• Category Archives not ashamed
  • Autistic (2 Year Update)

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Note: This wasn’t on the original list, but it seemed like a necessary update to the topic.

    As of today, it’s now 2 years since I was diagnosed as being autistic. I’ve been meaning to write an updated post for my Not Ashamed series, but I’ve been so busy. And, even today, I should be writing things for my upcoming blog tour, so this will be shorter and less detailed than it could have been.

    I wanted to write because I’ve learnt a lot since my diagnosis and because I no longer want to hold back on details of the reality of my own autistic experience and challenges. Frankly, if you don’t want to know me or work with me because of that, then it’s just best for us all if you don’t. (Not that I have time to enumerate my particular autistic traits right now…)

    I’ve learnt a lot about autism in general, about ableism (because, with the current structure and expectations of society, autism is a disability), about the difference of being a woman or girl on the spectrum instead of a boy or man.

    A lot about myself and what it means to be me and be autistic. A lot about how it feels to admit that I am disabled in the context of this society in which I live. A lot about how much less disabled I am online.

    I’ve read so much, trying to keep up as the new studies roll in and as the neurodiversity movement helps frame better ways of talking and thinking about autism and other forms of neurodiversity.

    I’ve been infantalised by people who should know better once they learn I’m autistic. I’ve tried to process the best ways to respond to people’s unintentionally rude, ableist, and hurtful behaviours and comments. How to gracefully educate (or encourage them to find other autistic voices with which to educate themselves) parents and other neurotypical people who have reasons to have opinions about how to help (often “help”) and care about someone on the spectrum.

    I’ve had opportunities to explore and try to snuff out my own internalised ableism. As with any time spent processing one’s prejudices, it has been uncomfortable but important and, ultimately, rewarding.

    I’ve posted a bajillion articles about autism on a couple of my social media accounts, resulting in some annoyed people and some appreciative people. I’m trying to help people who care about me understand my reality and to spread the new knowledge I have. But I’m also coming to have one more realm in which I understand that it is not the job of the minority to educate everyone, especially when people have access to the same resources I do.

    It’s been an intense and enlightening couple years. I’ve had great experiences and horrible ones. I have no doubt there’s still more for me to learn and still more “opportunities” ahead for me to try to not end up hitting anyone for insensitive or uninformed comments.

    So, before I get back to writing about my book, here are some quick thoughts and statements.

    I still regularly discover ways in which my autism has shaped me and my experiences, and I appreciate the friends and family who have believed me when I have said who I am and what I need. We should do that for people in general, non?

    I love how much nicer it feels to be me now that I recognise and honour the ways that I need to function and structure my life. I have, for so long, thought that everyone else felt and experienced life very much like I do and that I was just being weak to let it bother me so.

    That said, there are things that are important to me, that I’m choosing not to give up, that are difficult. That, having discovered how non-difficult some things can be now that I know how to better care for myself (or what to cut out), I am acutely aware of the difficulty of. I do what I can to mitigate the discomfort and I have very little, if any, patience for people who criticise or prevent those efforts.

    Autism Speaks is a pretty problematic organisation. If you truly care about someone autistic, including yourself, please don’t listen to them. Please find places like the ASAN or Autism Women’s Network to start or continue/improve your learning. (And if you want to know why adult autistic people have been saying Autism Speaks is terrible, this is a great opportunity for you to take your education into your own hands and google that.)

    Here’s a handy post someone made about how to understand what it means when we talk about autism being a spectrum.

    You might also want to consider how that better understanding of a spectrum informs the reason that many of us eschew “high function” and “low function” labels. (Hint: You can be highly functional in one way but not in another, and get labelled based on which trait a person or society puts more emphasis on. And because people will use that label to determine your overall capability and, sadly, your worth, that’s a pretty crap approach.)

    If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met…one autistic person. There are so many ways we can differ from each other that you can’t just assume your past experiences have totally prepared you for me. (But, really, that’s always been true when it comes to me. Ha!)

    Anyway, I need to get back to writing things about my book, and the two links I gave you are great starting points if you want to better understand autism from an informed perspective that involves autistic people in the conversation. (A lot of my best learning has come from things posted by the Autism Women’s Network.)

    Two years from now, I should be back with some kind of militant autism manifesto. Woohoo!

    I am not ashamed to be autistic. In fact, if given the opportunity to not be autistic, I wouldn’t take it.


    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • I Swear…

    A friend once noted that a film about my life would get an adult rating due to casual swearing, to which I replied that there is nothing casual about my swearing. And I actually mean that. And, because of that, I’m writing this post especially for my friends and family who don’t like swearing in their books or who don’t mind it for themselves but do mind it for their offspring.

    The short version: There is definitely swearing in my book. There is also a version I made just for you without it. You’ll have to scroll (or read) to the end for information about that. (Pre-order that version here at a discounted price.)

    The long version…

    Someone asked if there were things I worried about with my book. And, yes, there definitely are. Some are, I think, pretty universal artist concerns. I also had two specific worries that, whilst not unique to me, are less universal. You see, my book has bracing quantities of swearing and has characters with names that you might think are yours. In this post, I’m going to talk about the first. There will be another post for the other later on.

    I was raised in a strictly “no swearing” home. The only time I recall swearing as a child, I didn’t know that the “f-word” an older kid gleefully taught me whilst walking home was one of the fabled “bad words” that weren’t allowed in our home. So, being chased about with a bar of soap to wash out my mouth when I used my new word at dinner that night was…unexpected. After that, I made it through my teens and into my 20s without swearing. (There was one time and it kind of slipped out and I was mortified. Mortified. By that point, I’d bought into the belief—that I now think is incorrect—that swearing showed laziness and/or a poor vocabulary.)

