• Category Archives not ashamed
  • Not Ashamed: Geek and Nerd

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

    This is a topic that merited two places on the list, but is probably best handled in one post.

    To start with, some of you would probably like some definitions. Let’s start with a comic from the geeky and nerdy, depending on the day, xkcd. What those of you unfamiliar with the comic ought to know is that the alt text (when you mouseover a picture, that’s the text that might pop up and is traditionally used as a way to describe the graphic to those with visual limitations) is often part of the punchline. Which is why I’ll be noting the punchline (the alt text) for you.

    The definitions I grew up with were that a geek is someone unusually into something (so you could have computer geeks, baseball geeks, theater geeks, etc) and nerds are (often awkward) science, math, or computer geeks. But definitions vary.

    Alt Text: “The definitions I grew up with were that a geek is someone unusually into something (so you could have computer geeks, baseball geeks, theater geeks, etc) and nerds are (often awkward) science, math, or computer geeks. But definitions vary.”

    If you’d like something with more maths or even just more words, this blog post might make you happy. It begins offering these definitions:

    In my mind, “geek” and “nerd” are related, but capture different dimensions of an intense dedication to a subject:

    • geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
    • nerd – A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.

    As you can see, the two people’s definitions are similar but not exactly the same. And the line between geek and nerd can get fuzzy. For me, I’d probably say it’s something like geeks are motivated by love of a thing or topic (which might lead to wanting knowledge about it but isn’t the same as being motivated by love of knowledge), whilst nerds are motivated by love of knowledge (and, in my head, that’s generally knowledge about academic or technical topics—whereas geeks can be about pop cultural things—and particularly even the dry bits). For instance, let’s take two people who are into space. If the person’s main skew is looking at beautiful photos and that scratches their itch, I’d call them a geek. If their thirsty brain wants to collect data and terms and they thrive on dry and technical bits, I’d call them a nerd. (I’d say I used to be equally both a nerd and geek for space, but I’m now mainly a geek for it.) In general, I think you’d need to be a nerd for something in order to be a scientist or something on that level for whatever the topic is.

    Again, that’s just how I see it.

    If you don’t get the difference, it’s okay.  You can probably stick with me for the rest anyway. With one more note: you can be both a nerd and a geek. I hope it’s obvious by reading those definitions that neither excludes the other. And, yes, I’m quite pleased to have worn both labels. And, no, I’m not interested in arguing with you if you don’t agree with how the labels are defined. You just rock the ones that you believe apply to you and know that nothing I write is meant to take away from that.

    Amber Benson declares herself a geek

    When I was a smart kid at school, it was clear that “nerd” was a pejorative to most people. It seems like, even today, this is one anyone but nerds kind of thinks isn’t a compliment. And even the nerds know this isn’t usually meant as a compliment. But, to my mind, “nerd” means smart and focused on topics that have improved and can continue to improve our place as humans. I’m pretty sure that most scientists will agree that they are nerds. Especially when they see that I deliver that label with a loving smile. As some examples… I happily pin that label on the me who devoured mathematics (I asked for extra puzzles to take home and do for fun) or every book in the library on mythology or who fell in love with coding at the tender age of 8.

    John Green talking about the awesomeness of being a nerd

    Geeks, on the other hand, have seen their reputations improve over the last few years. Now, technically, that has had as much to do with nerds as with geeks (if you buy into the same definitions that I do). We became a more tech-oriented society, with even grandparents online and even the boys from school who hassled me for being a geek playing video games. In fact, it is so clearly the age of the geek that the term has ceased to be used only in nerdy geek circles. It’s not just scifi lovers or computer programmers calling themselves geeks; it’s also now being used in phrases like “sports geek” or “cooking geek” or “any other sort of thing you might love a wholewholewhole lot geek.” Whilst I’ve worked on not having Too Much Stuff and, therefore, don’t have an impressive memento collection, I’ve got the love for quite a list of things, most of which fall into the scifi realms. Remember that year I re-watched all of Star Trek in what would have been chronological order in that universe? Oh, or the year I re-watched all 50 years of Doctor Who and its spinoffs (yes, even all of the K9 spinoff…that’s love…). Or the days given regularly to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings marathons? Y’know, just as an example…

    Olivia Munn explains how widely we now use "geek"

    But, all that said, I’m not going to fuss too much if you don’t know the difference, because even geeks and nerds don’t use those terms in the ways I might. And I’m not at all worried. It’s just two different ways of saying that there’s stuff I love. And I refused to be ashamed of loving things (or of being smart, which is usually rolled in with the nerd bit).

    Simon Pegg talks about the joy of being a geek

    Instead of fighting about definitions, tell me the stuff for which you’re a geek or a nerd! Because why focus on the hate when we can wallow in the love? Yay!

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

  • Not Ashamed: Awesome

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

    This is the only edit I’ve made to the list since I initially posted it. (And I just decided to do it 8 April, 2015, which is when I wrote the first draft of this.) When I first posted the Not Ashamed list on Facebook, and again when I posted it as a web page at the start of this series, my amazingstrongamazonwarrior and awesome herself friend Anne sent me a comment that she thought my list should also include “awesome.” Both times, I noted that it didn’t fit because the list was specifically about labels that could be or could have been applied to me that people thought I ought to be ashamed of. And who would ever suggest someone feel ashamed of being awesome?

    But then, in a lot of different ways the week leading up to writing this, I was reminded that, in fact, this label too could be included on the list. Oh, humans…

    In a different post, I’ll talk about my self esteem, which is one side of this label. Because, in fact, I don’t disagree with Anne. I do rather consider myself awesome. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, and certainly a strong cup of tea. But, by my tastes and measures, awesome. Today, I want to talk about why I’m here to declare that I am awesome and that I am not ashamed of that.

    I want to further clarify that my only experiences and observations have come as a biological female in English-speaking Western cultures. I haven’t seen it in other contexts, but that doesn’t mean this doesn’t apply to biological males or to people in other cultures and countries. Though I really hope it doesn’t….

    To be clear, I’m not talking here about bragging or about otherwise making it clear that you think your awesome traits make you better than other people (where “better” means “of greater intrinsic value,” not “more capable in a particular way,” because it is just a fact that not everyone is the same amount of good at everything as everyone else). That’s not something I’m condoning. I’m a big believer that we are all of equal and great intrinsic worth.

    Here’s a little choose your own adventure with which most females will be familiar and that demonstrates the sort of situation about which I’m writing.

    Someone approaches a female to offer her a compliment (this someone can be male or female, a stranger or a friend). It might be about her brawn, her brains, her beauty, her talents, her skills, or any other thing about her that might be praiseworthy. At this point, she has a few options for response, but most of those options lead to the same result.

    If she wants to stay within acceptable social behaviours, she will do one of the following:

    • Deny the truth of the compliment.
    • Look abashed and avoid responding.
    • Look uncomfortable as she thanks the person.
    • Look uncomfortable, thank the person, and then rush to tell the compliment-giver how they are better than her.

