Posted in history, people, Saturday / samedi / sábado / lördag / Sonnabend or Samstag, Things I try to hide, Values & Ethics, Weave of Traditions

I hate to post this right now.

‘Because the man in question has helped me a good deal. We have a decent relationship and he is amazingly helpful and has sent me things that may well be the only things keeping alive. Nothing is simple in this world. Remember my grandfather’s fiddle. Only this man is not as bad as my grandfather, not by far. He has learned his errors. It is possible. And that is important. People think it’s not possible and they give the perpetrator no chance of redemption. That helps nobody. There are people who are beyond hope but in my case that is not true. But I have to talk about this. It is awkward because he just helped me a lot. But it is true regardless. So I have to say what I have to say, to bear witness to something most people refuse to acknowledge, and I have been putting this off far too long. Understand this post is not to punish the perpetrator, it is to explain what is possible, some things that most people do not think of.

So. I will call him John to be as anonymous as possible even though some of you know who he is.

I was molested from at least the ages of 11 to 15 by John. I have been hurt by other men, including something i am now told as rape (someone put his toes up my butt) but John did the worst damage.

It is easy to tell you how John threatened to butt-rape me. How he rubbed his penis on my butt. How he did sexual things to me that I was entirely unaware of at the time (Lolita has some scenes that explained to me how that is possible). I told him “Oh that is okay” and he very guiltily said “No, no, that is worse.” He feels remorse and went to therapy and tried to learn. He doesn’t even date now. These are facts. They are not the whole story but they are facts.

Anyway, so, the thing is, everyone things that child molesters are all pedophiles. That is, that they have a sexual orientation that gives them an irresistible attraction to children that they have trouble not acting on. But the most important message in this post is that this is not true.

So what is true?

I was molested because John was a misogynist, a big-time misogynist.

Most important message in the post.

The term incel didn’t exist back then. I know the history of the word, that it wasn’t always bad, that a woman invented it. But it has come to mean exactly what John was.

It matters that I am a woman. It doesn’t matter my inside gender. It matters that I am a woman, as in I belong to the class of people known as women, and misogyny is the hatred of that class of people. And that doesn’t change. And yes trans women are also women, I am not denying that. But I am also a woman and I can’t deny that. And I mean for the purposes of who is subject to misogyny. Or transmisogyny. Any kind of misogyny, and you are a woman for all practical purposes.

So.

John set a date by which he would marry.

It didn’t happen.

He picked a woman to marry.

She didn’t want him.

He could not accept this.

He tried to date a string of women, unsuccessfully.

John felt entitled to own women’s bodies. And use them however he wanted. And it made him angry when women would not do what we were told. Very angry. Very bitter. Very cruel. He threatened to threaten suicide to force a woman to have sex with him.

So the damage he did to me was not so much the things I listed above.

The damage he did was that he taught me all about women and he taught me all wrong.

He taught me to hate myself.

He taught me it was all right for men to treat women like things.

He taught me sexism and misogyny.

Those have stuck in my head longer than anything else he did. I am still disentangling them like the worst of my yarn monster.

But I asked him. I asked him why. I asked him why he did it.

And John said to get back at the world.

For not automagically giving him a wife when he felt entitled to a wife.

I was the smallest and most vulnerable girl he could get his hands on. Or his dick on.

And I had nightmares about him and back then people thought all nightmares about abuse were abuse flashbacks and 100% real. So I believed in the nightmares, I believed he anally raped me. My only anal rape came later in a psych ward. And involved feet, not penises.

This was the nineties which explains the confusion.

Anyway, for John, this was a power thing, he had power over me, and he used it.

He was not a pedophile.

He was a raging misogynist and what these days they call an incel.

The most important thing is his sense of entitlement to the bodies of women no matter what. And the rage tantrum he threw when he could not get his way with women his age. I was the target for all his rage and fear and disappointment and especially, especially, misogyny.

Which is one reason I need the word woman for myself no matter what else I feel. I can’t escape it. Do you think that little girl who survived being shot in the head, for trying to go to school, would have been shot any less if she was secretly a trans boy? Because she wouldn’t. She was a girl for all practical purposes and sometimes practical purposes are all that count. I am sorry that I don’t remember her name. I am still a little delirious from the hospital.

