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icon: "hopeful (close-up photo of me wearing cat-eye makeup, jewels on my cheek, and a violet glitter goatee. I'm gazing off to the side with a hopeful smile.)"

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Friendship: how do you do it

I got an amazing winter Solstice gift this year: a group of local friends.

I have always been a pretty odd person, which has made it difficult for me to find friends. Part of this oddity comes naturally, from my neurodivergent brain, my lack of gender, and being a minority as far as sexuality and relationship style goes. The other half comes from my unusual childhood.

When I was in school I didn't get to socialize outside of school, so everyone else got to know each other on evenings and weekends and the distance slowly increased between me and them. My mom began homeschooling me when I was 10, which took my chances for peer observation from low to almost none; we did not watch tv so I didn't have shows to learn from either. My socialization was exclusively in academic and religious settings, so I can make great contributions in formal discussions but am utterly lost in casual settings.

I made a friend at christian summer camp who was neurodivergent and far too serious, like me. We became best friends because I proposed it to her and she accepted, and very soon after we made promises to each other about how we would interact. She was my first real friend: not someone I was protecting or idolizing, but someone who I connected with in a deeply trusting, open, and extremely effusive way. I told her every thought that came in my head to say and I expressed my love often.

This was the relationship that became the model for all my future friendships, which was a bad idea because it was not at all normal. Now looking back I can see that we were in a relationship that was emotionally romantic though we did not do anything physically romantic, and it was far more committed than most people are comfortable with in a friendship. It also went from no relationship to extremely significant relationship in a single conversation, which seemed normal to me but is utterly bizarre to most people.

After we drifted apart I kept trying to make new friends in the same way. I wanted to bare my soul completely and I wanted them to do the same and I wanted us both to invest in each other in a continuous and deliberate way. And I got lucky, a lot.

I started using livejournal, which it turns out is where lots of naked-soul people congregate and share more than the average person cares to know about their friends. I met at least four people who were completely comfortable with sharing literally everything. We were often literally naked with each other as well as figuratively; when we visited each other we cuddled constantly; lies were taboo and openness was the air we breathed.

But all of these people lived far away. I had one local friend, but we went back and forth between closeness and hostility because we constantly misunderstood each other. I tried over and over to meet people near me but none of them wanted the same thing I wanted in a friendship.

Eventually I began practicing polyamory, and I finally was able to make the kinds of connections I wanted, but only by dating people. I didn't mind being romantic or sexual with my friends, but my primary desire was always deep friendship. For a little while I had all the intimate friendship I could ask for, but then for various reasons three of those people moved to three different states, and my relationship with the closest person fell apart.

Then I met Topaz sort of incidentally and after I posted on LJ about being desperately lonely and craving intimate friendship, they reached out and once again, I went from stranger to best friend in a single (nine-hour) conversation. We zoomed through all the "what do we mean to each other" stuff in a month, because we both knew who we were, we could read each other with shocking ease, and we had the same goals in a friendship.

Since then, every so often I reach out to someone but mostly, I don't know how to make friends and when I try it falls flat. All of my past connections have been made very rapidly and either through livejournal or through dating. I don't know how to get to know someone at a "normal" pace. I don't know what "counts" as friendship to other people. And because I have such a long-term habit of openness, what feels vulnerable to others simply feels normal to me, so we often have very different experiences with the same conversation.

So when I was asked to reflect on any friendships I made over the past year, I just came up with a bunch of question marks. Was I friends with the people I had gotten to know over the year, or were we just friendly acquaintances?

This question was finally really answered for me on Solstice, when people not only came to the gather that means so much to me, but several people said that they were determined to attend and that it was important to them to be there. For me, this would only be true if I considered the person a real friend and was internally committed to my connection to them. I felt overwhelmed by the care and deliberate effort that they were giving, and I think maybe, finally, I am starting to make local friends.

how my north star has shifted from the Christian god, to love, to justice.

icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

For the first 2 decades of my life, my guiding light was the Christian god, as understood through the Bible. I thought of the Bible as a way to understand God, and I thought of God as the reason for being alive. I didn't have to find a purpose for life because it was handed to me: obedience to God. I didn't have to figure out what was the best choice to make because in most things the church or some elder in it was happy to tell me.

I worked hard to fulfill this purpose: I read the Bible cover to cover multiple times, attended church with great interest and took notes, often talking with the pastor after a sermon about something I was especially interested in.