    The compliment-giver will feel quite pleased with themselves for having given a compliment to someone who didn’t know they were good. They will ensure the female that she is indeed that. And both parties will endeavour to move the conversation onto a different topic.

    As a middle road, the female might smile and say something like, “Thanks! You are also possessed of some specific praiseworthy trait!” And then the original compliment-giver can smile and thank them and they can try to find a new topic stat.

    On the other side of things, the female might do something like:

    • Smile and say, “Thanks!” and then move on to a next topic without complimenting the compliment-giver in return.
    • Smile and say, “Thanks!” and then go on to talk about how they manage to accomplish the good trait or what they are creating with the good trait.
    • Smile and say, “Thanks! I kind of like me too,” and then move on to a next topic without complimenting the compliment-giver in return.

    Now, the severity of response to those pleasant responses varies. And, please note, none of those responses includes vanity or hating on others. These are just people who are aware of their good traits and not pretending otherwise, not acting ashamed to be caught having a good trait.

    And how, in my experience, does the compliment-giver often respond? Well, here are things I have seen or experienced multiple times in those situations:

    • The compliment giver looks confused, then annoyed, and then changes the topic and pretty much avoids saying anything nice after that.
    • The compliment-giver looks offended and accuses the female of being vain or stuck up.
    • The compliment-giver tells the female they weren’t serious with the compliment and/or hurls insults at her, sometimes really foul ones. (Yes, seriously. For example, a guy told me I was gorgeous. I said, “Thanks! I kind of like me too!” and he then changed to a nasty tone and sneered as he said, and I quote, “F*ck off, you fat, ugly b*tch.” Yes, seriously. And that’s happened multiple times. Even sometimes when my only reply was a chipper, “Thanks.”)

    So, in my experience and the experience of many women I know (I didn’t poll them all), the only safe replies to a compliment are to deny it, imply you’re not comfortable being good, or reply with an equal compliment. Never, ever should we just accept the compliment or, worse, agree with it.

    (In a similar vein, in a recent post, The Bloggess noted that “I often see an apology that’s added with the happy or proud announcements – as if we’re embarrassed to admit good things have happened to us or that we’ve accomplished something or that we’re proud of ourselves or our family.” Ugh. Exactly. Same sort of issue.)

    I have theories about the roots of this issue.

    Some of this, even for those not religious, is from deep societal/cultural roots in religions that condemn pride. And, honestly, I’m not a fan of pride. But people get so paranoid about accidentally being or being seen as prideful that they end up with this sort of behaviour I’ve just been writing about. We are supposed to be so afraid of pride that we lie to ourselves and others (and God, if that’s your motivation for denying your awesomeness) and deny the good traits or at least try to ignore them instead of being grateful for this goodness in us.

    Some of this, for females, is rooted in the gender norming that tells girls they have to be nice, that everyone has to be equal, that nobody should even seem to be above anyone else. Because that’s not nice. So, anyone who sticks their head up by being praiseworthy in a way that cannot be equally and precisely applied to every other person who might witness the praise is breaking that rule. But denying that there are different ways to be awesome or different degrees of awesome is dishonest and broken.

    Some of this is coming from self-esteem issues. We are used to females having those, so that’s the role we are expecting them to play. A confident female is off the script. And maybe she isn’t grateful enough for our compliment, not as grateful as she would be if she didn’t like herself, so she is depriving us of some joy by not having strong enough gratitude.

    Self-esteem issues can lead to another reason for this behaviour. Some people address their self-esteem issues by keeping others down. This type gets offended if you see your awesomeness because they wonder if it means you notice their lack of awesomeness. They feel like your acknowledgement demeans them further. With every bit of empathy, if you are that sort of low-self-esteem-haver, I want to promise you that you aren’t helping anyone by hating people who don’t hate themselves and that you also have good traits that, someday, you’ll wish you could acknowledge without worrying someone will make you feel bad for liking yourself.

    Sometimes the issue comes up because the compliment-giver is better at the thing than the female being complimented. As if this disparity makes the praise untrue instead of making the compliment-giver more of a qualified source of compliments. ?) (If someone who is an off-the-charts-incredible musician, for instance, compliments you on your musical talent, the proper response is not to deny your skill in the face of their greater skill. When you do that, you are devaluing that portion of skill in them as well. You thank them, you accept that compliment, and then you feel free—without saying “but” or “you’re better” to compliment them.)

    To me, all of those seem like really bad reasons for the sort of bad behaviour they lead to.

    So, yeah, many times, I have had it implied or flat out demonstrated that I should not acknowledge my awesomeness. That I should be ashamed of it, or at least ashamed to admit it. But I am not ashamed. Not at all. I’m giddy at the good traits I have and grateful to have been born with them or to have had the opportunities to develop them. And, in acknowledging my awesomeness, I am not in any way saying you are crap. “I am awesome” means, simply, that I am awesome. Anything else you hear in there is, as another friend would say, a story about you. And I hope you keep at the story until you reach the point where you can also see and acknowledge that you are awesome.

    Be awesome, lift others, and be not ashamed of every bit of awesome you are. Not ashamed!

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

  • Not Ashamed: Bisexual

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

    Let’s kick this one off by me explaining what I mean when I say that I’m bisexual. There are a few different ways that it gets defined by people who wear the label, and some have even decided that the way some of us use the term is better called something else. But “bisexual” is what resonates with me. So, that’s my label. And, for me, that means that I am attracted to those like me and those not like me. (Those are the two populations that make up the “bi” in there for me.) I am romantically and sexually attracted to people in both categories on a person-by-person basis. Again, that’s not a clarification that all of you will understand the need for, but it’s something that comes up and that matters.

    I don’t divide by two biological sexes, male and female, because there are people who are intersex or trans. And because I’m open to the belief that there are populations in which more than just two biological sexes are acknowledged (instead of existing but being ignored). Whilst I tend to skew slightly towards attraction to biological males, they’re definitely not the only ones who work for me.

    I also don’t just divide by two genders. As those of you who’ve read my post on being genderfluid have (hopefully) learned, there are more than two genders, more than just the masculine and the feminine. And pinning down which, if any, gender I’m most attracted to is pretty impossible (and not really a necessary task, in my opinion).

    In general, I don’t really divide when it comes to attraction. I’m attracted to individuals.

    I specify both romantic and sexual attraction because there are people who can find themselves sexually attracted to, for instance, men without being romantically attracted. It’s all physical and they have no inclination towards emotional involvement or relationships. And vice versa. For me, sometimes it’s all emotional and sometimes it’s all sexual. Sometimes it’s both. And all three of those states have occurred towards a wide array of those who are both like me in terms of, among other things, sex or gender and those who are unlike me.

    The bisexual umbrella with a list of all the types of people who might live under it

    People have a lot of misperceptions about bisexuals, some of which have been reinforced by actions of bisexuals they have known or by the stereotypes the media portrays (in those rare cases they portray someone as bisexual). So, that’s the next thing I want to clarify.