    Lighting gel called "Bastard Amber"
    When I did lighting for theatre, this oft-used colour gel was the bane of my existence

    I won’t name names, but I was once shocked (shocked!) when someone I respect, someone who was in the anti-swearing camp, shared a short story of theirs in which a character swore. (Just once. And a pretty minor word. But you better believe my world was rocked.) When I asked them about it, they said that you have to stay true to your characters. And that’s what I did here. Which resulted in some pretty bracing swearing.

    When I started swearing, it was after a long and logical conversation with myself. I chose to swear. And I won’t try to convince you non-swearers to swear (though one of my reasons for the choice shows up later in terms of a choice I made about edits). In fact, most of you non-swearers haven’t heard me swear. You might be shocked. (Or you might, because you were small-minded and stereotyped me based on appearance, feel vindicated in believing I was the kind of person who’d swear…Whatever gets you out of bed in the morning….)

    After I wrote my book, I had conversations about this with assorted people who held all kinds of opinions. In the end, I absolutely believe that the swearing is a more authentic approach. I absolutely believe that the normal version of my book is the better version, but…

    I understand that there are friends and family who’d like to support me, that there are parents out there who’d love to put this story in their offsprings’ hands, and probably some groups of people I haven’t thought of, people for whom the swearing is a deal breaker. No judgement; I get it.

    Instead of judgement, I wanted to consider options for letting you anti-swear folks read my book. Some of you have been vocally excited about the book, and I’m trying not to let you down.

    Before I tell you what I’ve done, I want to be clear about two things:

    1. This is all the discussion I’m really interested in having with anyone who judges me for the swearing. I won’t be engaging if you ask for a private explanation. Please understand that I will be ending such conversations as quickly and gracefully as I can manage.
    2. I am not at all ashamed of my normal version of the book. If I were ashamed, the version I’m about to describe would be the normal one and the one with swears would be the Swear Jar Edit (that would get sold secretly).

    A jar labelled "swear jar" and filled with large denominations of money and a credit card

    I had the chance to discuss this with one of my anti-swear people about whose opinion I was actually worried. They took it in stride, so I’m counting on the rest of you who don’t have nearly the stake in me they do to do the same. I believe in you!

    Final bit of information before I tell you about the edited version. See, I suspect some of you might underestimate what I mean when I say the swearing is “bracing,” so I’m going to give you some numbers (whilst using enough censorship that this post stays swear-free). In my 340 pages of story, the following words (or conjugations thereof) show up the number of times listed here:

    • F-word: 111
    • S-word: 105
    • D-word: 60
    • H-word: 52 (but some might be in words like “shell” because I used Find to do a word count, which introduced some uncertainty for some of these)
    • Rude words related to male genitals: 4 (all uses of one variation show up in uses like “cocky” or “cocked the gun,” so that’s not included here)
    • A-word: Whether you spell it the “usual” way or the variant that includes an R, it’s the sort of thing that might show up in words like “parse,” “assume,” “password,” etc, so there’s no easy way to get an accurate count. But those of you who didn’t run away after the f-bomb count can probably handle this…
    • B-words: 10 of one and 12 of the other
    • Shockingly, any other words I might have used, including the c-word (which makes my US English friends particularly uncomfortable), didn’t show up when I searched for them. I was surprised, but, there you go…
    • Because it is of special concern to some of you, whether you read the normal or edited version, I want to note that I did not use the Lord’s name in vain.

    So, plan to run into an f-bomb about once every three pages. Same for the s-word. And, if you make it through one page with no swears, there’s a good bet it’s just clustered up somewhere else. The total of all the sweary words used comes out at over a swear per page.


    That swear jar in the picture up there is now starting to look a little less imaginary to you, isn’t it?

    Now, this other version…May I introduce you to the Radio Edit.

    Peace Fire (Radio Edit) cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape. Red stamp on cover with text "Radio Edit"

    I called it the Radio Edit because, as most of you probably know, music is a massive part in my life. When I think about voluntarily censoring something I’ve created, my mind immediately goes to radio edits of songs. Though I could totally use words on the radio that I’ve taken out of the Radio Edit. I could also have way more sexiness on the radio than you’ll find in the Radio Edit.

    Because it’s the culture in which the story takes place (and, yes, what counts as swearing varies based on which English-speaking country you’re in), I did the edit based on US English swearing. It should be good for you non-swearing folks in general, given my experience has been that, overall, US English is the most limiting variation. Unless you have a problem with words like “crap,” “piss,” and “jerk,” in which case I really can’t scale it back enough for you. (I also left in phrases like “the evidence was damning” because there are non-swearing uses of words that US English considers swears in other contexts.)

    Actually, here’s a count like the list above:

    • Bloody – 6 times, some of which had to do with actual blood. Left in because I opted for US English ideas of swearing, and it’s not even seen as a remotely rude word at all in the US as far as I can tell.
    • Crap – Whilst it shows up only 8 times in the regular version, it shows up 70 times in the Radio Edit. Left in or used as a replacement for the same reason as “bloody.”
    • Piss – 11 times, but…listen, I hear some of you non-swear folks say you’re “pissed off,” so I feel pretty okay about this. After all, you’re not giving this book to your kids. “Piss” seems like a pretty reasonable non-swear rude word these days.

    The swearing was not removed just by using the Find and Replace function. (For instance, I did not just, as one friend suggested, replace every f-bomb with “frick.”) That would have left a massively inferior book (instead of one that I just feel isn’t as authentic sounding). What actually happened is that I made a list of every swear word I could think of and a few extra-rude words, and then I used Find to locate them. (If I missed anything, please accept my most sincere apologies. The cost of a full line edit and the impact on timelines was not something we could work out.) I then made changes on a case-by-case basis. (Which only confirmed my belief that swear words serve particular purposes and carry their own, unique connotations and nuances. But this edit isn’t about me; it’s about you. So, I did my best for you, all things considered.)