Then my pastor said something in church that contradicted the Bible. He said that our greatest purpose was to "spread the gospel" -- so I went up after the sermon and asked "how do you reconcile this with Jesus saying that the greatest purpose is to love God, self, and others?"

He did not have an answer, so he attacked me verbally and told me that I wasn't really part of the church, that I hadn't done this or that and so I did not belong. He attacked me to the point where I cried (which I almost never did at that age), and when his wife came up and tried to stop him, he told her to shut up.

At that point I was done with that church, and I began to question the validity of many of the things I had accepted as true. I spent several years looking for a better church and evolving my understanding of God to include other religions. I still held that "love" was the greatest purpose, the one all humans share, and I tried to find others who believed that and tried to practice it in their daily lives.

I slowly came to realize that most people who would claim that love was their highest value were wrong. Most of the time they would choose to do things that were not the most loving action available to them, but instead would choose actions that made them feel good or made them look good to other people.

When I became educated about how systemic inequality works, I also came to realize that love without justice is worthless. So many well-meaning privileged people are against hatred or overt bigotry, yet because they are unwilling to do the work it takes to create justice, they reinforce oppression.

They want to express their sadness about injustice and give out hugs, but if you ask them to advocate for equal pay, to elect people of color to positions of power, to resist oppressive policies in their cities and organizations, or to consider the words they use or the assumptions they make that end up hurting people, they will be offended that you even asked. They will claim that "love conquers all" as a way to avoid the responsibility to create justice, which is the only thing that actually conquers injustice.

So I rejected "love" as the greatest purpose and embraced "justice" instead. Now, when I come to a decision point and have to make a choice, I consider everything I know about the effects my actions will have on others and I choose based on what is most likely to lead to a more just world.

This does not work without constant self-education on the effects of my choices. For example, I cannot make the most just choice about how to host an event without understanding how to provide access for the greatest variety of people. If I just tried to make a choice based on what felt right, I would be very likely to unintentionally harm or exclude some of the most vulnerable people in my community. I know that my own access needs are not the same as others' needs. So I must self-educate, and my greatest tool for that is the internet.

My guiding light now is justice, as understood through as many stories as I can find. If I had a holy book, it would consist of people discussing injustice through both statistics and through personal stories about racism, sexism, anti-trans and anti-queer attitudes, anti-intersex attitudes, ableism, classism, ageism, sizeism, capitalism, and any other form of systemic oppression. It is through reading these stories and learning about the overall societal impact of injustice that I learn how to aim my choices to create the greatest amount of justice that I can.

lj idol season 11 week 7 favs


A kindly stranger attempts to connect over transness and I fail utterly to respond

icon: "eccentric (a photo of me tilting my head and with raised eyebrows and a pursed-lipped smile)"

The other day I was waiting in line at a store when a stranger attempted to strike up a conversation with me:

Stranger, abruptly: "what does the button on your purse mean?"
Me: "oh, it is a symbol for trans pride*"
Kindly stranger, smiling: "oh cool, my daughter is trans!"
Me: *smiles awkwardly*
Kindly stranger: "that's really cool, I like that."
Me: *smiles wider and nods* "thank you" *hastily buries self in phone*

I wanted to say more. The stranger had two elementary-age kids with them and I felt glad that the kids could be themselves. Wish I could have thought faster and said something meaningful like, "thank you for being an accepting parent. It makes a world of difference." But in that moment, it was all I could do to engage as much as I did.

There was a time about a decade ago when I would have responded by making eye contact, asking questions, and offering resources including my contact information. I would have been thinking about what that trans kid might need and what the parent might not have access to. I would have felt in my element and found the conversation easy.

But now, what I felt was just extreme overwhelm, as if lights were flashing and sirens were going off and I was being pulled in one direction and pushed in another. Part of it was from standing with my back to most of the store, part of it was feeling stressed about being next in line and not wanting to annoy the cashier, part was the overhead noise, and part was a piece of me saying "wow you have zero self-preservation instincts -- what if they hated trans people" and then the other part of me arguing back.

I feel such a sense of loss at current me's feckless response to this opportunity to offer potentially life-saving resources to a trans kid. I was just so thrown by how unexpected it was that in such a sensory-overload environment, I couldn't even process what was happening. I replied on auto-pilot and had to delay my emotional and mental response to the meaning of what the person was saying in order to simply absorb the literal words. I didn't make a conscious choice to say either of the two things I said -- they just popped out.