    That I am bisexual doesn’t mean I believe I have license to cheat or that I believe I am at the mercy of my libido. If you have had a bisexual partner cheat on you with that excuse, that’s a story about them and how they failed to act honestly and be true; that is not an inherent part of being bisexual. I am quite capable of being faithful.

    That I am bisexual doesn’t mean I need polyamoury. I have plenty of friends for whom polyamoury is the answer, and I’m not judging them. It’s just not who I am and is not an inherent part of being bisexual. I am, in fact, zealously monogamous.

    That I am bisexual doesn’t mean that I’m promiscuous. I’m not here to “slut shame” anyone, but people assuming my bisexuality makes me easy (and, by “people,” I mainly mean drunk blokes at parties or bars) has gotten old.

    I don’t “claim” to be bisexual for attention. Believe me, mate, I’ve got plenty of ways to get attention.

    I don’t “claim” to be bisexual to make boys want me. Believe me, mate, I’ve got plenty of ways to get boys to like me.

    This isn’t a phase. I’m out of uni and still attracted to all sorts of people.

    Whether or not I am currently having sex with both males and females, even if I get married to someone and never sleep with anyone else again, I am still bisexual. Just like you are still homosexual or heterosexual when you aren’t getting laid.

    I am not going to pursue your partner, male or female. Part of my zealous monogamy includes a respect for your relationship, even if you are with someone who’s a Very Bad Fit for you.

    One aspect that makes me a little crazy, and you’ll recognise this if you’re heterosexual as well, is a trust issue when it comes to friends. You know what I mean. You are, for instance, a straight girl with a male friend. You get close, and they freak out. You get close and their girlfriend assumes you’re going to steal them. Even if you’re actually asexual and a robot. Once people find out I’m bisexual…well, that can get fun. Am I no longer to be trusted with male or female friends? If you are a female friend, will I be unable to restrain myself from jumping you (in spite of the admirable restraint I’ve shown by not jumping almost any of my male friends)? Sure, boys and girls, I might mention interest, because some of the things that make you a cool friend might also make you a good partner. But I am in charge of me. Even if my heart throws itself, I can manage to not jump you. (I know; how very strong of me. I must be a sodding superhero!) I can even manage, when you aren’t interested, to not be weird and to just be friends like we’ve always been. (I’d give you references, but that might just ruin all the “not being weird” in those relationships…)

    Because, really, I am the same person you’ve known all this time. Even if you hadn’t realised the breadth of my attractions. And, really, I’m probably not interested in you “that way.” If I were, it’s likely that I’d already have told you. Move along, folks, nothing to see here…

    p.s. Here are some stats about bisexuals that I’m going to put in your face whilst you’re already on the topic. (Click to enlarge.)

    Text-heavy graphic, stats about bisexuals

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

  • Not Ashamed: Autistic

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

    When I got assessed and a qualified medical professional at the University of Washington Adult Autism Centre diagnosed me as autistic, I made a quick post on social media. For the most part, replies were:

    • That doesn’t makes sense. You don’t seem autistic.
    • That makes sense.
    • How do you fix it?

    As I’ve thought about what I would write in this post, a good percentage of the loads and loads of possible things can be grouped under one or the other of those replies. I’ll try to use those to keep this somewhat organised.

    That Doesn’t Make Sense / You Don’t Seem Autistic

    There’s quite a bit online about how it is that those born female are under-diagnosed as autistic. I spent hours one night searching and reading. If you just want a link, this page wasn’t too long and will probably do it for you. But if you or someone you care about might find this relevant to their situation, I’d urge you to hunt down more reading materials.

    One of the things you’ll read about is how, in addition to the gender bias in the way symptoms are defined, physiological differences and socialised differences between males and females both contribute to the perception that I can’t be autistic (and, apparently, my higher IQ helped as well). Plus, there are behaviours you don’t get to see because I’ve learnt to be careful.

    For the curious, some of my bigger challenges, but certainly not my only challenges, are:

    • Sensory overwhelm issues, which can take far less stimulus than you’d expect. They manifest in different ways and to different extents, and I’m fortunate that I had some good instincts in terms of ways I structured my life and time to minimise the impact of that. The responses vary based on the situation, but they are pretty typical of those on the spectrum.
    • A diminished capacity for dealing with executive function demands…which is part of why I love and strongly prefer to plan things in advance. Fortunately, I have become practised at pushing through a lot of the impact of this, at least to an extent that others rarely have to deal with it. But I’m definitely absorbing the full cost in private.
    • How quickly I get worn out by these things I’ve listed and some of the other challenges…though at least now I understand why certain apparently unremarkable days leave me exhausted by afternoon. I recently read this post on a site that seems to have plenty of entries relevant to me, and I’m trying to apply this to make sure I get as much productivity as I can out of my days.

    A common approach to voicing doubt, especially in person, is to ask me what sorts of things make me think I’m autistic. When I tell the person, their response is that they do that or feel that too. However, their tone makes it clear that they aren’t seeking empathy but, instead, to cast doubt on my “claim” that I’m on the autism spectrum. I have used my mad Paint skillz to show you some parallels to what it is like when people do that. Hopefully, these moving works of art will inspire you to never do that to me again.

    The spider I have to get past is bigger than yours...


    The cut on my arm is bigger than yours...

    Of course, my bottom line for all of you who don’t believe it’s possible is this: a qualified medical professional at the University of Washington Adult Autism Centre diagnosed me as autistic. I’m pretty sure the professionals at UW Adult Autism are a little better-qualified than everyone I know to make the call on that.

    That Makes Sense

    Closest friends, friends who are also on the spectrum or are related to or in relationships with someone on the spectrum, and those who know enough about it to have managed to see some of the signs in me have noted that they weren’t surprised. For my part, whilst I wasn’t emotionally wedded to a particular diagnosis, I wasn’t surprised either. Even before I’d read the chain of things that led me to suspect I was on the spectrum, I’d occasionally made comments about certain of my behaviours like, “I guess my autistic side took over.” I didn’t mean it as disrespect or even necessarily as a joke. I think I was quietly poking at the thought long before I consciously considered it. Once I started researching, there was an ever-growing list of reasons to believe this was the case, including many things I’d never have considered part of the evidence. A strong enough list that, when I learned the hard way how difficult it is to find people willing to diagnose adults, I was making peace with the idea of relying on self-assessment for this.

    I’ve worked hard and been as careful as I could to cover up most of the signs that others might see, to keep the behaviours private. But they are there. And they’ve been there for a long time. Now that I know much more about what could go on that list of signs, I can confidently say that there have been signs as long as I can remember (oh, the stimming I did as a child…that’s been coming to mind a lot lately). Which isn’t to say that anyone ought to have caught them. As I’ve noted already, and as the articles you can find will note, even the professionals don’t necessarily catch this stuff as often as they ought. But as I sat with the very kind and careful woman at UW Adult Autism, as she asked careful and neutral questions, I realised how much energy I’d put into building the person you see. If there’s anything we humans figure out quickly, it’s how dangerous it is to be unlike the others in our tribe. I have always been as authentic as I could sort out being, but I have, as I’ve said, done all I could to try to monitor and squash my behaviours…especially when anyone else is around.