    If the Radio Edit does well enough, it will be part of the plan from the start to do it for the books I write after this. If it does well enough and enough interest is shown, we can totally look at the option of print copies later on. For now, because it’s not the way things are normally done and due to the cost (in terms of time, money, and energy), it will only be an ebook. Currently, Amazon is the only place I’ve confirmed it will be available for pre-order. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app to your computer or device. That’s what I use!) I’m working to make it available more widely, and should at least have it available through Barnes and Noble (as an ebook). If you search for Peace Fire at your preferred ebook supplier, unless the cover is the one you see above (with the Radio Edit stamp on it) and the description notes that it has been edited for swearing, I can’t guarantee that’s what you’re getting. Shop carefully!


    Peace Fire (Radio Edit) is now available for pre-order here at a discounted price

  • Not Ashamed: Someone with invisible illness

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    First, in case it hasn’t come up for you anywhere before, I’m going to suggest you read this explanation of what we mean when we talk about spoons in the context of illness and personal capacity. I will surely mention spoons, but I won’t be explaining the theory of spoons. You might also find this post on different types of spoons interesting, or at least a bit helpful in understanding this post.

    Though not the last item on the Not Ashamed list, because I wrote a few things out of order, this is the last Not Ashamed essay I’m writing and publishing. As a fan of personal essays (at least when I’m the one writing), I’ve mainly enjoyed this. I love both the time spent in introspection and self-consideration, as well as the time spent writing. Fortunately, this looks to be a long post, so you will feel like you totally got your fill of me. Heh!

    This particular post has been rewritten more times than any other, and I hope that I’m still comfortable with what I choose to say here after I publish.

    Some context: I feel a bit uncomfortable writing about this because I know people whose invisible illnesses seem more impacting and unpleasant than mine. So, let me be clear that this isn’t a “who’s most ill” contest or anything like that and that, at least from my perspective, I’ve got it relatively easy on this count. However, the internet is full of posts by people with invisible illness, and you can google those and have a chance to put yourself in their shoes if you feel like that’s useful. (I, of course, feel like it can help us be more compassionate to do such things, so I’m voting that you do.)

    I also want to note that I’m uncomfortable writing about this because it rubs up against my desire never to give myself victim status, as well as the fact that one of my invisible illnesses isn’t something I really consider an illness (autism). It is too easy, it seems, to view yourself as ill and let that drop you into a mire of unhappiness and victimisation and so forth. However, I also feel like, at least for me, part of my learning curve has been to figure out how to be not-typical in a world that mainly makes token efforts to appear inclusive. And part of that, one of the hardest parts, has been getting myself to learn to work within the framework of my actual capacity rather than pushing past that, which is unhealthy and can make things worse. Sometimes, for me, thinking of even the things I wouldn’t change (like autism) as an invisible illness helps me to look for more compassionate approaches to life. If I had a brutal case of the flu, I probably wouldn’t berate myself for not managing what “normal” people do, nor would I actually push myself to even try to do things that are clearly just going to keep me sick or that are clearly outside my capacity. It’s not an exact parallel, but it’s one of the main reasons (the other is for solidarity with people who, I can see, have concerns similar to mine) that I don’t try to completely reject this label.

    With all the discomfort, I’ll not ignore my own privacy issues; I’m not going to give you a list (though you can look at the Not Ashamed list and figure that being autistic and bi-polar go on that list). In reality, my approach is that I don’t generally care to talk about my limits outside of specific moments where I’m trying to honour my body or mind’s atypical needs and limits.

    Okay. I think the last bit of context-giving is to just paste in some stuff from this page on a site that promote Invisible Illness Awareness Week, because I know some of you won’t go looking for this information (though it would be great for you to read that page; it’s full of really interesting and eye-opening stats on invisible illness). From that page:

    • Approximately 96% of people who live with an illness have an illness that is invisible. These people do no use a cane or any assistive device and may look perfectly healthy. (2002 US Census Bureau)
    • About one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
    • 9 million people are cancer survivors with various side effects from treatment who may feel as though they have a chronic condition.
    • Current statistics on autism indicate that more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than cancer, diabetes, Downs Syndrome and AIDS combined, approximately 1 in 150 children.

    So, since it’s not clear from those bullets, I want to point out that the cold you are discreetly treating isn’t an invisible illness. Invisible illnesses are chronic; they’re not going anywhere. Some of them will progress and result in an illness no longer being invisible (my mum’s Multiple Sclerosis was an invisible illness until it progressed to a point where she needed assistive devices). They can have range, from the chronic insomnia that others think of as just a hassle (though even science will tell you it’s much more than that) to something famously painful like lupus, but all of them have an impact on quality of life.

    But the invisibility causes problems. You see, if people can’t see that you have an illness of some kind, they assume that you can do all the things they consider reasonable for a typical person. And that includes assuming you can do those things as frequently and to the same extent. If your illness isn’t visible, people can get Really Very Nasty when you fail to live up to their expectations. Even if you tell them that you’ve got something happening that makes you not-actually-typical.

    As far as I can tell, the nastiness comes from two places:

    1. They can’t see your illness so they think you’re probably lying. It’s not that you don’t have the spoons; it’s that you are a liar.
    2. They think you are just being lazy, using something they can’t even see as an excuse for special treatment.

    I know people who lie or exaggerate, but I know far more people who push themselves way past an actual healthy point just trying to live the life they want or trying to keep from being treated poorly by other people. I’ve had times that I was out of spoons for weeks, a complete physical and mental mess, but I still kept pushing because I hated feeling limited and because feeling limited and having the scorn of people who claim to love you piled on is a seriously miserable way to live. (And no wonder there are studies that show that, for both those with visible and invisible illnesses, there are high divorce rates and other markers of troubles with friendships and romantic relationships.)

    In an effort to be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier, and because I really do like myself and believe in treating myself as kindly as I’d treat a true friend, I realised I had to make some changes.

    I had a difficult but honest bit of introspection and self-consideration, during which I admitted the things that aren’t ideal about my health or things that weren’t as I wanted, even if I was hesitant to call my wants objectively ideal. I also looked at the obvious things that were limited by that.