But I remember something like this:

I do not tell my story because it is unique. I tell my story because it is not unique.

Let me see if I can look up her name. That is from her Nobel Prize speech.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI.

Malala Yousafzai giving a speech. She has black shiny hair, brown skin, and an orange headscarf and robe of some kind, with a lace wristband poking out from underneath. She is holding a microphone. She is very beautiful inside and out, to me. I love her from a distance.

Anyway, she would be facing misogyny no matter whether she is really a man, woman, both, neither, some combination, whatever her gender identity is. For the purposes of misogyny you only need one way to be female, and there are many.

And the same is true of me.

John did not hurt me because he was a pedophile. He hurt me because he felt entitled to women’s bodies and I was a girl he had near total control over.

John, i know you will read this. I didn‘t want to write it in some ways, especially after all you helped me. But I think you, if no one else, will understan why I had to tell people the truth. I’ve been afraid to for far too long. I’ve been afraid. Of what will come raining down on me from family for writing this, of how you might feel after all this time.

But I also know that you take responsibility for your actions as much as you can. And you take what you did seriously. And if anyone is going to understand why I had to say this, it is going to be you. And you know, you know in your bones, like I know in my bones, that if you didn’t want anyone even anonymously telling why you molested a child, you shouldn’t have molested a child in the first place.

Because that is what I was. A child. And you hurt me. And you shouldn’t have. And you filled my head with the worst of misogynist nonsense. You learned. But you hurt me. You hurt me. And not just with your dick. Not even mainly with your dick. Your words and ideas hurt me the worst.

Your misogyny hurt me the worst. And your misogyny, not pedophilia, fueled the whole thing. And everyone needs to know that. For their own safety. Which is why I wrote this. For the safety of other people. Not to “call out” John, but to inform everyone that there are more than one reason for child molestation.

Also, thank you for changing. Thank you for the help. Thank you for getting help. Thank you for taking as much responsibility as you can. Thank you for having a conscience, that puts you leaps and bounds ahead of my grandpa. None of this excuses what you did, and you know that. But thank you for knowing there are exceptions.

And I am not telling anyone else how to feel about their molester. I am not telling anyone to forgive. I am not telling anyone how to feel. I am telling you how i feel. to the best of my ability. That is all. For now. I am sorry, I do not mean to air dirty laundry, but this is too important not to talk about.

I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is not. Paraphrase, Malala Yousafzai.

I tell my story not because is unique, but because it is not.

Paraphrase, Malala Yousafzai

Thank you, everyone. Everyone. Including John.

Posted in Developmental disability, disability rights, Epilepsy, PSA, quotes, Self-advocacy, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Weave of Traditions

I don’t just have one developmental disability.

I hate labels but this post is all about labels. Deal with it.

I do not just have one developmental disability. This is one reason that I identify more with the self-advocacy movement than any diagnosis-specific movement.

So the developmental disabilities that are official in California, where I come from, are: Cerebral palsy, autism, intelleectual disability, childhood-onset epilepsy, and fifth category (anyone who needs the same kind of care and does not mostly have a specific learning disability like dyslexia, or a purely physical disability (except CP).

I have childhood-onset temporal lobe complex-partial seizures. I also have had, less freqently, absence or petit-mal seizures (where you stare and then totally forget everything that happened), atonic seizures (where you drop to the floor very rapidly and usually injure yourself, it is a sudden loss of muscle tone, not a grand mal/tonic-clonic), and myoclonic seizures (where your arms fling out while conscious for no apparent reason). I may have had other types but that is what I can think of.

Childhood epilepsy has affected me more than any other DD I have, I think. It sounds weird unless you have grown up with it largely untreated or mistreated. It hits you with out of place emotions that you start off thinking are real. It makes everything weird and repeaty. It gives me deja vu and jamais vu. Randomly, but usually in clumps. And I have developed the so-called TLE (temporal lobe epilepsy) personality. The following is from Wikipedia:

Focal aware means that the level of consciousness is not altered during the seizure.[2]In temporal lobe epilepsy, a focal seizure usually causes abnormal sensations only.

