Quickies: Should i Actually Change The Blog’s Title?

Well?

i mean, renaming it to “Coming Out Four Times” would probably be more technically accurate, and there’s a big part of me that feels like staying with “Three Times” is choosing to tacitly ignore this new aspect that is slowly blooming and blossoming into my sense of self.

On the other hand, i’ve been using “Coming Out Three Times” as my blog title for the past two or three years now, and it’s also what i use as my Twitter handle, and until recently, my Tumblr identity as well.  So if i change the blog, i’ll have to at least change the Twitter name, too (i can actually do that, right?  i don’t spend much time on the Twitter…).  To be fair, if and when i do finally go back to Tumblr, i was already intending to change it to “Four Times.”

What if i changed the title that displays on the blog itself but left the web address as “comingout3x”?  Maybe that’s the way to go.  It makes it so people can still find me by the old address, but the title is more technically accurate.  Internet?  You didn’t say much about my Bard/Sorcerer dilemma, but i’m going to try putting this question to you as well for input…

Thoughts?

Posted in Gender, LGBT, Life, Philosophy, Quickies, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Help Me, Internet!

As all of my readers should know by now, i am a gamer, especially in the sense of tabletop roleplaying games.  So, when i started reading early buzz about Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, i really started to get excited, especially considering that the game practically invites players to create Transgender or even Genderqueer/Gender Fluid characters.  So when the new Player’s Handbook finally came out, i went out and bought it pretty quickly.  It was pretty much everything i was hoping it would be, fixing many of the things that were wrong with Fourth Edition, while simultaneously hearkening back to older editions and updating the setting for new socially-conscious attitudes emerging more and more from gamers.

That being said, my weekly gaming group is getting ready to start a Fifth Edition campaign this coming week, and in preparation i went on a bit of a character building binge, finishing out no less than seven first level characters.  As much fun as this process has been, it has left me with the unfortunate dilemma of now choosing which character to actually play in our campaign this week and going forward.  i’ve managed to narrow my choices down to two of the seven, but they are essentially two different builds of the same character, and i’m having a hell of a time deciding which one is the one i want to play.

So i’m turning to you, random internet denizens, to help me in this dilemma.  Any and all input is welcome!

(Also, i’ve intentionally left hir biological sex unstated, and i don’t even really know, or actually care, what it is myself…)

Build One: Sorcerer

Varisia Amastacia

Gender Fluid Half-Elf Sorcerer

+1 Strength

+3 Dexterity

+2 Constitution

+3 Intelligence

+1 Wisdom

+4 Charisma

AC 13

HP 8

Proficient Skills: Acrobatics, Arcana, Deception, Perception, Performance, Persuasion

Weapons: Hand Crossbow, Dagger

Armor: None

Cantrips: Fire Bolt, Mage Hand, Mending, Prestidigitation

1st Level Spells: Burning Hands, Chromatic Orb

Appearance: Varisia has striking crystalline blue eyes.  Ze keeps hir blonde hair close cropped in a style that could lend itself well to either male or female identity.  Ze is slender of build, and hir features are generally androgynous in appearance, and ze takes liberties with gender expression, shifting at will between male and female dress, mannerisms, and appearance.  Most people who see hir are simply unable to tell which gender ze is, and any who have enjoyed hir performances wonder about hir biological sex regardless of the gender ze is presenting at any given time, but only a few have been afforded the opportunity to find out for themselves, as ze rebuffs any explicit questions with righteous indignation.  Ze wears a bright green feather, a gift from one of the few fans who found out hir sex in person, in hir hair on a regular basis.

Background: Varisia Amastacia was born to a Human mother and Elvish father.  Shortly after hir birth, hir father was slain by an Orcish raiding party.  After his death, hir mother moved them to a human city, where Varisia spent most of hir formative years.  As a result, hir Elvish heritage took a backseat to hir Human upbringing, and Varisia grew up among hir Human peers raised with Human customs.  Despite this, Varisia was painfully aware that ze was different from hir fellow children.

Ze began to be bullied by a group of older children shortly after ze turned 5.  Slurs like “half-blood,” “traitor,” “pointy ears,” and “crossbreed” became a part of hir daily existence, and many days ze ran home in tears, only to find hirself not quite comforted by a mother who didn’t know entirely how to relate to her child.  The result of all of this was a lonely childhood in which Varisia felt fundamentally unmoored by hir sense of identity.  Ze didn’t fit in with the Human children, and there was no real Elvish community in their town either.  What few Elves ze did meet always seemed to look down their noses at hir.

