintain this awareness and express it throughout. To feel sexual desire for someone I need to be able to sense them letting my touch reach them emotionally. (otherwise I will feel unappreciated and/or worried that they don't really want it) I need a balance of reactive and attentive. I do not want someone who always turns into pure reaction (sometimes I might want to provide that space but not often, as it's exhausting!), but I also don't want someone who isn't reactive. I want a person who can stay mentally, spiritually, and emotionally present while feeling intensely. Someone who will still notice if I seem 'done' even if they are in the throes of sexual ecstasy. Someone who can make eye contact with me or grip my hand during sex and I can feel the 'click' of that connection.

Last is generosity (desire to give). If you could be happy only receiving every time we have sex (while knowing that I love being touched) or if you never offer anything and only give when asked, I'm not interested. I know some people are scared of not being perfect and that's why they don't want to give, and I can empathize with that, but it is not a turn-on. People who have no desire to give sexually would not be people I'd be sexually compatible with. People also need to not be so full of need that they subconsciously pull at me. That one I can't really explain, it's just a thing I feel. I don't think I can feel desire for anyone who is looking for salvation outside themselves.

If these are all met, I can have satisfying sex with a person. But each of these four elements is fucking rare. Especially awareness. So many people check out when they have sex and go to a purely physical place or have sex as a mental escape. I just don't find that remotely appealing.

Usually for it to go from "I can feel sexual desire" to "I actually want this enough to deal with the hassle of the STD/trigger/expectations conversation and the potential concerns of my current partner(s), therefore I will flip my internal switch and become sexually attracted to them" I have to be in love with the person. I don't find sex more nourishing than cuddles or conversation, so it's not worth the bother unless I am in love and therefore want to experience all possible connecting activities and want to bring them joy in any way available to me.

In a world without oppression where people valued awareness and giving, there would be many opportunities for me to want sex with people. as it is I am unlikely to want new sex partners very oftenCollapse )

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allosexual, asexual, demisexual, grey-asexual definitions & explanations & poll
icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

A person who experiences sexual attraction in a way that matches the norm is called allosexual.
A person who never experiences sexual attraction is called asexual.
A person who experiences sexual attraction only in the context of an emotional connection is called demisexual.
A person for whom none of that is true (perhaps they experience sexual attraction very rarely, or in cycles, or only in certain situations) is called grey-asexual.

Another way the difference between allosexual and demisexual people is explained is by dividing sexual attraction into two types. Type 1 sexual attraction is when something external about the person (looks, smell, the way someone moves, their voice, their style, etc) creates sexual attraction for you. Type 2 sexual attraction is when emotional connection creates sexual attraction for you. Allosexuals can experience both. Demisexuals only experience Type 2. Asexuals don't experience either. Grey-asexuals vary. Still a bit confused? this FAQ answers a lot of questions in depth: Under the Ace Umbrella: Demisexuality and Gray-asexuality.

A lot of demisexuals have a time element to their sexual attraction (they need to know the person for a length of time before they can feel sexually attracted), but I don't think this is inherent. I think it just takes a good amount of time for most people to get to a place where they feel emotionally connected. I have spent a good chunk of my life reducing the amount of time it takes me to feel emotionally connected with someone, so I know how to build intimacy really quickly if the other person can be fully present and engaged. So, theoretically, I could feel sexual attraction to someone the same day I met them. This has happened once, when I met someone who was a violet spirit and feminist and trans and cuddly and we went to a cuddle party and talked about meaningful things the whole time. Usually it's not until I've had a 7+ hour conversation on intense topics with the person, and I really doubt it could ever happen in one day with someone who wasn't a violet spirit (violet spirit is a belenen-specific concept that references how I perceive the non-physical aspects of people). I've parsed out the four essential elements for me to feel sexual attraction to someone and I'll make that a separate post.

What about you?
Poll #2018055 (confidential - only I can see who said what)

choose which best fits or fill in the next blank!


if you use none of the above, what do you use instead?

