LGBTQ

The Horror Is Mine

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.

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Notes from the Fashion Lab

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.

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Girl Pattern, Boy Pattern

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.

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When It Crashes

Things are about to get very difficult for us.

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.

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Hewing the Heuristic

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.

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Interview for Bi Any Means

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.

Teal Haired Ania Cartoon blushing and looking apologetic

I’m sorry

As such please note: CN for use of Insane as a pejorative.

Listen to the Podcast Here

ABLEISM CHALLENGE

CN: For Ableist slurs.

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.

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The Problem With Gay Marriage

There is an argument that crops up from time to time when you argue on matters of social justice on the internet. No matter the subject, at one point or another someone will say that this problem has already been solved because some specific thing has happened.

We no longer need feminism because men gave women the right to have jobs or have the vote.

We no longer need civil rights because white people gave people of colour the vote, and interracial marriage is allowed. Or because slavery is over.

We no longer need to worry about disability rights because the abled have made laws about accessibility and not discriminating.

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Easter Reflections

The Easter weekend always brings back a lot of memories for me, some of them pretty intense. The Catholic Church was a pretty big influence in my life growing up. It always played some role in my life growing up. My family was very religious.

Growing up, my parents liked to go for long drives to pray the rosary. I remember several nights, falling asleep in the backseat to the rhythmic droning of their prayers. Road trip songs were often Latin religious rounds, although we also sang a lot of Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.

Everything related to Polish culture that I experienced and absorbed was related in some way to the Church. Among all that, the most important time in the Catholic Church is Easter. It is the basis for the existence of the church altogether: Christ’s death and resurrection and thus conquering of death. But Easter is not Easter alone but also Lent.

It starts with Ash Wednesday, which for my family was a fast day. The light version of this fast was avoiding meat products for the day, while the more intense side saw one small meal followed by nothing else for the rest of the day. You were allowed to drink, but that’s it. We would still go to work and school during this time. The Catholic school I attended, participated by not serving meat in the Cafeteria. After my first communion, I was expected to start participating in at least the light version of the fast. After my confirmation, the more intense one, as I was now considered a full adult member of the church. I grew up knowing that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from burning the blessed palm fronds from the previous year.

I’ve always hated fasting. It’s not the hunger. Truth is that I often have to be reminded to eat, and will go most of the deal without food. It has to do with a sense of discomfort over the reasons for fasts. The stated purpose of fasting is to mortify the flesh.

‘The Rev. Michael Geisler, a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature in St. Louis, wrote two articles explaining the theological purpose behind corporal mortification. “Self-denial helps a person overcome both psychological and physical weakness, gives him energy, helps him grow in virtue and ultimately leads to salvation. It conquers the insidious demons of softness, pessimism and lukewarm faith that dominate the lives of so many today” (Crisis magazine July/August 2005).’ – Wikipedia

Basically, by reminding themselves of their mortality and weakness through pain, they were to give up fleshly or earthly pursuits in pursuit of freedom. As someone who struggles with daily reminders of weakness through ongoing pain, I find this idea to be profoundly insulting. There is this nearly fetishistic obsession with suffering as being a conduit to holiness: Christ suffered of the cross and in the hours prior; many saints are martyred in gruesome ways, the beatitudes canonize this by promising rewards for different types of suffering.

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Leavanny Tall Behind

I have no patience for people who dismiss the appeal of “childish” things.  I’m overwhelmingly thrilled with how the past two decades have been the decades of cartoons for the older set, of “nerdy” concepts like superheroes and space operas becoming massive cultural phenomena with mainstream appeal, and whole hobbies growing with their aficionados rather than expecting them to leave them behind on their way to fantasy football or whatever it is that boring people do.  One of the things I will never stop being happy about is how, through all the years of pushing me as hard as they could into all the wrong molds, I never managed to lose that spark of joy that I call out of LEGOs and Transformers and model dinosaurs and anatomically-correct plastic spiders and the adorable-cockfighting-for-children simulator that is Pokémon.

I’m glad in general, because the only joy I have ever experienced that isn’t that kind of joy is the joy of romantic love, and because hanging on to that exuberance has made me a better teacher, a better partner, and a better person, and someday, it might make me a better parent.  I’m glad because if they had somehow beaten out of me that ability to swell with happiness when surrounded by tropical fish or gundam model kits or stuffed toy lizards, I am not convinced that I would have survived my adolescence.  I have been sustained by the sheer simplicity of that “childish” joy, able to set aside the continuous terror of a world not made for people like me because the worlds those things inhabit are neat and tidy and written out in reams, because they accept my engrossing obsession without a second thought, because I can touch and handle and feel them (except the fish…) and complete my sense of their being.

I’m alone in the office writing this, my colleagues either attending a presentation or out for the day, choking back tears, because I know another reason why this specific joy means so much to me.

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