As ze matured into adolescence, this feeling of being adrift only intensified, and ze began to realize that it wasn’t just hir race that was engulfed in a roiling mass of confusion.  Ze also had begun to feel more and more as if ze was somehow a combination of both genders at once.  It was a strange sensation for hir, even more alienating than hir racial dilemma.  It was almost as if ze had discovered hirself sliding back and forth along a continuum between male and female, sometimes wanting to be more like one than the other, but usually finding hirself somewhere in between the two.

It was also about this time that ze discovered hir latent magical abilities, learning to cast a few basic cantrips before discovering the elemental nature of the Wild Magic that coursed through hir veins.  Ze began “playing around,” mostly experimenting with Prestidigitation and Mage Hand, and occasionally casting Fire Bolt, though it scared hir a bit at first.  It was during one such experiment that ze was “discovered” by Grigg Goldshine, a gnomish entertainer and leader of Goldshine’s Gambolers, a traveling band of performers.  Goldshine took note of Varisia’s natural charisma, talent with Prestidigitation and Mage Hand, and also hir ability to cast more offensively-focused spells.  He offered hir a spot in his performing company.  Varisia, feeling no real connection to hir mother or anyone else ze knew at the time, gladly accepted and began traveling the realm with Goldshine’s Gambolers.

During hir time with the troupe, Varisia learned many valuable entertainment techniques, such as tumbling, costuming, and music, and ze improved hir craft with acting and stage performance as well.  Ze also found that, once ze got clear of the small town in which ze had grown up, people were a bit more accepting of hir mixed nature.  Some actually found it alluring, and ze eventually became an outrageously popular member of Goldshine’s Gambolers, as audiences found themselves drawn to the combination of hir natural charisma, hir talent with magic, and the alluring mystery of hir androgynous aesthetic.

After traveling with the Gambolers for a number of years, Varisia finally decided to strike out on hir own.  Goldshine was sorry to see hir go, but understood hir desire to truly spread hir wings as a solo act.  With his blessing and encouragement, ze began traveling from town to town by hirself, finding financial and artistic success everywhere ze went… and often not actually sleeping in the accommodations provided by many of the inns in which ze performed…

Varisia continued traveling like this until ze reached the town of Neverwinter, where a Dwarf named Gundren Rockseeker happened to attend one of hir shows.  Impressed by hir display, Rockseeker and his two brothers approached hir afterward and asked about hir offensive magic skills.  After a brief demonstration, Rockseeker offered hir the opportunity to work in a “more adventurous field, at least for a little while.”  He informed Varisia that he was seeking adventurous types to help in his efforts to reopen the mines in Wave Echo Cave, and that Varisia’s magical skills could be quite useful for the task at hand.  Varisia quickly agreed.  It seemed like just the sort of thing that would break up what had become the somewhat monotonous lifestyle of show business that ze had been engaged in (while still providing opportunities to continue the more amorous pursuits that had been involved).

Entertainer: You thrive in front of an audience.  You know how to entrance them, entertain them, and even inspire them.  Your poetics can stir the hearts of those who hear you, awakening grief or joy, laughter or anger.  Your music raises their spirits or captures their sorrow.  Your dance steps captivate; your humor cuts to the quick.  Whatever techniques you use, your art is your life.

Entertainer Routines: Instrumentalist, Actor, Magician

By Popular Demand: You can always find a place to perform, usually in an inn or tavern but possibly with a circus, at a theater, or even in a noble’s court.  At such a place, you receive free lodging and food of a modest or comfortable standard (depending on the quality of the establishment), as long as you perform each night.  In addition, your performance makes you something of a local figure.  When strangers recognize you in a town where you have performed, they typically take a liking to you.

Personality Traits: I’m a hopeless romantic, always searching for that “special someone.”  Nobody stays angry at me for long because of my inborn charisma.

Ideals: Freedom, equality and fairness, creativity…  The world is in need of new ideas and bold action.

Bonds: Nobody touches my staff!  I yearn to become a master of the elements.

