What dealing with abuse looks like?

trigger warnings: references to abuse, descriptions of suicidal ideation, self-harm, and coping mechanisms

I want to be a storyteller, and yet you can see that this blag — the only means I have of expressing myself in a deep, meaningful way — has lain abandoned for months. It makes me feel guilty. I see my friends going about their lives, being strong and powerful; and then here I am, wishing I was dead, watching the world go by, without the words I need to explain myself, to explain why I’ve done nothing while my strong friends have taken beatings without my backup.

To explain myself is difficult. How can I do it without explaining all the strife I’ve been through? I’m dominated by my past: by the abuse, the betrayal, the crying. Oh Athea, there’s been so much crying. You might think that with so much raw material, it’d be easy to write shit down. Like every time I put pen to metaphorical paper, an explosion would happen and an hour later, I’d have a few hundred words; it’s supposed to be my craft, after all, the thing I’m best at and gives me a reason for living! —but no. Getting all that down on print is difficult.

Disentangling myself from all my baggage is next to impossible. There are little tricks I can use to make it a bit easier — writing everything as fiction helps provide a nice layer of abstraction. *"What? No, I’m not writing about myself, brain. I’m writing about this other completely unrelated person that just happens to share all my experiences and demographics."* But that doesn’t help when I’m talking to my psych — bloody amazing psych — or when I’ve got an idea I can’t fit into that mold.

$psych has been suggesting some interesting reasons why it is I’m so fucked up — I know I shouldn’t say it that way, I know that I’m actually deserving of love and shouldn’t use such charged, stigmatizing phrases to describe myself, but it doesn’t bloody feel that way, at least not now. It came up in the context of my relationships: I should stop sabotaging my interactions with my girlfriends, who keep me remarkably stable; but I think it’s more about sabotaging my agency, as a whole.

It feels like my default state right now is nonverbal. I’ve spent a lot of time making my computer setup pretty (though YMMV) just so it’s easier to veg out in front of it. This has made going through school a fucking nightmare, it has made trying to autodidact — which has worked in the past — crash and burn. I hate it, I want this response to die, but it won’t, because as hard as it is to believe, my mind thinks it’s a defense mechanism. It was, back from the days when I had to shut up and go comatose else process that everything I thought I knew about my family was crumbling before my eyes, but it’s not needed anymore.

That’s part of the reason behind feeling suicidal, too. Things were easier to deal with when I told myself that there’s a way out, that if things were any worse I wouldn’t have to deal with them. And that it’s even my fault all of this is happening, that it’s my fault I’ve angered everyone, because if this world was worth a damn, there had to be a reason behind all this fucking pain.

After more than two years, most of the things I learned during that period of abuse are still there. Trying to force remove them hasn’t worked, but then… what do I expect? You can’t violently rip out parts of the kernel and expect the operating system will be stable later. I hate to say it, but I rely on going nonverbal, on receeding into myself, on feeling uncomfortable if I don’t have at least three plans to kill myself filed away in the back of my head. I sabotage, subvert my agency because it feels as if I shouldn’t have any.

I don’t know how to change that, exactly. I find solidarity in war stories, in talking with people who have been through shit. I found the energy to write this because I read the acknowledgments+foreword+introduction of Colonize This! and felt safe, surrounded by people who understood at least a little bit. But this ain’t sustainable, of course. The book runs out of pages at one point or another. I don’t know how to keep going, how to get from here to a point where I’m a prolific coder; or where I’ve finished my pokemon fan-fic; or where I can draw well; or where I have the spoons to write about any damn topic I please; or where I’ve made a video game; or where I do Let’s Plays for fun and profit; or even where I’m alive and consistently happy.

In part, this is an apology for all the fights I’ve missed and all the friends+lovers my apathy has alienated. In particular, I’m thinking about all the people back east that I left

Reconstructing memory?

trigger warnings: mentions of emotional abuse, sexual abuse, suicidal ideation, depression

This is mostly going to be a stream of consciousness post. I’m sorry about that. It’s just… I have to get these thoughts out of my head, particularly before I finish the really big post I’ve been planning for a few weeks.


i don’t remember most of my childhood. sure, I don’t have a very reliable memory anyways — i can’t remember what I ate for dinner a week ago, but I can remember what a then-crush wore to a dance about eight or nine years ago — but this seems fishy.

most of what i can remember is tied up in either really good, or really bad memories, like contacting an online suicide hotline when ‘my parents’ were arguing; or crying in the middle of the night listening to really bad, depressing music; or the moment when we first bought a laptop and brought it home and saw it magically work with the wireless internet; telling someone that touching my balls during tickle fights wasn’t okay; or that time i invited a friend over to my house and we played yu-gi-oh.

