Submission by general-sleepy (July 2014)

[The below was a submission from general-sleepy, in July 2014, to the rainbowamory Tumblr]

general-sleepy asked: I just about jumped up and down when I found this blog. Another person out there who supports cousin couples’ rights, and LGBT+ rights to boot! Thanks so much for making this blog. Hopefully you can help to dispel some of the misinformation out there.

Hi, you have no idea how happy I was to see your message!! 🙂 Aside from thefinalmanifesto, who also blogs on similar topics), yours was my first fan mail. 😀

You’re welcome. And I am certainly going to do my best to help dispel some of those negative stereotypes and assumptions, as well as expose some of the hypocrisy that exists within minority groups towards other minorities. The purpose of this blog is to bring together two communities, to get them to see they are really not that different in their struggles for happiness and freedom. I hope I can get at least some people from each side to understand that one kind of love is not better than the other, they are just different expressions of the same feeling.

Neither of them are wrong or immoral in any way. They are both natural and deserve to be treated with dignity. Thank you for the encouragement! Hope to see you around! 🙂

-rainbowamory

Coming Out To Yourself (for those in the Questioning Stage)

[This is an old post from Tumblr, originally posted in July 2014]

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As you would know, there are many different kinds of coming out; coming out to your friends, family, co-workers, etc. And the act of coming out is a lifelong process… But in this blog, I am going to try and give a few tips that might help you figure out How To Come Out To Yourself. Some people find coming out to family or friends to be the most difficult thing, but from my experience, coming out to myself was the hardest step of all. Once you’re past that, you can take your time with the rest.

In order to get anywhere in your path of self-discovery, you need to start peeling layers – the layers of denial. If you go to YouTube and type in ‘Coming Out’ on the search bar, you will get pages upon pages of LGBTQ people sharing their personal stories. If you are questioning your gender, there are lots of Trans or genderqueer Coming Out stories as well.

If you are confident that you are straight and cisgendered, then you should be able to hear these stories and not feel anxious? Right?

If you do feel anxious, restless, or uncomfortable while hearing about gay people coming out, it maybe a sign that you are suffering from Internal Homophobia. (This is when you go out of your way to avoid LGBT stuff because you are secretly lesbian or gay or trans yourself). Internal homophobia can indicate that you have a fragile sense of self, that you are struggling to keep together a false visage so desperately that it is in danger of falling apart with the slightest contradiction.

-‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑

For me it was a long process, but what finally tipped me over the edge and helped me make up my mind to come out was actually a YouTube video. I tried to find it again to thank the person who made it, but it was gone. In it, a woman was talking about coming out as intersex. She referred to a book called “Beautiful Lies” (I think it’s the one by Lisa Unger).

She said that everyone grows up being given a role. The people in your family act out their roles like in a play and they expect you to do the same with your assigned part (e.g. that of a straight, cisgender person). If you decide that you want a different role, everything has to be restructured again to take that change into account. The worst that can happen is they kick you out of the play… or… they rewrite it so that you can play the role of your choice, and life goes on. If you go on playing the role they gave you, the one that doesn’t suit you, the structure won’t be shaken, but you will be living a lie. And ultimately, you will be the one who is unhappy.

-‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑’–‘๑

After seeing this, I asked myself some questions. If you are questioning your sexuality, try asking yourself these questions. Remember, no one needs to know. This self-examination is between you and yourself, in your head. No one has to know the results unless you want them to. So be as honest as possible with the answers:

✭1. How did you picture your future when you were
little?
 (Getting married? Having kids with the opposite sex? Playing a cisgendered, heterosexual role your whole life?)

✭2. Did you ever have any secret fantasies you never told anyone about? (Wanting to BE the opposite sex yourself? Fantasizing about the same sex?)

✭3. Who would you rather have sex with? (a girl or a guy? Or either one?)

✭4. Who would you rather be in bed with at the end of the day? (a guy or a girl? Or either one?)

✭5. If you were to come out as gay, what is the WORST that can happen? (Who would you disappoint? Would family disown you? Will you lose friends?)