Flaws: I’m a sucker for a pretty face, whether male, female, or otherwise.  I have trouble keeping my true feelings hidden; my sharp tongue lands me in trouble.

Sorcerer Features

Sorcerous Origin: Wild Magic – Your innate magic comes from the wild forces of chaos that underlie the order of creation.  You might have endured exposeure to some form of raw magic, perhaps through a planar portal leading to Limbo, the Elemental Planes, or the mysterious Far Realm.  Perhaps you were blessed by a powerful fey creature or marked by a demon.  Or your magic could be a fluke of your birth, with no apparent cause or reason.  However it came to be, this chaotic magic churns within you, waiting for any outlet.

Wild Magic Surge: Starting when you choose this origin at 1st level, your spellcasting can unleash surges of untamed magic.  Immediately after you cast a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher, the DM can have you roll a d20.  If you roll a 1, roll on the Wild Magic Surge table to create a random magical effect.

Tides of Chaos: Starting at 1st level, you can manipulate the forces of chance and chaos to gain advantage on one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw.  Once you do so, you must finish a long rest before you can use this feature again.  Any time before you regain the use of this feature, the DM can have you roll on the Wild Magic Surge table immediately after you cast a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher.  You then regain the use of this feature.

Build Two: Bard

Varisia Amastacia

Gender Fluid Half-Elf Bard

+1 Strength

+3 Dexterity

+2 Constitution

+3 Intelligence

+1 Wisdom

+4 Charisma

AC 16

HP 10

Proficient Skills: Acrobatics, Deception, History, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand

Weapons: Rapier, Dagger

Armor: Leather Armor

Cantrips: Prestidigitation, Vicious Mockery

1st Level Spells: Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Dissonant Whispers, Illusory Script

Appearance: Varisia has striking crystalline blue eyes.  Ze keeps hir blonde hair close cropped in a style that could lend itself well to either male or female identity.  Ze is slender of build, and hir features are generally androgynous in appearance, and ze takes liberties with gender expression, shifting at will between male and female dress, mannerisms, and appearance.  Most people who see hir are simply unable to tell which gender ze is, and any who have enjoyed hir performances wonder about hir biological sex regardless of the gender ze is presenting at any given time, but only a few have been afforded the opportunity to find out for themselves, as ze rebuffs any explicit questions with righteous indignation.  Ze wears a bright green feather, a gift from one of the few fans who found out hir sex in person, in hir hair on a regular basis.

Background: Varisia Amastacia was born to a Human mother and Elvish father.  Shortly after hir birth, hir father was slain by an Orcish raiding party.  After his death, hir mother moved them to a human city, where Varisia spent most of hir formative years.  As a result, hir Elvish heritage took a backseat to hir Human upbringing, and Varisia grew up among hir Human peers raised with Human customs.  Despite this, Varisia was painfully aware that ze was different from hir fellow children.

Ze began to be bullied by a group of older children shortly after ze turned 5.  Slurs like “half-blood,” “traitor,” “pointy ears,” and “crossbreed” became a part of hir daily existence, and many days ze ran home in tears, only to find hirself not quite comforted by a mother who didn’t know entirely how to relate to her child.  The result of all of this was a lonely childhood in which Varisia felt fundamentally unmoored by hir sense of identity.  Ze didn’t fit in with the Human children, and there was no real Elvish community in their town either.  What few Elves ze did meet always seemed to look down their noses at hir.

As ze matured into adolescence, this feeling of being adrift only intensified, and ze began to realize that it wasn’t just hir race that was engulfed in a roiling mass of confusion.  Ze also had begun to feel more and more as if ze was somehow a combination of both genders at once.  It was a strange sensation for hir, even more alienating than hir racial dilemma.  It was almost as if ze had discovered hirself sliding back and forth along a continuum between male and female, sometimes wanting to be more like one than the other, but usually finding hirself somewhere in between the two.

During this time, hir only real outlet was hir musical ability with the horn, lute, viol, and flute, which ze practiced as much as possible.  Ze also spent a good deal of time training hir voice to be able to sing in registers both masculine and feminine.  It was during one such training session that ze was “discovered” by Grigg Goldshine, a gnomish entertainer and leader of Goldshine’s Gambolers, a traveling band of performers.  Goldshine took note of Varisia’s natural charisma, talent with music, and also hir lightness on hir feet (which he could train into an acrobatic fighting style to help defend the troupe when necessary).  He offered hir a spot in his performing company.  Varisia, feeling no real connection to hir mother or anyone else ze knew at the time, gladly accepted and began traveling the realm with Goldshine’s Gambolers.