These may be:

  • Sensations such as déjà vu (a feeling of familiarity), jamais vu (a feeling of unfamiliarity)
  • Amnesia; or a single memory or set of memories
  • A sudden sense of unprovoked fear and anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, or tactile hallucinations.
  • Visual distortions such as macropsia and micropsia
  • Dissociation or derealisation
  • Synesthesia (stimulation of one sense experienced in a second sense) may transpire.[8]
  • Dysphoric or euphoric feelings, fear, anger, and other emotions may also occur. Often, the patient cannot describe the sensations.[9]

Olfactory hallucinations often seem indescribable to patients beyond “pleasant” or “unpleasant”.[10]

Focal aware seizures are often called “auras” when they serve as a warning sign of a subsequent seizure. Regardless, an aura is actually a seizure itself, and such a focal seizure may or may not progress to a focal impaired awareness seizure.[11]People who experience only focal aware seizures may not recognize what they are, nor seek medical care

Focal impaired awareness seizures

Focal impaired awareness seizures are seizures which impair consciousness to some extent:[2]they alter the person’s ability to interact normally with their environment. They usually begin with a focal aware seizure, then spread to a larger portion of the temporal lobe, resulting in impaired consciousness. They may include autonomic and psychic features present in focal aware seizures.

Signs may include:[12]

  • Motionless staring
  • Automatic movements of the hands or mouth
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Altered ability to respond to others, unusual speech
  • Transient aphasia (losing ability to speak, read, or comprehend spoken word)

These seizures tend to have a warning or aura before they occur, and when they occur they generally tend to last only 1–2 minutes. It is not uncommon for an individual to be tired or confused for up to 15 minutes after a seizure has occurred, although postictal confusion can last for hours or even days. Though they may not seem harmful, due to the fact that the individual does not normally seize, they can be extremely harmful if the individual is left alone around dangerous objects. For example, if a person with complex partial seizures is driving alone, this can cause them to run into the ditch, or worse, cause an accident involving multiple people. With this type, some people do not even realize they are having a seizure and most of the time their memory from right before or after the seizure is wiped. First-aid is only required if there has been an injury or if this is the first time a person has had a seizure.

This is Mel again, just to note that focal impaired awareness seizures must be the new term for complex-partial seizures, which is what I grew up being told I had. Back to Wikipedia:

Postictal period

There is some period of recovery in which neurological function is altered after each of these seizure types. This is the postictal state. The degree and length of postictal impairment directly correlates with the severity of the seizure type. Focal aware seizures often last less than sixty seconds; focal with impaired awareness seizures may last up to two minutes; and generalized tonic clonic seizures may last up to three minutes.[citation needed] The postictal state in seizures other than focal aware may last much longer than the seizure itself.

Because a major function of the temporal lobe is short-term memory, a focal with impaired awareness seizure, and a focal to bilateral seizure can cause amnesia for the period of the seizure, meaning that the seizure may not be remembered.[c

Hippocampus

The temporal lobe and particularly the hippocampus play an important role in memory processing. Declarative memory (memories which can be consciously recalled) is formed in the area of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus.[citation needed]

Temporal lobe epilepsy is associated with memory disorders and loss of memory. Animal models and clinical studies show that memory loss correlates with temporal lobe neuronal loss in temporal lobe epilepsy. Verbal memory deficit correlates with pyramidal cell loss in TLE. This is more so on the left in verbal memory loss. Neuronal loss on the right is more prominent in non-verbal (visuospatial memory loss).[14][15][16][17][18]

Personality

The effect of temporal lobe epilepsy on personality is a historical observation dating to the 1800s. Personality and behavioural change in temporal lobe epilepsy is seen as a chronic condition when it persists for more than three months.[20]

Geschwind syndrome is a set of behavioural phenomena seen in some people with TLE. Documented by Norman Geschwind, signs include: hypergraphia (compulsion to write (or draw) excessively), hyperreligiosity (intense religious or philosophical experiences or interests), hyposexuality (reduced sexual interest or drive), circumstantiality (result of a non-linear thought pattern, talks at length about irrelevant and trivial details).[21] The personality changes generally vary by hemisphere.[21]

The existence of a “temporal lobe epileptic personality” and Geschwind syndrome has been disputed and research is inconclusive.[21]

Okay it is Mel again. Most of the things listed apply to me in one way or another. In fact, the more you do your research, the more you would think (if you know me well) that they had me followed. It is far more a part of me than anything else.