I couldn't really cope in the moment with an unexpected, completely novel experience in a loud, busy environment. But now that I have had that experience, I will be prepared for it to happen again. I will make up a sheet of local resources and try to let that be my touchstone and conversational foundation if someone says "my [friend/relative] is trans." I can ask how plugged in they are to the community and if they would like some resources. I can hope that something like this happens again and when it does, that I can be effective and useful in my response.

*it is actually a symbol for a gender and sexuality minorities conference which no longer seems to exist, but I used a shorthand without thinking

Nutritional deficiencies discovered through practical experiments

icon: "hypnotiq (my fractal "Windwheel" -- an abstract swirl of yellow red and orange with a little green)"

Solvitur ambulando: when you use a practical experiment to test if something is true

This could be my motto, but is especially true about how I treat my body. I often say that I use my body as my laboratory: it is where I test claims about many things but the most common one is dietary supplements.

About 7 years ago I began to experience severe cognitive decline. I was absurdly distracted and constantly forgetting everything. Focused, continual reasoning went from easy to horribly difficult. I stopped being able to read non-fiction because it was too much work, and even my fiction reading decreased sharply. To put that in context -- I started reading when I was four and have read thousands of books. Reading has always been easy for me. I was at a loss for what was causing the problem.

Then I came across something like this:

molecule pendants

[image: a photo of three molecule-shaped pendants, each labeled with the name and function of the molecule. Dopamine: reward and pleasure. Acetylcholine: learning and memory. Serotonin: happiness and satisfaction.]

I thought "there is a memory molecule???" and went on a deep dive into wikipedia, which told me that acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter made from choline. So I looked that up and discovered that choline is primarily available in fatty meats, which I hadn't eaten in many years. At that point I had been a vegetarian for about 3 years, but even before that I ate almost exclusively lean meat because I dislike the taste of other meat.

I was pretty well convinced I had found the cause of my cognitive decline, so I went and ordered choline supplements immediately. I noticed that my dreams got more intense but otherwise didn't notice much change until I ran out -- when my thinking got worse again. Then I thought back over the past month and realized how different it had been! I wasn't half as absent-minded or forgetful! I began ordering them regularly.

I have since learned that almost every currently available dementia medication works by increasing the choline available in the brain, and that supplementing choline can be protective of memory. Conversely, medications that work by decreasing choline can cause dementia-like symptoms. And even in populations without dementia, supplementing choline is beneficial for cognition. I keep an eye on dementia studies for what they reveal about the functioning of choline and memory.

I got super lucky with that first brand, because I tried other brands and they did not help even a quarter as much. Since supplements are not classified as food or medicine, they are not regulated for effectiveness and it is often the case that they do not contain what the bottle says they do. I am glad I didn't get that null result at the beginning because if I had, I would never have known that it was true that lack of choline was causing my cognition problems. Nowadays I check all supplement brands on labdoor.com or at least make sure that they are tested by a third party.

After this first experiment proved my guess correct, I made it a practice that if I have a health symptom that could be explained by a vegetarian-diet-caused deficiency, I'll answer that question by testing it in my body. I started taking b12 because I was getting numbness in my legs: then it went away. I started taking glutamine after learning that it is primarily available in meat and it is the amino acid that allows for quick muscle healing; it makes a HUGE difference in whether or not I ache after working out. My lips and skin were dry, so I supplemented E and evening primrose: now I almost never need chapstick. Small cuts were taking a long time to heal, so I supplemented beta carotene (vitamin A): now they take a shorter time to heal. My hair was thinning, so I supplemented biotin: now it is back to normal. Taking zinc regularly keeps me from catching colds from my coworkers -- and if I stop taking zinc I become susceptible.

I've learned I need amino acids (especially glutamine and lysine), vitamins A, B5, B6, B12, E, Niacin, Biotin, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. Some of these I supplement because if you supplement one you have to supplement the other. For example, if you supplement zinc (primarily available in meat) you must supplement copper in order to prevent deficiency. In order to metabolize iron you need copper also. Calcium and magnesium compete so if you supplement for one you should supplement the other.