    I assessed people in my life and decided that I only have the spoons for people who treat me like I’d treat a true friend. I try to limit the time I give to other people. I talk myself out of feeling bad when someone doesn’t believe my truth. (And, if someone keeps treating me like they suspect I’m a liar or just looking for special treatment that I probably don’t need, I will bump them to the “limited time” list.)

    I made changes in my life (more changes; I hadn’t been wantonly ignoring my needs) that I’d been resisting that I believe will help me keep my maximum spoon capacity from diminishing and will help me spend fewer unnecessary spoons.

    I also tried to make a really clear assessment of which areas might have more spoons than others. You know what I can do for hours and hours with little spoon expenditure? Ponder and analyse myself and my connections to the world and try to pull some meaning or use or art from that. No wonder I’ve always been inclined towards that.

    I’ve also got unlimited mental spoons for typing up words…emails and blogs and novels and such. But it’s specifically typing. (Which makes sense, because our brain uses different pieces for typing vs handwriting.)

    Unfortunately, the physical spoons necessary for typing up words can vary drastically. One of my invisible illnesses is some persistent tendinitis in both shoulders, both elbows, and both wrists (it shouldn’t last for years, but the poor healthcare system in this country means I can’t actually afford to pursue any further diagnosis or action). On good days, it’s all a dull ache. Quiet enough that I’ve gotten used to it and I know I can handle it. If I keep busy, it’s a minor mental thread. But as soon as I try to take any kind of a break, and definitely whenever I try to sleep, it’s front and centre. On not-good days, or even on days that started good, it can flare up into excruciating pain. It can leave me unable to type, play guitar, pour myself a glass of water, lift a skillet from the stove, etc. And pain is exhausting, even if you’re just lying around…it’s a trickle (sometimes a steady gushing stream) of energy…so you’re in pain and you’re beyond-tired. And you feel kind of horrible because you can’t even get yourself a glass of water or cook yourself an egg sandwich. Which sounds really sad.

    If I didn’t have limited physical spoons, I could probably post some kind of blog daily, in addition to staying on top of email and writing my next book. Which means that there’s a persistent emotional toll (frustration, disappointment, etc) that adds to my exhaustion. I have rare spots of making peace with the limits, but my brain is constantly churning out ideas it needs me to write and I would really like to get it all typed and finalised and why won’t my arms just cooperate?

    (Before someone jumps in suggesting voice to text stuff…that also has issues. Unless something totally new comes into being, please trust that I love research and I love not being limited and I have looked into all the possible solutions for all my problems. When you make really obvious suggestions like that, it feels like you’re suggesting I wasn’t smart enough to consider it. And insulting my intelligence is not a great thing to do.)

    But we’re here to talk about shame, about how others would like me to feel ashamed of not being able to live up to their expectations of what a typical person can do.

    If you’re one of those rare people who does play it up, exaggerate, fake it, etc in order to get special privileges…you do realise that every single person who knows you do that is now going to be suspicious of and possibly unkind to anyone else who has an invisible illness, right? Honestly, shame on you. Shame on you for making it harder for people for whom “normal” life is already harder.

    On the other hand…

    I am not ashamed that my body and brain aren’t typical, that they don’t function like they would be expected to. I can be frustrated and disappointed, but I am not ashamed. (Also, just in case it’s coming across glum…whilst I do experience negative emotions, I’m still a positive person and find joy in my life. And I credit part of that to the fact that I don’t carry shame over this.)

    I am not ashamed that, rather than try to batter myself into living a typical life, that rather than treating myself like an enemy to abuse, I know myself and honour myself and respect my limitations.

    (Yeah, sure, we can talk about how trying to expand your limits can be healthy, but that’s not advice that applies to every situation. Because, sometimes, trying to expand your limits can actually tighten them up and leave you permanently worse than before. And unless you are my doctor or an accredited physical therapist or something like that, what makes you think you know which of my limits to push? Even if we have the same condition, each person is unique enough in their experience that you really don’t know what’s best for me.)

    Now, my brain has just had some thoughts on the next book, and I want to get them down before my Using My Arms spoons are all spent for the day.

    I hope that, at the very least, reading one (or more) of the Not Ashamed issues has helped you throw off some of your own shame. That stuff is rotten and doesn’t help anything. And so much of it is thrown at situations and characteristics that it’s absolutely unnecessary to feel ashamed about. Plus, life is sweeter when, instead of dragging around unnecessary shame, you’re loving what’s good, working on what’s not good, and learning to love yourself no matter the situation. I wish you the best of luck in pursuing that.


    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Sometimes, briefly, a little bit well-off

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    This is the second post about the shame thrown at me (and others) based on economic situations. The first one was pretty obvious; poor shaming has probably been going on since humans came into existence. But, here’s the thing…

    At some point, long before I was born, the poor people got sick of being told they were worth less. They also realised that they were totally worth as much as not-poor people. In fact, they started to suppose that they likely had some awesome qualities that not-poor people could never hope to have. Honestly, it’s a pretty common thing for a mistreated group of people to compensate for the low self-worth that was inflicted on them whilst being mistreated by convincing themselves that, in fact, they are the better people.

    I’m not judging, just noting that.

    So, no surprise that poor people started to decide that, in fact, they were the better people. And, at some point, I felt that way too. Especially once I was living on my own and I was poor because of me, not my parents. I was poor but I was making it. Go me! And I wasn’t held back by the negative, stereotypical traits that obviously belonged to not-poor people. It soothed the parts of me that felt bad about being poor and the parts that had been told I should feel bad about being poor…

    I know, because we had conversations, that I wasn’t the only person who ever felt that way.

    There have been wee, short-lived pockets of being a little well-off (at least by my standards). And, the first time, I actually felt bad about it. I was now the not-poor person. I considered purposefully ruining that, as if my economic situation determined by personality. (Yes, I know, studies do show trends, but I’m a fan of not being defined by stereotypes.)