    How Do I Fix It

    I know that anyone who asked something like this wasn’t intending to be insulting. So, if that was you, don’t fret. I forgave you immediately. Whilst it’s changing, the conversation about autism has always been more about what a horrible thing it is (and, look, I know I’m lucky to be where I am on the spectrum; I know there are some people where the bad vastly out-strips the good) and how we have to fix autistic people, to save them and their families. And I absolutely agree that some behaviours and issues are negative and answers are necessary. When she confirmed that I was on the spectrum, the woman who assessed me also noted that I’d done a great job of finding strategies and coping mechanisms. (Gold star for having a good reputation in my profession and always managing to take care of myself and my commitments!) I’m sure some of what should happen is that society needs to make some changes, especially given it now looks like about 1 in every 60 persons is on the spectrum, but I also know that some of the answer is me making choices, being aware, and so forth. That said…

    I have done a good job sorting out the concessions, the strategies, the coping mechanisms that allow me to live a life that I enjoy and that keeps me seeming basically typical to most people. I like myself. And some of what comes with this differently-wired brain of mine is good; at least I think it is. I’m not really looking to fix myself because it’s possible I’m no more broken then you, maybe just broken differently.

    If that’s the case, why (you might ask) did I want an assessment at all? Fair question. You can find some good reasons at the end of this article (which is a good read over all), but I had reasons before I ever found that article, most of which are echoed there.

    I want to make clear that my motivation was not to have an excuse that would let me get away with stuff. I wasn’t looking for sympathy or a license to behave badly. I wasn’t looking for approval to throw my hands in the air and play the victim. As pointed out previously, I’m not a victim. I want to be a self-sufficient and reasonable person. And there are more useful things in this world than sympathy. If you are or were suspicious of my motivations, you either don’t know me or have forgotten what you do know about me. Got it? Fab!

    I think that my love of self-knowledge is well-known. That was one of my main drives. And when I got the assessment, a lot of things fell into place. A lot of things made sense. “Oh, that’s why I do that!” In cases where the thing that fell into place was a negative thing, I could now more easily forgive myself, breathe through it, not pile negative feelings on top of what was happening. (It wasn’t things like letting myself be a jerk, more like understanding why certain things made me feel so worn out or frayed.) The more I’ve researched, the more I’ve found out. This means that I feel empowered, even as I realise my constraints and challenges.

    One of my other motivations was that I understood I wasn’t typical. I knew that some of the things on my list of “what seems off about me” might be a little worrisome, especially if they were going to get worse. So, I went in with the intent that, if it wasn’t autism, I might want to figure out what was going on. Just in case there was a “real” problem. So, in a way, I was relieved that I was autistic.

    And I hate knowing that, based on things others on the spectrum have run into, there are still people—including employers—whose behaviours lead to people on the spectrum feeling they need to hide that truth about themselves. (I just read advice on one of the bigger forums, urging people on the spectrum not to disclose their situation until after they had a firm job offer in writing, and then read some disheartening bits at the end of this Cracked piece. Both of these are very recent, not just outdated fears.) Some of the behaviours that my atypical wiring leads to aren’t things I’m proud of, but I am not ashamed. Whether or not you believe it, I’m autistic. And I’m actually okay with that.

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

  • Not Ashamed: Anorexic

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

    (Trigger warning: eating disorder)

    First, once again, I want to stress that my parents have no blame in this or any other of the things in this series of essays. And I want to send out gratitude to my friends who saw what was going on and made diligent efforts to get more calories into me.

    I remember sitting in health classes and trying not to snort with laughter when the instructor would say that anorexics and bulimics didn’t realise what they were doing. Because I knew exactly what I was doing. I’d made a choice. I hated my body and I was mired in depression, and I had made an assessment that anorexia was more effective than bulimia (and knew that I preferred practising some discipline to vomiting).

    I was going to carefully starve myself as much as possible (didn’t want to get caught not eating). I was going to get very thin. My period was going to stop. And then my organs were going to fail. When I actually started, I also found that I was going to feel clean and tight during the process. Yes, I knew exactly what I was doing.

    If you’re reading this and thinking that sounds good, I want to tell you how very not-good a choice it was. Or if, like me, you’ve done this and find that you get a little hungry for it when you read about others doing it, I want to tell you not to give in to that.

    Because what it really did was make sure that, once I started eating again, there was weight put on that was unlikely to ever go away (which also happens to those of you who think you’re just eating a calorie-restricted diet). And it crippled my metabolism so that, even years after I was eating regularly, it took a seriously calorie-dense diet (I ate so much, and foods that I was horrified to eat, and I wasn’t allowed to exercise) to get it back in order. Until I discovered the issue and fixed my metabolism, I had low body temperature (years of wearing socks to bed every night, among other things), more painful periods, fatigue, and apparently it stunted my growth. (No joke. This last year, I suddenly grew an inch—as measured by my doctor—and started to have breasts large enough to need a bra a few days a month. Fortunately, puberty was less stupid this time around. Ha!)

    The saddest thing is that I was never overweight. Not even a little. And I knew that once I started to work on getting healthy. But it wasn’t until recently that I realised I’m skinny. Like many people, I don’t see myself clearly; I don’t see my reflection in the mirror clearly. When I look in the mirror, I see an average-sized body. I just got lucky and saw one photo of myself that jarred me and made me realise the truth. Realise the truth, but not be able to see it…At least, these days, I see “average” instead of “cow.” (And, since people often ask, I didn’t see others through the same lens. Whilst I was hating on me, I might find someone else’s actual curves lovely. Yeah, this is a mental health issue.)

    It’s years later (I got sorted in my late teens), and my body is just now “normal.” But that demon sits in the back of my head and takes any chance to try to convince me do it again. Thank goodness I’ve learnt that food is awesome. That I took the time to get the physical and mental issues of this sorted. Because all the things I meant to fix by starving myself were better handled by eating well and working on the real issues in my life.

    You don’t have to tiptoe around me or worry. I eat quite a lot. I calmly handle it when good friends point out that something I’m wearing doesn’t flatter my bum. (I’m grateful for those honest friends!) I keep meals on my daily schedule and keep a food journal so that I can’t accidentally slip. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just baked some bread and I expect I’m going to eat quite a chunk of that loaf, slathered with butter and jam. Yum!

    (If you’re struggling, please get help. At the very least, use an online calculator to find out the shockingly large number of calories you should be eating. Stop over-exercising. It is insane how much joy I can find in guiltlessly savouring a chocolate bar. It is insane how much more fulfilling life is when I put less time towards exercise and more towards all the other stuff. I want you to have the same.)