During hir time with the troupe, Varisia learned many valuable entertainment techniques, such as tumbling, costuming, and acting, and ze improved hir craft with music as well.  Ze also found that, once ze got clear of the small town in which ze had grown up, people were a bit more accepting of hir mixed nature.  Some actually found it alluring, and ze eventually became an outrageously popular member of Goldshine’s Gambolers, as audiences found themselves drawn to the combination of hir natural charisma, hir talent with magic, and the alluring mystery of hir androgynous aesthetic.

After traveling with the Gambolers for a number of years, Varisia finally decided to strike out on hir own.  Goldshine was sorry to see hir go, but understood hir desire to truly spread hir wings as a solo act.  With his blessing and encouragement, ze began traveling from town to town by hirself, finding financial and artistic success everywhere ze went… and often not actually sleeping in the accommodations provided by many of the inns in which ze performed…

Varisia continued traveling like this until ze reached the town of Neverwinter, where a Dwarf named Gundren Rockseeker happened to attend one of hir shows.  Impressed by hir display, Rockseeker and his two brothers approached hir afterward and asked about hir fighting skills.  After a brief demonstration, both of hir combat abilities and the more magical aspects of hir musical skills, Rockseeker offered hir the opportunity to work in a “more adventurous field, at least for a little while.”  He informed Varisia that he was seeking adventurous types to help in his efforts to reopen the mines in Wave Echo Cave, and that Varisia’s magical skills could be quite useful for the task at hand.  Varisia quickly agreed.  It seemed like just the sort of thing that would break up what had become the somewhat monotonous lifestyle of show business that ze had been engaged in (while still providing opportunities to continue the more amorous pursuits that had been involved).

Entertainer: You thrive in front of an audience.  You know how to entrance them, entertain them, and even inspire them.  Your poetics can stir the hearts of those who hear you, awakening grief or joy, laughter or anger.  Your music raises their spirits or captures their sorrow.  Your dance steps captivate; your humor cuts to the quick.  Whatever techniques you use, your art is your life.

Entertainer Routines: Instrumentalist, Singer, Storyteller

By Popular Demand: You can always find a place to perform, usually in an inn or tavern but possibly with a circus, at a theater, or even in a noble’s court.  At such a place, you receive free lodging and food of a modest or comfortable standard (depending on the quality of the establishment), as long as you perform each night.  In addition, your performance makes you something of a local figure.  When strangers recognize you in a town where you have performed, they typically take a liking to you.

Personality Traits: I’m a hopeless romantic, always searching for that “special someone.”  Nobody stays angry at me for long because of my inborn charisma.

Ideals: Freedom, equality and fairness, creativity…  The world is in need of new ideas and bold action.

Bonds: My instruments are my most treasured possessions, and each one reminds me of someone I have loved.

Flaws: I’m a sucker for a pretty face, whether male, female, or otherwise.  I have trouble keeping my true feelings hidden; my sharp tongue lands me in trouble.

Bard Features

Spellcasting: You have learned to untangle and reshape the fabric of reality in harmony with your wishes and music.  Your spells are part of your vast repertoire, magic that you can tune to different situations.

Bardic Inspiration: You can inspire others through stirring words or music.  To do so, you use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you.  That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6.

Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes.  The creature can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use the Bardic Inspiration die, but must decide before the DM says whether the roll succeeds or fails.  Once the Bardic Inspiration die is rolled, it is lost.  A creature can have only one Bardic Inspiration die at a time.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once).  You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Your Bardic Inspiration die changes when you reach certain levels in this class.  The die becomes a d8 at 5th level, a d10 at 10th level, and a d12 at 15th level.

 

Sorcerer Build Pros

More cantrips that can be used without burning spell slots.

The Elemental flavor really appeals to me, especially Chromatic Orb, which allows element selection.

The Wild Magic Surge table is absolutely awesome.  Basically, you roll percent dice on this massive table of side effects, that range from harmful to helpful to just plain funny.

Bard Build Pros

Higher AC and HP totals.

More skills.

Vicious Mockery and Dissonant Whispers look like really fun spells to play with.