    And I’ve had people who were poor, when I wasn’t, being nasty to me because I was now one of the not-poor. But I didn’t respond because I actually understood where they were coming from, having been poor and judgemental myself plenty of times in the past.

    So, here’s my final word on judgement based on economic situation:

    Whether you are rich or poor, what matters is your behaviour. It’s your actions, not your money (or lack thereof), that determine whether or not you’re a good person. All humans are of equal intrinsic worth and full of great possibility.

    I’ve now known people who were both good and horrible at all sorts of points on the economic spectrum.

    I will never again judge myself or anyone else based on their net worth. And I won’t let anyone else make me feel bad about myself based on what money I do or don’t have. There are so many other things to judge me on…

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Poor

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    One’s economic situation has long been used as a point of shame or pride in…well, I’m guessing in every society. And, by “long been used,” I probably mean “always been used.” This is the first of what will be two entries on economic class as it concerns me. This one is the one that is most obvious, because being poor was probably the first economic class to be shamed for their situation.

    For about the first 16 years of my life, my family lived below the poverty line. And then I pretty much fell right back down below that once I was on my own. I have mostly lived there. If the poverty line were the limbo pole, I’d mainly be winning.

    Because I was raised that way and because my parents made sure to teach me about budgeting and priorities, I was pretty well as ready as I could be for living below the line. I also learned how to work hard, how to keep what I owned in good repair, and a variety of other skills and habits that help. My parents also did all they could to prioritise my education. A lot of people never get any of that.

    Plus, I’ve been really lucky; I’ve never been so far below the line that I didn’t have a roof over my head (which let me have reliable contact information for potential employers, a place to do homework, and somewhere to keep myself and my clothes clean) or something to eat. And, related to a lot of poverty and homelessness issues, I also had enough of a handle on my mental health issues that those didn’t get in the way of work and education and taking care of myself.

    I want to point out that there are a lot of broken things in the way the world works that can push a person underwater financially and/or hold them there. (I’ll spare you a list, because you probably either are already aware and as angry about it as I am or you profit from the reality and don’t want to hear about it.) Some poor people got there due to their own bad choices; most, in my experience, were born there and had no actual chance to get out or got there due to the ways society is broken. Judging another human as less worthy because they have less money or they are less good and/or lucky with their money is a reprehensible thing. If you’re one of those who would judge…I just have no interest in dealing with you.

    Amber and some ones
    Too busy with my fat wad of cash

    Since I’m clearly not ashamed of being poor much of my life and obviously think it’s people who want me to be ashamed who should be ashamed, I figure I’ll talk instead about some of the impacts that being poor has had on me that I find interesting. (So, just a few of them, not an exhaustive list at all.)

    The main impact on my social life has been that so much of what people do for fun costs money. And friends who aren’t poor often don’t think about the fact that the amount they consider small is the same amount that I can eat off of for a week. It’s a good thing I’m reclusive, but it sure sucks given that I do actually enjoy my friends. This isn’t about my friends being jerks; studies have shown that, even if they used to be less well off, people are really crap at keeping the reality of less-well off people’s finances in mind.

    The impact on my belongings has had two aspects I wouldn’t expect. Sure, you’d expect that I’m a fan of sales, that I look for ways to get deals, that I’m careful about what I buy. But you might not have immediately jumped to “I was a pack rat for a long while because I was afraid that I might need everything I could get my hands on.” I wouldn’t get rid of things unless they were thoroughly unusable because things cost money and what if I needed things? It took me a long while to realise it wasn’t doing me any good, possibly doing some harm, and that it showed a lack of faith in my proven capacity to take care of myself. Sure, something could go horribly wrong, but I feel like I’m respecting myself by not being a pack rat (and no longer at serious risk of being a hoarder). Also, it is really awesome not to have all that useless stuff. In fact, once I actually feel like I have time for more projects, I’ll enjoy doing another round of clearing things out. I don’t have extra that you’d notice, but I now feel great when I keep it light, make it lighter.

    The other aspect of being poor’s impact on my belongings is that I have a hard time spending money. If it’s going to cost more than £20 or $20 (yes, I know, those two aren’t equal; that’s just where my brain gets hung up), I have to talk myself into it. If it’s something regular (like a recurring bill), I only have to do it once, but I probably check back in with myself once in a while. But for…food or clothes or fun or anything at all…I take quite a bit of time making sure I think it’s a good buy, and then I have to talk myself into it. And then, after I spend the money, I have to talk myself out of guilt. You might think that sounds handy, but it’s really a massive pain. Stop and think about how many times you spend £20/$20 or more. Now, imagine it feeling like a big deal every time. Yeah.

    I’m actually doing much better, because it used to be any expense that wasn’t totally necessary…until I had a friend a few years ago give me a talking to over not wanting to spend money on a chocolate bar, assuring me that “if $2 is really going to leave you unable to pay a bill, you can come get it from me.” Much thanks to that friend for making my life less hellish. But, given I’m not entirely better, thanks to those of you who are patient when, for instance, it takes me ages to choose what I want to order off a menu. I guarantee that it feels even less fun in my head that it does to you, waiting for me to choose my meal.

    And finally…One might hope for some kind of awesome break in the arts, but it’s much easier to commit oneself to pursuing the arts—rather than pursuing increasingly large paychecks from normal jobs—if one is already used to not having much. So, yeah, having been poor means I’m not really scared of at least a certain level of poor. The manner to which I am accustomed isn’t exactly posh, so there’s a little more room in what I do outside of art to keep myself in that manner. Not a bad side effect of being poor.

    Fortunately, I don’t get any sense of my self-worth from money. Not being poor definitely has perks, but being poor isn’t anything I can ever recall being ashamed of. Sorry to disappoint you, people who think your money makes you better than me. I’m totally as good as you.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Feminist

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Feminist: an advocate of social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

    That’s the dictionary definition and the one that every feminist I know would agree is correct. We might have different ideas about how to procure those rights, but it is inherent in the definition that this is about equality, not about subjugating men (the way they’ve subjugated women for most of history).