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

  • Not Ashamed: Sexual Assault

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

    (Trigger warning: sexual violence)

    Before I say the things that keep crowding my brain, causing me to write a topic out of order again (and there’s a second topic close behind, so I guarantee we’ll continue to be out of order), there are a few things I wanted to make clear.

    1. In my list of labels, I called this “victimised by a sexual predator.” I chose that phrase very carefully to put the blame where it belongs and to make it clear that I don’t think of myself, in general, as a victim. Yes, in this context, I was the victim of the act, but I am not a victim. I’m a strong, capable person who has had some crap things happen to them.
    2. I won’t be describing anything about what happened. And, no matter who you are, I’m not interested in talking about it. I’ve gotten professional help. I’m okay. There’s no possible positive outcome for me to talking about it. (And, no, adults and friends who care about me, you carry no blame and you couldn’t have done anything. Please, don’t beat yourself up, don’t wonder, don’t ask.)
    3. Terms! Let’s make sure those are definite. I’m just going to paste some definitions here. I’m grabbing them from Wikipedia, because, in this case, they’re a good starting point.
      1. Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration or drug facilitated sexual assault), groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the person in a sexual manner.
      2. Sexual violence is any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or coercion, unwanted sexual comments or advances, acts to traffic a person or acts directed against a person’s sexuality, regardless of the relationship to the victim. It occurs in times of peace and armed conflict situations, is widespread and is considered to be one of the most traumatic, pervasive, and most common human rights violations.

    Even though what happened to me falls under the narrower umbrella of sexual assault, what I’m going to say here is applicable, in my opinion, to all sexual violence.

    I have, more than once, been in a room with people who quietly and timidly “confessed” they’d been the victim of sexual violence. I’ve seen them carry shame (and I carried it for a while for my own case) that wasn’t theirs to carry. I’ve seen how the shame and the unaddressed trauma from what happened has had long-reaching, negative impacts for years and years. I’ve seen how that shame is so heavy that those who speak up are considered brave.

    And, yes, if you “confess” that you’ve been a victim, that is brave. But! “Confess” carries some connotations that only deepen the sense that you have a reason to carry shame. And I hate that for you. I don’t want you to carry shame, because, and this is important, that shame belongs to the person(s) who victimised you. And, that’s the main thing I want to communicate here. (That and how great it was for me to get help. Thanks to the help, I feel no shame. Which is why, for me, this isn’t an act of bravery. I’m stating something about me and I am not ashamed.)

    So, please let me make this very clear:

    Whether you are male or female, it was not your fault. (Seriously, I have had too many male friends who were just wrecked by having been the object of sexual violence. It might be rarer to happen to a male, but it’s just as legitimate and no more their fault when it does.)

    Whether they were male or female, it was not your fault. (Yes, even if you are a male and the person who took the actions was a female. Or if you’re a female and another female pressed you, not just some big male. It is still not your fault.)

    Whether you were sober or under the influence of drink or drugs, it was not your fault.

    No matter what you were wearing, it was not your fault.

    No matter if you’d previously been sexually involved with them, they are wrong and it was not your fault.

    If you said “no” initially and were then pressured into letting things happen, it was not your fault. (Or if you were too scared to say “no” and were just frozen and silent when it happened.)

    If you were wearing nothing and walking through a dark alley in the “wrong” neighbourhood, whilst not the wisest choice, it’s still not your fault. Someone else still chose to do what they did and they bear the blame.

    You don’t have to have had a certain amount of things happen or have a story that seems as harrowing as someone else’s story to justify how horrible you feel. (For instance, if you got molested, your feelings are no less legitimate than those of someone who got raped. If it happened once, your feelings are no less legitimate than someone to whom things have happened more than once.)

    If, as happens in trauma, your brain can’t seem to keep the story straight but something happened, you are still, legitimately a victim.

    If you did not willingly and happily consent, it wasn’t okay. It isn’t your fault. The shame is not yours. They are the ones who should feel shame. And you don’t have to let them get away with it, you don’t have to be quiet.

    But, if you don’t feel safe speaking up, it’s still their fault. I’m not under any delusion that speaking up is easy to do. I’d just like to ask you to at least find some kind of safe stranger or anonymous help line to talk to…You don’t have to keep feeling horrible. I don’t want you, no matter who you are—even if you’re someone who’s been horrible to me, to carry these feelings and this shame. This isn’t your shame. This is their shame. And it’s also the sort of quiet shame that creeps up on us because of the way things about sexual violence are communicated in most cultures.

    Here’s a nice little chart I got from the Huffington Post to help you decide whether your experience was “valid.”

    And if you’re reading this and you think that any sort of non-consensual sexual activity is okay…YOU ARE WRONG. If the person you want said, “no,” that means NO. It doesn’t mean “please pressure me” or “please get me drunk” or “please wait until I’m passed out.” If you are following someone around, if you are shouting out at women on the street, if you are doing anything for which the object of your attention has expressed anything but enthusiastic consent…YOU ARE WRONG.

    If your friends do those things and you don’t call them out (unless you’re afraid of physical harm, in which case…why are you friends?), you are allowing rape culture to continue. Studies have shown that this lets your friends (or co-workers or drunk bloke beside you at the bar) think that you feel and act like them, which causes them to believe it’s acceptable. So, as in other spheres, your silence is like consent.

    It’s not a comfortable or pleasant topic. Even those committing these wrong acts don’t like to talk about this topic because, unless their moral compass is entirely non-existent, something in them knows they’re doing wrong…which causes them to get uncomfortable and defensive and lash out.

    And if you’re thinking, Yes, Amber, everyone knows this, well…clearly not everyone knows it and not everyone is taking action on it, are they? Or we wouldn’t have to keep making posts, having conversations, and so forth. Listen, I’ll make you a promise: if this sort of horrible thing stops, I’ll not write about it again (except maybe from an historical perspective to talk about how we accomplished such a great thing).

    Honestly, I’d be happy to write that historical perspective. Until I can, I hope all those who’ve been victimised will get the sort of help that lets them feel as healed as I do. Stay safe, and try to leave the shame where it belongs.

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

  • Not Ashamed: Depression (Not Physiologically Caused)

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

    (Trigger warning: depression, self harm, suicide)

    Look at me, actually writing a topic in the posted order! I’m guessing you oughtn’t get too comfy with that. But let’s appreciate it whilst it happens.

    Today, I’m going to talk a bit about when I was depressed for a long while and it wasn’t just the bipolar thing. I know that definitions and terms change and that I’m not a qualified mental health professional, so I’m leery of using actual terms. And, when I was seeing the therapist who helped, my mind state was enough a mess that I didn’t really file away whatever term she used at the time.

    Basically, even before the bipolar hit me (before there were any mania symptoms), the depression hit and hit hard. And I’d probably have been less exhausted for a great deal of my life if I’d not actually been trying to hide that I wasn’t okay. Fortunately, someone who saw through me was also able to get me some help.