Entertainer background fits a little better…?

 

i’m really at an impasse here.  As stated above, any and all input is more than welcome!

Posted in Fiction, Gaming, Gender, LGBT, Nerdy, Personality, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quickies: i had a Tumblr. i don’t anymore.

i deleted it.  It had become overrun with a bunch of content that really just wasn’t me or how i wanted to represent myself anymore.  i may start fresh later, but it probably won’t be for a while…

Posted in Life, Quickies | Leave a comment

Why i’ve Been So Quiet Lately, Part II – Maybe i Should Have Called the Blog “Coming Out Four Times…”

[Author's Note: Well, it's been almost three months since i posted that introduction, and i've been using a lot of that time working on composing this entry, first letting it spin in my head for a long time and then actually forcing myself to sit down and hash all of this out at the keyboard... ad even then it's been like trying to pour water through clogged pipes getting all of this to flow out through the keyboard.  The result of all of these months of thinking of, really, little aside from this (classes be damned) is the post below.  Hopefully it helps explain where my head has been for all these months of blog silence.  Content Warning: this post talks about my sexuality and anatomy.  Potential Trigger Warnings: Trans Fetishism, Depression]

It started out as a fetish.  i feel shitty for even saying it, much less leading with it, because i know about the problems the Trans community often faces with fetishists who see Trans people as nothing more than an object of arousal.  But as much as i’d like to ignore the fact, it remains true: my serious interest and exploration of my gender got its start as a fetish, though perhaps not in the way usually associated with Trans fetishism…

As a submissive in the BDSM lifestyle, i’ve sort of adopted the attitude that i’ll try almost anything once, and most things twice just to make sure.  It was this journey of personal discovery that eventually brought me to the idea of crossdressing and feminization play.  Before i ever had the chance to try out anything in this vein, i can remember feeling oddly drawn to it, as if from a deeper level.  It was a similar feeling to the one i recall when i first began my explorations into BDSM–curious, a little scared, but somehow feeling like it was the “right” direction for me to be going.  More and more i felt myself being pulled toward the idea of feminization in a BDSM context, but none of my play partners at the time were particularly interested in going down that road with me; in fact some of them, from the context of discussions had in passing, seemed to be downright against the idea.

But the idea persisted, and eventually i was able to borrow an old pair of panties from The Woman during the time that we were together.  The two of us never really played out the fantasy at all, but when i tried on the panties, i was instantly aroused.  After the break-up i kept the panties, but i didn’t get them out again for a number of months.  When i did, their association with her didn’t affect my response.  i was clearly into what i had tried so far, and i wanted–needed–to explore further.

i’m not sure exactly when the play turned serious.  i can’t pinpoint the exact moment my thinking shifted from a fun and enjoyable expression of my sexuality to serious considerations that i might be Trans in some way.  As close as i can figure it, it was close to the time that i started regularly shaving my legs and armpits.  There was just something about the act (and the result) that just felt… nice.  Not necessarily nice in just a “smooth legs feel good” or even an aroused sort of way… just… nice.  The feminine feeling and mindset it brought felt… right somehow.

The feeling of rightness persisted through further experimentation.  With the help of a few close friends at various occasions where the opportunity presented itself, i tried wearing more lingerie and learned the ins and outs of putting on makeup.  i even took my first halting steps in heels.  Each time i tried something new it felt like i was moving closer and closer to something… something big and inescapable, and more than anything, something true.  i wasn’t just acting out a fetish for the purposes of play anymore.  There was something deeper about my identity that was surfacing in this exploration.

The exact nature of what it is is still fuzzy and shrouded to me.  i’ve tried to piece together what i can based on present feelings i have had, along with memories of things from my past that have been recontextualized in hindsight.  Starting with the past, i remember early on that i had a tendency to socialize more easily with girls than with boys, and my play style during recess and other settings tended more toward cooperative play, most notably games of make-believe, than the more competitive, sport-oriented play of most young boys.  i can remember willingly playing games like “House” with playmates in grade school, as well as more elaborate story-based games well into the later grades of Elementary School, by which point most of my male friends were occupying themselves with football or basketball on the playground.  Even at that age, as young as first or second grade, i felt a measure of stigma to the way i played.  i was openly ostracized by the time i reached fourth through sixth grade, and it was “suggested” to me many times by my peers that i should join in the football or basketball games in order to be more accepted.