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on changing the amount of fat on your body: cortisol, blood sugar, stress, food as fat/carb/protein
icon: "curvygirl -- me (belly) (a photo from 2007 of my breasts, belly, and arms, covered in spirals and drawings made with washable markers and glitter)"

[content warning: possibly triggering for those with disordered eating or eating disorders. talk of restriction, dieting, fat]

-- content warning: possibly triggering for those with disordered eating / eating disorders. talk of restriction, dieting, fat - ENTIRE POST-

First let me say, I do not take my own advice because I don't mind being fat and I don't like eating enough to eat more often (I tend towards one small snack and one big meal a day which can be bad for you, as you'll see if you read on). Secondly, this is more about what NOT to do than what to do. and lastly, take this as a starting point; I am not an expert.

Kay, so there is a shitton of misinformation out there about how to take care of your body and how to change the fat amount on your body. Do not believe anyone who tells you you can restrict your calories in order to lose fat permanently. That much is proven to be bullshit despite the fact that many people insist it's true. Restricting can take some fat off but if that is your sole method, it will come back not too far down the road. Read any good study on dieting and you will learn that it does not work. Why?

Because your body is a machine that is designed to protect you from starvation. There is a hormone called cortisol which will tell your body to retain as many energy stores as possible: it says, "store fat and don't burn it!" This hormone is activated by two things (among others I'd imagine): stress and low blood sugar. When you restrict, you activate this hormone and make your body more likely to store than to burn. It is incredibly counterproductive to restrict: even if you lose some fat at first, as this hormone builds up it will make you retain fat again.

Cortisol is also the reason that it is not only looksist to be anti-fat, it is sexist, racist, ableist, etc. Being oppressed is a constant stress that you cannot escape. Oppressed peoples often don't have access to healthier food and don't have spare energy or time to spend on working out, AND are under much more stress than people without those oppressions. People's bodies often change a great deal in how much they retain fat due to how much stress they are enduring. You can actually be eating a starvation-level diet and gain weight (so I have heard from people who have been through anorexia) because your body is so damn good at holding on when it thinks you are in danger.

Also, according to my nutrition prof, only fat gets stored. Proteins get used or shat out if you eat more than you need. Carbs only increase your body fat if you are also consuming fat, because the carbs are burned first and then if you don't have enough activity to need them, the fats are just stored. Eating fewer carbs just means that the fat you eat is more likely to get used. Carbs are your body's favorite, and complex carbohydrates are the best for healthy, lasting energy. (I have also been told that carbs can be stored as fat, so my nutrition prof may have been off - but that is a case of excess)

So my logical takeaway from this is that if I wanted to lose fat, I would need to practice as many anti-stress things as I know to do, as well as maintaining my blood sugar throughout the day and consuming less fat. Every 3 hours I would eat a small meal of mostly raw fruits and vegetables, and I would try to avoid ever getting actually hungry. I would try to be more active by doing anything that got my heart rate up. I would meditate daily and make sure to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. I would drink damiana tea w cinnamon every day because that decreases my stress both in the ritual and in the substance. I would avoid any sugars except for fruit sugar and honey. Probably other things too, but you get the point.

I checked with a health professional friend of mine just to be sure I wasn't way off and they told me the advice they give for people who want to lose fat (tailored to the person and situation since not everyone can walk, for instance):

"breathe. ... recommend a few YouTube relaxation videos to them. Drink water. Drink tea - green tea is great for your metabolism. Eat a balance of foods but make the majority of your plate fruit/veg. Lean proteins. Decrease carbs and sugar. Walk 30 minutes per day minimum. Laugh. And never ever ever beat yourself up if you splurge on a burger and a milkshake. Because it's about balance - life is about balance."

If you think that fat = unhealthy, read this entire article and all the links before you say anything to me about fat: These are the Fat FAQs. And just one quick note: BMI is bullshit, based on literally zero science as was never intended to measure health. It also changed significantly due to social reasons with again no science, no excuse. Weight cannot tell you about health. Correlation =/= causation. There are a million possible lurking variables, not the least of which is stress.