    The great thing about this other kind of depression I was dealing with (and that has probably happened a time or two since…like when my mum died or when certain major relationships ended) is that, thus far, I’ve been able to work through it. If you read my entry on being bipolar, you get some sense of what depression feels like for me. Just double it…except that, really, it felt more like every day was at my worst times ten.

    I felt like I could barely move, it was so heavy. And this was definitely my worst self-harm period. Every day, I felt driven to that. Plus, hey, regular thoughts about suicide. (I’ll cover self-harming and suicidal in other entries.) That was if I could keep myself awake or think through the sobbing. When I think of my younger self, of me during that time, I just want to let her curl up in my arms and try to absorb some of that depression.

    The best thing I did was get professional help. I’m eternally grateful to the friends who tried to help, especially the ones who were life-saving. But it wasn’t quite enough. Which is why I’m a vocal supporter of seeing a professional. (I got lucky with my first one; however, I have moved since and have also had someone who wasn’t a good fit, so I’m also a vocal supporter of finding one who works for you.)

    We worked together to root out non-physiological causes and amplifiers of the depression. We talked about ways I could make changes and take steps to fix what could be fixed. We spent loads of time on self-esteem issues (which, hey, another future topic or two). And I made some choices.

    This next bit is about some realisations and a decision that worked for me. I’m not saying this is the right answer for everyone…but, y’know, if you’re running out of ideas….

    One day, I remember driving around and wondering who I was without my depression. I wondered if I would even like non-depressed Amber. I wondered if friends would still like her. I wondered if the social scene I was kind of part of would still consider me a legitimate member. I was a little afraid. I realised that my depression was my default state. That this was how I knew myself. That this was the lens through which I had seen the world for a very long time. That this was a large part of how I would describe Who I Was if giving an honest answer. That, in a twisted way, depression was so familiar that it was like a warm (smothering, limiting, oppressive) security blanket. I realised that, in some way, I might actually be choosing to hold onto it for all those reasons. So I asked myself if I actually enjoyed the admittedly horrible feeling of the depression. I asked if I really wanted friends or a social group who would prefer me to feel that way. I asked myself whether I might not prefer the (hopefully) less-distorted view of myself and my world that would come with not being depressed. I asked myself whether I weren’t ready to find other parts of who I was and give them a chance to thrive. And then I pulled off the road into somewhere abandoned so that I could sob as I made a choice. I decided that, however much I might fear the unknown, I didn’t want to hurt like that any longer. I chose to stop clinging to the depression and gave myself permission to heal.

    Now, before one of you obnoxious people who thinks people choose depression uses this as anecdotal evidence…read the rest. This is just as important. (And you are wrong and shouldn’t ever suggest people just choose not to be depressed. Seriously.)

    After that incident, I did not magically become Not Depressed. I was no longer holding myself back, but I still had to do all the work with my therapist to work through and conquer the depression. I was just not holding myself back any longer. Except when I was, because this was big and scary and the work was hard and took time, and that, in itself, can be depressing. But I still feel like that moment with myself was an important part of my road out of that type of depression.

    On the other side…it felt so much lighter. It was amazing!

    And then I slipped a little when I realised I wasn’t entirely free of depression (oh, hi, bipolar!) and I started to beat myself up and to get depressed that I was depressed. Fortunately, a little help realising that there are some things that I can’t totally control and that the bipolar issue didn’t invalidate all the hard work I’d done to work through the other stuff got me back to my new normal.

    And when other things have happened that have set off depressions, I’m so glad for the work done with a professional. I now have tools and ideas to help work my way through. I’ve also seen how each depression is unique, so that’s helped me not be the sort of prat who assumes that my experience of depression applies to everyone’s experience. I try never to force my tools and solutions on others, because that can make it worse.

    As with my physiologically caused depressions, this stuff isn’t always rational. Even if you can point to the event or thing that caused it, you can’t always pin down why that’s led to me randomly crying in the middle of a nice day.

    I try to figure it out, just in case, but:

    1. You are probably safer not trying to push me to figure it out or to tell you why. Unless you are a mental health professional whom I’m paying to do that.
    2. If I don’t figure it out, I don’t stress. I know this is a thing that happens and I try to be compassionate to myself as I would others. No need making it feel worse by judging myself for not knowing why.

    If you’re struggling with a depression, if it’s sticking around…whether or not you know the cause, I hope you’ll reach out and find some help. If you’re getting help but afraid of suddenly losing this big piece of you (cos, let’s be honest, when you have depression, it is the biggest piece of your life and feels like you are mainly depression with a few other human characteristics thrown in), I promise you that you will be okay (you will be better than you are now) without it and that you have plenty of other parts that will be able to shine if you give them a chance.

    Also, just so we’re clear, I’m always a little depressed (except when the deep anger of mania has me). So I’ll never judge you if you’re depressed. I’ll just hope that, like me, you find a way to carry a little less of that load someday.


    (If you’d like someone else’s take on depression—something with more pictures and swearing and chances to laugh but still pretty accurate to my own experience, I really adore the way that Allie of Hyperbole and a Half does it. Read her Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two. I’ve heard people who didn’t understand depression before say these helped them feel they kind of got it.)

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

  • Not Ashamed: Pro-Choice and Pro-Life

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

    I know that, last week, I said I’d be back to writing in the listed order. But if you’re not paying me to go in order and my brain has Things to Say Now, I’m just going to go with that…

    In the sincerest and least baggage-having way, I consider myself both pro-choice and pro-life.

    I feel like there are a couple things I want to say right up front, before I get to discussing how this particular topic applies to me.

    1. If you’re pro-choice and already disgusted with me because I say I’m that and pro-life, do me a favour and read on. Because…
    2. If you’re “pro-life,” I’m warning you right now that you’re probably going to be mad at me in just a moment. I know I won’t change your stance, so feel free to go read something else instead. (That includes the family and friends I know disagree…I love you and there’s little for you to gain now that #1 up there has already made you Very Disappointed in me.)

    In fact, let’s do what we did last time and define terms. Pretty sure that will clear this all up, describe how it applies to me, and piss off those I suspect will hate me any moment now.

    Pro-choice: I am in favour of women having the option to choose an abortion. In fact, I am in favour of them being able to make that choice without the man who impregnated them consenting or without the doctor’s morals being consulted. (Yes, I’ve read/heard the arguments against and I still feel this way. If you think that this is an unstudied/uninformed opinion or one driven by popular opinion, you clearly don’t know me or have forgotten what you know of me.)

    Pro-life: I am in favour of human life and have very few circumstances in which I would take advantage of the option to have an abortion. But! I believe that most people who claim to be pro-life are more accurately labelled “anti-abortion.” Because, putting aside the baggage and the connotations it’s picked up, “pro-life” means being in favour of and supporting human life. Not just trying to discourage abortions. No, if you are actually pro-life, you need to advocate for a good life for that fetus even after it’s born. Even if it’s not a white human, a western human, a straight or cis human, a rich human, a fully able-bodied human, or whatever other traits you consider Right for humans.