The stigmatization of behaviors that were not “masculine” was a steadily intensifying factor in my grade school years, and i learned the lessons of those years well, to the point that, while i didn’t necessarily go out of my way to be Super-Masculine Sports Guy, i definitely developed an avoidance, perhaps even a fear of doing anything that might be perceived as feminine.  One such thing that i struggled with was my emotional expression.  Like many children who were different in some way, i had to deal with a fair share of bullying, and my strong emotional reactions were often more than i could contain, leading to tears.  This, of course, only made things worse, and i remember taking a page out of Star Trek and basically turning myself into a Vulcan over the course of my eighth grade year.  The unfortunate side effect is that i am still very much an emotional bottler, and i do not deal with my negative emotions in a healthy manner.

i’ve now strayed a bit from my original course, but this still illustrates one particular example of the “locking away” i did of anything that could leave me open to ridicule.  To this day i have difficulty letting go and relaxing completely.  Self-preservation has taken control of many of the things that might have blossomed and developed at an earlier age if i had not feared so much to simply allow myself to be myself.  i’ve been a late bloomer for pretty much everything about myself that has been different… leaving my parents’ religion, having my first sexual experience, discovering my bisexuality, embracing my submissive BDSM proclivities… this new journey within my own gender is just another entry in a long line of things i have come to behind the curve.  i need only look to my early adolescent years to see examples of how i might have progressed in this direction much earlier if i had been less afraid of myself.

One of the earliest things i can remember as i began to become more sexually aware was a sense of discomfort with my own anatomy.  And, yes, i realize that this is a common trend for most people during puberty, but i remember actively wondering what it was like to have female parts and wanting to experience what it felt like to be a girl during this time.  This wasn’t just a passing thought; it was something i remember actively thinking about, to the point that i actually voiced these thoughts to someone who i thought was a friend at the time.  He turned right around and told one of my main bullies during that period, and i definitely heard about it later.

i can also remember exploring in my parents’ bedroom one evening when i had the house to myself.  i discovered a drawer of my mother’s more risque lingerie and tried some of it on, modeling it in front of a mirror in my parents’ room.  i remember really enjoying that… i hadn’t really thought of it in years until i started heading down this road, but now that i think back, the memory is vivid.  It wasn’t a one-time thing either, i repeated the play a few more times when i was home alone.

It could be that some of the things i’ve related from my past are things that i am reading too much into, but that doesn’t change the feelings i am having in the present.  Those feelings have been, first and foremost, intense cognitive dissonance.  Part of me feels like i have been pushing an important aspect of myself down for almost 20 years, to the point that i don’t even really know how to properly interact with it.  Another part of me wants to just keep things simple–i’ve made my life complicated enough with all these other non-standard orientations and belief systems, do i really need to continue making it even more difficult?  A third part of me wants to just completely immerse myself in every part of this exploration and find out exactly where this rabbit hole is leading me.  My instincts say that this third part is probably the closest to the healthiest outlook on this situation, but it doesn’t really negate the existence of the other two.

This push and pull extends to specific details as well.  At this point i’m reasonably confident that the eventual destination of this gender exploration is going to be some sort of non-binary orientation… genderfluid is the one i find myself most drawn to… because that’s honestly how i feel.  My gender identity feels like it’s in a state of near-constant flux, moving up and down the continuum between male and female from day to day… sometimes from minute to minute.  There are times that i desperately wish i could just swap my gender entirely and be a woman, and there are times when i just want to chuck this whole idea and keep being a man.  Most of the time, i’m somewhere in between.  i wish i could feel sexual arousal and orgasm from a female perspective, but i don’t especially want to lose the male experience that i currently have, either.  i want to feel free to express the feminine aspects of this fluctuation when they arise, but i often feel silly and artificial when i try–i see too much of the male me present in the reflection in the mirror.  i know i’ll never naturally fill out a bra, and i know that there are ways i can create the illusion of doing that without permanently altering my body… but there are times that i desperately wish i had a pair of beautiful breasts with real cleavage and a sexy feminine form.  There are times when i catch myself thinking “i wish i could just be a girl,” but there are also times when i truly need to continue to be a man (most often in professional settings).

The truth of the matter is that at this point i really don’t know what i am.