    Anyone who says that it means something else is wrong. If they aren’t feminists or are opposed to feminists, well, why are you letting them define what feminists are? And if they claim to be feminists…they might be adding their own spin, and their spin doesn’t apply to every other one of us who wears this label without shame.

    I can’t even fathom the logic of expecting me to be ashamed of wanting myself, of wanting all humans, to have equal rights.

    I’ve been very lucky in my life to have parents who did their best to raise me to believe that my worth, and the rights and respect I deserved, was not tied to my genitals. That I was as capable and deserving as my brothers.

    I’ve had male friends all through my life, many of whom have not treated me as anything less than their male friends.

    If you don’t believe in feminism, I know better than to believe my personal essay will change your mind. I’m not going to waste my time saying things here that others have already said.

    Instead, I want to talk to people who believe in feminism but have never heard or taken time to find the definition of the phrase “intersectional feminism” or “intersectionality.” Again, there are plenty of essays online, so I’m going to paste in a definition, and then I’m going to say a little about why I care.

    Intersectional feminism: The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.

    Intersectionality: A concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

    I have things that work against me in life. I’m not straight, well off, cis, or male. But I am white-skinned, fluent in the primary language of the country in which I live (and without an accent), and my parents made sure I was educated as best they could manage. So, that tells you about the mix of things that are part of the configuration of my oppression. Yes, that’s a dramatic word, but not a word that feels wrong as often as I’d like.

    However, there are also a few things that I have going for me (as listed in the above paragraph). And some of those are huge. The colour of my skin? Huge. Women who are arguably exactly like me but whose skin is not white have a measurably greater weight of oppression.

    And if I truly mean, in my feminism, that I believe in equal rights for all people, that has to include people of colour, people with accents or who don’t speak the language of the country in which they live, and uneducated people. I have to take their experiences into account, not just leave room for them in my feminism but make room for them.

    That means I will be constantly trying to learn, to keep an eye on my assumptions, to listen to the voices of those who aren’t like me. I feel like I’ve seen a lot and known a lot of different people in my life, but that doesn’t mean I know all I need to know to make sure that my efforts are for all people.

    I’ll give you an example before I go. This is something I only learned this autumn, in spite of actually having had multiple black female friends. Just knowing someone socially doesn’t mean I know their context. For instance, I didn’t realise that black women in so-called white cultures have traditionally been de-feminised. They have typically been portrayed as masculine or as too beastly (usually as sexual beasts) to be feminine or pretty. So, whilst many white feminists are often leaning towards non-feminine appearance or masculine behaviours and roles as part of how they try to throw off the oppression that comes with being female gendered, being allowed to be feminine is something that black feminists have had to fight for. (At least that’s how it was explained to me. My apologies if I’ve misunderstood or over-simplified.)

    Which means that feminists (white feminists) who look down on other feminists who wear dresses or makeup aren’t taking the context of black women into account in their efforts. (This is also part of why shows like How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal portraying strong, capable, pretty black women is so awesome.)

    My main approach to intersectionality in feminism, given I know that I don’t know everything that is relevant to everyone’s feminism, is to believe in choices. That it’s not about all of us having to be the same or having to take advantage of all the same opportunities. For me, it’s about having the options. The option to dress in a more masculine or feminine way. The option to have a job outside the home or to be a housewife. And so forth.

    That won’t solve all the problems that come up with trying to be intersectional, but it’s how I start.

    And, in this effort, there’s no room for shame. Because I am not ashamed that I’m female, nor am I ashamed to believe that being female should not give me fewer rights or opportunities than males. I’m only ashamed when I lose sight of the importance of intersectionality, because I really do believe in the equal worth and, therefore, equal rights of all people.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed Addendum: Isolation

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    (Relevant to bi-polar, autistic, musician, writer, introvert, reclusive, but also to “my own biggest fan”)

    Stepping out of the flow of existing topics for this addendum, because it seems like an important one for people who care about me and are reading along.

    I was talking to one of my sisters the other day, and she made a comment about how depression is isolating. Which is true. Feeling isolated and alone is a very common part of the depression experience for most (all?) sufferers. Which got me thinking about me and solitude (and also the fact that I think my sister was trying to carefully express worry about me and solitude given the fact that depression is isolating).

    Now, I’m in a rush to get some things done, so I’m not going to google it, but…It seems like depression is isolating because:

    • Depression seems to be tangled up with the lying voice of low self-esteem, so you isolate yourself because you are pretty sure you don’t deserve friends or good times and that your friends probably actually hate you.
    • You have no energy or desire to do anything but lie in bed or binge watch TV or something like that.
    • You don’t want to be judged for being depressed, and the best way to avoid judgement is to avoid people.
    • Other people can be weird or uncomfortable around you when you’re depressed, so they stop inviting you around or you get tired of that and you stop accepting invitations.

    There might be more reasons, but those are the ones that seem to be the main issues.

    If you look at the list of labels you could apply to me (as laid out in my Not Ashamed posts), you’ll see that figuring out my own situation (am I isolated by depression?) is complicated by other things. In addition to being bi-polar (which, for me, is where the regular depression is seated), I am:

    • Autistic. Autism can be isolating for all the causes noted up in that first list, but also because of social awkwardness, sensory overwhelm issues, and how much work it can be to try to appear “normal.”
    • A musician and writer.Setting aside the oft-noted isolation of a touring musician…For me, and for every creative I know, alone time is essential for actually creating. Time to process, to try things out, to do the actual work.
    • An introvert. I won’t waste time dispelling misunderstandings of that term. The internet is full of that. But the root of what an introvert actually is is this: whilst extraverts are charged by being around other people, introverts need alone time to recharge. For me, I need hours every day—and sleep doesn’t count—to recharge from interacting with other humans. When I’m super worn out, that also includes avoiding online or on-phone interactions.
    • Reclusive. For reasons of pure preference, not due to any of the stuff on the first list or the rest of this list, I just really love solitude and enjoy being away from humans.

