Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Question About Gender, Or The Lack Thereof.

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Not that I’m particularly feminine, but I’ve considered myself cisgender ever since I’ve known what it meant, and never really questioned it until now. I was born female, I liked being a little girl and I mostly like being a woman, although from previous posts you probably know that I very much dislike how we are often treated. I’m lucky enough to have been brought up in a family that discouraged sexism, in countries in which the equal rights movement was and still is very present, and feminism is pretty much second nature to me. I’m proud to be a woman because I think there are too many women who are ashamed because they are women, and being a woman is such a huge part of who I am that I have no idea who I’d be if I wasn’t a woman.

However, after reading Glosswatch’s recent article, a question occurred to me that I’d never thought of before:

What if, without changing my sex or anything physical, I could completely get rid of my gender?

Because gender is a social construct, isn’t it? It may be based on physical anatomy and natural instincts, but like many things we’ve brought with us from nature, I think it’s run its course as far as usefulness is concerned. Like when I get panic attacks because my brain has sent me an adrenaline rush based on the fight-or-flight instinct caused by ongoing stress, I definitely think that gender roles are outdated and that the best thing to do would be to work around those instincts until we inevitably evolve away from them.

But gender itself? Not the roles we box each other into, but the identity of “woman” and “man”? Any strictly cis or trans person will tell you that these are an essential part of who they are. So rather than talking about the usefulness of gender as a social construct, I’d like to think of it as something you can identify yourself as, or not.

But if I don’t want to identify as a woman any more, nor as a man, nor as queer…

What if, without changing my sex or anything physical, I could completely get rid of my gender?

I realise that although it would be theoretically ideal, while I can imagine what equal rights might feel like, I can’t actually imagine the world without gender roles. I can’t imagine what it would be like if all of society automatically perceived me as genderless. I can barely imagine what genderless means.

I’m already aware of my own susceptibility to prejudice and presupposition. When I come into conflict with someone, and I’m thinking about what the real problem is, I like to imagine the whole scene again with the genders reversed. Not only does it make me aware of my own subconscious assumptions; it also, in the long term, gives me a heightened awareness of how people of different genders tend to act and what they can get away with that the other gender can’t. Bearing in mind that I’ve never actually met a queer person, at least not that I know of, so my experience is limited to the binary genders.

What if I never had to do that exercise because the end result would be exactly the same?

I just realised that whenever I thought of people being genderqueer, my vision of what it must be like was still binary, despite everything I’ve read and watched and tried to learn. I could only imagine being able to identify as both male and female at the same time, or by turn. Which is like associating asexuals with bisexuals and pansexuals, and then realising that they’re sort of opposites. Because I have no experience of what a genderless person is like, no knowledge of what it’s like to be them.

What if, without changing my sex or anything physical, I could completely get rid of my gender?

Would I?

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I’m not dead.

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I’ve just been having a bit of writer’s block lately, so I took a break off Glimmerlands and the other writing project I was working on (in French, which is why it’s not on here). Remember when you clicked on “Who is this crazy?” to see who this crazy was, and I mentioned figuring out the workings of my own creative process? Well that means that sometimes there will be unpredictable and inexplicable hiatuses (hiatii?). This is particularly true of my writing projects, because they are very long and difficult and I’m the kind of person who responds to short-term gratification but thinks in trilogies.

So here’s what’s going on: at the moment, only three things make me feel good: spending time with people I love, singing/playing music, and food. Job-hunting is capable of really getting me down, except on those rare days on which I find something I’d actually like AND am qualified to do (not that I’ve heard back from any of those rare opportunities, despite my best efforts). I’m not as unhappy as before we got our two new roommates and also the cat (did I not tell you about those? Well, now you know). I’m in a better mood than usual now that I’m leaving on Sunday to spend a week with my mother and sisters, who I miss terribly and haven’t seen in far too long, but I still sometimes find myself suddenly feeling shit whilst in the middle of, say, eating dinner, or doing the laundry, or staring blankly out the window. It’s like the rotting black hole in my belly yawns open and belches out sulfurous fumes once in a while. Which makes it sound like indigestion but I can assure you, this is much worse.

When it became obvious my brain wasn’t going to cooperate any more when it came to my writing projects, I stopped. I usually try to force it until I get absolutely sick of the project, but I didn’t this time because, well, it’s never worked. So I’ve made a video, written another, prepared a third, played guitar a bit, signed up for singing lessons (singing helps a lot, and I’ve noticed that on good days my voice is stronger – I wonder if I can learn to control that phenomenon to somehow affect my mood on bad days, too), and had an idea for a project that I’d like to be able to illustrate.