    To be truly pro-life, I think you’ve got to be a little less enthusiastic about the death penalty, even if your knee-jerk reaction to horrible crimes is that they deserve to suffer.

    I think you’ve got to be in favour of prisons/criminal systems that support reform and healing, rather than humiliation and increasing the brokenness of those who’ve made bad choices.

    I think you’ve got to be in favour of social programs that support the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of those people you were so adamant must be born.

    And I think you’ve got to do that without exceptions for people who don’t share your skin colour, your social class, your sexual orientation, your biological sex, your gender, your politics, and so forth.

    I think you’ve also got to acknowledge that the woman carrying that baby is a human life. A woman who, with no exceptions, you have decided must carry the baby to term. You’ve decided this with no knowledge of her situation. You’ve decided to forfeit any thought of her life because, like everyone I’ve met in the anti-abortion crowd (and maybe there are exceptions, but I’ve never met or heard from them), her life ceased to be the one you were actively and actually in favour of the instant she was born. (Before you deny it, look at your attitudes towards social programs that support those with needs, look at your fervour for death and war, look at your hatred for those who aren’t straight, white, middle-class or richer men and for those with different spiritual and political beliefs…)

    I’m not arguing, mind you, for the morality of any woman’s specific decision. I’m not in a position to do that. Right now, I’m just telling you why I don’t think most people who call themselves “pro-life” are actually that. And I’m letting you know, then, what I mean when I say that I am pro-life.

    I am in favour of a quality life for all humans, even the ones unlike me. Even the ones who have hurt me or made horrible decisions. And, aside from some moments of knee-jerk rage, I don’t look at another life and hope that it is wretched or that it is ended. I want it saved; I want it bettered.

    So, please stop using an incorrect label for yourselves, you so-called “pro-life” (but actually “anti-abortion”) crowd. And also stop assuming that pro-choice means I’m out actively campaigning for every pregnant woman to get an abortion. I’m in favour of people having a choice. If I were in favour of all babies being aborted, I’d use another term.

    Are there circumstances where I definitely would have or would heartily support someone choosing abortion? There are (including, but not limited to, any situation where the sex wasn’t consensual). And I don’t believe it’s my place to make the choice for someone else or even to judge them if they make the choice for reasons that wouldn’t cause me to make that choice.

    Nor do I believe that laws that put the job of making that moral judgement in the hands of doctors are a good idea. We already have anecdotal proof that there are doctors whose personal morality will lead them to deny abortions to victims of rape or to those whose lives are endangered by carrying a baby to term. There are laws made by men who think that you can get pregnant by swallowing sperm (or at least ask questions that make it sound like they believe the throat is a thoroughfare to the uterus…). This doesn’t exactly make me feel like these laws are made or administered by people who are in a good position to make the right choice for me or any other woman.

    I am pro-choice.

    And, in a more genuine way than it has come to be used, I am pro-life.

    And, whilst I am a bit nervous to be vocal about this based on what I know possible repercussions of being vocal are, I am not ashamed.

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

  • Not Ashamed: Genderfluid

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

    I’m doing this post out of order, in spite my intentions to just work through the list from top to bottom, because this was the post that circled around and around in my head whilst I considered doing this series.

    First, like a good philosophy student, I want to define terms. I’m just going to copy and paste what the World Health Organization says:

    “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

    “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

    Genderbread Person shows you what different terms mean

    And, here’s the GenderWiki definition of gender fluid, just in case you’re too lazy to look:

    Someone who is gender fluid switches between genders, which may include male, female, neutrois, third gender, or any other genderqueer identity. They can also switch to have combinations at the same time, such as male and female, or other mixes, such as male, neutrois, and a third gender. They can combine varying amounts of gender identities; three, four, or five, or many with which the individual identifies. They can also be every gender and combination at once, a term known as polygender (other terms for which may include multigender or pangender, which may be considered derogatory by some).

    But some of you are here not for a consolidation of definitions; you want to read what this means to me. Especially if you already looked up genderfluid (look, I’ve seen it with and without the space and I like it spelled this way) and realise that this is one of those things where you need to actually ask me what I mean if you want to know how it applies to me. Given the big role gender played in my life, even before I knew what gender was, I’m happy to help you understand.

    As a kid, obviously, the word “gender” didn’t mean anything to me, even though the concept impacted me. I knew I was a girl (look! girl bits!), but I also knew that I liked boy things as much as or more than girl things (something that will mean something else when we talk about my bisexuality…ha!). And I knew that this confused and bothered some people, and that it made friendships difficult. Girls thought I was weird for liking boy things; boys weren’t sure they believed I liked boy things because I also liked girl things. Ugh! That was a real pain for wee Amber.


    It also led to turmoil later. I went through years and years where I tried to strongly reject all girl things (not that I wanted to be a boy, but if I liked boy things more in general, I didn’t want girl things getting in the way of friendships…plus, my subconscious feminist hadn’t yet realised that this was doing me a disservice; she just knew that boys seemed to have a better deal in life and I wanted in on that…and then I tried to balance not wanting to hate being a girl with trying not to be “too much a girl” and had a whole different miserable experience). I hated colours purely on principle, I was distraught if someone accused me of being at all girl-like, I was ashamed of the things about my body that proved that I was a girl. But I never actually wanted to be a boy in a way that would lead me to change my body or be trans. I felt guilty when I liked things that I’d lumped in as girl things (someone bought me a relaxing spa facial that was ruined by feeling guilty the whole time). I even only wore makeup at one point (I wanted to wear it, but I felt I needed an excuse) because I’d grown up knowing and knowing of plenty of boys who did that (thank you, David Bowie). I wanted people to be romantically interested in me because of me, not because they wanted girly me or because they could picture me as a boy. On and on…what a mess it was in my head and my heart. I’ll spare you the numerous stories and situations and hope you can get a sense of what a non-fun time that was.

    Let’s fast-forward. Still before I’d even learned about gender in the context of the definitions I pasted in at the start of this, I had the great fortune of opportunities that let me gain some pretty solid self-esteem (my self-esteem is another future post or two). As part of that, I kind of laid off on the self-categorisation a bit and just accepted that I was me. That didn’t change what a pain it was to interact with other humans if gender mattered, of course. But then we can fast-forward a little more to when I learned that definition of gender I pasted in. In my world, this was huge. Because here is what it meant to me:

    Unlike my sex, which was a real thing that included definable and concrete elements like breasts (small, but existent…hello, girls!) and female genitals, gender wasn’t real in a way that I felt I had to honour or allow to constrain me. It was something that changed from culture to culture, from age of time to age of time. It was made up. It had no right to mean anything more to me than any other fiction. And it was a bloody shame that someone else’s fiction impacted my daily life. That it would (and does) impact it even if I reject it as a reality, because the rest of society accepts it.

