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The last couple of days have been difficult. Old insecurities have come out to play with additional tiny insights and incidents to spur them on. Maybe my usual trick of writing them down will make them more coherent.

My body hasn’t endeared itself to me of late. For reasons that I both have and haven’t covered here it’s not something which delights me at the moment. I’m also still feeling exceedingly single and badly missing the intimacies both large and small that come with a closer relationship than just friendship. The launch of the third iteration of Dude magazine over the weekend heightened that as its theme is partners. There was a great deal of discussion about the dynamics of relationships with trans people and that brought the whole issue into sharper focus for me.

While walking back to my car, a random guy sized me up and declared, “You look like a man.” He was part of a group walking in the other direction and once my gobsmacked mind had sorted itself out we’d both gone some way. Probably for the best...a group of drunken lads out on a Saturday night aren’t likely to react well to being called out by an uppity tranny.

It stung though. He had no investment in me whatsoever and was simply reacting to what he saw in front of him. This is unusual in my interactions with people. Most people I speak with know me, like me and want to support me. I’ve mentioned before the fact that phrases like “you’re gorgeous” refer to the person as a whole rather than their appearance and simply mean “You are a person who I like and value and want to support.” This clouds any opinion I receive from people partly because they’re perceiving the entire person and partly because there’s absolutely no way they’d tell me that frankly, I have a bit of a bloke-in-a-frock aspect for precisely the same reason that being told that by a random stranger in the street is considered to be so astoundingly rude. He was unusual simply because he had no compunctions in saying what he honestly thought.

I’ve had a good friend point out that a body is not a unique truth to read and it’s surely not a good indicator of gender but even if each person we interact with has a different impression of us, they *do*each read us visually in all sorts of ways that influence their impression of us and if there’s a dissonance there then it does register, whether it informs their opinion of our worth as a person or not. I know that *I* make those sorts of assessments. They don’t change my opinion of that person as someone I want to know but they do inform things such as attractiveness and if someone is unfortunate enough to have physical aspects wildly at odds with their gender I do think “Oh crap, you poor thing.” I hate myself when I find myself making those assessments precisely because I know it’s a thing I’m worried about myself. It informs more than just attractiveness; it affects how I’m positioned when I talk to people, it manifests in how I read people looking at me in public spaces, up to and including assessment of my personal safety.

So when my friends say lovely affirming things to me, it slowly becomes obvious that each and every one of them talks about me as a personality and how they value me as a person, even when the topic is specifically my physical appearance. This brings me back to the horrible and I hope unwarranted impression that they’re all stepping around the issue at hand to try to say something nice because while they’ll talk about my personality, my abilities, how I dress and a number of other things about me, my physical appearance is rarely if ever mentioned and when it is, it’s about things that don’t address this such as my eye colour.

All of this comes back to the worry I’ve had since I started the process of transition, which is to what extent this winds up with me being considered “other” by *everyone* and how seriously or not my identity will be taken by those around me, both consciously and sub-consciously. This includes myself. I do get instances of imposter syndrome where I don’t feel that I can legitimately speak with a woman’s voice and that it will be resented if I try. I’m acutely aware of the fact that my acculturation is heavily masculine and while I’m scrambling awfully hard to catch up, I still feel thoroughly clueless in many respects. As I’ve said before, I’m also still carting around aspects of male privilege which, while I don’t feel that I need to apologise for it, distorts and fragments my perception of how I position myself. A nasty aspect of this is that some parts of the feelings that contribute to the sense of being an imposter are very much like the arguments presented by some transphobic radical feminists as to why I’m not a real woman but a deceitful, deluded, infantile, mutilated male. I run across these often enough that the ways in which they mirror my own internal dialogues are *extremely* unpleasant. As it happens I came across a particularly nasty example of the type this morning. This meant I spent the rest of the days in a state of mind where I simply shouldn’t be talking to people. I forbade myself from sending even the most mildly critical of emails (which is a part of my job – I provide coaching feedback relevant to the work I do) and left that for tomorrow.

The catch 22 in all of this of course is that there are very few ways in which I’m going to get any kind of validation regarding this one way or another. Collaring my friends and putting them on the spot is a serious imposition that I’m not prepared to explore. Going back looking at my last entry it’s obvious that this is an ongoing argh with a few extra triggers to bring it out in its full nauseating glory. I’m not sure I know yet how to tackle this particular set of ideas but however I do it, it has to be in a way that’s honest with myself. This is also part of the ongoing process of trying to call myself on my own bullshit. So I have to acknowledge that making this public *is* me shoving this under the noses of those around me and I’m totally aware of that and so I also have to acknowledge that nobody owes me the awkward conversation that thrashing this out implies. I have to be prepared to accept that there’s going to be an untidy resolution where some things are validated, others refuted and much not resolved at all in the near future and that each of those aspects may or may not be to my liking. Ultimately though, this is mostly to get this out of my head in a sufficiently coherent form that I can take at least one step back and see it more clearly than I have so far. Otherwise I’ll continue to rehash half-formed thoughts and reach half-baked conclusions.
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I've stated a lot that I have a seething sense of resentment over the fact that I feel that I've missed out on a great deal of what my 20s and 30s should have been. Lately I've been reading more about harassment and gendered assault and general sexual discrimination that exists within our culture. (and others, but given that I am in fact talking about me here, our culture is the one that's relevant. The westernisation of that discussion and how that pisses me off is another topic entirely.) I don't seriously think that I *want* to be discriminated against or harassed like that; nobody sane would. What I do get a sense of is that I have missed out on several decades of gendered acculturation that allows me to understand exactly how it is that women are contextualised in our culture and that badly skews my own personal social positioning and understanding of myself. The basic wariness and disenfranchisement that so many women describe remains as invisible to me now as it did when I was living as a man.