The only thing i think i know–and i’m really not even entirely sure of that–is that my gender falls in some sort of Trans identity.  i feel like dressing up in feminine clothes and presenting as female is too much of a performance at this point to be completely comfortable with it (and perhaps that will change as i get better at hiding the masculine features that still poke through when i do it), but i also feel like presenting myself as entirely masculine and male is just as much of a performance… just as artificial feeling.  i feel sort of trapped somewhere in between, and i want to be able to express either, or both, depending on how i’m feeling at any given time.  i really wish i had more androgynous features, just in general, because that might at least make some of this a tiny bit easier.

And now this has pretty much turned into a bit of a stream of consciousness rant.  That last paragraph wandered all over the board… some of it fit in a new paragraph, but that last sentence would have probably been more at home in the paragraph before.  And, truth be told, at this point i’m just letting it go on in this stream of consciousness fashion, because that’s how my stream of consciousness is right now… this incredibly tangled Gordian knot of thoughts and emotions that won’t seem to properly resolve or become less complicated.  Every time i make some kind of progress, the shifting sands of my mental state create more disharmony.

i’m a naturally depression-prone person as it is… i don’t think i can remember a time since maybe fourth grade where there hasn’t been at least some sort of lingering discontent hiding in the back of my mind.  Through the years it has ebbed and flowed, sometimes just being that slightly off-kilter feeling underlying an otherwise contented existence, sometimes blossoming into a fully-fledged major depressive episode like the one that landed me on academic probation twice in two years during my undergrad.  Most of the time it’s somewhere in between, and it really doesn’t matter what’s actually going on in my life.  Right now my fledgling career is really starting to gain momentum, i’m getting closer and closer to a more financially independent state of existence, i have multiple friends who i know love me and want me to be happy regardless of what that happiness means.  i have all of this stuff going for me in my favor, but it’s the most depressed i’ve felt in a long while.  i know that a lot of it has to do with the fact that i’m basically uprooting and inspecting my own existential core, but that understanding doesn’t really make it any better.  And despite the fact that i’m incredibly quick to provide a kind ear and support for friends when they need it, and the lip-service i give to the necessity of getting help from people, i still don’t really know how to properly ask other people for help… it feels like i’m being selfish and needy and troubling them with my problems in addition to their own when i try to do it.

The truth is i’m really kind of a mess right now.  i’ve really been kind of a mess for years, truth be told, i’ve just gotten better at being a more functional mess, mostly through the cultivation of an ability to laugh at my own pain and engage in dry gallows humor.  And even now, for the most part, i’m a very well-hidden, swept-under-the-rug mess about 90% of the time, especially in professional settings.

But the mess is still there, waiting for me to be alone with it.

Shit, that took a hard left turn.  Where the hell did that come from?  i think i really need to stop procrastinating that whole “getting back into regular therapy” idea i’ve been kicking down the road for the last year or so…

Update 8/19/14: i’ve scheduled a counseling appointment, so… progress?

Posted in Gender, LGBT, Life, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Sexuality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I’ve Been So Quiet Lately, Part I – A Preview

So it’s been a couple of months since i’ve posted anything on here.  i’ve been remiss, i know.  But this time i actually have an excuse, aside from my life being super-busy for the past few weeks.  The fact of the matter is that i have been dealing with something huge in my mind–something large and amorphous that i can never quite get a full grip on in my head.  i’ve tried a few times to sit down and write about this stuff, but there is so much to it… it’s like it’s clogging the pipes in my brain.  So i’m going to try giving you, my reader(s), a quick preview based on a test i just took.

The test is called the S.A.G.E. test (Sex And Gender Explorer).  It consists of about 160 questions that take about 30+ minutes to get through.  From it’s own description:

Welcome to the Sex and Gender Explorer or S.A.G.E. test.  This test is an automated psychological evaluation designed to identify possible gender identity conflicts.  There isn’t a “target audience” for this test.  It doesn’t assume that anyone who takes it must have some kind of conflict – it can just as easily tell you “all is well” as say you should “seek help.”  It also makes no assumptions about your birth sex, so anyone – male, female or intersexed – should be able to answer all the questions.

So the idea is that it’s a relatively gender-neutral way of getting to how an individual expresses their own gender.  The only question that deals directly with the person taking the test is the final one, which asks which gender or biological sex the test taker was assigned at birth.  From there, it creates an impartial result based on the answers given.  Well… here’s what my results were…

Your Raw Score is: 540, which indicates that overall you are Feminine.