    I started using genderfluid to describe this state of mine where, sometimes, I feel “girl” because I fit the gender stereotypes of Western culture that they consider the female gender…and sometimes I feel “boy” for the parallel male gender reasons…but, mostly, I just feel “Amber.” Which is to say that I rarely think of myself as male or female in a gender way, just in a sex way. And, when I do, I remind myself that I’m buying into a fiction that, in my opinion, has done more harm than good. And then, even if my feelings or actions or appearance don’t change, I’m back to feeling “Amber” and life is better.

    Whether or not I wear makeup (which anyone who pays attention knows I feel isn’t just for females) or skirts (ditto) or pink or etc (ditto and ditto), I’m Amber. And even things like “being very emotional” or “being too logical” that are ascribed to one sex or another by way of gender roles are things I’ve seen in both sexes (and have seen both in myself). Same story with behaviours (girls are backstabbing and boys are emotionally distant…okay, have really only seen the “emotionally distant” in myself, and even that rarely…but you get my point, right?). So, I reject that stuff as actually fundamentally tied to any person just because of the genitals with which they were born. And I certainly reject it as ways to categorise myself, because I don’t fit a box and I don’t worry about fitting a box.


    Here’s a short FAQ:

    Q. What’s my gender?
    A. Amber

    Q. What gender pronouns do I prefer?
    A. I don’t have a preference. As long as you aren’t trying to be insulting (cos I don’t ever prefer to be insulted), you can use female, male, or gender-neutral pronouns. I’ve happily responded to all.

    Q. Why genderfluid and not agender?
    A. Because I read the definitions and see overlap and see how both could apply, but genderfluid just feels right. And since it’s all made up anyway, I’m going to go with my feelings on this.

    Q. Do I ever cross-dress?
    A. As someone who’s female sexed, I have a lot more room to manoeuvre clothing/appearance in this society. Unless I stuffed my pants with something to make it look like I have boy parts, I can wear trousers or skirts in all sorts of styles and people likely wouldn’t assume I was dressing to fit a gender. (And I’ve only stuffed my trousers as part of a Halloween costume. Never really found myself wanting to be physiologically male…except during that day or two a month when my female parts are trying to kill me…ha!)

    Q. Is it okay if I, the reader, feel like I have a gender and want to claim a gender, request specific pronouns?
    A. Yes! I have come to where I am because this is the healthiest place for me (something I learned through both study and experimentation). If you have found another place that is your healthiest, rock that place!

    Q. Is it okay that I, the reader, think of you as female?
    A. Sure. I have the genitals that classify me as female. However, I’d appreciate you stopping short of assuming that my physical femaleness tells you anything more about me than that. It doesn’t tell you my personality, my aesthetic, my capabilities, etc. You proceed at your own risk if you try to gender me (instead of just sexing me). (And everyone pause whilst the perpetual adolescent part of me has a laugh at the ways you can interpret that last sentence.)

    We should be back to posts that follow the order of my original list next week. Thanks for being observant and noticing this out-of-order post. I’m going to go empty the rubbish, cook some dinner, and read scifi. These are all things easily encompassed in the Amber gender.

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

  • Not Ashamed: Bipolar

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

    (Trigger warning: depression, mania)

    I think one thing that comes up when I think about a number of the labels you could apply to me is that this is my experience; I don’t know any other and so I can’t talk about things with any real understanding of how it feels not to be this. I can only look at the descriptions of what it is to be typical or of how others experience what I am and postulate from there.

    Here is what I think I want people to know when they learn that I’m bipolar:

    1. It’s okay. I’m lucky. I seem to have made it through the worst (15-19 years old were…so bad…every. single. day.) and seem to have basically stabilised at what, to me, seems like a manageable place.
    2. If I get enough sleep, enough alone time, enough non-stressed time; if I eat what my body needs and move it (you might call it “exercise,” but that’s got connotations I don’t want to cling to) the way it wants; if I don’t feel ashamed for what happens, I can manage this without medication.
      Important conclusion: People who give me rubbish about trying to get adequate sleep are basically asking me to skip my medication. If you care about me, you won’t do that. (Editing has spared you a mini-rant on the importance of sleep here. You’re welcome!)
    3. This is not something that is cured or that is fixed by just trying to be happy. Any variation on “have you tried just not being depressed” will make me want to hit you. On a related note, yes, actually, listening to that music that isn’t happy does often do me more good than happy music (because happy music can sometimes just make me feel like it’s rubbing my face in how I’m failing at being happy). And, no, honestly, going out doesn’t usually help but generally hurts (watch for the introvert post to go up for more on that). In this day and age, if you actually think that a person can stop being depressed or that depression can be solved like sadness can, you are being purposefully ignorant. Please don’t assault me with that failing of your character.
    4. Most days, I feel depression all around my periphery. But it’s not usually at a level that I’d consider worrisome, so I’ve just made my peace and I live on. Because I can have good moments and enjoy things and be happy concurrently with that. (Depression isn’t the opposite of happiness, it just overwhelms happiness sometimes.) Even with the depression lurking, I am generally a sincerely positive person. Weird, right?
    5. I definitely have swings, deeper depressions and definite manic periods. And I’m really grateful that I can find ways to give myself solitude then. Solitude is part of how I manage and heal. And you don’t want to be around during one of those deeper times. (Plus, being around others during that just drains me more and adds ugliness to it.)
    6. My deep depressions can include crying jags, not getting out of bed due to it not feeling like there’s a point (yes, even though my logical little brain can tell me that’s not the case), not getting out of bed because I feel exhausted, feeling really cold, feeling heavy (physically, mentally, emotionally), losing interest in everything, despondent thoughts, and sometimes—when it’s at its worst—I get this sensation of my skin crawling and tingling with it.
    7. My manic swings…some people experience mania in ways that let them stay up all night getting things done. I’m not saying that those are okay, but there are times I envy that a little. Cos when I get manic, it’s anger and it’s muscles clenching. I might get stuck in a repetitive behaviour (once, at uni, I realised I’d been flicking a pen up my desk and letting it roll down to my fingers and repeating over and over all through a class and it took me a lot of concentration to stop so I could walk out when class was over). I lose dexterity as my muscles tense (try typing with curled up claws of fingers…no fun!), which only adds to the anger and frustration (but, hey, at least there’s a reason other than messed up body chemistry for that added anger and frustration). And, just like with depression, it would be a bad move to ask why I’m angry (or to try to push past my reply that it’s mania). Because it’s irrational and there’s no reason. I feel very lucky that, of the two, I experience depression more than mania.

    So, all that said, whilst I’m not thrilled to be bipolar, I’m okay. The level at which I have it and generally experience it, especially these days, is so much lower than others I know or even than I used to. And, as with many things in my life, I’ve learned to manage it. And given I typed up some of this whilst in the middle of a depression swing, that’s not just rose-coloured glasses in a lull. Heh.

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