✭6. If you were to come out, what is the BEST that can happen? (Can you be happier? Can you finally explore all those urges and desires you’ve so long pretended weren’t really yours? Can you build a more authentic, honest kind of future for yourself? Will you feel more alive and autonomous, rather than resigned and repressed? Will you gain new friends you can be yourself around?)

✭7. Did you look forward to your originally pictured Future? Or did you look upon it as a kind of inevitable ‘fate’?

✭8. Lastly. Can you let go of your originally pictured Future if it means having a New Future you can build from scratch? (Marrying a Same sex partner, having children with them through adoption or other means, having sex the way you want, etc)

        If you answer these questions and others honestly, you might be able to come out to yourself. After that, it is up to you to decide what you are going to do with this new knowledge.

You may find you need to come out of a closet within a closet within a closet… You may come out as bi first, then gay, then Trans (pretty much my journey) – as you overcome one internal phobia at a time… so don’t stop peeling those layers until you’re absolutely sure you have reached your core. Some people go on discovering new things about their sexuality all throughout their life. That’s why they say ‘sexuality is Fluid.’

You deserve to be happy, to define your own happiness. Someone has given you a role because they think that’s what you should want. If you never ask yourself, you will never know. And you will live your life feeling a kind of emptiness and lack of enthusiasm where passion and fulfillment should be.

Sooner or later you’re bound to see that deceiving yourself is a lot harder to do than deceiving other people.

Cousin Love & LGBTQ Romance in Film

[This is an old post originally posted on Tumblr, in July 2014]

I highly, highly, highly recommend you watch Milk if you haven’t already. It is especially great film to show to someone who is new to the gay rights cause, because it examines the struggle from many angles and is just overall one of the most powerful films I’ve ever watched about human rights. (I really don’t see how someone can be a bigot, watch it, and continue being a thoughtless bigot). I also suggest you watch Fire, which gives a unique perspective of homosexuality as experienced within an ethnic group, having to navigate culture-specific stigmas to find their true identity.

All the cousin couples portrayed are First cousins. And of that part of the list, I recommend you watch Creation and Jude because they both delve into the private struggles of people in that kind of relationship, whereas the other cousin-couple films (on this list) don’t really deal with these specific issues (since stigma -internal or external – doesn’t really come up in those others, due mostly to isolation or the different attitude of the time period they’re set in).

I picked these films because this is what I mean when I say ‘Better representation’ in media/art. These are all honest in the way they present their subject matter. There’s more to each than just the romance.

[Transamerica is the only one that doesn’t fit into the ‘romance’ category, since it’s more about the main character’s development as a person]

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Here’s the List:

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5 Films That Portray Romance Between Cousins:

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Blue Lagoon (1980) “In the Victorian period, two children are shipwrecked on a tropical island in the South Pacific. With no adults to guide them, the two make a simple life together, unaware that sexual maturity will eventually intervene.”

(The Blue Lagoon is a romance novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, first published in 1908. The novel is the first of the Blue Lagoon trilogy, the second being The Garden of God (1923) and the third being The Gates of Morning (1925). It has inspired several film adaptations, most notably The Blue Lagoon (1980) starring Brooke Shields as Emmaline and Christopher Atkins as Richard (his name is Dick in the book.)

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Jude (1996) “A stonemason steadfastly pursues a cousin he loves. However their love is troubled as he is married to a woman who tricked him into marriage and she is married to a man she does not love. Living out of wedlock, the two are rejected by the townspeople leaving them to struggle in abject poverty.”

(based on Jude the Obscure, a novel by Thomas Hardy)

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How I Live Now (2013) “An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her.”

(based on How I Live Now, a novel by Meg Rosoff)

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The Young Victoria (2009) “A dramatization of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria’s rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert.”

(This one is based on the real life of Queen Victoria)

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Creation (2009) “English naturalist Charles Darwin struggles to find a balance between his revolutionary theories on evolution and the relationship with religious wife, whose faith contradicts his work.”