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abstract concepts: my definitions of luxury and need, poverty and wealth
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

something that brings pleasure but would not cause damage if one lacked it.

something that is necessary for physical or emotional survival.

not having access to getting all of your basic needs met. This can mean that you sacrifice physical needs to meet emotional ones or vice versa, or that you don't even have that option.

having so many resources that you can easily meet all your needs each month and have some left over, and are also able to manage unexpected expenses without sacrificing any needs.

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watching a show with Deaf characters and thinking about my relationship to hearing
icon: "distance (two hands (from two people) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

Been watching a show with Deaf main characters and I feel such relief when a hearing person remembers that a character is Deaf and does something besides vocalize to get their attention. It's really obvious and necessary in that case but the idea of people doing that when talking at me is such a relief it makes me cry. I can't stand ignoring people- it feels incredibly disrespectful and I wouldn't even do it to someone I hated- but people don't know that or don't trust that so I feel constantly at risk of accidentally making someone feel ignored. This is incredibly annoying when someone calls my name from a room away and shouts something that I can't understand, because I feel impelled to go to them lest I ignore them. In general it takes so much energy to always have my antennae up to catch if someone has started talking to me. That's one of the reasons I need housemates to assume we are not going to just randomly strike up conversation. If I think they might just start talking to me it means I can't even relax at home.

To have someone make sure you can see their face when they talk to you, that also would be such a relief (though in the show, I mainly keep noticing hearing people not pointing their faces so that Deaf people can see them). I think I subconsciously read lips to help process things and if I can't see someone talk it is much harder to understand (part of why I hate talking on the phone - it takes so much effort). I wish people weren't such ableist shitheads in general and also because in a world without ableism I could ask for these accommodations and actually get them just because people would be used to thinking that everyone has different needs. But our world only makes accommodations when forced to and your average person doesn't want to think about non-average needs or desires.

I don't understand why my auditory processing seems to have gotten worse, but it has. I feel like I'm watching through dense fog when I watch a show without subtitles. Good thing I read fast, otherwise that relaxation technique would be gone.

I keep thinking about how culture and language is so entwined and wondering what it feels like to communicate exclusively in sign. I notice a totally different cadence, and so much more facial expressiveness. I really want to learn to sign, to learn how it feels to think in gestures.

Sometimes when I am really emotional I find it extremely difficult to speak, but I don't find it hard to communicate. I can write or gesture but making sound come out of my mouth feels impossible. One time this happened to me and there was someone around who knew sign language. I felt so incredibly relieved because even though I didn't know how to sign, they could understand my gestures and sort of interpret for me. I think there's a kind of watching that hearing people just generally never do. I want to learn to watch that way.

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dreams (kanika is in public w me / weird pregnant nun cult red strings / dream-met spiritkin)
icon: "dreamy (a painting by pupasoul of a human figure in a cage, holding a hand out from which radiates light and squiggly sparkly vines of energy)"

Last night i dreamed that i was working at a shop like wal-mart only i was moving slower than ever. At first it was partly in defiance but then i got frustrated and tried to go faster but couldn't. Then the boss called me outside to the middle of a huge group of dining tables where people were sitting and eating, to critique my performance. It was a deliberate attempt at humiliation and i wept in rage and embarrassment. Kanika came running out to comfort me and the audience was moved and was on my side. Later i was at a coffee shop and Kanika came in and sat on my hip/back (somehow this wasn't uncomfortable in the dream). Later I was in a tiny house or fresh-built cabin w my biofamily and some people came over, including someone i just met who i have a crush on. I talked with them and flirted in my awkward non-flirty way. Later we all played truth-or-truth and i got them to be involved by doing a round of political questions (which in waking life sounds terrible).