One thing Wikipedia left out, is the development of an intellectual disability later in life, caused by the temporal lobe epilepsy. From the signs, I seem to have done that. I have been told by doctors I have the cognitive status of an infant. And I have been told similar things, including that I will never grow up, by a neuropsychologist who seemed to want to get my parents to put me under adult guardianship. And I know I fit the official criteria.

Hypergraphia is more than compulsive writing. It is compulsive creativity of any kind. I definitely have that.

I’m definitely autistic. But like these other labels, I don’t like being confined to it.

Also, I grew up hearing the words “underlying developmental disability” a lot. I didn’t understand them and they scared me. I wanted to know what it meant but at the time had very little means to ask. They also said that it was severe, complex, unsalvageable, and many other things to that effect.

So basically, CP is the only one I definitely don’t have. But there are other less-known ones like childhood-onset brain injury and fetal alcohol syndrome. Also given that CP is involved, there are people with physical and learning disabilities that would have qualified back in the day. I still feel like my agrin mutation leading to congenital myasthenic syndrome is a developmental disability in and of itself.

But I am part of the DD self-advocacy movement. One of the most important parts of that movement, for me, is the rejection of specific labels. This does not mean we don’t understand we are different from each other. It is just a core part of the values of the movement to put the person first and our disability second. That doesn’t mean disregarding disabilities or important individual differences. It just means we go about it in a different way.

My favorite part of the self-advocacy movement is we seem to have gotten cooperation among very different kinds of people with disabilities. For instance, I went to a live-in rec program. It was hell on earth, but the saving grace was the cooperation. I was being pushed in a wheelchair. People who could walk but unsteadily were allowed to grab my chair. Meanwhile, people who could talk would get the attention of staff. If someone fell, which happened often, people who could walk would go for help.

I have never seen that kind of cooperation among any other group of people with disabilities. Or, as a multiply-disabled (including several DDs) friend said, the DD world was doing cross-disability great, long before cross-disability was a term. We are an accident of history. There is no particular reason for us all being lumped together, other than that historically we were put in institutions for the “feebleminded”. Sometimes also the “insane and feebleminded” or just the “insane”, but mostly they focused on feebleminded.

This post is a lead-in to several other posts. I had to do it this way. Just like I need the words “genderless lesbian” without being a TERF, I need the words to explain my relationship to the different kinds of developmental disabilities.

So this is my attempt to say: I seem to have temporal lobe epilepsy (with other kinds of seizures), an intellectual disability, autism, and some kind of unnamed DD. I also have been called low-functioning. But I don’t live my life as if labels matter. I just need these words, right here and right now, to explain things. At least one further post is planned. I don’t know when.

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Posted in Weave of Traditions

Language preferences: Genderlessness

A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: "The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others." -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto
A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: “The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others.” -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

This post is part of the Weave of Tradition series.  Please read the introductory post to that series to understand more about this post’s intent and context.  This series deals with traditions, language, and symbols that mean very different things to different people.
When I first tentatively described myself as nongendeered, I did not dream there would be so many words for this in the future that I wouldn’t quite know what to do with them all.  So these word preferences are entirely personal, and should not be taken as telling anyone else to feel about different words or what to call yourselves.
This is mostly one of those posts that’s a little boring to me:  It’s more posted for reference purposes for later posts, than for any other reason.
So here are some of the words for genderlessness and related concepts, and how I feel about them.

Words Specific To Genderlessness

Nongendered

This is the word I came up with for myself, when I first came up with a word.  At the time, I viewed cisgenderedas meaning that you had a gender identity that matched your biological sex, and transgenderedas meaning that you had a gender identity that did not match your biological sex.  So I came up with nongenderedby contrast:  It meant that you simply didn’t havea gender identity.  And therefore it couldn’t possibly match or not match your biological sex, because it just flat-out wasn’t there.
You can say all you want about my understanding of gender at the time, but that’s where it stood, and that’s my first clumsy beginnings at articulating what I was really experiencing.  So it holds some kind of place in my heart regardless of everything I don’t like about it.
But I don’t like it at this point.  Among other things, it’s clunky.  It just isn’t easy to say or to read.  It doesn’t work for me when I have better options.
But I do like that it’s never really caught on.  When words for genderlessness catch on, they have a habit of acquiring gendered qualities.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because they acquire second meanings that basically refer to various nonbinary or androgynous genders (sometimes specific ones, sometimes just in general). This one, at least, never has never done that.