I’m not going to go into the details of this project yet, but it’s to do with mental illness. So for me, the illustrations had to be quite dark. I carried the idea around with me for a few days, then asked an artist friend of mine if she’d illustrate it, which she enthusiastically accepted without knowing exactly what I wanted – and I forgot that her style of drawing is more comic than dark. I wondered what to do, because she lives close by so it’d be really convenient if I could get her to do it, but I didn’t know if I could adapt the story to her style of drawing.

Then today I was tired, so I had a nap, and when I woke up I knew how to do it. And I wrote it. And it’s done.

Just occasionally, my brain does something so cool and so exciting that it gives me hope for myself.

Untitled – 2004

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I wrote this poem in 2004. It might be worth noting that this was before my first major depressive episode.

What do I have to do
to get my own attention?
The world invades
bringing messages
all confusing and vital
too much
so that I wish I could slip
into sweet unconsciousness.
Even in my sleep the wheel grinds
and my dreams are filled with plans and papers
rubbed out and scribbled
with complex formulae in the margins.
I see more when I close my eyes
Hear more in the pressing silence
Feel more out of my numb body
and surely, following this strange logic
I might truly think
If I were out of my mind.

Blizzard by Fauve

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I don’t usually like French music, much less anything that could be called rap. But this… this made me cry. It made me feel like it was written for me personally. Here are the translated lyrics – and as usual when translating, I’ve given priority to beauty and overall meaning rather than literally translating each word as closely as possible.

You wonder if you’re a fierce beast or a saint
But you are one and the other. And many things more –
– You are infinitely many:
The one who scorns, the one who hurts, the one who loves, the one who searches.
And all the others together.
Be wrong, be reckless, not everything is fragile.
Expect nothing but from yourself, because you are sacred.
Because you are alive.
Because what’s important is not what you are, but what you have chosen to be.

Hey hey HEY what are you doing? Stop!
What the hell possessed you to do something like that?!
Why do you hurt yourself like this?
What’s wrong? Talk to me, you know you can tell me everything.
No, that’s all bullshit and you know it.
Look me in the eyes. Look at me. Fuck all that, it’s not important.
I think you’re beautiful. From the first time I saw you –
– in fact I still can’t believe it.
And what would I even do without you, anyway?
What would the universe do without you?
It’d never work. It’s impossible.
So don’t cry! Don’t cry. Because it’s gonna be alright, I promise, it’s gonna be alright.
Because we’re the ones who heal, the ones who resist, the ones who believe in miracles.
We’re not the ones who say that when the table moves, it’s because someone’s kicking it.
And one day we won’t even think of all this any more.
We’ll have forgotten it all, like it never existed.

In the meantime, put your arms around my neck if you want.
While I repeat those things that gave us wings. Do you remember?

Can you hear us, Blizzard? Can you hear us?
If you can hear us, then go fuck yourself!
You thought you’d gotten us, didn’t you?
You thought we hadn’t seen you coming?
Surprise, motherfucker!

Can you hear us, Shame, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, be careful walking home on your own at night
We might feel like rearranging your jawline with metal objects
Or washing your head out with lead, what do you say?

Can you hear us, Sadness, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, then you, too, are packing your bags
Take the first left, second right, left again and then piss off!
Congratulations! Well done!

Can you hear us, Death, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, know that we don’t fear you
You can pull whatever trick you like and we’ll keep on going, you can’t stop us
And we’ll leave noone behind, we won’t let anyone down, that’s over now!

Can you hear us, Dignity, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, know that we’ve got one knee on the ground and we’re sorry.
We’re sorry for everything we’ve done to you, but we’re gonna change!
We’re gonna become good people, you’ll see!
And one day you’ll be proud of us.

Can you hear us, Love, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, you have to come back
Because we’re ready now, we are!
We messed up but we’ve learned since then,
And now we have our hearts in our open palms
And we need you to take them, bring them with you

Can you hear us, Universe, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, wait up! We’re coming,
We want to understand everything, know everything, see everything, live everything,
We’re searching for the door to the new world
So we can dive right into it.

Can you hear us, you who are waiting, can you hear us?
If you can hear us, remember that you’re not alone. Never
So many of us are a bit weird, a bit strange
And in our heads there is a blizzard
Like those big-hearted mystical losers,
We have to raise the alarm, find each other, join together
Hug each other, with millions of hands on millions of shoulders
Repeat once more than boredom is a crime
That life is the heist of the century, a great big fucking red chili
Fuck the Blizzard,
Fuck the Blizzard.
All that’s over now.