[content warning: death, pregnancy, cult]Then there was this weird bit where i was a nun in a weird cult and was taken to a house where i would live with other nuns, and as i went up the stairs i felt a strange pulling in my crotch, which turned out to be a network of red strings that had been attached to it coming loose. There was a woman lying on a bed covered in blood, with an open wound going up her abdomen. The people bringing me in said that she should have been moved already, this wasn't meant for me to see. Apparently she had given birth and the baby died, and she stopped her bleeding with an herbal remedy, and that was sacrilege as she was supposed to yield to chance (god). When i realized, i went up and asked why she did it, because now they were going to kill her and she traded .00001 chance for none at all. She said she had to do what she could, and handed me the vial she used. I started to take more out to apply to the wound but she said that if i didn't have the capacity to help her escape it would be wasted, to keep it and use it sneakily with feigned prayer instead. She gave me her other powders and i was frantic figuring out what to do with them. Then i was told to pack up her things, including the dress i was wearing (??) so i switched to another dress (from a short black and white one to an ankle-length dark brown one, very baggy, with pockets) and packed up her things as they took her from the room. The other nuns helped me, one in particular who poured their starbucks coffee into the bag so that i could put the herbs into the cup and hide them with the lid. I added absorbent things including rolls of toilet paper and hoped it wouldn't leak out. The soon-to-be-dead nun's bed was going to be mine. Later one of the people came back and put new strings on my crotch. I was worried that they'd go into my flesh but instead they wove around my legs and hips like a harness.

Dream: more real than waking. I hugged someone at a pagan discussion group and the hug felt so perfect we didn't want to let go. We felt very well matched and they told me they wanted to have deep and penetrating... didn't finish the sentence but in the dream it was clear that it wasn't sex they meant but that sex might be included (it sounds way more overt in waking life: in the dream sex was a hint, not the point). I felt perfect resonance w them. They were my height or maybe an inch taller and my size, maybe a little smaller. I think they had 3 young kids and were a single parent? or they were watching someone's kids? Our connection felt like apples which in later dream was explained as artichokes (???) I think their name was Kristy or something similar?

Also there was a part w traveling underground to a stone chamber w a square open to the sky. Felt elated at rain and thunder, danced, and sensed when we needed to move because of potential lightning strike and warned people successfully. Older male people were like, "Give way to us," and I laughed and ignored them, but shared the space rather than punishing them.

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Shoulder pain / Kanika's health and food
My shoulder which has now been hurting for two weeks got so bad today that I took acetaminophen and ibuprofen and it is still just aching very badly. I don't understand it. I'm bringing my exercise ball to work tomorrow and hopefully that will help.

But in encouraging news Kanika seems to feel much better. I went googling trying to find the ideal diet for a cat who gets recurring UTIs and apparently dry food is just all around a bad choice health wise? That many cats are chronically dehydrated because they have a low thirst drive and need to eat their liquids? So I've started mixing Kanika's dry food with hot water and flaked up freeze-dried turkey, and they're eating it with seeming enjoyment (I was really worried they wouldn't). When I can afford it, I'm gonna try getting them a pet fountain. Tellingly, they're playing more - they brought me a toy to throw both yesterday and today. I am dreading ever having to go out of town now, because it is a lot harder to find someone to come over daily, but I feel like I have hit on a solution that will keep them happier and healthier.
connecting: ,

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on saving kids from 'broken hearts' & teaching kids about consent / red flags for bad-at-consent
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

Q: How do I keep my kid from getting their heart broken?

A: You don't. It it impossible and damaging to try. Instead, teach them what can damage them, how to spot warning signs, and how to heal if their heart is broken.

I'm tired of watching parents ask this question as they determine the level of control they're going to try to implement over their kids' life (usually just the kids that they assume to be girls). There is no level of control that will prevent your kids from getting hurt. You can only provide them with knowledge and skills so that they can avoid it sometimes and heal from it other times.