Neutrois

I really don’t like this one.
It seems to be a complicated subculture, at once a gender of its own and no gender at all, sometimes nonbinary and gendered, sometimes genderless, sometimes both, sometimes neither.  And that’s fine for anyone who feels comfortable under that umbrella, but to me it just sounds like a social and linguistic nightmare.
Also, it’s hard to say.  I don’t know if it was originally French and later used by English speakers, or whether it was always just borrowed from French into English.  But it’s a very specific kind of French word that is hard for even someone familiar with French to figure out how to say in an English-speaking context.
So basically, I know exactly how to say neutrois in French.  That’s not hard, there’s only really one way it can be pronounced.
But when a word using those particular French sounds is borrowed into English, it isn’t always pronounced the same way it would be in French.  The French R sound doesn’t exist in English.  So usually a word like this would be approximated by a W sound instead.  So in English, it would sound like: noo-TWAH.  Which sounds, to an English speaker, very close to how it’d be pronounced in French.
Except that it isn’t actually the same, so it’s confusing.

Agender

I don’t like the word itself any more than I like the word nongendered.  I find it clunky and off-putting.  I see that it’s supposed to mirror asexual, and it does a good job in that regard.  I just don’t, personally, like it.
I’ve also gotten to watch the term evolve over time.  And there was a time when it meant roughly what I mean by genderless, and it still does mean that for a lot of people.
But it’s acquired a second meaning that feels like it is a gender in and of itself, even with some unspoken rules about what falls into it.  And there’s a specific kind of androgyny often associated with it.  And that kind of androgyny never fits any kind of aesthetic I could pull off even if I wanted to.
And the second meaning makes it harder for me to use it.  I don’t mind that terms evolve, I just don’t feel comfortable within what this term has evolved into.
Unfortunately for my personal preferences, agender has become the most popular term for genderlessness.  If people know a term for genderless at all, it’s agender.  Sometimes neutrois.

Genderless

Obviously this is what I actually call myself.  I like that it’s a word that can be readily understood and doesn’t look or feel clunky to say.  I like that it just means lack of gender, and has no spoken or unspoken secondary meaning of androgynous, or a specific nonbinary gender with genderless qualities, or something like that.

Other Words

Nonbinary

This is a word that in some cases can technically apply to genderlessness, if by nonbinary you mean any gender or lack of genderother than male or female.
But I don’t actually like using it on myself.  Because nonbinary is a term developed by people with genders, for people with genders, so it doesn’t feel like it fits.  And I am not always comfortable being described this way, although people can use whatever definitions of words they feel ike.

Genderqueer

This is much worse than nonbinary. Because it really is a gendered term created by and for people with nonbinary genders. It’s just not my territory gender-wise. And more so than nonbinary, it implies gender, at least to me. Since I lack a gender, it’s just not a comfortable fit.

Transgender

I definitely feel I have a place in the trans community. Because I believe as long as you’re subject to transphobia, it doesn’t matter what specific category of gender you fall into, you may need the community for survival. And the community has no right to reject anyone who might need it. If parents who throw their trans children into the streets could ever be stopped by “But I’m nonbinary and not going to transition” then I’d take the hair splitting seriously. But as it is, given that membership in the community can mean survival to some people, I find splitting hairs about who belongs there to be a form of extreme and selfish cruelty.
That said, I’m not always comfortable under the transgender umbrella. It comes down to this: All the culture, concepts, words, ideas, etc. in the trans community were created by and for trans people who had genders. So these things all can work wonderfully if you’re in that category, which is most trans people. But I lack any gender identity at all and that means that even when things almost fit they don’t quite.  Like a shirt that fits fine in some places but you can’t wear it because the armholes are so tiny you can’t squeeze the thickest part of your arm through no matter how hard you try.  Except that the “fits fine in some places” part is added to by there being places where it looks like it fits fine the same as on everyone else, but it actually doesn’t fit well at all and may even restrict breathing somewhat, but without anyone being able to see any difference.
So I think genderless people belong having access to the trans community, especially if we want to and are comfortable there.  But I can see why a lot of genderless people would be uncomfortable or not feel like it was the best fit.  It wasn’t made with us in mind, and in some ways was made with experiences in mind that we’re never going to have.  But anyone else saying we don’t belong there has no real standing to do so.  That’s our own call and our own call only, and it can change based on context very easily.
Posted in language, Weave of Traditions

Without explanation.

