My social circle has been remarkably supportive of the traumas and challenges I’ve faced over the past year. A few of its members, however, haven’t yet grasped the nature of the rift that has emerged between me and my parents. They keep telling me to watch how viscerally I criticize them and to intersperse my rage with acknowledgement that the people who raised me are doing “the best they can” to wrap their heads around my situation. At their worst, they tell me not to “air the family’s dirty laundry,” failing to grasp that one of the foremost weapons against their particular secrecy-based abuse dynamic is the cleansing light of day.
Every time I hear those phrases, my mind flits back to the worst nightmare I ever had, in June 2015. This was around when my parents first started losing their minds over seeing my long hair and painted nails over webcam, and sent the first of an onslaught of Emails that stabbed directly at what I was going through. I was terrified that, in their bigotry, they would do something extreme. They threatened to cut off my financial support if I breathed too loudly in their direction; what “punishment” would they impose for joining what my culture regards as its most outré abomination? What would I face if I ever again put myself at their mercy by sleeping under their roof, as I did for two weeks every year?
Those are the fears they tell me to put aside when they plead for reconciliation.
Those are the fears I dreamed about that night.
Those are the fears I wept about that morning.
Content note for oneiric horror, kidnapping, and emotional trauma.
I find it strange and a little funny when people comment on my fashion sense. I have no doubt that it’s genuinely praiseworthy, but some of the compliments I’ve received come with a little extra subtext I’d like to put to rest.
This fashion sense is the work of years, not months.
I’ve been paying vastly outsized attention to women’s clothing for my entire life. I’ve been able to render informed opinions on clothing styles and makeup hues since high school, if not earlier. I had weirdly specific ideas about what I wanted the women in my life to wear. I fantasized about and utterly failed to seduce partners who approximated that style in my misguided quest to surround myself with the precise sort of femininity that it turned out I actually wanted, not to be around, but to be. I did not face my more authentic clothing with the anxious confusion of an empty cistern. I turned that spigot and enough fashion came out to dress ten svelte Hispanic ladies. I was not intimidated by no longer being able to dejectedly match any T-shirt with one or another set of jeans and call it a day; I was liberated.
And because I came into this battle well-armed and, after an outpouring of support, well-provisioned, I’m sharing here what wisdom I have about how I look good in women’s clothing.
Parents who want to do right by their children have a lot on their plate, and I do not envy their task. It is far too easy for even the best of us to end up duplicating the errors that were inflicted on us, or picking up new ones from parenting trends with little basis in reality.
One reality that many well-meaning parents don’t know how to acknowledge is how to make sure that their children don’t fear disclosing their membership in gender and sexual minorities. This society is hideously transantagonistic, and children notice this well before they have a word for it, and that can make them scared even when they shouldn’t be.
I’m near the end of my Ph.D. studies. What should be a time of, if not hope, at least anticipation is a period of constant dread, because of two things I’ve learned.
My supervisor is, in all likelihood, signing the form he has to deliver to the Department of Biology indicating what his financial contribution to me next semester is going to be, and everything he’s said to me since the beginning of last semester says that that amount is about to drop from about $6300 to $0. He has “incentivized” me to get my degree this semester by hanging the specter of his half of my salary no longer showing up in my bank accounts if I take any longer than that, because the stress of homelessness and lapsed prescriptions somehow does not get between scientists and their work. I won’t know until he tells me, or I ask the department what he sent them.
But that’s small potatoes compared to the latest development.
I know someone who regularly visits the strangest, most extreme corners of the Internet, to experience a kind of macabre bemusement. They flit from Canadian Association for Equality to A Voice for Men to Return of Kings; they follow trails that start at Fox News and end at Stormfront or r/coontown; they learn about Gamergate by letting Vivian James lead them from TotalBiscuit deep into the places where the movement-that-wasn’t bleeds into these and other right-wing hate groups.
It’s an interesting and rather informative approach. For people with the stomach to view and cogitate over that level of violence-fomenting hatred, there probably isn’t a better way to see the clear links between the more extreme versions and the ones that more pointedly bring themselves mainstream attention. It’s a way to remind oneself that the quieter, front-facing versions are direct gateways into deeper wells of horror, and that the worse versions of all these things are worse as a matter of degree, not kind.
The thing is, this kind of searching also leads one into the weird, anti-scientific, decidedly baffling underbelly of many other movements as well, including movements that are utterly benign.
I sat down with Trav Mamone of Bi Any Means to discuss my book, my new vlog, disability activism, atheism, and more. You should take a listen if you get the chance.
Listening through the podcast I realized that I accidentally used an expression I’ve been trying to eliminate from my vocabulary because of it’s ableist implications. A good reminder that even people who care about these issues make mistakes and it is up to us to make amends when we do. To those who were hurt, I apologize and endeavor to do better in the future. Mea Culpa. I’m sorry.
As such please note: CN for use of Insane as a pejorative.
I have a challenge for all of my blogger friends. I want you to try and go one month without using the list of words below. For one month, in your blog posts and public opinions, I want you to not use these words. I will explain why. I will give you a reason, and regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I want you to try. For me.
Why does this matter?
The truth is that the concerns of the disabled community are often pushed to the side or seen as less important. Just a year ago there was almost a network wide outrage over being called on the use of ableist sentiments and words. It ended with one of the more dedicated and active disability and neurodiversity activists, who has actually created a lot of the accepted vocabulary of the neurodivergent movements, accused of being a troll. The concerns were ignored, a new network was launched, and little to no progress was made in improving the use of ableist language or sentiments in our community. The verdict was in. As one person famously put it: disability activism is not a real thing.
And then the whole thing was ignored. For most people it was just not enough of a big deal.
Every few months someone writes a post asking people to not use “crazy” as a pejorative, that gets summarily ignored.
And these things do matter. In the same way that racialized words perpetuate systemic racism, and the same way that racialized words can find themselves in the most seemingly benign words, ableism too is so prevalent as to be invisible.
The sad fact is that most ableist slurs are considered the soft swears, the use-instead-ofs. Want to insult someone in relatively polite company? Chances are you may reach for one of these as a stand-by. But words matter. Language shapes our perception and when we make disability an insult, when we make ability an insult, we are implying that there is something wrong with being that way. It adds to a system that treats people with disabilities as being less than human. In some cases people go so far as to imply that people with disabilities don’t have feelings or don’t feel pain. Moreover it creates a perceptions, a link between being disabled and being otherwise incompetent.