If I was teaching my kids about sex, I would never in a million years say shit like "boys only want one thing" or "don't get some girl pregnant." I would not use euphemisms at all. I would not feel awkward (because I'd be used to having frank conversations about difficult subjects) or resist the idea of my kid having consensual sex with someone they chose.

Instead, I would train them in how to be good at consent from the time they are toddlers. My kids would be trained to not hit others not because hitting is bad, but because that is a violation of consent. If I saw my kid hit someone (first I would ask their reason, and deal with any underlying issue, and then) I would explain that you do not ever touch anyone in any way unless they have told you that they want you to. This is not hard to understand, but we train kids from very early that some kinds of touch are okay to foist on others (hugs, kisses, pats (especially from older people)) and others are not (hitting, pinching). I would explain to them that a lot of people don't understand how to respect other people's bodies, and if someone ever touches them in a way they didn't say was okay, to talk with me about it. I would explain that if you cannot escape and you are in danger, this is the one situation where it is okay to fight back, but first always try to solve it with words (either talking to the attacker or talking to someone else who can stop them), or leaving, unless those aren't options. My kids would be trained that everyone's body belongs only to that person, no matter what, and that they have no right to ever expect any kind of touch from anyone.

I would teach them that other people are sometimes bad at communicating and they might need to look for non-verbal cues that another person is done with the situation. This could start as easily as a kid being "mine mine" about all their toys -- you can tell from this that they are done playing with you, and you shouldn't try to play with them any more for a while (maybe ever, if the behavior repeats). I would not force my kids to share, though I would encourage them to have empathy and want to share if the other kid was lacking.

[TW: discussion of rape prevalence and aftermath] ------- TW: discussion of rape prevalence and aftermath ---------

When they got to an age where they wanted to date, I would tell them the plain truth. I would remind them that most people don't have the skill of respecting other people's bodies, and that when this comes to sex it can lead to rape. I'd tell them frankly that most rape happens with people you know, in supposedly 'safe' places, and that most people who have committed rape don't think that they have raped. I'd tell them that rapists are not people you can pick from a crowd, and that the more power someone has, the more likely that they think they are entitled to other people's bodies.

I'd also teach them not to be so terrified of rape. I think being raised with the idea that rape ruins your life forever and breaks you irreparably made my recovery far more painful and difficult. It was like a year and a half of utterly useless therapy until I got a new therapist who was willing to tell me about far more horrific things that happened to them, and how they had healed to the point where they could have physical contact with the person who abused them as a child without being triggered. Then I believed I could get to that place myself and actually began getting better. If my kids get raped, I want them to know that they can still have a good life afterward.
-------end TW ---------

I would teach them how to spot red flags for people being bad at consent. Those people will not respect your "no" in general, so always test them out first by saying an unexcused, unequivocal "no" to something they want. If they push for a reason, say "I don't want to" -- for someone with the basics of consent, they'll drop it, and if they try to talk you into it, they won't listen to what you want in sex either. If you don't feel comfortable saying no without giving some excuse, that is also a red flag, because a lover should always be someone you feel comfortable saying no to for any reason.

Other red flags: they'll make jokes about boundary violations, especially rape; they'll cut you off in conversation and talk over you; they'll put you down; they will follow you with their touch if you pull away (kisses especially); they'll respond to your arguments dismissively rather than actually considering anything you say; they'll sulk if they don't get their way; they will say things that invalidate your identity; they'll touch you without permission in non-sexual ways; they'll touch animals or friends in ways that bother the animal/friend; they will call names and/or mock people; they'll do things deliberately to cause someone to be uncomfortable/annoyed (especially as a 'joke' reaction to someone setting a boundary); they won't stop doing annoying behavior when asked; they will use things that don't belong to them without permission; they will make sexual innuendos and find it funny if someone gets uncomfortable; they will show no interest in your thoughts/opinions; they'll get offended when you don't laugh at their jokes or tell them it isn't funny; they won't show remorse when you tell them they hurt you; they will get angry when you tell them they hurt you; they'll interrupt a conversation you are having by turning away and ceasing to engage, especially if you are saying something they don't like (note: this can be a healthy choice but it can also be a control tactic); they'll ignore you and/or make you repeat yourself; they won't notice if you get upset. Anything that shows that they aren't checking in with how their actions are affecting you or anything that shows that they think their opinion or desire is more important than yours is a giant red flag for being bad at consent. Of course, this is just a red flag, not an automatic marker, so check to see if there could be another reason for the red flag (for instance, they might communicate differently due to a neurological difference, which could be worked out with discussions about how you both want to converse), BUT if there is more than one red flag take it VERY seriously.