A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: "The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others." -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto
A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: “The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others.” -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

This post is part of the Weave of Tradition series.  Please read the introductory post to that series to understand more about this post’s intent and context.  This series deals with traditions, language, and symbols that mean very different things to different people.

This happened some time ago.  I’ve only now been able to respond at all.

Someone requested of me that I stop using the word homophobia and transphobia and instead use the words heterosexism and cissexism.

The person was polite in their request.

They explained, clearly and in detail, why they were making such a request.  I assume they figured I didn’t know.  (I knew.  In more detail than they explained, in fact.)

I didn’t answer.

I couldn’t answer.

I couldn’t explain.

Still can’t.

But I can say this:

NO.

And I realize it’s important for me to say no.

Because you’re penalized for your inability to explain.

So too often if I can’t explain, I just don’t say anything.

I can’t justify myself.  Oh — I know my justification.  But I don’t know the words, I don’t know how to say it.  Especially not in a way that’d make sense to anyone.

But no, I both won’t and can’t — both won’t and can’t — use those words instead.

And I shouldn’t have to.

And I shouldn’t have to have an explanation or justification.  It’s dangerous to leave people without a means to describe our own oppression, no matter if that’s your intent or not.  (And I know it was not this person’s intent.  But that would be the result.)

So all I can say:

NO.

Posted in Weave of Traditions

All of Pride Month I felt like I couldn’t talk about my favorite Pride jewelry.

A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: "The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others." -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto
A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: “The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others.” -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

This post is part of the Weave of Tradition series.  Please read the introductory post to that series to understand more about this post’s intent and context.  This series deals with traditions, language, and symbols that mean very different things to different people.

I mean, I love the rainbow bracelets i managed to get, with “LOVE WINS” and that kind of thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  But that’s my acceptable Pride jewelry, and some of it actually makes me vaguely uncomfortable to wear.  But it doesn’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Two Pride bracelets. The first one is a leather rainbow with an infinity sign that says "love", another part that says "LOVE WINS," and a heart dangling off the botom. The second one is a bangle with a rainbow heart, another "LOVE WINS," another infinity, and a double-woman symbol.
Two Pride bracelets. The first one is a leather rainbow with an infinity sign that says “love”, another part that says “LOVE WINS,” and a heart dangling off the botom. The second one is a bangle with a rainbow heart, another “LOVE WINS,” another infinity, and a double-woman symbol.

Pride jewelry: A small rainbow chainmail love knot.
Pride jewelry: A small rainbow chainmail love knot.

The part that makes me uncomfortable is the double-woman symbol.  Everyone knows it means lesbian, so it’s convenient.  It’s in no way controversial, so it’s convenient.

But… it demands things of me I’m uncomfortable with.  It reflects back at me a narrow definition of lesbian as a person with a female gender identity attracted exclusively to other people with female gender identities.  A definition that has no room for me in it.  But that has become popular lately and crowded out older, more inclusive, broader definitions of lesbian, ones that still have a place for a person like me, with no innate gender identity and complicated attractions.

I know the double-woman symbol doesn’t mean that to everyone who uses it.  But it feels like that meaning to me, so it feels uncomfortable to wear it.  Even as I do wear it.

Meanwhile I prefer to wear a symbol that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  And they have good reason to be uncomfortable.  I’m not taking that away from them.  As I’ve said — the same word or symbol can make different people feel very different.  Even different people with relatively similar labels, life experiences, etc.  These things can be deeply personal.

I happen to love the labrys.  These are the earrings I wore all Pride and continue to wear now:

A labrys earring on my right ear.
A labrys earring on my right ear.

Mel wearing two earrings on hir left ear, one a redwood cone, the other a labrys.
Mel wearing two earrings on hir left ear, one a redwood cone, the other a labrys.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but for clarity:  I am not a lesbian feminist, a radical feminist, etc.  I believe trans women who are lesbians are lesbians, no questions asked.  I don’t wear the labrys as a statement about anyone else.

The reason I love the labrys is complicated.  But the part that might surprise people:

A labrys has never demanded anything from me when it comes to gender identity.