is that normal? i don’t know.

i mean, when i try to remember farther back, all I can think of is a particular family member’s massive cock, getting burned by a stove, wanting to jump off the roof of a large building, etc. i dunno, it at least seemed massive to my five or six year old self.

and again, is that normal, remembering mostly the amplitudes of my life, and having most of them suck?

i admit that i feel a bit depressed right now, a bit triggered. but this is a question i’ve asked myself a lot. see, every since the five-month-long series of abuse two years ago (ohmygoditsalmostbeentwofullyearssinceiescapedwhatthefuck) everything’s seemed suspect. memories have started popping back up, and i can look at them and say, this thing that happened, that was abusive or, this thing that happened, that was fucked up, like… why did my cousin try to show me porn, anyways?

i’m scared sometimes that i’m just making it up. like, maybe they were right about this of all things:

you’re just making it up

you’re just trying to imitate your friends

this is all just a ploy for sympathy

stop lying

there’s nothing wrong with us, this is all on you

we lurve you, stop saying these things about us

and i don’t know, because there must be some sort of explanation for having such a fragmented memory, right? there are so many lows, and so little middles, that there has to be something skewing it, right?

some memory i’ve locked away that holds all the secrets to this?

or maybe a few months of abuse and a family member’s cock while we showered together are really the defining events of my life?

or maybe i’m just making it all up, the product of a fucking terrible imagination and a victim complex?

i don’t know

In “memory” of TERFs and their crepuscular movement

You know, sometimes I have the urge to use the same discursive violence on TERFs that they use on us. Misgender, degender you, and call you a man with all the implications thereof. But then, of course, my feminism stops me.

Violence begets violence, yeah. And this isn’t a substantive protest either; in the same way that Catherine Brennan responding to every person who disagrees with “says the man” isn’t substantive. Because using “man” as a pejorative, in fact, misses part of the point of feminism, the freedom from exploitation, from stigma for everyone.

That, and of course, I don’t need discursive violence to know that you’re wrong when there’s plenty of valid evidence out there. Like that your philosophy doesn’t explain what you might consider to be edge cases, the lives and bodies of intersex people. You put all your faith in a non-binary, imperfect system of “biological sex markers” without knowing the science behind it.

And, of course, let’s talk about the demographics of your movement. It doesn’t directly invalidate your argument, but I laugh at the complete dearth of women of color, neurodiverse women, disabled women, financially insecure women, survivors of abuse. You’re on the whole a bunch of honky pendejo jerkoffs crying about your losing of privilege.

You use the historical oppression of “Woman”, a class you fallaciously derive, as if all those experiences belong to you and happened to you personally.

You ignore any feminist thought that isn’t Raymond, Daly, de Beauvoir, or Greer. You’re stagnant is what I’m saying, and you seem to operate under the perverse fallacy that your movement isn’t on life support, that you have any chance of survial in an incrementally more intersectional world. Your under a fantasy that when we call you a trans* exclusionary radical feminist, we actually consider you to be feminists, as opposed to merely tolerating your self-identification.

Good luck in your sunset years.

The accumulation of my gender

So, I’m in this feminist studies class in uni. And all the lectures herein have made me… think rather heavily about certain ways I interact with the world, especially as a feminist who’s interested in the spread of knowledge/activism.

So the piece we’re reading for tomorrow was written by Judith Butler, and she’s talking about the idea of performance and performativity. Part of what she’s saying is that (normative?) gender is a bit like a meme — its aim is to self-perpetuate; and above all gender is a process that you do and that is done to you.

So the reason I’m writing this post is that in the middle of this article, she comes up with the metaphor of sediment, as with how dirt builds up at the bottom of a riverbed, after eons of erosion. If I may quote her:

My suggestion is that the body becomes its gender through a series of acts which are renewed, revised, and consolidated through time. From a feminist point of view, one might try to reconceive the gendered body as the legacy of sedimented acts, rather than a predetermined or foreclosed [essence or fact]

And this concept isn’t really new to me. I mean, it’s not as if I or anyone sprung out of the womb as a man, woman, or queer. But it’s the new metaphor that really got to me, because it gives me a way to think of how my gender has evolved that isn’t one of the twin normativities that plague trans* people:

  • You must have known that you’re trans* and/or otherwise queer ever since you were a wee tot
  • You must conform to all the stereotypes and norms of your gender

And honestly, any new metaphors that take me away from that toxic vicegrip are appreciated. Also, it seems nicely nuanced for me, because not all of the events that shaped how I view my gender are normally coded as appreciably gendered.