(Based on the real life of Charles Darwin)

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5 Films That Portray Romance Between LGBTQ-identified people (gay, lesbian, Trans):

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Milk (2008) “The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.”

(based on the real life of Harvey Milk)

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The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995) “An adventurous love story between two young women of different social and economic backgrounds who find themselves going through all the typical struggles of a new romance.”

(loosely based on the director’s first love) (for those who don’t know, the same actress who plays Tina on The L Word plays the tomboyish girl in this film. XD)

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I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) “A cop turns con man once he comes out of the closet. Once imprisoned, he meets the second love of his life, whom he’ll stop at nothing to be with.”

(based on the 1980s and ’90s real-life story of con artist, impostor, and multiple prison escapee Steven Jay Russell, as played by Jim Carrey. Adapted from I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker)

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Fire (1996) [couldn’t find a synopsis so I wrote this myself] Sita and Radha, two Indian women (one older, one younger) living in unhappy marriages, find companionship and freedom with each other, including a kind of sexual freedom denied them by the repressively traditional culture they exist in. Fire is also mentioned to be “one of the first mainstream films in India to explicitly show homosexual relations.”

(loosely based on Ismat Chugtai’s 1941 short story, Lihaf (The Quilt))

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Transamerica (2005) “A pre-operative male-to-female transsexual takes an unexpected journey when she learns that she fathered a son, now a teenage runaway hustling on the streets of New York.”

(in part inspired by the experiences of writer/actress Katherine Connella)

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The Need for Better Representation in Fiction

[This is an old post from Tumblr, first posted in July 2014. This was actually my very first blog post and the reason behind starting this blog.]

When it comes to subjects or themes that have social stigma attached to them, it is rare to see them explored in fiction with neutrality. Have you ever watched a film or tv show in which love between cousins is referred to as something distasteful? Something that only unsophisticated, backwards people would engage in?

Consanguinamory themes in fiction:

I’ll give a few examples… In the movie Sweet Home Alabama (which I love to the most part, except for this one bit), there was a fleeting moment of misunderstanding where the main character’s new boyfriend thought that she had once been married to her cousin. Of course, this was a misunderstanding, but his reaction of shock implied that this possibility alone was worse than the fact that she had not told him she had been married before. Then there’s the sitcom, Big Bang Theory (I also enjoy this show, but I hate this one reference), where the character Howard mentions that he had slept with his cousin once. His friends are disturbed by this fact, as well as his girlfriend Bernadette. It’s used as a point of ridicule by everyone who hears of it throughout the show, since it’s mentioned more than once. Howard himself says it like it’s something he half regrets, purely for it’s being a socially unacceptable act rather than any other reason. I am sure there are lots of other examples, though I can’t remember right now off the top of my head. But I know that (in modern fiction or media at least) this topic is rarely mentioned in a neutral tone or with any kind of true empathy.

LGBTQ themes in fiction:

There are also many instances in other films, books, or shows where there are ‘gay’ moments, used mostly to tease the audience, because we all know perfectly well that the characters having these moments are straight in the context of the story. I’ve seen this in anime alot, where we are given blatantly obvious fan service scenes where two girls are in scantily dressed poses together, lingering at the edges of a potential sexual encounter between the two – feeding just enough to the imagination without committing to anything. These kinds of scenes must be what inspires Yuri mangas focusing on exploring the ‘possibilities’ further. I love Yaoi and some Yuri, when done tastefully, but it leaves me feeling empty when I see pairings between characters that don’t even have any chemistry on the actual show. It’s as if the creators are saying, ‘don’t worry, guys. this is not real. you know it, we know it. so just enjoy this ‘alternative’, non-cannon diversion. it can never be anything more.’ And then there are shows in which two same sex characters do have chemistry with each other, but it is never made clear whether or not they are actually gay.

… Reflection:

Now, I am not saying that these kinds of representations are completely useless. They can serve a purpose within the story itself – to show the prejudices of the society the characters inhabit, or to imply that even straight people are capable of having ‘gay’ moments but still be straight at the end of the day… And some characters will be really twisted and abhorrent while having these types of relationships. That’s ok. These representations can be valid in and of themselves, objectively speaking. Where it becomes an issue, I think, is when they become the most prominent and frequently portrayed versions of these relations for all to see.

This pattern projects a very negative view of LGBTQ and consanguineous relationships, making them seem transient, wrong, or downright non-existent. In the long-run, they can end up hurting minorities in real life. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some artists seem to mold their work to shame marginalized people into giving up what is right for them, be it a lifestyle or a partner. It is no less than bullying on a large scale. The world gets together and bullies those who are different from them, making it hard for those minorities to seek refuge from their realities even in the worlds of fiction.

Fiction feeds into people’s existing prejudices and people’s existing prejudices inevitably shape fiction. This has been one destructive cycle (among many others) that is largely responsible for the stigmas minorities face day to day. One way I see that people have been breaking this cycle is by creating art that offers an alternate view/treatment of these subjects – stories, poetry, paintings, songs, films, characters – that delve deeper into the meanings of these ‘unconventional’ actions and thoughts, helping to present them in a more balance way, educating people on the realities, rather than just using the topics to reinforce misconceptions and endorse myths.

This is one way we can fight back. It will be difficult to convince people at first, but if enough of us touch upon these topics with sincerity and empathy through art, then we have a chance at discrediting the myths over time.

Coming from people who have experienced these stigmas first hand, the Fictions we create have a better chance of being authentic, and therefore powerful enough to overturn the less than mediocre, half-hearted, uninformed explorations of these subjects that currently flood the mainstream.

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What are some films/books/shows in which you feel these topics have not been treated honestly or with dignity? What are some that have done the opposite?

-Here is a short LIST OF FILMS that I personally feel handles some of these topics well.

Film recommendation! (Kinsey-2004 film)

I wanted to make a film recommendation. Several years ago, at a youth group for people questioning their sexuality, someone showed us this film. Even though it bothered me on some levels (stirred up some personal insecurities and also because I don’t like watching stories that show the disintegration of a marriage), I still think it’s a movie worth recommending.

The film (Kinsey) is about a man named Alfred Kinsey, a biologist who studied human sexuality. One of his major theories was that everyone is bisexual to some degree, and that sexuality exists on a scale which was known as the Kinsey Scale (also called the “Heterosexual–Homosexual Rating Scale”). The movie was a biography of his life and work. It came out some time ago (2004). You can check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e19GnyNdC48

Kinsey

It’s definitely worth watching, alongside the other major films about queerness or queer history. Regardless of what you think of his actual theories, it is certainly an…er… educational film.

There’s some more information about the Kinsey Scale here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale

And some more here on his bio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Kinsey

and here: https://kinseyinstitute.org/research/publications/kinsey-scale.php

Gender norms in past Native societies

Link to the article: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/oct/11/two-spirit-people-north-america

Some thoughts on above article:

In this article “The ‘two-spirit’ people of indigenous North Americans,” Walter L Williams explores the prevalence of homosexuality within Native cultures, uncovering the existence of gender-nonconforming individuals throughout time. Like many other articles written about queer history, this one also exposes the undeniable effects of colonialism on the rise of homophobia within non-white cultures. It also indicates how big a role religion played in encouraging this discrimination. I found it to be enlightening because it shows that homophobia was taught and that people always have a choice on how to treat others.

Continue reading “Gender norms in past Native societies”

Not My Narrative (on extremist feminism)

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This is the reason that when people start talking about feminism, I feel the urge to get up and leave the room. I don’t have a problem with feminism itself. What I DO have a problem with is when feminism pretends to be everything for everyone.

I want to try and put words to something that I have an intense amount of anger about and which I want to get out on a page as a means of unpacking.

If you’re LGBT and you’ve watched stuff on YouTube, you will have come across at least a handful of incredibly ignorant homophobic or transphobic comments. Sometimes these are violent in tone, but other times they are more subtle… condescending. It’s that later kind I want to talk about because sometimes that kind makes me more disgusted than the outright hate.

This post is about a specific comment that I saw one day under a video made by a lesbian woman. The comment was a response to something I said under the video in defense of trans guys. I was trying to make a distinction between butch lesbians and trans guys, because it is obvious that some people still can’t tell the difference.

The woman’s comment did not in any way or form acknowledge what I was saying. In fact, it didn’t even acknowledge that I even had a voice. Basically, she was saying that transgender people were people with “internalized sexism” or “internalized homophobia” and that this was the reason they go for medical transition. She said that she works with women who have regretted transitioning and that there always seemed to be “internalized sexism” going on.

I responded to her back and fourth a couple of times. But after a certain point, I had to tear myself away from the conversation because it was so one-sided that I might as well have been talking to a stone wall. I don’t believe in one-way discussions, and I don’t believe that matters of personal Identity are up for debate. So I stopped responding.

This incident stayed with me and even years later it occasionally plays back in my head. I wish I never saw her comment because it’s the kind of thing that makes a person hate humanity. It makes me wonder how many more people walk around the world thinking that transgenderism is “self-hate” or medical transition is “mutilation”. Nowhere in this “conversation” did she even recognize that I have my own perspective; it was calm, self-assured condescension from start to finish.

I stopped responding because I’m smart enough to know that the person who gets the last word is not always right. She got the last word, but I didn’t bother reading her last reply because I didn’t want to continue that loop of bullshit. The incident left me with an unpleasant memory that plays back like a trauma in my head at random times, simply because people don’t forget the feeling of being belittled easily.

Cis female experience is NOT my narrative. My dreams and fantasies have been consistently and even stereotypically “hetero male” since I was a kid. What I’m attracted to and what I identity with have always existed in two separate boxes in my head.

I read this line in a book once:

“Models of understanding are ways of seeing a thing–not the thing itself”

Extremist feminism doesn’t seem to get this.

Do those who de-transition exist? Yes. Are there people who have internalized sexism? Yes. Are there people who transition purely for privilege? Yes. That still doesn’t mean that all who say they are Trans are like this.

My narrative was NEVER the cis female narrative.

How do I put this simply? When I was a kid, I wanted to grow a penis. When I was a teenager, I wanted to grow a penis. When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to grow a penis. Even now, in my late 20s, I still want a penis. And even on my deathbed someday, I will hope that in the afterlife I will finally be a guy.

That’s not confusion. That’s called consistency. It’s called knowing what I want.

That was the way it always was—long before I knew the words “queer” or “trans” or “cis” or “feminism” or “lesbian”—long before I knew my sexual orientation even.  It was my #1 dream as a kid and always will be, regardless of whether I can ever make it come true or not. As I said before, the only thing that holds me back is the lack of a magical and painless way to make that dream come true.

Seeing that kind of transphobic garbage that is so wholly disconnected from my actual experience… I don’t even have the words for the disgust I felt. And it was even more traumatic because this was at a time when I was getting ready for top surgery.

This kind of extremist feminism damages the psyche of those who are not cis. It is a true abuse of power when one person feels they can silence another person in full confidence that society will back them up in their oppressive behaviour. It’s a sign not only of the power-hungry nature of some individuals, but also of the corruption in a society… the fact that society hasn’t developed enough to protect the rights of an Individual because they cause an inconvenient disturbance in the neatly constructed dominant narratives. It’s a sign that some people are being given undue power over others’ lives and bodies.

I definitely don’t have “internalized homophobia” because for a time I was perfectly willing to use the label for queer female, even if I didn’t feel any resonance with it.

As for “internalized sexism,” it’s complicated. It’s very hard to talk about something like gender dysphoria with full honesty without coming off like I have some kind of sexism going on. But the word that I wholeheartedly reject is the word “internalized.“ That word starts with the assumption that my true self is Cis. It’s not. It never has been. It’s one thing for someone to claim that trans people have some level of sexism but to claim it is “internalized” is yet another kind of invalidation.

You can’t have “internalized” hate about something you never identified with IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I wondered for the longest time why my journey didn’t feel like it ended when I came out as bi and then gay and then non-binary. It was only after watching (binary) trans men talk about their experiences that I really TRULY felt I understood myself. Even when I came out as “gay” it was reluctantly and I never thought to myself “I want to be someone’s “girlfriend.” When people looked at my relationship, I wanted it to be obvious that I was the guy in the relationship. I still remember looking for a lesbian couple that actually reflected what I wanted (to be the GUY in the relationship) and I saw a couple online that I identified with because one of them behaved more like the masculine one. Fast-forward several years, and that same person came out as TRANS male! It didn’t surprise me at all.

People can talk down to me, they can talk around me, they can talk about me but one thing I will never allow them to do—and which they can never do—is talk FOR me.

That’s what that woman in the YouTube comment was trying to do in that moment. She was trying to talk FOR me. And that’s why I felt such strong emotions and that’s why that interaction still makes me want to punch someone. Nothing in the world feels more dehumanizing that the feeling of someone taking an eraser and erasing your whole life just so they can make sense out of you for their own purposes.

I felt erased in that moment. How do you tell a condescending, arrogant stranger that when you were a kid you used to watch TV shows and wish with pained longing that you were the male characters, every time? That you felt extreme discomfort when being around girls your age because the stuff they talked about didn’t make any sense to you? And you didn’t care because you wanted to be with the guys instead… not in a sexual way, but in a “bro” way.  How do you convey that for the longest time, you were a loner because you didn’t fit anywhere and that even years after coming out these scars still haunt you?

The ridiculous accusation of wanting privilege only makes me roll my eyes. Of course a cis woman wouldn’t possibly be able to understand why else someone would want to BE a guy! Their very brains are different. If you can’t see the worth of basic male experiences (brotherhood, fatherhood, boyfriend, husband, etc) then your head doesn’t work like a guy’s head. If “want of privilege” is the only reason you can imagine wanting to be a guy, you are not a guy on the inside.  You are not binary transgender and you are likely to regret medical transition. But don’t ever apply that to me. I’m not the same.

Do these people think that cis straight women know how cis lesbian minds work? No. They don’t. And yet, they accept lesbian women all the same. There should be NO reason why lesbian women or straight women can’t do the same for trans guys.

When someone feels the need to overwrite another person’s identity, it’s usually because of some kind of deep insecurity of their own. If people really believed in gender equality, then it shouldn’t matter if someone wanted to jump from one gender group into the other. It would not affect anything. Obsessing over other people’s gender transitions is what true obsession with privilege looks like. That’s what socially sanctioned narcissism looks like.

The only surgery I had was top surgery. It’s been about 3 years since then, and I can tell anyone with full confidence that “Regret” is not a word that would even be in the vocabulary I would use to describe the good it did for my mental health. It was like something extinguished a deep rage that was centered on my chest area. Eternal Gratitude is the only thing I feel, towards the surgeon that gave me that release and empowerment.

I had to force myself to write this post because it meant reliving a memory I’d rather throw into the trash. I just hope that someday there will be cis people out there that can see that kind of interaction clearly for what it was: one person abusing their social privilege and power over another. I hope that someday society will develop enough to look at that kind of abusive person with the same disgust that I feel, and to see that some models of understanding are flawed and only serve one group.

It’s incredibly easy to pick on minorities and to make up all kinds of fictions about them, because in a society full of ignorance, whose is going to stop you? All throughout history minorities have been considered mentally ill for being different, and each time society developed enough to see how wrong their assumptions were. What’s sick and sad is that even after all that, people are still doing this in one form or other. That’s what makes it unforgivable. With that much history to look back on and learn from, to do it again in another form is unforgivable.

As for accusations of “self-hate,” there’s nothing more self-loving than standing up against a whole group of self-entitled people and rejecting their assumptions in defense of one’s truth.

The “Realness” of my experience is something only I and others like me can know. Whatever fiction someone tries to put on top of my reality ultimately does not erase that reality. Transphobic people and the fictions they make up to make sense out of something they don’t even seem to want to understand—those fictions are not my narrative.

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