TED talk: panic attacks

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This woman’s representation of what a panic attack looks like is so realistic I wondered if she wasn’t actually having one onstage. It’s so profoundly personal to her and yet relatable if you’ve ever had a panic attack, I was left for a deep respect for what she’s doing to raise awareness about it.

Magic lessons

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I know this is late, I’m sorry… but the article was foremost in my head on Monday, yesterday was spent feeling “off” and today I woke up feeling so dizzy I actually thought I might have an inner ear problem until I got some salt and magnesium in me and realised it was just low blood pressure caused by yesterday’s stress (I nearly had a panic attack when a queen wasp came into the living room and burrowed into a duvet, and I had to get her out… I’m not phobic, she was just HUGE and I don’t even know if I’m allergic because I’ve never been stung). Short excerpt today, it’s not exactly about what I wanted it to be about, I’ll have to try and insert those parts of the story in elsewhere.

 

Over the next few days, between lessons, parties, and other activities, Arwyn got the distinct impression that not only was Orren watching her more than usual, but he was deliberately trying to keep her occupied. He woke her early and insisted she stay up late practising dances and glamour and all sorts of strange etiquette. Her lessons redoubled and became far more difficult – “You’re the one who wanted to learn true magic,” he reminded her when she complained – and she couldn’t shrug off the feeling that this was Orren’s revenge for proving that she didn’t need him. He was as patient and gentle as ever – more so in fact – and despite the fact that she knew he was doing it for his own purposes, she had to hide her smile every time he turned down Echo’s advances in her favour.

Echo was Orren’s lover and she hated Arwyn, but had Arwyn not spent so much time in Cat’s Court, things might have been different. Indeed, the first night of their triumphant return to the Borderlands, after the tearful reunion with their mother, Echo had sat next to Arwyn during the feast. Arwyn, her head still full of Cat’s Court manners and principles, had been relieved to have such a friendly neighbour – although a little disturbed by her dress (or lack of it). Only once the feast was over and the dances had begun did she realise that Echo’s friendliness was, in fact, flirting. Her reaction – influenced as it had been by her human upbringing – had, in retrospect, been more than a little hurtful, and Echo had never forgotten it. Even now, she still did her best to make Arwyn’s life miserable.

Luckily for Arwyn, Echo’s tricks no longer bothered her as much since the night she’d turned into a dragon. Echo’s usual game was to drag Orren away from his sister, who had been wholly dependant on him in the beginning and prone to panic when he wasn’t there. Now though, Arwyn grabbed the opportunity to seek out Tarendal – who people were starting to refer to as “Arwyn’s lover” and who Echo seemed to hate even more – and pester him for information about Cat’s Court. Her aim was to find out who she had been before she’d become Arwyn of the Border, but Tarendal – though delighted with the attention – knew very little about the girl called Darcy who haunted Arwyn’s dreams.

Echo was disappointed to find that not only did Arwyn not come looking for her brother any more, but the opposite happened: after a while, Orren tired of her, and insisted on searching for his sister, becoming more and more irritable the longer it took. After a while, he refused to see Echo at all.

Foiled, Echo tried a different tack: remembering how Arwyn had strived to fit in with Unseelie society, she did her best to humiliate her in public. This did not go down well with Orren either – he had become exceedingly protective of his sister since the incident with Rayth. Besides, even fitting in didn’t matter quite as much to Arwyn any more – finding out what Orren had hidden from her and mastering enough magic to prevent him from controlling her again had become her priorities.

She couldn’t let Orren know that, though. He was her teacher, after all, and if what he’d told her was true (and he’d said it plainly enough that it couldn’t be a lie), true magic, though not illegal, was feared and hated enough by the Unseelie that she would have trouble finding another.

“Why do the Unseelie hate true magic?” she asked one evening after another long, exhausting lesson.

“Because magic is what the Seelie used to create the Border between our lands, and steal the twilight from us so that we must live in perpetual darkness. It’s their fault we need esbats to keep us from wasting away.”

“Is this another story that everyone knows but me?”

He frowned. “You do know this one, I told you it when we were children.”

“I’ve forgotten it, then,” she said. “Tell me again.”

Orren’s face was drawn with fatigue, but he sat back down on her bed anyway.

“It’s a long story…”

Link

I translated a novella!

The Ritual of Elements is teen fantasy, the author is French, and it’s the kind of book I used to love when I was twelve. Self-published, available on Kindle (which you can download for free if you don’t have an actual Kindle, remember), so please buy/spread the word if you know anyone who you think would like it! 😀

I think it’s worth mentioning that she did the cover of the book, too.