Proving any theory with a practical experiment is always my preference, and I enjoy having this organic laboratory to work with.

lj idol season 11 week 5 favs

icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

LOTS of favorites this week!

[favs for LJ Idol week 5]

https://banana-galaxy.livejournal.com/6597.html (content note: controlling abusive spouse, sexual harrassment)
https://beeker121.livejournal.com/259577.html (so fun and imaginative!)
https://bewize.livejournal.com/1167786.html (content note: ableist slur)
https://dadi.livejournal.com/1204893.html (content note: neo-nazi violence)
https://kandigurl.livejournal.com/617987.html (content note: cults)
https://kittenboo.livejournal.com/404183.html *
https://lawchicky.livejournal.com/434937.html (content note: dementia)
https://pixiebelle.livejournal.com/818745.html (content note: drunk driving, alcohol-related deaths, and the death of a child)
https://proceedcyclone.livejournal.com/318161.html *
https://sorchawench.livejournal.com/1899313.html *
https://suesniffsglue.livejournal.com/482876.html *
https://yamyam-kat.livejournal.com/8696.html *


My enemies are all too familiar. They're the ones who used to call me friend

icon: "hissing (a photo of a snow leopard hissing with mouth open, whiskers back and ears flattened)"

I am a very passionate person who is loud about their opinions, so I've had a significant number of arguments with friends that were so heated we stopped talking. At that point they may have considered me their enemy, but I always expected that eventually we would talk it out, make up, and be friends again. I didn't really have enemies, I had friendships that were on hiatus -- though sometimes acrimonious hiatus. For all but 2 friends, this has been true.

A few years ago I had an interconnected group of friends. We invested in maintaining our friendships the way many people invest in their romantic partners, and we invested in us as a group. We were intimate, and I approached all these friendships with the goal of lifelong connection. I expected that if someone hurt another person, they would approach that hurt with integrity and a desire to help them heal.

Then one of the friends, Cora*, hurt another in a profound way, and when the hurt person, Alex*, expressed this pain and asked for help, Cora just ghosted for months. I thought this was mega fucked up and I stopped investing in Cora, but did not confront them because Alex didn't want me to.

I talked to another person in the group, Erin*, about it. Since Erin was close to Cora I felt like it was important to explain why I was not going to be investing in them anymore. I got permission from Alex to explain what happened and while we were in person, Erin agreed that Cora behaved unethically and that it was fucked up that Cora flaked out and left Alex in painful limbo for months.

Later, Erin defended Cora's choices and denied that the worst of what Cora had done even happened, despite being given proof. She decided to deny the truth and cut me and Alex out of her life rather than face what Cora had done in an honest way. To me this is a profound betrayal, and I am disgusted by it. After that, Erin was not a friend nor even a friend on acrimonious hiatus, but an enemy.

If you want to be my enemy there is an easy recipe for it: choose maintaining your relationship with an unrepentant abuser** over demanding ethical behavior from them. Or just be an unrepentant abuser.

Still, this status is not necessarily permanent, because I accept people growing and changing over time. But Erin and Cora would each have to put in a huge amount of effort and frankly, I don't ever see that happening, especially given their shitty lack of effort when it was fresh.

I lost one of my best friends over this, because of their ties to Erin. That is the one thing that still hurts, though I understand why they made that choice. Being friends with me was more work, logistically, and less reward, socially, because I didn't have ties to all the cool people.

Nowadays it is really important to me that I only build friendships with people who are willing and able to hold their friends accountable for hurting anyone, even a stranger.

*names have been changed
**abuser of people other than you, that is: I know it can be nearly impossible to leave someone who is abusing YOU.

lj idol season 11 week 4 favs

icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

very late with this but I still like keeping track of favorite entries, so...

[favs for LJ Idol week 4]

https://dizzydog.livejournal.com/181008.html (impossible colors!!)
https://irradescent.livejournal.com/885059.html (content note: unexpected death)
https://lawchicky.livejournal.com/434608.html (content note: ableist slurs)
https://m-malcontent.livejournal.com/295715.html (content note: psychiatric hospitalization)
https://me-sonrei.livejournal.com/1888.html (content note: parental neglect/rejection)
https://pixiebelle.livejournal.com/818545.html (SO CUTE)
https://swirlsofblue.livejournal.com/49705.html (content note: vivid description of anorexia)
https://uselesstinrelic.livejournal.com/10824.html *