    In a case like me, it would be hard to tell if depression were isolating me, because so many other things in me either need or lend themselves towards isolation. So, to maybe relieve some concern from others, I want to address the usual reasons for isolation that I put in the first list.

    • Low self-esteem: This definitely used to be the case. As noted in another Not Ashamed essay, I have known the grip of self loathing. But, these days, I’m my own biggest fan. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s good cos I can barely manage the friendships of those who do love the taste of me. And I’ve pretty much stopped spending time with people that I think actually hate me. So, nope. This one isn’t an issue.
    • No energy or desire: This happens. It sure does. But I’m never lying in bed and weeping because I wish I had the energy or desire to hang out with someone. And I know that, if I didn’t want to be alone in that, I have friends who would happily, quietly sit with me. Really, given my introvert nature, it is a relief to me to be alone on such days. Being around another human would only sap what little energy I might have.
    • Don’t want to be judged: I’m pretty lucky here. In addition to caring less and less with every passing year what others think, I happen to be mainly engaged with people outside the mainstream. One awesome thing about that is that such people don’t stigmatise depression. They don’t judge me; they feel compassion and—in some cases—empathy for me. Basically, I am totally blessed that my friends are awesome and not “normal.” (Again, see how I am Not Ashamed about my depression, so not even general societal stigmas can isolate me. Rar!)
    • Not invited cos I’m a bummer: As noted, I have great friends. I’ve always been very blessed with good people in my life. Even when I was a raging mess as a teen, my friends (again, not mainstream kinds of kids) invited me and welcomed me. We tried to support each other and care for each other and, at the very least, learn to work with each others’ messiness. These days, I think that I manage to keep my messiest bits out of the fun social times (which is something that is made easier by the lovely solitude I need, I want, I take for myself). And, even when I don’t, my friends aren’t weird about it but are thoroughly supportive and sweet.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging. I wrote all that with an immense sense of gratitude. And I sincerely wish that everyone could feel so blessed as I do. And, if you are struggling with something and feel isolated for whatever reason, I truly hope you can find friends and resources to help you have as little solitude as you want.

    But no worries about me. I don’t feel isolated, and I know there are people I can easily turn to if I ever did feel isolated. (And thanks for those of you who have felt loving concern over this. I hope this eased your minds.)


    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Celibate

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    As my awareness of issues around consent and rape culture grows, my thoughts about being shamed for celibacy have gotten less patient. A lot of what’s in here is also relevant to all the people who seem to feel, often just because they think I’m pretty, that I should hook up with them.

    Whilst most people have written off my celibacy (or rejection of their come-ons) as an artefact of my religion, it’s much more complicated than that. However, I no longer feel like explaining myself to anyone. For reasons related to my first paragraph.

    Previously, my response to people’s unhappiness and shaming around my celibacy (or rejection of their advances) has been rooted in disappointment (at their actions and words towards me) and patience. Patiently keeping my mouth shut as they tried to make me feel bad. Patiently deflecting their advances, over and over and over, as they refused to accept my “no.” Laughing along with threats, usually in jest, to just dose me and take advantage of me anyway. And so forth.

    But let me make this clear, now that I have become better educated about consent and rape culture:

    • My celibacy (or rejection of your advances) might pique your curiosity, but it is almost certainly none of your business. Not the reasons or anything else about it.
    • You might be very sad when denied access to my vagina or other things you’d like, but your sadness doesn’t give you the right to ignore my “no.”
    • When you push me, press me, beg, cajole, threaten…you are ignoring, trampling all over, my lack of consent.
    • I won’t be called a tease for refusing to have sex with you. In fact, as early as possible in a potential relationship or makeout-buddy situation, I try to make sure you know what’s not going to happen. That you ignore that…that’s on you.
    • Actually, you do know that someone even has the right to realise they’ve changed their mind about it in the middle of things without being a tease, right? A person is only a tease if they’re promising you something they know they don’t intend to give you. There has never been a time when I was a tease.
    • If I’m sexy, that does not obligate me to have sex with you or in general.
    • I’ve had people get angry that I enjoyed singing a song about someone who wished their partner would shag them but I wasn’t shagging anyone at all (much less the angry people); they called me a hypocrite. I’m pretty sure that’s not how singing works…Imagine a world where you could only sing songs about things that are totally true to who you are. (I thought of a lot of song-related jokes to make, but then got paralysed by the fact that someone might read this years from now and the song might no longer be in the public consciousness and might make my joke less funny. I’m sure you’ll stumble across one of your own…)
    • In a world full of all sorts of sexual appetites and interests and practises, I won’t feel bad about what I do or don’t do, because I’m not teasing or lying or hurting anyone or messing with kids/animals/taken people. No shame.

    Also, since even I didn’t know better in the past, let me make sure you understand that doing something like dosing a person to get sex is rape. It’s not something we should laugh about. I won’t laugh or be patient with that sort of thing again. (When we laugh about that, there might be those in our social group who don’t know it’s a Bad Thing To Do and might feel more empowered to go do those Bad Things. Go read up on that, kids. Welcome to the reality of rape culture.)

    I also won’t be pushed or cajoled or anything like that. That is not how someone will end up getting to have sex with me. That is, with little or no warning, how someone will end up getting a “goodbye” from me.

    I’m also pretty much done with people who push for any kind of intimacy after my “no.” I like myself. You can’t neg me into giving you my number or a kiss or something more. And, whilst I like a confident person, I also like a respectful person. If I like you and want to know you or be involved with you, you won’t need to push or play games. Did you know that consent even covers the stuff that comes before you try to access my vagina?