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what makes me fall in love & how it feels when I am in love
Feeling/being in love, for me, is not sexual at all, nor is it related to looks, nor can it be sparked by social scripts. I cannot fall in love at first sight if the person isn't doing or saying anything.  I cannot fall in love from someone buying me things or taking me to fun places or giving me compliments or making me laugh or sharing my hobbies or making me feel like the center of their world.

What makes me fall in love? Feeling a mutual excitement at the understanding and growth we are creating together. Feeling that they are as excited about my ideas and experiences as they are their own. Feeling them be fully present with me, especially when it's because they are so engaged with my presence that other things fade out (not including chronic pain/depression/etc).  Feeling a strong desire coming from them to know me balanced by a strong desire from them to be known coupled with a strong self-awareness; especially when they take opportunities to self-examine in front of me, without forgetting me. Feeling a vibrant connate resonance about them enacting/embodying one or especially more of my core values: justice, respect, compassion/connection, wonder/reverence, curiosity, transparency/openness, honesty, thoroughness, creativity, imperfect action, growth/change.  This can happen in so many ways. Examples: they describe how they engage in justice work, they show respect to someone who usually doesn't get it (like a child), they describe a connection they have, they respond to an expression of wonder with an equal level of enthusiasm, they ask prying questions or wonder aloud about something your average person takes  for granted, they share something vulnerable and self-aware, they tell the truth when it makes them uncomfortable, they make sure to be complete when doing a task, they customize items they use daily, they take action when it is needed even though they are clumsy at it, they describe things they've learned and how they've applied them to their life... Many many possibilities here. 

Feeling in love can also be squelched by violating one of my core values. If you are unwilling to devote spare resources to creating justice, show lack of consideration for how you affect others, show apathy to suffering, react to wonder with dismissiveness or indifference, don't question yourself, respond to questions without thought or depth, lie, are sloppy in tasks done for others, act like skilled technique is the key to art, refuse to take a helpful action because it's not the perfect solution, or think that staying the same is good, any feelings of in-love I have for you will be diminished.  That also has many possibilities. Often I will feel a swell of in-love for someone and then five minutes later that will be burst; for instance I'll notice their carefully and meaningfully decorated music case and feel very in-love, and then they'll talk about all these 'poser' musicians who don't do [some specific technique] and that feeling will be completely dissolved.

I also can feel in love without it being a constant state: I have felt in love with people for a moment or a day, or constantly over a period of years.  I often feel in-love with people, but I don't describe it as 'being' in love unless it is mutual and consistent, something that I see continuing indefinitely.  Usually it goes from a feeling of in-love-ness to actually being in love when we deliberately create the space for that, or when the space is accidentally created through just spending a lot of time together, or when they express the same feeling and a desire to explore/deepen that feeling.

When I am in love with someone as a state of being, I feel a continuous strong desire to be close to them. I feel like I want to know every meaningful thing that goes on in their lives, I want bring them joy, I want to help them grow, and I get easily overwhelmed with how wonderful they are and want to talk about it all the time. I want to kiss them, hug them, and touch them in ways that feel good to them. I think about them often and miss them when we have not connected in an unusually long time (for us: this can be a few hours or a few weeks). I want to give them presents if I find things they would like. I want to help them with tasks that they find difficult or stressful. I want to share meaningful places, art, and media.

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Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.

September 2015
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