There's a real cognitive dissonance here...as I said before - obviously nobody wants to be demeaned, harassed, assaulted, talked down to, or otherwise treated as a second class citizen. I start to feel like a clueless tourist who yammers on about wanting an "authentic" experience while having no clue what that actually means. That's where the bit that chafes me hits though. I am not a tourist in this gender. I'm not just checking it out with plans to go home later with a few snapshots, souvenirs and party stories. I have turned my life upside down and fucked it and myself up in a variety of ways to make this happen. So there's all sorts of facets to this. There's the petulant desire to be a real and proper member and a sort of whininess that I'm still not being recognised as such. (yeah, that's a fucked up badge of membership that no sane person really wants but it's still a form of recognition) There's the growing sense of disillusionment and anger as I get a more and more vivid picture of how screwed up gendered interactions are simply because of how I'm now positioned. It should not be underestimated how profoundly revealing it can be simply to recontextualise yourself that way. My relationships with my peers, especially those who have come to know me since I started transitioning has been profoundly informed by that shift and *that* has provided me with a whole new viewpoint. Men don't get that level of "girl talk" because it's a conversation that happens entirely within a group of women and one that does treat men as "other" which would inevitably produce all sorts of defensive reactions. So I'm suddenly getting that discussion without being treated as that "other".

This is something that's happened really quite suddenly as well. I didn't get quietly inducted through childhood, through puberty, and then through young adulthood with the deep understanding that comes with having lived that experience. I *do* still carry a messy and partially relevant tangle of male privilege around with me although I'm finding it difficult these days to work out which parts of those still inform how I'm treated. This comes back to the fact that I never was, nor will I ever get to be a young woman. So I'm getting slapped in the face with this all at once and at this point it's somewhat overwhelming and my brain is shrieking "THIS IS IMPORTANT!" in ways that to anyone who grew up with it in the ways that I haven't are going to seem ridiculously self-evident. There's also the usual guilty "Oh this is important now that it's about you, is it?" reaction which is entirely warranted. It's tricky to start discussing this without the sense that I'm cluelessly, oblivously and embarrassingly stating the blindingly obvious. I'm *trying* to think things through before I blurt them out but I'm well behind everyone else.

I have a new set of peers who are providing me with both feminist and trans-feminist material and ideas. This is interesting and useful and probably damn near essential if I'm to properly make sense of who I am once the context of who I am reaches outside of my own head. Working it out is going to take a lot of time and a lot of rambling blog entries, I'm sure. It's probably going to take a lot of extended conversations with some very patient and understanding women to whom I'm going to wind up owing a real debt.
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I spent Saturday evening surrounded by people telling me how much they like me. I can heartily recommend this as a way to spend a Saturday. It's taken me a while to genuinely internalise the fact that this is not simple politeness, I'm actually genuinely wanted there. So I'm totally overwhelmed by the derby love.

Ranty conversations with the Butchfemmetrans crowd and notes for later thought.

I started by thinking that sexuality and gender identity were completely separate. Then I decided that gender identity informs sexuality be defining one's attraction to a given person as heterosexual or homosexual. Lately I've been thinking that modes or affection, that is to say the ways in which we demonstrate affection, are strongly gendered. So body language that says you're attracted to someone also declares what gender you are and, in many cases, what gender the person you're attracted to is. I do wonder if sexuality is, to a certain extent, determined by the modes of affection that you feel comfortable demonstrating in as much that you want your partner to be receptive to your affection.

-------------------

Being socially privileged and experiencing discrimination due to a lack of that social privilege are viewpoints that can be mutually exclusive to the extent of being totally outside of the experience of each other. Harassment due to gender, race, sexuality and so on can literally be invisible to someone who neither experiences it nor perpetuates it because it's not something that they ever see. If our language lacks terms to describe that situation well then the person experiencing it moulds language to that situation as best they can but because the recipient of that description already has set ideas about what that language means, they receive a distorted impression of what is being said to them. There's a lot of dialogue that takes a great deal of repetition and negotiation before consensus is reached on what is actually being said and a broader understanding of the concepts involved is achieved.
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It seems I'm removing meat from my diet. The odd part is that it's a compulsion that I still haven't entirely worked out in my own mind as yet. I've been tumbling it aobut in my head increasingly over the past couple of weeks, trying to work out where the impetus is coming from. In some ways I think there's a lot of peer pressure involved but rather than it simply me feeling pressured into ditching meat because lots of people in the queer and derby community are vegetarian, if not vegan, it's more that I have fewer people validating the excuses I have internally for ignoring the uneasiness I have over something dying, and more importantly living really unpleasantly just so that I can eat something tasty.

So I'm being strangely vague about my motivations but the compulsion is strong and I've been getting the uneasy feeling that goes with ignoring something in the back of my mind because it means I might have to make uncomfortable and/or inconvenient choices. I've been getting better at recognising those and have learned intellectually if not deep within myself that ignoring that and deferring dealing with it just means that I'll wind up annoyed with myself later.

There's really no reason not to go ahead with this other than convenience and the part of me that wants to play with tasty tasty charcuterie (there are so many awesome things that can be done with meat that are both tasty and fascinating!). It'll improve my diet, settle my mind and probably help me take off the weight that's been creeping on since I haven't been able to exercise. So I start the moratorium on meat and animal derived products as of now (no more Guinness once the sole remaining can in the fridge has gone *sadface*). I'm not especially fussed about giving up meat. The reduction in the cheese that will be available to me is going to be hard though. There will be an adjustment period and then I'll be fine. In the meantime, I have some thinking to do.
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Well that was a really quite unpleasant day. There was not a lot in the way of external things to make it so but clearly this is one of those times when my body decides to do things in response to the hormones that I dose myself with daily which result in me being miserable. There were hints of it last night but this morning I really didn't want to get out of bed or shower or dress or anything else that goes with a usual Monday. I did it anyway and work itself wasn't a problem at all.

I suspect that the skating I did over the weekend was a step or two too far. My knee is achy although nothing beyond that but sufficiently to make me keenly aware that I still have very real limitations in that regard. Those limitations and a strangely out of control appetite mean that my weight is starting to creep upwards which I very much do not want. The control I had over my body has been dented substantially and I really do not like that.

I also came across a post on Facebook today from someone who's intersex and experiencing levels of frustration with the Tasmanian same-sex marriage bill in ways that hadn't even occurred to me. It's bad enough being told that you're not able to marry your partner because you're the same sex as them. Imagine being told that you can't marry anyone ever because your sex doesn't exist as far as marriage legislation is concerned. I don't know what the requirements are to be assigned a gender with which you don't identify to start with but I doubt that the process is easy, cheap or dignified. Moreover the implication is that if you don't submit to that then you're not a real person, you're not part of the community and you can't possibly have a real relationship. This is debasing and dehumanising. Genderqueer and intersex people are marginalised even more than trans people are. The very idea that someone might be neither male nor female seems literally unthinkable to some people. This simply isn't good enough though. We cannot say to real people with real lives and real relationships that they don't exist simply because it's inconvenient and uncomfortable for the tinier minded amongst us.

I'm really really fucking angry about this. I get little tastes of social and cultural erasure here and there that leave me feeling like there are places that I cannot go and do not fit but which are available to everyone else but that pales in comparison to this. I can't really imagine how it must feel to be that disenfranchised but I can have a good try at guessing and it's frankly a bit scary. It you don't fit into the gender binary then our culture has no mechanisms for coping with you and that means you either get ignored or demonised. At least I'm recognisably *a* gender even when my right to identify that way is questioned or ridiculed so people have a way in which to contextualise how they deal with me. I have had a few times when people haven't been able to gender me and they don't like it. It's remarkable how reliant people are on being able to gender someone even simply to talk to them. This is how our entire culture works and the idea that we can collectively pretend that part of our community doesn't exist is sickening.

So I'm angry. I'm also weirdly heartsick in a way that I can't define but which is probably in no small part hormonal. I feel like I want to simply curl up in someone's arms and rage at them about All The Things until I'm utterly exhausted and either cry or fall asleep. I really hope I feel more human tomorrow.
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My brain has been a bit froth and bubble today. It's revolved around accountability for violence, particularly violence against marginalised and disempowered groups. I'm going to thrash it out a bit here and see if I can't find some order in my thoughts. It's all going to be a bit ad hoc though.

Before I even start to address this, I'm going to say that this is a monstrously divisive issue and provokes immediate, vehement and defensive reactions from both men and women. I think that's partly because it's invariably framed as being a topic where men and women are on opposite sides in an intractible war of the sexes and I suspect that this is at least partly the problem.

Many of you are going to have immediate and distinctly visceral reactions to this topic. Please please let the churning bile settle a bit before you comment and please have a go at reading and genuinely trying to understand the parts that make you step firmly into your tribal territory and want to throw things. Also understand that that last bit wasn't just directed at you, is was also directed at him *points* and her *points again* and them clustered together in the corner *gestures vaguely*. Ok? Deep breaths.

Rambling discourse on rape and other unprovoked violence typed all in one sitting and so probably with gaping holes here and there. )
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I do like these evenings. The lovely Ms B has yet again appeared from Sydney, declared an evening of dinner and conversation and, having paid for the lot, discharged me into the evening in a really very good mood. This is a habit about which I simply cannot find the will to complain.

So summer is here. Long evenings, warmer weather (certainly not balmy at the moment, but neither am I feeling actively cold) and I'm consciously drawing a line here and now. A year ago I was watching my life disintegrate. My marriage was in its final throes and I was desperately trying to get the resources together to move out. In the intervening 12 months I have had the hardest, saddest year of my life. I have cried and feared and had very little idea what lay in the future. In many ways I've been incredibly fortunate compared to others in my position but it's still been the most surreal time.

Enough angst. I'm finding the headspace now to have a life that's not entirely focussed on the process of transition. This means I've started pushing forward at work and, with the somewhat extended secondment as a team leader, having some success. I'm hoping to re-engage with more of the old aspects of my life although that will depend on resources and how various social arrangements shake themselves out, including to what extent they include me. There are a few incompatible viewpoints to resolve which has required me to take a few steps back and consider how to negotiate my relationships with some people. This falls firmly in the "enough angst" category. The coming year is a time to move forwards. Less awkwardness, less worry, less ambiguity and more consolidation of myself, my relationships (whatever form they take) and the aspects of my life that make life more than just survival.

I realised recently that the things I love most are all so much better if you make them yourself rather than simply consuming them and doubly so if made in the company of others and shared joyously. I'm thinking of food, music and language but that applies to so many things. I want picnics and singing and crazy communal kitchen doings and enthused ranty chatter. I've said over and over again this past year and more than I want my life back. "My life" isn't what it once was and never will be again. I can pursue those parts most worth having and make the rest up as I go though. I have no idea where I'll be or what I'll be doing nor with who a year from now but it has to be a lot more fun finding out than the last year has been.

Wow, I might almost be a vaguely coherent person again. I like that idea.
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Four months ago I posted to say that it had been four months since I started taking hormones and wondered what my life would look like in another four months. Well, here I am.

It's an odd place. I am distinctly not a man and nor can I pretend to be one when it's convenient. I am also distinctly not yet a woman, nor can I easily pass as one when I really want to. Unfortunately I think I'm more hermaphroditic than androgynous which isn't really how I'd like to present. Still, I yam what I yam and there's no escaping it so I just have to shoulder the freak flag and get on with it and I'm finding that people are being really very polite about it, at least to my face. For myself, I'm increasingly pleased with the parts of my body which are changing and increasingly annoyed with the parts that I can't change or can't change yet. I view myself differently. For all that I hated my old physicality it was known and familiar and I knew how to relate to it. Looking back on my old physicality and even my old name now, it no longer seems like me to the point of being quite alien. It was a person I knew and who is no longer part of my life. There's a disconnect there which I hadn't anticipated and which I haven't yet fully explored. I think I like it but I don't yet really have a full understanding of it.

It's been very nearly six months since I separated from my wife who I suppose is really not my wife anymore in any sense other than legally. I still see her occasionally and hope that the awkwardness will ease to the point where we can talk to each other normally again. We got along really very well at one point and there were some good reasons for that. There are a few reasons why this could be difficult but I think there are also reasons why we should, in the end, be able to enjoy talking to each other again rather than simply participating in the same conversations with other people in the same room.

There are an increasing number of people in my life who have only ever known me as "Forth" and who have never met the man I used to be known as. Most of them are at work but others have drifted into my life outside of work as well. The new real me is becoming more and more normalised. It's not a thing to wedge people's perceptions into anymore, it's just me. I might be a bit odd in some respects, but in the end it's just who I am. Because of that I'm also getting less shy about asserting that. I've found that if I do so politely, nobody seems especially put out by that either.

My social circles are morphing around me, occasionally sometimes quite radically. People who I know change their relationships with each other, change their routines, and so the way I interact with them is affected as well, even if I'm not directly involved in what's going on. This happens to everyone but I'm seeing it as a part of my social landscape altering. The people remain but can be more or less prominent in my life. I've been somewhat absent from some groups for a variety of reasons, mostly me curling into a ball and only wanting basic interactions, not events that need planning or preparation for...I just haven't had the gumption. That may be gradually changing and there are people I just don't want to drift away from.

So my life changes and I note that mostly I frame it in terms of my friends. There are some good reasons for that. I have old connections to reopen, potential connections to examine and pursue and I see a very great deal of potential in some of those. There are also notably fewer tears albeit a few here and there around the edges.

The light at the end of the tunnel doesn't really look that much like a train anymore. I still have no idea what my life will look like further down the track but I'm feeling increasingly optimistic about it.
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The subject of same sex marriage has been bouncing around a lot lately and it came up in conversation the other night. I had to try to articulate why I didn't agree with someone's position and realised why a civil union is not a reasonable substitute for marriage. It has to do with the nature of marriage.

Ok, so let's look at a couple of things that marriage is NOT. It's not a religious covenant. It exists across a huge and disparate range of religions, so no one faith has a monopoly on its definition and they do differ markedly, including, in some instances, whether it's reasonable for two people of the same sex or gender to marry. It is also entered into regularly in a completely non-religious context. My marriage wasn't religious in any way, nor were the marriages of many other couples I know.

It's also not a legal covenant. De-facto relationships carry many of the legal implications of actual marriage and I can't recall anyone marrying specifically for things like guaranteed access to their partner if they're hospitalised or the security of knowing that their will will be respected, important though those issues are.

It's seriously NOT about making babies. We don't forbid people who are sterile for whatever reason from marrying. Many people who are capable of having children marry with no intention whatsoever of doing so. My parents both remarried and definitely had no intention of ever having more children. We don't dissolve marriages at the onset of menopause or in the event of tubal ligation, hysterectomy or anything else that rules out reproduction. Furthermore, marriage is hardly a prerequisite for having children. The social stigma on having been born out of wedlock in this culture at this time is so slight as to be non-existent. In short, that one's an utter furphy.

So if we don't marry for religious reasons and we don't marry for legal reasons and we don't get married to have babies, why the fuss? Why DO we do it? Marriage, as near as I can tell, is a social covenant. It's how we tell our friends and our family and the wider community that this person is incredibly special to us and that we are prepared to make a significant effort and make a socially binding statement to that effect because it's important. And this means that the criteria for being eligible to marry should be simply the desire to say, in terms that are universally understood, that this person is so SO special that it hurts in that good happy tears way and that we want everyone to know and we want it recognised without having to fumble with vague undefined terms like "partner". We don't want a legally mandated union that assures recognition by the ATO and other government bodies. We want to GET MARRIED with all of the social tinsel and ceremony and deep ingrained meaning which that carries.

It's a statement of love and admiration and commitment and those are not heterosexual emotions or qualities. Those are are human emotions and qualities and to deny that to someone is to declare them as being less than human. We should not and we can not countenance that.

*LOL*

May. 29th, 2011 10:27 pm
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A little epiphany today. I almost never used to actually laugh. I would produce understated chuckles even as I flailed inside with appreciation of something I found hilarious. Lately I've been laughing. Smiling more. Making more expressive gestures. Maybe I'm happier, maybe I'm simply shedding layers of inhibitions and this is what starts to leak out. I like it. Finding myself bent double, *giggling* at something is a really good feeling and simply letting out little yelps of laughter during conversation rather than wry grins is a far better expression of appreciation for the sorts of things some of my friends come out with and what's more, it feels *good*. It's not been a conscious decision of mine to steer myself in this direction, it's happened entirely of its own accord. So, is this hormonal? Is it situational as in I'm finally not having a horrible time and am feeling good about things? Is it the shedding of inhibitions I mentioned earlier? I guess I'll watch myself a little more to see if i can't work it out but to be honest, I'm not sure it matters that much. I like it and I think I like the new me that's emerging. There's one of three photos from the wedding that I went to that's surfaced so far in which I have the most ridiculous grin and I didn't put it on for the camera, it was just there.

Oh yes. More of this please.
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I woke up yesterday with a profound case of Do Not Want To Move. No real physical malaise other than a deep and strangely dirty feeling tiredness. I lay there for a while berating myself to get up and get ready for work before eventually realising that this sinply wasn't going to happen. I called work and promptly slept for another five hours so I guess I really was tired.

I made my way up to Oakleigh as the certificate for my name change arrived on Tuesday and given I had the afternoon free I thought I might as well put it to some use. A new license with the correct name and a fresh new photo should be in the post soon. I made my way back to Oakleigh and thence to Chadstone shopping centre and let my bank and Medicare know given that they both have offices there. I also raiding the twitching husk of the Borders shop and scored a half price William Gibson novel for about $15 and a book full or Rogier Ven der Weyden prints for $10 which is giving me ideas for girly 15th century SCA garb. I may yet learn to sew!

One thing I have noticed with this is that while I can deal wih seeing my old name in an overtly masculine context, seeing "Mr" before "Forth" makes me twitch badly. It seems that name is extremely clearly gendered in my mind (which is entirely as it should be) and that there are parts of my psyche which object strongly to seeing it mis-gendered. Unfortunately there's a tendency to require an honourific in front of one's name on records of identity and they're all bloody gendered. I may start getting obstinate about this. Fortunately it doesn't actually show on the driver's license or I would have just gritted my teeth and asked specifically for "Ms". Maybe I should have anyway.

I'm just about to start work for the day and heading off to Transitory tonight. There's a gathering of friends that I think I'd rather go to but I'd already said I'd meet someone else at Transitory and I'm feeling weird about intruding on some people's space at the moment. This really needs to be dealt with though or there are some friends I'll never see.
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I put in the paperwork for the legal name change today. This is a thoroughly odd exercise. I'm discarding the label that has meant me for the past 40 years and although it's not a name I've ever felt especially fond of it is, nonetheless, through long process of association, ME. The new name has earned its place over a shorter time but I feel a greater affection for it. It was a random handful of phonemes when I chose it...I wasn't even thinking of it as the English word but it came to mean me and me in very specific ways. It's me as a woman, me with a lot of my inhibitions removed or placed into a less restrictive context. It is, in short, me with the brakes off. So although it's happened far sooner than I'd planned, seeing it on my driver's license, my bank statements, my passport, and every written thing that refers to me will be a joy nearly as great and warm as that of hearing it from the mouths of my friends. My old name will be tucked into my box of memories, not flung from me with distaste, but put aside as something that never really fit, to be placed on a high shelf, never to be worn again.

This is another of those steps that makes the whole process more concrete. It's a real world step with consequences and which makes it all more real. That's important right now as I've been feeling at something of a remove from the rest of the world lately. I don't feel like I fit anywhere at the moment. I am a triangular peg in a world of round and square holes. The feeling of being outside of the wider community at the moment is strong and getting stronger and I do wonder when I'll find my place again. I'm certainly not feeling neglected or unloved but this process is taking up most of my time and energy and resources and I don't have much life left over. I badly want to integrate myself back into the life I used to have and that's difficult on a variety of levels.

Right now I can't begin to envisage what my life will look like even a year from now. That's a bit scary. I might have the same friends, same job, same home but I will have changed, even if only in as much that the context in which the rest of the world views me will have shifted. I find that there are aspects of me which are hormonally driven and defined that I hadn't expected and which are changing. I'm approaching facets of my world view differently. I position myself differently in our culture as far as how I define myself. My body is changing. I have core beliefs and values that I cherish as being part of myself but they're not all the same as the ones I held dear years ago. I find myself wondering what I shall have at the end of this that I can hold to as being quintessentially me.

Hopefully this is all building up to another series of epiphanies where I can put more of myself into context and know myself better. It's disconcerting to have it so baldly demonstrated to me how poorly I do in fact know myself. I guess everyone is the same but I have to get better at it or I'll never have the sense of knowing who I am again. I used to sort of have it. It was wrong and skewed and uncomfortable and I kept catching the protruding corners on things but I didn't have to question it, I just lived with it. Now I have a collection of parts that don't fit in the case provided.

I guess I keep doing what I'm doing and hope like hell I find a comfy triangular hole somewhere.
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A post in parts. Um...

Woke up after an unusually generous amount of sleep this morning and felt like I'd had none at all. Nothing specifically amiss, but didn't want to move, couldn't concentrate and had that general achy queasy malaise that suggests lesser seen parts of your body making use of all your resources. I pushed through breakfast and was halfway through packing clothes for the day when I decided I couldn't face it and went back to bed.

I woke a couple of hours later and rang work, dozed another hour and started trying to book an appointment to see a doctor. After this morning's arghfest trying to book an appointment at a bulk billing clinic anywhere up to 10km away I've concluded that there are sod all in the way of doctors actually working within the public health system on this side of town. So I paid two hours wages (or at least it *will* be two hours wages once I get the Medicare rebate) for a piece of paper that says I'm ill.

so how can I sing like a girl )

Dinner looks promising. $1.40 bought me two chicken frames which have produced a promising stock and a surprising amount of meat plus a stealthy liver. Half a butternut pumpkin roasted with salt and thyme, a few potatos and a couple of onions roasted with salt and rosemary while I dealt with the stock and made up some bread dough with proper bread flour rather than the cake flour I've been using. The roast veggies have gone in along with fresh ginger and coriander and some turmeric, cumin, pepper, chilli oil, sesame oil and cider vinegar. I've banged it about a bit with my recently acquired potato masher and it's beginning to show potential.
sacredchao: (Default)
I was looking through some older entries in LJ and, upon reading this one I realised that the idea that had sparked off this whole train of thought in the first place had been completely missed in tangential waffling.

The thing that started it was was the question "Why do we punish those who've done something wrong?" I'm not saying that there aren't good reason to have punitive measures and indeed when it's touched on at all, we hear mutterings about deterrence and rehabilitation and suchlike, but I don't find it convincing. If those really were the reason for punishing those who commit crimes, why are punishments varied according to crime? Why doesn't intent carry more weight than the crime committed? Most tellingly, why do we talk about what the criminal deserves when sentences are discussed? As near as I can tell, the main purpose of sentencing is to make the criminal suffer. This is something that is so deeply ingrained that even once I'd realised that this is essentially a sanitised variant of the "eye for an eye" idea of justice, I was still coming up with phrases such as "getting away with" crimes while trying to nut out exactly what process was being put into action.

The fact that this was really all about visiting suffering on someone was brought home to me when reading through the vast collective schadenfreude that accompanied the extradition of Tony Mokbel. I'd like to be clear on the fact that I'm not sympathising with this man in any way. On a purely pragmatic basis, he needs to be removed from the community; he's a hideously destructive person. Having said that, watching the general reaction to him being brought back to Australia for prosecution was something I found disturbing. I got the impression that there was disappointment that he wasn't to be paraded through the streets in an open cart to be pelted with filth. This wasn't about being pleased that process of law was working, it was about watching him squirm. The law apparently works because Tony Mokbel was sad. The wrangling through the courts of Greece to get him extradited had the flavour in the media of some bizarre retributive foreplay. We watched him squirm, laughed at the dreadful wig, and with every spasming wriggle we nudged each other and grinned. "Bet he's shitting himself now." None of this fixed any problems, whether systemic such as the destructive narcotics trade or specific, such as any one of the countless lives demolished. It was purely and simply a circus.

So what are we trying to do with our penal system? Note that I'm really seriously NOT suggesting that the idea of trying and penalising criminals be abolished. That would be disastrous as the sociopathic amongst us realised that there was to be no check on their behaviour. What I'm questioning is the motivation. That motivation in turn informs the nature of sentencing and what we do with criminals while they're in custody. It takes the petty criminal, often a criminal because they have no other strategy by which to live and simply slaps them around and throws them back into the community, more disillusioned and less able to deal with life than before. It also releases clearly dangerous psychopaths back into the community because they've "done their time". In other words, we've made them sad for long enough and the danger that they pose to the general public is regrettable but not the point.

This is what I meant when I spoke of "a serious failing of our social and legal structure as a whole". It's an ethical framework which we don't see because it's so pervasive but which belongs in the past with the executions and mutilations which it once engendered, and which it still does in many parts of the world. We really need to think about how we deal with those who are ill enough that they visit violence on others, and they are ill because otherwise we're considering assault, murder and rape acts which can be committed by sane people. We need to be prepared to take the petty thieves and other sundry criminals and say "Your life strategies are crap and they're hurting both you and others and you're going to have to sort yourself out and we're going to help you with that. No, you don't have a choice in this." It's either that or we just keep taking an eye for an eye and feuding with ourselves which doesn't work any better now than it ever has.
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I just spotted a link to this and I'm a bit disturbed at the strength of my own reaction to it in some ways.

I'm not sure whether to be relieved that it's not my imagination, or despair that the default assumption is that I'm an arrogant, self-centred prick whose primary concern in life is to get his own way and screw the rest of you. I resent the assumption that I think I'm entitled to take what I want. I resent the assumption that if I think someone's attractive, that automatically means that I'm not interested in any other facet of their being and that my main or only reason far talking with them is in the hope of using them as a living breathing masturbatory aid. I resent being told that by virtue of my gender I'm expected to be a target for rage and suspicion and that moreover I'm expected to accept this as my just desserts and that this involves being not simply dismissed or infantilised but also actively demonised. Does this count as making the conversation all about me?

Having said all that I can of course (and could before this) see why that is. I see the men that do this kind of crap and foster those assumptions and they're fucking everywhere. The thing that I hate, that I truly truly loathe, is that this is the behaviour that seems to be rewarded in so many ways. Be pushy, take what you think the world owes you, and bull through objections by virtue of obliviousness and a thick skin and you ultimately get what you want. Try to do the right thing, examine the other person's point of view and consider how your actions affect others and you're still considered an arsehole until you've somehow comprehensively proven otherwise but you'll miss out on the relationships, careers and other tangible aspirations that the bastards of this world learn to take for granted because they appear to be so readily available. You'll have your personal integrity of course, but don't expect anyone to believe that that's the case.

It's a horrible set of assumptions, made all the more horrible by the fact that I can see how they come about. That's not saying in any way that they're not totally real and valid and based completely on real life experiences. But what this essentially says is "No, no, you haven't been paranoid for the last couple of decades, we really do distrust you on sight." The thing is, I really did think I was just being paranoid and that I was making social mistakes beyond simply being in possession of a penis. So this isn't dismissal or defense or me waving my hands and bleating that no, really, I'm not like that. This is me realising just how broken we really are and that there are far too many people completely disinterested in picking up the pieces.

This is not to say that I'm going to throw my hands up in the air in disgust and be an arsehole because, hey, that's where the money is right? No, I have friends and family and a gorgeous wife who know me better than that and the very notion of just barging through people makes me queasy. I'll probably keep explaining things but, you know, it's not because you're a girl. Guys do that to other guys as well. I don't know if other guys do it differently to girls than to guys just because they're girls but I don't. Fabulous prizes to those who can unravel that syntax on the first try. I nearly just closed this whole post and didn't put it up on several occasions. As that post states:



"Does this make you angry? Does it make you feel upset? Do you feel like your right to speak, like your right to be heard, has been silenced?

That's the space many women live in all the time. And we can't put it down and go back to a place where that silencing doesn't exist the way you can. Because for us, the conversation you just took over was that space, and we are sick and tired of repeating this fact over and over and over again."



There's that thought in the back of my mind that what I'm doing here is just that. I'm talking about me, about how this impacts me as a man and how I feel that that's unreasonable even if I can't offer any kind of idea on how or why it could or even should be different. In the face of what that whole post was about this seems entirely the wrong response and even now I'm wondering if I'll actually hit the button to post this. Ultimately though, I suppose what I'm saying here is that a lot of men do get it, they do understand or at least try to as far as someone not directly in the path of something like this can and they are incredibly frustrated by the fact that it's something that we have essentially as little influence over as you do. We don't have the ability to change the behaviour of an arsehole any more than you do. We could try saying "Hey, you're making me look dreadful here." but at best we get laughed at and at worst we get kicked into hospitalisation. Leading by example is even less effective because, after all, everyone knows that all men are only after one thing, right? I'm open to suggestions, I really am, but this all seems to be lose/lose and it should never have been a competition to start with.

Time flies

Oct. 27th, 2008 10:49 pm
sacredchao: (Default)
A year ago I was unbelievably, mind meltingly happy, somewhat drunk and easily convinced that I was the luckiest person in ther world. Today, on my first wedding anniversary I'm simply enormously and quietly contented with my lot. A lot of the year that was is here and yet still more that I didn't have my camera on hand for. Next year promises to be more of the same.

I like my life.
sacredchao: (Default)
This is a bit of a compacted mass, poked together between calls at work today which is no place to be assembling these kinds of thoughts, really. Make of it what you will.

As most of you probably know, I work in a call centre. I speak to people who have been given fines and who, for whatever reason, need to talk to someone about them. There is a set of filters operating here which is sort of integral to the whole process of getting fines and failing to understand them. In short, I speak to the dumb people and it’s given me a new appreciation of how difficult it must be to be there. If they don’t read well (or at all), have been brought up not to trust police much (or at all) and don’t deal with formal language well (or at all) a basic infringement notice is an impenetrable mass of text that causes their brain to implode. They will switch off to the point where they can’t even get to the stage of scanning the notice to find the phone number to call. The more information we give them, the less they can cope. So by the time they finally get so scared of the huge pile of paper telling them that they can be arrested and have their possessions confiscated that they call us, they’ve got next to no options left and we’ve charged them a pile of extra fees. They, of course, are the people who can least well afford these extra fees or deal with the more onerous requirements of contesting a warrant.

So what should we do?

Any measure that I can think of that would allow us to take into account the fact that some people are illiterate and/or thick as the proverbial pair of planks would also be hopelessly open to rorting by those who know perfectly well what’s going on and who simply have a dramatically reduced sense of personal responsibility. Compounding that is the fact that these two groups are far from mutually exclusive. This has parallels in other areas of law as well. You can have a sentence reduced for essentially any crime on the grounds of mental impairment or insanity. Are we then suggesting that most rapes, murders, vicious assaults and so on are committed by people who are essentially sane? At what point do we stop saying that someone isn’t responsible for their actions or negligence because they’re dumb and start demanding accountability? Is absence of malice any defense? Is it reasonable to penalise people, sometimes really quite harshly, simply for being incapable of dealing with reams of dense, poorly written bureaucratese? I’m loathe to say that someone who commits crimes should be portrayed as a victim of social circumstance as there are plenty of people who manage to cope with quite incredible levels of privation without resorting to profiting at the expense of others. Having said that, if all of someone’s legitimate coping strategies fail and they don’t have the resources, one way or another, to find the help that they need to cope with life as a whole, what then? Some become homeless, some die and some resort to increasingly desperate and anti-social measures to survive. They will, of course become angry, disillusioned, distrustful and generally unapproachable as a result. How much of this is their fault? How much is ours as a community? To what extent is it acceptable for us to shrug our shoulders and declare that life is simply unfair sometimes?

Angry aggressive sociopathic people don’t usually get a lot of sympathy and we’re often in favour of locking them away where they can’t bother us anymore. There are some good reasons to pursue this as a strategy. Innocent individuals certainly shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of some prat with a deeply held grudge against the world as a whole regardless of how justified that grudge might be. Where does disability end and crime start? Where does detention stop representing psychiatric care and start being punitive? Should we start grading competence? Should we be prepared to tell people “I’m sorry but you’re too thick to deal with raw undiluted life so we’re restricting your actions while acknowledging that you need extra help.”?

I honestly can’t form a consistent opinion on this because I can’t think of a resolution that both manages to not beat people over the head for their lack of smarts or education and which simultaneously demands accountability for anti-social acts. I’m confounded when I think about this because it overturns my notions of both personal and collective accountability. Are there factors beyond intent, competence and outcome that need to be considered here? Do we need to take another step as far as our ethical framework around this sort of thing is concerned? Possibly the notion of punishment for crime is one that really needs to be examined. Punishment doesn’t benefit victims of crime after all (other than via a sort of vengeful satisfaction). Should we move away from raw punishment and towards counselling and treatment? This could well often be custodial if it was determined that they present a danger to others. Hey, the idea that their time in custody is going to be spent in therapeutic session, the effectiveness of which determines whether or not they’re to be released might actually be a lot less palatable to crims than raw basic jail time.

I can’t help but think that this whole issue is a serious failing of our social and legal structure as a whole which really needs to be addressed. I suspect that there are far too many barriers in the way of grasping this particular nettle at the moment though; the very idea would offend far too many people and often for diametrically opposed reasons.

My brain hurts.

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