    So, yeah, not having sex is a thing that happens. And being a jerk to me about it won’t have any results you like. It definitely won’t make you the person I do have sex with.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: A regular patron of loud dance clubs and quiet bars

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I’ll keep this short, because there’s nothing complicated to say.

    Some people believe that those who are sober or who are Mormon shouldn’t hang out at places that serve alcohol or where people go specifically to get wasted and maybe hook up. (Let’s be honest, though…most places are that to a lot of people who are single or thirsty.)

    And I 100% respect that there are some people fighting addictions who really should just avoid these places. Or people who don’t feel comfortable in such venues.

    There are also people who look down their noses at people who go to the loud dance clubs, because quiet bars are clearly the superior choice. From what I’ve heard, this has to do with it being easier to have deep conversation and look smart with your drink or something.

    But I love to dance. I love it. I was raised dancing. And there is something about that music so loud that I can feel it in my bones and a floor that is specifically for dancing. About dancing until I’m exhausted and feeling, all along, like the music is devouring me. You better believe I’m going to unashamedly let that happen when it can. (These days, it happens almost never for a variety of reasons. Which makes me sad.)

    On the other hand, there are people who think that the whole “deep conversations at quiet bars” thing is pretentious and way less fun than loud dance clubs.

    But I also really love long, deep conversations (especially if I don’t have to shout and I can hear the person with whom I’m conversing). There are only so many options for places to do that. And if I’m not comfortable with being alone at your home with you or I feel like a jerk for sitting at a table in a restaurant for hours after the food is gone, there aren’t really a lot of other options, are there?

    From the religion perspective, there’s this worry that you want to be in places you can hear God, and people seem pretty sure that neither of the venues I’ve listed qualify. And, maybe, that’s been true for those people. But I’ve felt close to Deity in both. I have a very noisy brain, and sometimes I can lose myself enough in dancing and the overwhelm of a loud club and then…it’s like meditation. Then, my brain is somehow still, and my ears and heart are wide, wide open. And I’ve sat deep in serious conversation in those quiet bars and suddenly found myself saying truths that I didn’t know were in me, that felt like they were kind of pouring into my mind as I spoke.

    And I’ve said “no” to all the things that I should say “no” to. I have gotten very good at “no.”

    So, as life allows and the desire exists, I’ll keep being a patron to these places. As well as the really loud bars that are seen as equally suspect by the same populations, the bars where I get to play my music or watch others play theirs. Definitely going to keep doing that. Without shame.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Goth, Punk, Not Goth, Not Punk

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I tried to find a way to write this as 4 different posts, because I know we’re getting near the end of the list and some of you who have let me know you look forward to these weekly posts. But it didn’t feel right as 4 different posts, even though it’s 4 different labels. Sorry. In my next life, I’ll try to be more objectionable.

    These days, I see myself as a richly multi-faceted person. I like what I like, even if it seems at odds with other things I like. I wear the clothes that make me happy, even if others—including friends—don’t know how to classify me. That such classifications are important to humans is a thing I’ve felt and kind of understood, but that also has always seemed a little silly. (The need to classify others is silly, to be clear. I don’t think figuring out who you are or figuring out that you truly fit quite neatly into some specific label is necessarily silly.)

    The anger and aggression and political disgust of punk speak to me. The acceptance of darkness and depression and pale skin and loads of black clothing and makeup of goth spoke to me. Plus, I like the music and aesthetics of both and the fact that both are spaces with room for people who aren’t typical, that celebrate that. It’s a nice contrast to being made to feel like a lesser person for the fact that I’m not normal.

    Me. Looking goth.
    Here. Cos I know you’re curious.

    Of course, when you’re visibly punk or goth, all the normal kids shame you. It’s so expected that loving family and authority figures will say, “Of course they harass you. What do you expect when you look like that?” (For the record, it’s not okay and you shouldn’t have to expect it.)

    But I wasn’t ashamed. And I’m not ashamed now. I loved (and still mostly do) all the good things I found in being punk and goth. And there’s nothing requisite about being either that’s harmful. Sure, your looks can make some people uncomfortable, but anything else that’s usually attributed to one of those as part of a negative stereotype can be found outside them as well. And I was part of some great community…

    Until I wasn’t. Until I realised that my tastes and aesthetics and interests stretched outside that to extents that, apparently, suddenly earned me the derision of those still firmly planted in punk or goth. So, basically, humans are kind of prone to being crummy towards people outside their group. Even the subcultural humans. None of us get to feel morally superior on that point.

    Interestingly, I’ve had multiple experiences where people assumed that I was saying they sucked when I didn’t think they were in the same group as I was. Because, as humans, we are hardwired from an evolutionary perspective to crave belonging and to assume that any kind of not belonging means there must be hatred and mocking and so forth.

    The thing is…we are no longer wandering tribes that have to beat each other to limited resources. At least not in most the western world. And, much to my delight, it seems like the lines between subcultures and genres are blurring…I’ve also learned, as an adult, to get along with all kind of people with whom I share very few tastes or beliefs in common. (Though I still insist on some serious overlap in a romantic relationship. But that’s a whole other story.)

    Which is to say that it is silly to treat different as dangerous. And it isn’t helpful to assume that being different to another person makes us less cool.

    You know what’s cool? Being genuinely you. There’s a lot of power for you there. Plus, the friends you make are friends with real you, not the person you’re pretending to be. That’s how you make real real friends.

    So, yeah, I have thrown myself full into punk and goth. No shame. And I’ve still got those facets. No shame. But I have other facets and inclinations. Again, no shame. I’m going to like the things I like and wear the things I want to wear and enjoy the friends who outlasted my self-discovery.

    Oh, and apologies in advance if you try to shove me into a single facet and I get snippy. I just really refuse to be single-faceted again and I’ll thank you not to push it. (Also, please don’t mistake my objections as hatred of things I’ve been. It’s the single facet thing I’m against. I’m cool with goths and punks and all sorts of people.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).