Yeah, I actually prefer the labrys because it does not impose anything on me with respect to my relationship with gender.  Nothing.  Never has.  People who use the labrys have, sometimes.  But the labrys itself hasn’t.  And contrary to popular belief, the labrys has been popular in many circles that have nothing to do with the ideologies most people associate with it.

So I wore labrys earrings all of Pride Month but I never talked about them.  I was afraid to.  I was afraid people would misunderstand my intent, misunderstand my relationship to the symbol, misunderstand the whole thing.

Especially when you combine it with statements like “I’m a genderless lesbian.”  But my genderlessness is not ideological or political, it’s a hard-won truth about myself.  it just means I lack any innate sense of myself as having a gender, and always have.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Lesbian is complicated and I’ll probably get into that in a different post in this series.

But anyway, things like this are what this post series was made for:  Words and symbols that mean very different things to different people.  And that being okay.

 

Posted in Weave of Traditions

Weave of Traditions topic introduction

The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hammock for some just as surely makes a noose that strangles others.

-Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

Weave of Traditions will be yet another blog topic.

A tightly wovn grey fabric.
A tightly wovn grey fabric.

The point being this:

There’s a lot of people who want to standardize everything.  They want everyone to use the same words, with the same meanings, always.  They want people to avoid using the same words, for the same reasons, always.  They want each word, each symbol, each community, to have one meaning, one interpretation.

The world couldn’t work like that even if everyone wanted it to.

The world is a messy place where different words, different symbols, mean different things at different times to different people.

This is okay.  This is how things are supposed to work.

This is part of living in a diverse society, with diverse experiences, diverse cultures, diverse opinions, and that diversity can be a source of immense strength if we let it.

Anyway, I worry about the people who get left behind when the acceptable language changes.  The acceptable concepts change.  Something that was okay to say a year ago is terrible now.  Lots of people can’t keep up.

People react to old traditions that shut them out in many ways.

They create new traditions.

Those new traditions shut new people out, and the people building them can rarely see it.

This kind of problem is inevitable.

How we deal with it is not inevitable.  We can choose how to respond to these situations.

I suspect a lot of this topic will be devoted to the way I, and other people I’ve met, prefer to use language and symbols that other people might use or understand entirely differently.

But it’s a broad topic on purpose, and meant to cover a lot of ground.

One favor I ask of you is that you understand that no matter what I say on these topics, I am saying it in good faith.

Meaning — I am not just mounting a “backlash against political correctness”.  I have no interest in being condescended to by people who think repeating “But words matter” at me willl make my language use th same as their own.  Or being told that if I’d ever been hurt by the words in question, I wouldn’t use them the way I do.

Assume that if I’m talking about this I’m talking about something I’ve known, something I’ve seen, something that’s real.

Assume that if I’m talking about, say, the fact that the endless word lists you’re supposed to memorize is inaccessible to lots of cognitively disabled people, I actually mean what I’m saying.  I’m not just trying to get out of doing what you’re absolutely certain is the only right way to do things.  Cognitively disabled people have been discussing that particular problem, in public, for over a decade now.

I don’t expect anyone to have seen those discussions, but I do expect people to trust that they’ve happened.  And that I’m not just pulling this out of my ass to score points.  And that when I talk about being having people demand I say heterosexist instead of homophobic, my problems with this are something real.

Because none of this is about scoring points, for me.

Here’s what it is about:

  • Recognizing that when we build new traditions, we shut out new groups of people whether we mean to or not.
  • Recognizing that one word or symbol can have many meanings.  And that it’s okay for people to have different relationships to it in different contexts.
  • Recognizing that what is beautiful and perfect and respectful and meaningful to one person may be the exact opposite to someone else.
  • Learning to respect diversity in a much deeper way than you can by trying to make everyone say the same things, not say the same things, think the same things, etc.
  • Understanding that all of this is the way things should be, not something to correct or bludgeon into submission.

And a lot more than that.  But if I try to write about everything that I mean, I’ll never write this post, or the ones that I want to follow it.  So consider this a beginning, not a full summary or an ending.

A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: "The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others." -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto
A tightly woven grey fabrc with the following quote written over it: “The tight weave of traditions that makes a comfortable hamock for some just as surely maks a noose that strangles others.” -Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto