A note about The Deviated Norm

This here is a low traffic blog on topics close to my heart. As such, comments and engagement on old posts are always welcome and will be responded to. Except! for comments on old posts telling me to lighten up, not take things so seriously, or let things go, 'cause that shit's just plain ironic. Those comments will get a suggestion to visit Derailing for Dummies.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Today In Meet a Poly Person: Drama Does Not Define Us

Often in online conversations about poly people's relationships, real lived experiences of poly people, (or people in open relationships, or swingers, or anyone else who isn't monogamous) are ignored. There will be a strawperson (or strawrelationship) set up for the blogger or commenter to knock down in their quest to show how very bad and no good we non-monogamous people are. This series was set up in order to combat that. People in non-monogamous relationships aren't all the same, so our experiences aren't.

Hi, I'm Jadelyn, blogger at Witch.Words (and also sometimes at The Border House). I'm a mid-twenties bisexual polyamorous feminist Witch, a student, and a gamer. When I'm not hefting my teaspoon in various arenas of activism, I can be found working towards finishing my years-delayed B.A. and playing way too many video games.

When I try to describe the last year and a half of my relationships to friends I haven't spoken with in awhile, I always get the same reaction. In text, it's something like this: "...wow. That's really complicated, isn't it?" And in person, it's the same plus the addition of raised eyebrows and a very careful neutral tone. It's hard, in our culture, to adequately describe the shifting dynamics of a somewhat fluid polyamorous arrangement.

Some quick terminology notes to begin with, for those unfamiliar with the vocabulary of polyamory. Primary refers either to one's primary partner or relationship. This is the relationship which all involved parties have agreed takes precedence over the others, if a conflict arises. Generally, one is assumed to spend more time and energy on one's primary relationship and partner than on one's secondary and tertiary relationships. Triad refers to a three-person relationship; it may be an equilateral triad - all three persons are considered primary partners - or non-equilateral - one relationship between two participants is primary, and both of those primary partners have a secondary relationship with the third person.

Back to my story. In the past year and a half, my 6-year primary relationship opened to include a third in a nearly-equilateral triad arrangement. It was my first experience with polyamory, and it began as a one-night stand, but we then fell in love and entered what was to be a nearly year-long triad relationship. About ten months later, I reconnected with an old ex and met his fiancee; they, too, are poly, and I became their third. Shortly thereafter, the woman who'd joined my primary and I as our third left the relationship, and things between my primary and I got rocky for awhile. Another six months later, and the other triad I was involved in ended rather explosively (long story), right as I struck up a casual relationship outside these varied triads with a long-time friend of my then-primary and I. Finally, the new relationship with my primary's and my friend proved to be the final push that helped me realize it was time to end the primary relationship I'd had. So in the space of 18 months, I went from a single one-man-one-woman relationship, to a FFM triad, then I became the second F in someone else's FFM triad, then it was my old primary and I, plus still my new triad, then the primary and I and my other relationship, and finally it's boiled down to me, engaged to the friend, and us currently living monogamously.

Through all of this, I've seen (and, sadly, participated in, though I like to think I've learned from the experience) the kind of behavior that makes non-poly people tsk and shake their heads and say "That's what I told you would happen." 2009 was a drama-full year for me, relationships-wise, I admit that. But I've also seen and participated in poly arrangements that were as stress-free as any relationship, monogamous or otherwise, and even more so than some of the monogamous relationships I've had. In fact, I would say that opening our relationship to the woman we came to love greatly enhanced my original primary's and my relationship. We fought less. We had more fun, both with and without her. We both suddenly had avenues to explore in our own relationship needs and sexual desires, that weren't there before. And I will always treasure the great gift that relationship gave me: the knowledge that jealousy is not inevitable. Our culture would have us believe that jealousy is the natural state of a relationship, that affection is a zero-sum game and our partner enjoying the company of another somehow diminishes their love for us. But I learned otherwise. I learned that jealousy follows from insecurity, and that when one's partners are gentle of one's feelings and careful to offer all the reassurance and love one asks for and needs...the jealousy goes away. I learned how to sort through my feelings; how to have open, frank discussions of wants and needs and boundaries in a relationship, and how to respect the conclusions of such discussions. I learned how to tell when I was really hurt by something, and when I just needed to ask for some reassurance to feel okay again; and most importantly, I learned that there is no shame in asking for what I need, because it allows the relationship to continue functioning happily instead of creating resentment.

I am an imperfect poster child for polyamory. As any social justice activist could tell you, it's always easiest to "justify" one's cause to the other side when you have the "right kind" of example, the easy case. For pro-choicers, for example, it's easier to use as an example a mother of two whose pregnancy with a third and wanted child suddenly threatens certain death if she carries to term, because nobody could possibly dispute the necessity of that abortion. Those advocating for health-care reform garnered better results from the angry masses when talking about a single parent with cancer who was laid off and now is dying without the ability to access insurance or treatment. It's easier to push for same-sex marriage when you can show couples who have been together for 50 years, than to acknowledge the serial monogamists or LGBs who only casually date. And when it comes to polyamory, it's easiest to legitimize it in the eyes of skeptical monogamists if one can point to long-term, stable, drama-free, "perfect" poly arrangements, because the fewer visible flaws the relationship(s) have, the harder it will be to pick it apart and blame everything bad on the polyamory. I, on the other hand, with my drama and shifting from one arrangement to another, in quick succession and not always cleanly, am easy pickings for critics, who would claim that all the drama in my love-life stems from the polyamory itself, not the relationships or the people involved.

But it is for that reason that relationships like mine need to be visible, too. Otherwise we allow the disapproving masses to set the bar on what kind of poly is acceptable and what isn't, and nobody wants their relationship to be judged by someone else's standards. If we allow that, then where is the threshold set? Are only stable triads acceptable? How long must a relationship last before it's considered "stable"? Can people sneer at you and question the legitimacy of your relationships and say your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner doesn't "really" love you, because you're poly, so long as it's an open relationship of under, say, 5 years duration? Polyamory is about respecting the legitimacy of all kinds of love relationships, because we understand that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. And that includes those poly arrangements which aren't perfectly stable, those which are semi-dysfunctional, because perfection should not be a requirement of our existence any more than it is for monogamous relationships.

As for my poly future? I'm deeply interested in working toward the legalization of polymarriage here in the U.S., because in an equilateral poly group, how do you decide who marries who? Like it or not, marriage confers a certain stamp of legitimacy on relationships in our culture, and it would be terribly hurtful to have to say, "This pair out of the relationship is the "real" one, the legitimate one, and everyone else is legally an afterthought." And while I'm living monogamously with my fiance for the moment, we have talked it over, and we've decided that if or when we meet the right woman, and she's amenable, we would be willing to open our relationship into a triad. I found I was much happier and more comfortable in a mostly- or nearly-equilateral triad than in a situation with multiple independent relationships, or a deeply imbalanced triad; that's just what works best for me. So I very much hope that the Universe allows me another chance to experience that happiness in my life.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are you Non-Monogamous? Poly? Become a Guest Blogger!

I have recently started the series "Today In: Meet a Poly Person" which I'm hoping will attract people to write narratives combating the idea that there is a single way to be poly, and that people in non-monogamous relationships are bad or deluded or whatever word is the newest way to slam us. So, if you think this might be a thing you'd be qualified/interested in writing about (hint, if you identify as poly/non-monogamous, regardless of your current relationship, or if you are currently in a non-monogamous relationship, then you qualify), please feel free to email me at the address connected with this blog: thedeviatednorm (at gmail)

What I'm looking for is a plethora of voices about the different ways that non-monogamous people relate to commitment, love, relationship styles, children, sex, dating, and just about anything else falling into the "relationship" category that you can think of. And especially people's reasons for being non-monogamous, (aka what drew them to non-monogamy).

I'd also be interested in having people include how polyphobia/their identity as non-monogamous interacts with other oppressions that they have faced (if one wanted to talk about how ze as a poly person of color felt accepted or not into the poly community, or the way that being a woman in a non-monogamous relationship adds to the judgement placed on you, etc.), since it's important in order to create a more full picture of the poly/non-monogamous communities that we not neglect the to acknowledge -isms within our own communities or how our identites shape one another.

Also, if you are in the non-monogamous/poly community and you aren't interested in writing, but you think you might know someone who would be, please feel free to pass this invitation along to hir as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Today In Meet A Poly Person

Often in online conversations about poly people's relationships, real lived experiences of poly people, (or people in open relationships, or swingers, or anyone else who isn't monogamous) are ignored. There will be a strawperson (or strawrelationship) set up for the blogger or commenter to knock down in their quest to show how very bad and no good we non-monogamous people are. So, in order to combat that, I would like to start a series about the real lived experiences and desires people who are non-monogamous. We aren't all the same, so hopefully I'll be able to find people willing to write about their different experiences regarding their relationships and lives.

Hi, my name is TheDeviantE. I am a poly person.

What do I want in my life?

I want to have a loving and committed relationship to my current partner Bluejay until one or the other of us dies. I want to find one or more other partners with which to also share a loving and committed relationship until one or the other of us dies. What I'd love most of all would be to find one or two other partners who also wanted to have a loving and committed relationship with both me and Bluejay (and each other, if more than one). A relationship like this is often called a Triad (or Quad). Besides my loving and committed relationships to Bluejay and some as yet unfound other partner(s), I am interested in sometimes going on dates and making out with and maybe having sex with other people, people who perhaps I like but don't think I want to live with forever.
I also want to adopt children. I mean, unless our as yet unfound other partner(s) wanted to and were able to gestate and birth a child, in which case that'd be cool too. I want to raise children in a loving and caring home, with multiple adults able to look out for them and teach them. If Bluejay and I wanted to go on a date alone, our other partner(s) could watch the kids for the night, or vice versa. If little Bluejay Jr's play was on the same night as little DeviantE's basketball game, we'd all split up and give our children as much attention as they needed and wanted. We'd have 3 incomes instead of 2, or 2 incomes instead of 1 (if one of us were to stay home with the kids). We'd have different skills and abilities, so I could teach them math, and Bluejay could do awesome art with them, and our as yet unfound other partner could show them how to fix a car or do plumbing.

I want to have more partners because it means more people to support me and more people to support our children, and more people for me to love. I want to go on dates because... dates are fun! and new love (or lust) is too! I want to have children and raise them because I'll be a good parent, and I want to especially foster and adopt children who are rejected by others because they are queer or trans like I am, because I'll be extra good at not rejecting them. I just sort of want to settle down with some people and make an awesome life with them.

Basically, I'm just interested in nesting. I'm a nesting poly person, I suppose.

Oh, and I want to marry all of my partners because I want to be able to see them in the hospital if they get sick and have them automatically be entitled to my estate when I die, and so that our children will be recognized as being all of ours, and so that if they (or I) are/am immigrants then we will have the ability to stay together as a family. I want to have the right to be married to all of my partners because only marrying one will make our other relationships seem that much less valid to the eyes of the government, and how am I supposed to decide which partner I will love more and cherish more? I want to be able to get married to my partners because I want to nest and in our society nesting is often related to marriage.

So that's me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"How Many Different Fathers?": On the Intersection of Classism, Racism, Polyphobia, and Sexism

At my agency, families are supposed to be our clients. However, since children are not expected to change their behavior (so long as they are under 16, I believe), the onus of responsibility in ensuring that a case closes generally falls on the mother. Almost always the mother. Regardless of whether the case opened because the father's neglect of the children, and even sometimes regardless of whether it opened because of his abuse of them. Which is a whole other enraging post.

I have yet to have a case where a single father is raising children with the mother out of the picture, whereas the majority of my cases are ones where a woman is raising her children on her own, sometimes due to death of the father, more often due to the relationship ending and the woman "naturally" being given responsibility to raise the children. I often have cases where the father, who is still with the mother, doesn't live with the children, and as such his participation is seemingly only "encouraged" rather than "required" by the Department.

But, I wasn't intending to talk about my feelings about the Department's sexism. Or at least not about that particular iteration of its sexism. Instead I wanted to talk about the judgement that my clients receive about how many different fathers of how many different children they have.

It is, frankly, infuriating that social workers give a rat's ass about some other social worker's client's number of current or former partners. It's bad enough when I have to hear about some other worker's client who *OH NOES!* has 3 children from three different relationships, but to have people begging to know the details of my clients' sexual relationships? IN. FUR. IATE. ING. As it is when I'm complaining about a case to someone other than a coworker, and totally unrelated to what I'm saying, they need to know how many kids/fathers there are in the picture.

The thing is, I seriously don't give a shit how many partners someone has had, other than to get important information about familial relations between siblings and their parents. It is very relevant to me when I find out that one child's father is in jail, but the other child's father lives nearby and comes over once a month. It is relevant to me when I hear that a father of one of the children says that he "wouldn't mind" taking the other children if custody is taken away from the mother. These things matter to me because they say something potentially about how each child feels cared for in their family. They don't matter to me so that I can judge the mother better.

You know what literally never crosses my mind when talking to a mother who has had multiple sexual partners, and children with more than one?

That she doesn't respect herself.
That she is promiscuous and therefore less moral.
That she is out of control.
That she is stupid.

I had trouble writing that list because a) since I don't think those things automatically, it's hard to dredge them up when I try to, b) I fucking hate that these are considered appropriate things to think about someone else's choices to have children or not (or more likely, sex or not, because lots of people would just as harshly judge a woman who has had 3 abortions due to multiple sexual relationships as they would a woman with three children from multiple partners).

But I can see these thoughts scurrying across the faces and hear them embedded in the tones of those who ask me salaciously for my clients' relational details. And you know what? My clients all know that people judge them for these things. I know they know because on the few occasions where I've been able to convince (through my tone, body language, and probably some verbal cues) a client that I am not judging them for their sexual choices (or their father's or mother's sexual choices), they have invariably opened up to me emotionally and physically (less guarded posture, giving me details of their family lives, etc.) more than they had before, and more than they have with other workers.

So, this happens. Where does it come from? Perhaps you've noticed that I titled this post "On the Intersection of Classism, Racism, Polyphobia, and Sexism".

Most of my clients are poor (ok, all of my clients are poor).
Most of my clients are people of color (I was going to get my first white family this week, but another case came back so I still have a history of only families of color).

In our culture, poverty and non-whiteness are treated as though they are synonymous. This isn't the case, but you'll notice that my clients are all poor and they have all been people of color, so they *are* linked.
In some ways, I think the judgement is mostly a facet of classism, because there is an assumption that more wealthy people's relationships have been deliberated on (regardless of how long they lasted prior to marriage or children), whereas there is an assumption (and I can't say whether it's based in fact at all) that poor people are less likely to be married when they have children (I could see this being based in fact because it costs money to marry, and costs even more to divorce), which codes as "less likely to have thought about the relationship, prior to having children" (regardless of whether they've been together for 10 years) according to our society.
However, at the same time, since whiteness = money in our culture, a white family is not assumed to be poor as readily as family of color is. So, when we talk about "poor people" having lots of children "recklessly," as a society we are to be more honest as to our underlying thought processes, talking about "people of color" having lots of children "recklessly." As such, a random family of color* will be more likely to be assumed to have been the product of multiple relationships, as compared to a random white family. Related to this is the fact that since the majority of clients at my office are families of color, a "default" family that is being talked about, unless specified as white, will be assumed to be black (or maybe latino, depending on the social worker's experiences), and as such questions about sexual histories will be mapped onto a "default" family of color.

So that takes care of the classism and racism aspects of what I see going on when people ask "how many fathers?" (incredulously or certain of the answer, take your pick).

What about the sexism and polyphobia?

Well, as mentioned above, the vast majority of childraising parents are women. So, while fathers do get judged for having multiple children, just as often, I hear the mothers being judged for being in a relationship with a man with other children. Additionally, fathers often visit their children at their children's mothers' houses. As such, they have an ability to deny certain children if they wish, and social workers have an ability to neglect to wonder about other children, since there aren't any children in front of them requiring explanations. It's like a magic trick: "No children to see here!" And of course, in those instances where a woman has had multiple children with multiple partners, I NEVER hear judgement of the father for getting involved with a woman with other children. Usually, so long as he doesn't treat the other children like crap, he's just about lauded as a hero for having the courage and kindness to be able to love a woman with other children. Or something.

I trust I don't need to say that women's sexuality is highly stigmatized and denigrated in our society, and that children are the ultimate proof of sexuality. Do I? Because it is. So of course, that's another layer on the judgment cake.

And lastly, the thing that all ties it together with a big fucking bow is the fact that as a society, monogamy is viewed as moral whereas anything else is not. There is a book called The Ethical Slut, which for some in the poly community was their first introduction into polyamory. There is no book that I have heard of (and certainly none which are known in the monogamous community with the same type of recognition) called The Ethical Prude. Because, *obviously* prudishness is ethical. It's like when I heard the criticism of the phrase "white trash" where someone pointed out that specifying someone is "WHITE trash" implicitly assumes that people of color are trash, so you don't even need to put an identifying marker when talking about them. Same goes for The Ethical Slut, but in reverse: in our culture there is no need to write a book about how to ethically be monogamous, because it is assumed to be the case by default(even though lots of mongamous people treat their partner's terribly, or hurt their partner in petty little ways without noticing).

A couple months ago, in a paper to talk about one of my cases, I chose one where I had fucked up. I had assumed that someone had been raised by hir mother, because I have had the privilege of having been raised by an intact family, and my parents never were in a situation where they were too poor to feed themselves and their children, my parents never *needed* to give me to someone else to raise in order for me to eat. My privilege got in the way of my discussion with that client.
With hir partner, however, I was immensely prepared, because as zie was telling me (somewhat shamefully) about hir father and his multiple children, and how zie had 12 half-siblings (or whatever the number was), I was able to to bypass the step my supervisor would have needed, of judging and then working around that judgment. Because that's the topping on the cake for me, while my colleagues might (and many don't) acknowledge that classism or racism play a role in how they treat their clients, NONE of them seem to acknowledge how monogamism** plays a role in how they treat their clients.

I have classism that I have to conciously combat when working with my clients. I have racist ideas that I have to conciously combat when working with my clients. I have ableist ideas that I have to conciously combat when working with my clients.

What I don't have? Polyphobia. And unlike my coworkers and peers, I know that it exists and that it hurts people.

*in this case I believe Asian families would be partially immune
** like it? I just made it up. Do people know of a better word?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cheerful Philosophical Musings On Death

I want to talk a little bit about death. This is apparently a touchy subject for people, so if it is for you, you may want to not keep reading.

Everybody is going to die. I'm going to die, you're going to die, my best friends are going to die, your relatives are going to die (if they aren't dead yet), everyone is going to die. Everyone. This isn't meant to be a mean statement, and to my thinking it really, truly isn't mean. It also isn't meant as some sort of threat or menace. It's just truth. Everyone dies.
In my dealings with (most) other people in the past decade I've noticed that they tend to get a little... antsy? jittery? anxious? upset? when this fact of life is mentioned. People apparently are scared of death, and because of that they will do lots of things to make that fear go away. One of the things they do is try to forget that death happens.

Early in my undergrad. years, I read a set of stories in Spanish class.

The first was the story of a youngish (we'll say 30s?) man who was a servant. One day he went into the market to get his master food or something, when he ran into Death. When he saw Death he was shaken up, because in most cultures (and I assume the one the story is told in), usually people only see Death when they are going to die soon. And then, something that terrified him even more was that Death seemed to grimace extra when he saw the man. Clearly, the man was on Death's shitlist. So the man ran back to his master's place and begged for the week off and the fastest horse or donkey around, 'cause he really really needed to visit his sister in far off Gargleblat (can you tell I'm not good at details?). The master agreed to the time off and the donkey on the condition that the man told him why he needed it so bad. The man said that he'd just seen Death in town and he was hoping to outrun/confuse Death by going to Gargleblat.
Of course the master then decides to go to the marketplace to see Death and find out what the whole deal is about. When he gets there, he asks Death why he grimaced upon seeing the servant. Death explains that he was just surprised was all, as far as he knew, he thought that tonight they had an appointment in Gargleblat, and it was weird to see the guy in Plonkville.

The second story in the set was written as a response to the first, and honestly I don't remember it nearly as well because it didn't really resonate the same way for me. In the story the man has reached Gargleblat and realizes that Death is still after him. He goes around town looking for someone to help him outwit Death, but as soon as anyone hears that tonight's his night they shutter the windows and kick him out, until he finds a guy who tells him that he'll help him. The man tells him that so long as he can survive till the morning, then Death won't be able to ever take him. Then they somehow beat Death with mirrors.

The first story treated fear of death as silly and misplaced. It framed death as an appointment, and Death not as a bad chap, just a guy with a job. The second story treated death as something to be avoided at all costs. Never dying was a reward for successfully besting Death. Death became an adversary. Lastly, it was unrealistic, since everyone dies (we'll put aside the manifestation of a fact of life) and at the end of it, the man is made immortal.

Everyone in my class liked the second story better than the first. Everyone, but me and the teacher. I thought the first story was funny. I liked that it looked at life head on. I liked that it admitted that death is going to happen.
Everyone in the class said I was morbid.

This past week I learned that my grandmother's situation is deteriorating. When she got her prognosis 6ish months ago, they basically told her that 6 months was on the outside of how long she'd have to live. So, it's not really a shock that this is happening now. However, one thing she's been firm on for a while is that she and my grandfather are not to talk about the possibility of her dying. She won't talk about it with anyone. Which means that she didn't get around to setting up the necessary steps for her to get hospice care in the home, should she fall into a coma (nor has anyone else in a position to do so). No one knows what to do, because if we all go see her right now on the likelihood that she won't be around in a month, or if we start putting pressure on her to get all the hospice/end of life care stuff worked out, then she'll feel pissed about us forcing her mortality on her

For context, you should also know that my grandfather's first wife (my mother's mother, who died when I was 2) steadfastly continued to insist that she was getting better and that the Goddess (or the Universe, or whatever) would heal her, right up until her death. Some of her daughters' last conversations with her were fights. So...

I'm conflicted, because on the one hand I definitely feel like everyone has a right to self-determination. If you want to shut your eyes and bury your head in the sand about your impending death, fine, do it. But it does harm people around you when you do it, and frankly I just don't understand it. I told my cousin this recently and he said he really sympathized with our grandmother. Which, again, I just don't get.

Then he said "not everyone is like you, most of us are afraid of death."

And I realized! Being depressed and wanting to be dead for all of my adolescent and adult life has given me the gift of less fear! I feel like a superhero: "Depresso Guy"!
Well honestly, if I was dying of cancer, maybe I wouldn't feel as nonchalant as I do about it right now. Admittedly, many things that seems cool in the abstract are fucking terrifying in the real. Like snowboarding. Tried it once, loved going fast, probably looked really awesome and such, until I realized I had no idea how to stop and started worrying about killing a child (ETA: *by going too fast and hitting hir*) when I got to the bottom. So I purposefully took a dive in the trees, pulled some muscles, decided that snowboarding wasn't for me, and anyway it was classist and exclusionary. (Sorry, off topic).
The point is, maybe I'm just deluding myself into thinking that I don't find death terrifying. Maybe I do, and in the long tradition of people who are scared of something and therefore convince themselves that they aren't scared, I say I'm not.

But I've got to say, the idea that maybe for once my Depression has given me something useful, namely the ability to not find my own death so terrifying that I shut down in the face of it, that's sort of cool.

Anyway, I hope your life, however long it is, is one which you generally enjoy.

Today In Things Any Disability Rights Activist Could Tell You

So, people are nosy assholes. Well, let me amend that. Many people think that your body (or your loved one's body) is totally their business, the second that you (or your loved one) have something that sets you apart from "normal."

Things that set you apart from "normal" include: being pregnant, having a visible disability, having an invisible disability (and telling people about it), being mentally ill (and telling people about it), being fat, oh, and getting one of the "big" sicks (including our good friend cancer).

Let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a social work student (we'll call him GleeviantD) whose father had just been diagnosed with cancer, and who was understandably a little "not so happy" about this situation.
GleeviantD kept having the seemingly innocuous question: "hey, how're you?" asked by people that were somewhere between friend and acquaintance, though a little bit closer to "fellow students." GleeviantD was starting to loathe this question because answering honestly: "not too hot, actually" was sure to elicit the "oh, not too hot!? what's going on?" which, when answered honestly, brought the conversation to a screeching halt because cancer sort of does that to a conversation.

GleeviantD though also didn't like lying or pretending that nothing was going on because a) he wasn't that sort of fellow and b) he had a sneaking suspicion that at *some* point he'd slip up when talking to these not quite friends, not quite acquaintances, more like fellow students, and mention the cancer and then the conversation would still come to a screeching halt, only now it'd be months later and he wouldn't be in control of when it occurred.

So GleeviantD did what seemed right. He decided to tell a whole class at once about the cancer, right after a lunch break, so that he could not have the same damn conversation 12 times. In fact, it was Gleeviant's fondest desire that he wouldn't actually have to have a *conversation* about it at all, that if the information was given in announcement form, and he phrased it just right, he could preclude a discussion of the matter entirely and just get on with the damn lecture.

I'm sure, gentle readers, that at this moment you are ruefully chuckling to yourselves that GleeviantD was so naive as to assume that making an announcement whereby he said "I figured I'd tell everyone like this because it's tiring have to have the same conversation over and over again" would actually forestall anything. If you aren't, you may commence now.

So GleeviantD attempted to figure out just how to phrase the announcement in a way that indicated a) he did not want sympathy, and was in fact starting to get a bit sick of it, b) he didn't want to talk to people about it, and was in fact starting to get a bit sick of having heartfelt discussions with people about it and c) he was handling it just fine, he wasn't about to break down crying right then and there and was planning on continuing to attend classes and such. Something along the lines of "so, just wanted to let you all know that last week my family found out my father has cancer. I'm going to be the one driving him to chemo, I don't think this will affect me coming to class or anything, but I wanted to let you know so that you aren't surprised if I'm not all "whee! awesome" when you ask how I am. I figured I'd tell everyone like this because it's tiring talking about it again and again." Not perfect, but pretty close to achieving his communication goals. Or so Gleeviant thought.

Immediately, someone across the room decided to offer this helpful bit of advice: "I know a naturopath who cured herself of cancer naturally. I'll give you her phone number for your dad if you want," while someone next to Gleeviant offered this: "Do you have support structures for yourself? If you're going to be supporting your father you really need to get yourself a support structure." Gleeviant realized he may have created a monster that he couldn't control and tried as best as possible to (politely) discourage this line of discussion by telling everyone "right now I'm doing fine, if I need anything, I will be sure to ask."

After class, both people who had earlier felt the need to speak up, again came to GleeviantD this time to profer their advice and sympathy personally.
This time, when one of them just about tried to force the number of the woman who cured herself of cancer using herbs into the hands of GleeviantD, he had to bite back his tongue in order to not tell her "thanks, but we believe in science as opposed to miracle cures, what with replicable results" instead saying: "my dad seems pretty cool with the idea of chemo so I'm just going to follow his lead."

The moral of the story: people think that other people's bodies are their fucking business. They don't care if you've just said "I don't want to talk about it" they don't care to find out *what* you are doing as a caretaking method before telling you what you should do (or should want to do), and they certainly don't seem to care that it's none of their fucking business to offer help, unless you ask for help.

Let's all try to be less like those people in the future, ok? Or else we'll make GleeviantD quite pissy.

This has been a "Today In: Things Any Disability Rights Activist Could Tell You"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Open Letter to Masculinity

Hey the Dudely Brotherhood,

We need to have a little chat.

When I signed up to be part of this here little club, one of the bits of the recruitment materials that I didn't adore (in fact, I'd say it goes a wee bit beyond dislike) was that whole "patriarchy" pitch.

The thing is, I'm sort of really not down with treating other people as inherently lesser just because of them being women (or people of color, or sex workers, or people with disabilities, or poor, or Deaf, or immigrants). I'm really not a fan of the phenomenon of "mansplaining", or the related phenomenon of when women talk about sexism and violence against women and some of the more DOODLY members of the brotherhood take it upon themselves to say that the women are wrong about their own lived experiences. I've also got to say I'm pretty fucking peeved by this "rape" thing that is almost entirely being perpetrated by clubhouse members, mostly against women. (Do you guys think we could try to kick them out or something? I mean, really, they're making all of us look bad.)

You guys do have things I want though! I promise! Like people using the right pronouns when they talk about you. That's cool. And having an often deeper voice than I have. Neato! Balding?, not so much, but hey, you can't have everything. Ohhhh and suits that fit. That's going to be rad. Oh and you know, just being a guy if you want to be a guy. Of that, I am a total fan.

Also, some not too bad people have been in the club. My dad, for instance, I like him fairly well. Also lots of social justicey folks. At least, the ones that were guys (who just so happen to have been the ones that everyone writes about? I think this might be related to that patriarchy thing). Also a lot of scientists (again, what is WITH you and needing to get all the glory?). I'm just saying, ya'll could have some real selling points if you stopped with that patriarchy bullshit and just focused on being nice peeps.

Anyway, do you think ya'll could work on that before you let me have training for the SUPER SEEKRIT handshake?


Thursday, March 4, 2010

New and Improved Insights Upcoming: Bad News Edition

On Wednesday my father found out what type of cancer he has. As of Friday I didn't even know that he had *any* type of cancer (though he did, apparently he didn't realize that it might be a big deal to everyone else in the family). I tell you this not to gain sympathy points (and in fact, I request that people not comment to that effect).

I'm not even writing this to let you know that posts will be less frequent, because honestly, at this moment I don't believe this to be the case. While yes, I'll probably be the one to mostly be ferrying him to and from chemo and appointments (since I am nearby and my mother is already dealing with her step-mother and sister's cancers), I hope that this will not affect the amount of blogging I do.

However, it may be changing some of my focuses. My grandmother died of cancer when I was 2, so I never really knew her, nor did I really have a conception of what a struggle with cancer might look like. Likewise, due to my aunt and grandmother being neither nearby nor people who I want to spend copious amounts of time with, especially when they are needing a lot (and rightfully so! what with the whole "cancer" thing), I haven't really had to deal too strongly with what it is like to be a close family member of someone dealing with hospitals all the time, or that pesky "survival" business. I have some assumptions that this time will make me more aware of classism and how it affects access to treatment, and also how the medical profession can fail or succeed to treat patients with respect, though I can't be certain (I might be too distracted by the situation at hand to look at the larger systemic issues).

So, if it is the case that by being a caretaker of my father I encounter new situations which make me think new (and improved?) thoughts about marginalization and oppression, it is quite possible this will be something I will start writing about with more frequency.

Also, since cancer (and my father's ability to survive it) will be something that I will be dealing with on a regular basis, it is likely that even on posts that are not explicitly about oppression or marginalization, or cancer, that mentions of it will slip in. So... don't be surprised?

Already I have new insights. For instance: there is no fucking easy way to tell someone that your dad has cancer. It's frustrating when you don't want to sidetrack an entire conversation but you also don't want to tell a big ole lie of omission by being all "oh life's good" when the usually innocuous question of "how are you?" comes up. Do you send out massive emails? Do you put up a blog post and tell everyone to read it? Do you tell people individually? Do you casually slip "chemo" into conversation? I will find out the answers to this, and more! in the coming months.

Hopefully my further insights will be a little more... insightful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Casual Transphobia: NCIS Los Angeles

Episode "Chinatown"

Upon finding a size 15 magenta (shiny, quite impressive looking) multi-inch high high-heel, one character says "that's a lot of woman" and another says "maybe".

Thanks NCIS for shaming trans women, gender non-normative people with male coded bodies*, or cross-dressing male-identified individuals.

(Oh wow, and then I got to the part where the dead guy is SURPRISE! gay and when they search his boyfriend's apartment they find *him* dead too and automatically assume it's just "a gay guys killing themselves/each other free for all"...whee!!! homophobia!)

Casually tossed in transphobia, and Othering of people who are non-normative is dangerous because it is just so casual. Few people watching the show who weren't trans* identified, a cross dresser, or otherwise gender non-normative (or their allies) would have noticed the little dig. But it's there. It's like when there was that ad with "DemocRATS" in it. Only it actually works.

Likewise, yet another "tragic queers/gay men are killers" meme is the same. It's fucking EVERYWHERE. Maybe if I moved to an island without internet, and with no access to television (including news) and movies, I might be able to escape it. And the idea that queer people are "killers" puts us all at risk, because it makes it that much easier to demonize us and attack us.

*I am a guy (mostly), so my body is a male body by default. I don't like how "male bodied" or "female bodied" imply that my body isn't mine to gender. As such, I use "coded as male bodied" or "coded as female bodied" to refer to the fact that the presence or absence of breats, an adams apple, a penis, testicles, and a whole slew of things, are the ways that the wider society assigns sex to people, without saying that that assignment is correct.