So looking back, I recognize these events as making up the bedrock of my gender up to now, and being small components of my genderqueer-ness:

  • When I was about six or seven years old, I remember that my school was having a dressup day for Halloween. The person dressing me up tried to wrap me up in bandages and make me into a mummy; I found it too frightening to be wrapped up, and I went without a costume.
  • Sixth grade, the Valentine’s day dance. I went, dressed up kind of formally. I spent most of the dance with my friend/crush. We slow-danced at the end of the dance. When we were about to go home, we stood and looked at each other, and… I didn’t kiss her and she didn’t kiss me. We both left, and nothing romantic happened.
  • I remember playing Pokemon Crystal about eight, ten years ago and wanting dearly to play as Kris (the blue-haired, female character), but not doing so because I was scared that someone might look at my save and yell at me.
  • When I was a senior in high school, one of my teachers showed her class a copy of a maths essay I’d done. Only my teacher and I knew that I was trans* then. She told the class that one of the senior girls had written it, and so the students started throwing out the names of every other girl the senior class as possible authors.
  • I was told repeatedly, while growing up, that I should just go and marry me a white woman, and move up
  • Once, a girlfriend asked me to write shounen-ai (wikipedia, nsfw?) for her, as punishment for teasing her. And when I was writing it, I remember being aroused by it and so confused and ohmygodwhatbodywhydothis
  • When I first joined IRC, I still thought of myself as a het cis boy. My username was Emi, and I remember ranting against someone for assuming that my name was necessarily coded as female.
  • Then about two years later, I’m trans*! And I talked to this same person, in that same IRC channel, about my pronouns and my gender, and "I’m sorry for getting angry a few years back"
  • I got the urge to put up a picture of myself on a private forum. About two days later, one of the people who saw that picture was my boyfriend.
    • We’d talked about half a year before that, about our schoolwork, and he’d gendered me as female, even though I wasn’t one.
  • An ex-girlfriend of mine once told me, "pay more attention to me (stop being so affectionate with everyone else) or I’ll start flirting with other girls again". This wasn’t threatening to me, but it did make all my (straight) female friends uncomfortable.
  • My first real entry into any sort of feminist thought was in a forum called Mad Stalker, in a video game site.
  • When I was about 15, I remember feeling as if something was wrong with me because I wasn’t sexually attracted to my girlfriend, because I didn’t have any sexual thoughts about her at all.
  • When I saw what the female character in Pokemon X/Y is going to look like, my first thought was Oh my, I’ll have to play as the male character in order to avoid a lot of dysphoria.

And this isn’t anywhere close to the full depth of things that have accumulated into "my" gender. Now, I don’t think that I was born into some weird "blank slate" state, but I also know that what/who I am just didn’t spontaneously happen.

And this matters because normativity exists. I’m reminded of a time that I was walking with a crush in Oakland, and a passer-by called us "fucking dykes". Depending on where I am, I’ll get punished for being my gender out in public. Hetero/cis-normative society has said that it’s okay to assume that genitals should be what determine how you present; that gender is something you’re born with, rather than something that you do and that is done to you over time. And most importantly, it says that punishing people for transgressing these "rules" is okay and moral.

So here is part of my progression, my journey through the wibbly-wobbly ball that is gender. These are just a few of the many foundational parts of what’s made me into who I am. And I am not alone. So together we can start up a new narrative of how gender interacts with us, and fuck up normativity.

Feminist academics seem to have failed us. What now?

The problem of appropriation and colonization

As I said in my last post, I’m taking a feminist studies class in my first semester of uni. And I find the curriculum to lack such a degree of self-awareness.

This was my observation, just after one class:

But all of [our reading materials are] from strictly scholarly works, or from feminists who have/had-when-writing institutional backing and power. It’s all from academic journals, print anthologies, and other generally-inaccessible works.

And I find that I stand behind that statement. However, after reading some of the works in this curriculum, and looking at the thoughts expressed throughout those pieces, I’m confused.

Many of the pieces we’re reading are from women of Color, from Third World/South women, who rail against the idea that their material, their lives are something to be examined separately and dispassionately from the white experience. Essentially, that the female diaspora is being turned into Euro-American studies, and the Other.

The argument that’s stuck with me the most is the metaphor of colonization and missionary work. Historical precedent has made it such that whenever Northern/Western people intervene in Southern/Third World lives, they dismantle the cultures around them and implant whiteness.

Obviously, the idea of Catholic missionaries comes to mind, spreading the gospel of the European Jesus and dismantling sex-ed and marginalized empowerment. But with a bit of thought, you think of literacy campaigns that encourage generational splits between youths and elders and the de-emphasizing of oral traditions; and Mormon missionaries who spread their own religion during their missions, which are done for their own benefit more than the benefit of the people they’re trying to help.

How this applies to academics

But the same metaphor applies to the feminist academia, which for all of its awareness of intersectionality, misses or downplays the classist underpinnings of its behavior. There has been an expectation — at least in my class — that everyone taking a feminist theories class is doing so as a prerequisite or an enhancement for activist work. And that viewpoint creates two very oppressive dynamics that go unchallenged.

The first is, of course, that it makes concerted activism into the pinnacle of feminist action. This falls into the same old trap of trying to overcome kyriarchy and identity policing/mandates by flipping the current status quo; that is, by enforcing a standard of being "radical", completely ignoring what one’s personal desires are. Mandating radicalness is just as oppressive as mandating "compliance", since it frames identities as one-or-the-other, Allowed and Other, Actor and Acted-Upon.

This isn’t a helpful stance to take. Damn it, I would love to be a feminist activist, kicking ass and taking names. But I’m also a programmer, and I would love nothing more than to be able to create and share as I wish. I’m also a mathemagician, and I would love to advance some form of theory there. Or maybe I want to join the feminist academia itself, and try to reform its classism from the inside. Maybe I just want to learn more about intersectionality with like-minded people because I consider that a pre-requisite to being a decent human being! The point is that I want choice over what I do; saying that I must be a concerted activist to be a feminist will only make me want to drop the title of feminist and forge my own way.

And now for the second problematic thought I find in the implicit assumptions of academic feminist theories, which follows from the first. The prescription that all feminists be activists follows the same colonialist metaphor that academic feminism has been trying to rid itself of for decades. Here, the colonizer, the subject of all this activism, is the enlightened, educated feminist, and the projects you work on, that you’re passionate about, are then just objects for you to teach at.

Which confuses me. So many of the works we’ve been reading — selections from This Bridge Called My Back, a collection of works commenting on how hard it is for women of Color and white women to have conversations on equal footing; Anticolonialization pedagogies and feminism, which is about how Third World/Southern women and their issues are portrayed in feminist studies classes — explicitly tear down similar models of objectification.

Then again, the targets of most of those works haven’t been the general public as a whole. They’ve been works by class-privileged feminists, for class-privileged feminists, about institutions of their own making. Meaning that most of these works they’ve constructed only address marginalization and privilege in terms of how academics encounter it. So it’s effectively created a sort of invisible dichotomy between the universities (the people who act) and everyone else (the people they act on).

And of course, I might just be talking out of my ass. It’s only two/three weeks into the semester, and we’ve only read a bit less than ten works. But looking ahead at the curriculum, so many of the works have the same academic, sterilized feel.

Intermission: my assumptions writing this article

Before I finish, here’s something I have to say. Some people might think of me as a sort of ingrate. I mean, my professor is a loving, involved, kickass person who is trying their best to be inclusive and avoid all of the other problems that have plagued how feminism classes have been taught in the past, and it seems like I’m shitting on them throughout this whole article.

And I’m sorry. The only reason I’m writing this post is that I’m operating under the assumption that this isn’t something unique to how they handle the class. I’m assuming that something so insiduous, so deeply tied into the very structure of how the class operates must be part of the greater teaching movement right now. And part of why I feel justfied in writing this as critically as I am is because I admire them so, because they have put so much effort into trying to be so inclusive on other axes of oppression, because I admire how kind and loving they are.

And I’m sorry, if they’re reading this and they’ve been hurt by what I’ve said. I really am, and I hope I can do something to change that.

How do we solve this problem?

For an academic movement that’s so focused on the idea of tearing down power boundaries, destroying the hierarchies of a kyriarchal and capitalist society, I find it funny how bloody gated and exclusive academic feminism is. The cognitive dissonance involved seems staggering. Exposing and unmaking that way of thinking, I think, will do tons to improve the relationship between academic feminisms and the greater movements.

I mean… as much as I feel that the overall establishment has failed me as a feminist up to now, I’ve learned a lot from my readings. Last week, talking as a group about how the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house has made me completely reconsider how I approach other people’s writings, for example. And my reading assignment for tomorrow, an essay by a feminist called Chandra Talpade Mohanty, was what helped me get all these thoughts in a coherent form.

This is inarguable: feminist academia has produced thousands of hours of feminist discussion and thought over the last few decades. And it’s depressing that the only big feminists that are known in the greater feminist movements are the ones who have been (at least in part) actively destructive and hateful — Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Steinam, Janice Raymond, the bug, Dean $pade, Caitlin Moran, etc. bell hooks and Audre Lorde are some of the few exceptions to this trend.

The main figures of feminism are "misguided/tragic figures" at best, "villains" at worst. There’s so much space to fill with positive figures from our past and present; I think that academic feminisms are doing everyone wrong by not sharing themselves.

All it would take, after all, is to subvert the publishing schemes a little bit, to post old articles and analyses on the wobs, and publicize them. It would take a leap of faith, that people on the wobs without the privilege of being able to go to uni can understand these not-so-complicated-after-all works and build something with them.

In the greater feminist movement, there’s been so much work done by people trying to recapture our shared pasts. To show that trans* people existed before the mid-eighties, that classism and misogyny were big parts of the Stonewall riots, that race and class have fought with feminisms ever since the time of the suffragettes and much earlier, that non-male deities and inspirations have always existed and we can draw power from them. We need to fill in those chasms.

Feminist uni courses, and a lack of accessibility

So… I started my first semester at uni yesterday. All in all, it’s been pretty miserable. Profs have brushed me off, the system has been pretty unaccomodating of trans* issues, and I got hit by a car. (Sure, being hit by a car isn’t strictly the uni’s fault, but why split hairs like that?)

The feminist theories class I’m in is one of the few upsides of dealing with the whole process of being in uni. The teacher is pretty damn awesome; they’re actively doing presentations on pink-washing and campaigning against the school’s insufficient treatment of queer folks.

And at the same time, I find their methods interesting. I’m not sure I necessarily agree with them.

Like… this is a selected list of what’s in the class:

  • A speech from Adrienne Rich, Claiming an Education
  • Monique Wittig’s One is Not Born a Woman
  • A piece from “The Feminist Majority Foundation”
  • Haunted by Citizenship: Whitenormative Citizen-Subjects and the Uses of History in Women’s Studies.
  • Published in ‘Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: a Reader,’ Where Have All the Natives Gone?

The material is damn well inclusive of queer people, women of color, non-western people. But all of it is from strictly scholarly works, or from feminists who have/had-when-writing institutional backing and power. It’s all from academic journals, print anthologies, and other generally-inaccessible works.

It might just be me, but… it seems counter-productive to tout feminism as an inclusive doctrine and then gate our readings off from general access. The prof’s answer (heavily paraphrased):

Yeah, I know. I fully own up to the fact that our reading list is pretty classist. But I feel that showing and helping you through difficult works is the best use of your time, and it’ll use your time most effectively.

I don’t want to go through works that you can just find wherever and understand right off the bat. I want to help you understand more difficult works, so then you can use that knowledge on your own activism.

It normalizes the idea that academia is the only place where complex, or incisive feminist progress can happen. It devalues work like Natalie Reed’s, or PrincexAchilles’s, or the huge body of work at Questioning Transphobia, all of which is full and compassionate and thought-provoking as all hell.

And it also seems to lift everyone in class up as a pedastal, both in status and responsibility. Not everyone in class is going to be a dedicated activist, and giving us texts under that assumption comes at the problem of “not enough people are undertaking feminist work” from the wrong direction.

I’d argue that a better way to spread feminism effectively is to make large swaths of feminist works intellectually open to people, so they can be shared and understood. Academia and universities are a small part of all the feminist work that is happening in the world, and progress isn’t going to happen by containing works in the ivory tower, even if we surround those works with the ideas of intersectionality and activism.

Thing is… I don’t know a way around that. I want my writings and that of all the good, intersectional feminists out there to find some sort of wide-spread, accessible feminist home, co-existing with all the scholarly high-brow works out there. I’ll definitely be pushing for it every chance I get in my uni and blag work.

But my plan right now? Most of the stuff we’ll be reading will be from photocopies, from journals, from works that are probably out of print everywhere but one rinky-dink publishing company. So maybe I can start typing all that shit up, publishing it on the blag with my annotations.

Or I can write on the blackboard the URLs for all the great blags I know before class ends. Or… something, just to get the ball rolling here.

It’s a really small contribution, but at the same time… every little bit helps. And if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Do you use “lynching” as a metaphor? That’s racist.

(Yeah, this is a short post. My response is somewhere between “sorry” and “deal with it”.)

So you just used the word/phrase “lynching” or “lynch mob.” What you just said is racist.

Why?

Okay, let’s look at the sentiment you were trying to express.

Lynch /linCH/ (of a mob): Kill (someone), esp. by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial. (source)

But that’s not all. The dictionary has the most narrow version of the word’s denotation, but it doesn’t talk about the cultural baggage associated with the word.

So what do you think about when you hear the word “lynch mob”?

A crowd of furious people, possibly with torches, ready to beat and hang someone. But pay more attention to the scene. All those furious people? Notice that they’re all white. The person they’re about to hang? Notice that they’re a Black man.

Why a Black man?

Black men were considered uppity. Black men were considered to be sexual predators by nature, who either tempted or raped “pure” white women.

That’s the only reason they were hanged.

They were “dangerous.” They were “embarassing.”

The act of lynching was a practice overwhelmingly of male-on-male aggression, fueled by racism and white supremacy, fueled by sexual compulsion and jealousy, fueled by arrogance and the idea that there always must be a Superior and an Inferior.

That’s the history you tap into when you talk about lynching. Were white people killed in the same way? Probably. But their experiences, horrible as they must have been, are not the ones associated with this phenomenon. White communities have never had to fear true lynching as others have.

The appropriation is staggering and is nothing short of racism. An unimaginative turn of phrase should not take priority over respecting the lives and lived experiences of lynching victims.

I shouldn’t have to say this. The words and experiences of Black people — and especially Black men — should be able to ring out for themselves and dispel all controversy. I say this, attempting to support their experiences, and hoping that I’m not talking over them. If I am, I’ll take this down.

Stop calling veganism “compassionate”: intersections of poverty, feminism, and veganism

Note, for the Curious or Demanding: Yes, I am vegan — or at least, as vegan as I can be. My girlfriend, some would say sadly, is not, but that doesn’t matter much as I am in charge of running and supplying the kitchen.


One of the main arguments for becoming vegan is that our food choices don’t exist in a vacuum, correct?

Some arguments for veganism say that because of the violence of slaughterhouses and dairy farms, many of the workers therein either sustain PTSD or transfer the aggression of the killing they do onto their families. And there are arguments involving climate change and the brutality of murder and health and self-determination and all that jazz.

I’m not here to argue against any of it. I agree with lots of it, after all, or I wouldn’t try to practice veganism in the first place. But all these arguments for veganism aren’t the be all, end all in this discussion. There are, in fact, legitimate reasons not to be a vegan and I’m tired of people ignoring them for the sake of a self-congratulating narrative.

Self-congratulation and an increasing ignorance of privilege is not what’s necessary to grow a kind, self-sustaining, effective movement. Those attitudes stagnate a movement, make it think that selling out another marginalized group for the sake of its own progress is a good move. I’m reminded of PETA here — which is known less for its animal rights activism and more for its fat-shaming, sexism and racism.

Though… being honest, I admit that I’m not as surprised by the racism as I should be. Why? Because there aren’t many other people of color involved in the vegan community and there aren’t many other poor people involved in the vegan community.

Being vegan is hard enough right now, when I just have to deal with powerful depression and a lack of money. It would have been impossible, say, ten years ago, when my grandpa worked nights cleaning passenger planes, my grandmum worked at all times of the day assembling newspapers, internet access was negligible, and I was nine fucking years old. Hell, it’s still impossible for my parents now for a third of the year, when they work for eighteen hours a day at home and they fear that them cooking/eating/taking care of other basic needs will make them look inefficient or unprofessional.

The most naive reading of my situation will seem to offer some hope to the privileged, that it is possible to go vegan and still be poor. But that completely ignores all the challenges that we are privileged enough to overcome. We live in one of the largest cities in our state, in one of the better neighborhoods of that city. I can count at least four supermarkets within a ten minute drive, and all of them have tofu and ground soy in stock. Even the Walmart.

But if you cross the bridge, you find something completely different. There are tons of chicharronerias there, because it’s cheap and culturally affirming. There aren’t many big supermarkets in that side of town, and in the few that exist, the quality of food is markedly worse, and there’s no millet, soy sausages, nutritional yeast, or any other rich vegan food. There’s not cheap tofu either. Experts call this “living in a food desert,” or alternatively, “not being able to live near the university or other centers of commerce in the city.”

And that shit matters, a lot. Because adopting veganism takes time, energy, and education. And I fully admit that I’m an outlier, going through an extremely spartan lifestyle with what means are available to me. I think that asking the things I’m doing of others is ridiculous and unfair. It shows a huge lack of understanding of the roles poverty, culture, and disability play in our lives.

Going vegan has made it harder to eat some of the foods I grew up eating and loving, which were some of the last ties I had to Venezuela. Going vegan has been hard, since it requires more preparation from me in order to have edible food ready. It’s hard, because depression takes my energy and will away from me, because it’s impossible to cook while undergoing complete sensory overload or while having a seizure, and because I don’t have the strength/coordination to operate the only reliable can opener in the house. Going vegan has made my health worse at times, because the scarcity that veganism has foist on me has made it easier for me to succumb to anorexia.

What I’m saying is that shit is hard, okay? And that shit is complicated. To frame veganism as “compassionate” is to shame poor people of color for not having the opportunity to adopt your way of living, or to shame people with disabilites for not having the means.

This self-congratulation only serves to keep the whitest, richest members of the group satisfied with themselves; it sets up a hierarchy of Just and Deficient people, which is exactly how a system of oppression and kyriarchy propagates. It also ignores how veganism can also fuel imperialistic and racist narratives, such as how pesticide treatment of plants is poisoning the undocumented immigrants and other people of color tending to crops or how the quinoa demand is tearing parts of Bolivia apart.

Vegans are complicit too. In imperialism, in racism, in kyriarchal exploitation. I think that veganism is a better lifestyle than carnism, but no amount of good on its part is be able to justify the current toxicity of the internet vegan community.

Jump on the voting bandwagon

I’m not a US citizen, even though I’ve lived here for more than half my life. I’m jealous of all the people who are able to vote and are squandering it “in protest.” It means nothing, it’s indistinguishable from plain apathy.

For me, voting isn’t about showing some pride in the arbitrary geopolitical borders that surround me. It’s in part about self-preservation; one of my girlfriends said this and I agree completely:

The problem right now is that there is one person who effectively wants me dead and does not fundamentally understand how I exist, and another who is learning. [There are a few candidates who already get it, but they sadly don't have a chance of getting elected.]

But voting is about more than just self-preservation. It’s a profoundly feminist act, one whose effects you can feel in your daily life. Even if you think that your vote for president, or even governor, doesn’t matter — and I respectfully disagree — state and federal congressional races are just as important, if not more; they write and debate the laws that presidents and governors sign. Bond measures and property taxes matter, because they fund public schools, parks, pools, libraries. These measures can be decided by as little as ten votes.

And I wish I could contribute, so much. But pretty much every country thinks of immigrants as untrustworthy or as deceiving until you’ve paid years and hundreds of dollars to be “naturalized.” For all the rhetoric about immigrants being the lifeblood of a country, xenophobia still shapes the way the government approaches domestic policy.

And for all the rhetoric about voting being a fundamental right everyone should enjoy, racism and classism still inform and promote regressive voting suppression tactics.

Marginalized people have the most to gain from changing the system, and the most to lose from the system staying the same. That’s why so many of us flock to progressive ideas. We hope we can make society better, in spite of all the forces pushing us down.

Vote, for all of us who desperately want to, but can’t. Vote, and be an ally to marginalized people. Vote, to keep the lights on and taps running.

A trans* woman on Sandman, and the objectification of our bodies

[EDIT: Content warning --- objectification, degendering, and fetishizing of trans* people; objectification of breast cancer sufferers.]

Over the last day, I’ve been devouring Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. I love the themes of the series: the strengths of hope and friendship, self-determination, the creative and destructive powers of dreams, and so on.

But much as I like it, I’m kind of skeeved out. When I took a break from reading a few hours ago, I felt like hiding from the world and crying for a bit. I don’t think I can go back to reading the series until I express my concerns.

From here on be spoilers. Mostly, I’mma talk about the a game of you subplot, which ran from issues 32-37. Consider anything before that fair play, though.

You have been warned.


…why the fuck must every trans* person in the media be a punchline, a caricature, or a corpse?

I’m trying my best to think if there’s anything not cliched about Wanda’s character, I really am, but I’m not succeeding. The way she’s portrayed in these issues, she doesn’t seem to have any agency or definition of her own. Her purpose was to be humiliated, and then to die.

When she was alive, Wanda was defined by her past — by her dead name, by a family that doesn’t accept her and that finds her wicked, by what her body used to be. She wasn’t given very much personality; she mentioned a comic book series she used to read when she was young, but mostly we are supposed to remember and treat her as “that woman everyone kept calling a man.” She has one friend who takes her seriously, and seemingly no-one else. Not even the fucking moon, one of the essential deities and objects keeping her alive, one of the fundamental beings of the world:

Wanda: Okay, George, why’d they leave me behind to look after Barbie?

George: That’s uh pretty easy. It’s because you’re a man. That stuff they did with the uh moon. That was a women thing.

Wanda: I am not a man.

George: Maybe not to you, you’re not. But you’ve got the uh, you know. Male nasty thing.

Wanda: Listen: I’ve had electrolysis. I’m taking hormones. All that’s left is just a little lump of flesh; but all that doesn’t matter. Inside I’m a woman.

George: She doesn’t seem to think so. And to be honest uh well even if you had uh had the operation it wouldn’t make much difference to the uh moon. It’s chromosomes as much as uh anything. …It’s like uh gender isn’t something you can pick and choose as as uh far as gods are concerned.

Wanda: Well, that’s something the gods can take and stuff up their sacred recta. I know what I am.

[...]

Wanda: Why are you telling me this?

George: Oh, you know. It’s uh nice to have someone to uh talk to. And us guys should stick together. (source: Sandman #35, pages 19 + 20)

Wanda’s last remark there rings awful hollow. She’s talking to a man who’s been brought back from the dead, with otherworldly knowledge, with no perogative to lie. At least from that conversation, it seems that all of the structures that shape her life are cissexist for no good reason.

So answer me: what’s the bloody point of not treating Wanda as a woman? She’s reduced from a character, with her own hopes and dreams, to exposition; her presence is only required to give the All Knowing Dead Guy someone to talk to.

Though… The cynical part of me thinks that Wanda’s presence was “necessary” in that scene just so she could detail the steps she’s taken in her transition. After all, trans* people’s portrayal in fiction has come so often at the cost of painstakingly detailing the process some of us undergo to ease feelings of dysphoria. It gives the impression that this is all we are, that this is all we can be, and that this is all we should be — bodies altered by kilograms of drugs, and operations to add/remove organs; campy caricatures of what “True” men/women are.

Wanda herself echoes that view — that she won’t be complete until she goes “all the way” and gets bottom surgery done. Based on how she’s characterized, it’s impossible to judge whether that’s Wanda-the-trans-stereotype, which says that no trans* woman is complete until they’ve undergone all posible operations and jumped through all the hoops available, or Wanda-the-person talking, who actually wants the operation because it’ll ease her dysphoria.

Being treated like this in popular culture turns us at best into zoo animals, or blow-up dolls, and at worst into monsters. Our pasts, our struggles, the people who love and hate us, are meaningless. Our bodies, our identities, are meaningless, because some of us have the gall seek out medical intervention needed to save our lives.

Pacemakers, blood donation, vasectomies, none of these are fetishized to the same extent as medical transition. The only other procedures that do get this sort of in-depth, objectifying scrutiny are also unique to marginalized people — for example, breast cancer treatments/awareness campaigns, and abortion.

How society treats us is predicated on the idea that we — trans* and genderqueer people, women — are the Other in society, and that we deserve more scrutiny. The never-ending “religious” appeals to control what must go into and grow inside of people’s bodies, Jessica Luther’s description of how society reduces women with breast cancer into disembodied breasts, and Wanda’s conversation with Maisy Hill about “Billy,” her trans* granddaughter, are all symptoms of the same illness: society not being able to take our experiences seriously.

Plus, this bothers me also for the simple reason that since this is a cancer that mainly strikes women, it has to be about the body part, a body part that is so hyper-sexualized in our society that breastfeeding a child is a salacious public act. Oh, what would the menz do without the boobies to look at, fondle, and drool over? Save those tatas, ladies! (source: No more “Save the Tatas,” please, scatx.com)

Maisy: Hmph. So what’re you? A guy or a gal?

Wanda: I’m… I was born a guy. And now I’m a gal. Only I haven’t gone all the way…

Maisy: Yeah. My grandson, Billy, he was like you. He was a cute little thing. He’d sashay around sweet as anythin. He was savin up fer the operation. His maw used to say he was the daughter she’d never had.

[...]

They found him inna motel room in Queens, five years back. Someone had crushed in his head with a monkey-wrench. Done other shit to him He’d been dead for like a week. Everyone tol him not to go with strangers. There never was tellin that boy anythin… (source: Sandman, #36, page 24)

We are far more than incubators, stimulation vehicles, or t****y gags, and we have more needs than you think. We are not objects, as much as we are treated like such in “religious” rhetoric, pink-ribbon advertising campaigns, or transploitation rags.

Even if that “rag” is Sandman, one of the best crafted graphic novels I know of, by a writer I trust (or maybe that should be trusted?) deeply.

But that’s not the end of it. There’s also the matter of Wanda’s funeral.

I won’t criticize her parents or her aunt — they’re transphobic assholes and its obvious that they’re supposed to be distasteful and dishonest and bigoted beyond belief. I won’t talk about how her parents mutilated Wanda’s body before the funeral, or about how they want to overpower her identity with the lie that she was a cis man all along — it’d just be too painful to do so, as that is one of my own worst fears.

I want to talk about Barbara — and in a meta way, about Neil Gaiman — and what an appropriate sendoff is.

What exactly is the ending trying to communicate, aside from “take your goodbyes whenever you can”?

No matter how unpleasant your life, everything will be fixed by dying?

However badly you’re treated, there will be something magical in the end to make things seem worthwhile?

It doesn’t matter if your existence has been obliterated as long as someone makes a tiny, temporary gesture in your favor?

Your life will only get better if other people do stuff to/for you?

I’m disappointed. That’s probably the only way to put it. Sandman is a series that up to now has promoted agency, hope, and individual power. Lucifer Morningstar shut the very gates of Hell to go wander around the various realms of reality, but a mortal trans* woman couldn’t have any agency, or even personality, in a story?

What makes us so different, or so unworthy?