Your appearance is Masculine.

Your brain process are mostly that of a Female person.

You appear to socialize in a Feminine manner.

You believe you have major conflicts about your gender identity.

You indicated you were born Male.

ANALYSIS:

Male to Female Transsexual in doubt about your ability to successfully transition.

NOTES:

  • Your Answers indicate your psychological state has likely prevailed since you were quite young.

So, yeah, that’s interesting…  i’m still working some things out in my head, but i’ll try to give a more detailed follow-up on this whole thing soon, including why i took the test in the first place and just what the hell has been buzzing around my brain for the past couple of months…

Posted in Gender, LGBT, Life, Personality, Quickies, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why i Will Not Be Renewing My Membership With American Atheists

It’s always disappointing when someone you have come to look up to says or does something that you simply can’t support.  It makes you question everything that has come before and creates a sense of cognitive dissonance in which you fumble about, at least for a while, trying to figure out just how badly they’ve damaged your respect for them.  You find yourself trying to rationalize what they said with everything you knew (or thought you knew) about them previously.  When it’s a severe enough matter, it almost plays out like the Kubler-Ross stages of grief… Denial (did he/she really say that?  Surely not…), Anger (he/she did say that?  Graaaah!), Bargaining (okay, he/she did say that, but maybe the rest of the things he/she has done/is doing outweigh all that), Depression (Well, this sucks…), and finally Acceptance (ok, i can live with his/her mistake OR ok, i guess i need to find someone else to look up to).

This has happened for me more times than i’d care to acknowledge within the atheist community.  Most recently, i’ve had to do this intellectual dance with American Atheists President David Silverman.  A couple of years ago, i had the opportunity to hear him speak in person at Skepticon 4 in Springfield, Missouri, and after his talk i had the chance to visit with him.  By the end of the weekend, i made the decision to join American Atheists.  i have had to reconsider that choice recently, after reading Silverman’s words at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month.  Of particular concern was his response when pressed about reproductive rights by an interviewer:

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion.  You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

Wait, what?!

To begin with, for those of my readers who haven’t already figured it out, i’m about as far out in left-field Progressive land as it is possible to be without crossing the warning track.  As a result, i am sure that what i have to say on this subject will betray a touch of bias, and i will do my best to keep any appeals to rational arguments as balanced as possible.  But i have to start out of hand by asking a very biased question: just what the sweet merciful fuck was American Atheists doing at CPAC to begin with?  Sure, there are most likely members of the Republican party (or just generally conservative people) who are atheists, but if they’re taking up the banner of the Right, are they really people that we want to court as part of our movement?  i can understand the populist idea that atheism can span all sorts of sociopolitical divisions, and i acknowledge that as true, because atheism only means “lack of a belief in a god or gods” (and that’s part of the problem i’m having with it as the rallying term for a movement, but more on that later).

So, yes, the word applies to people in the conservative camp who simply don’t believe in any gods, but by that logic it also applies to the people who believe in UFOs or homeopathic medicine, or the “spiritual but not religious” crowd, or conspiracy theorists, or even anti-vaxxers who also don’t believe in any supreme deity but maintain supremely irrational beliefs regardless.  If the atheist movement at large has rejected those people, then why continue to bother with the sorts of people who attend a conference like CPAC?  Is it just to try to bring on board the silent minority of libertarians who, when pressed, would rather side with the neo-conservative myth of shrinking government than protect the rights of those not lucky enough to be afforded privileged positions in society?  Is deregulating the market (and allowing the rich to get even more massively wealthy than they already are) really worth the anti-LGBT, anti-feminist, anti-human-rights social policies that have been so heavily influenced by religious interests so as to make them fundamentally inextricable?  How is that even remotely an atheist value?

Again i ask, if the by-now-debunked mythology of “unregulated free trade” taking care of itself without government oversight is more important to them than vouchsafing basic human rights and dignity, then who needs their self-righteous claims of “social liberalism but fiscal conservatism” that they use to mask the fact that the real underpinning of their political philosophy is utter Ayn Rand-worshipping selfishness.  Conservatism is in decline, and the rats that haven’t already left the sinking ship are eating their own young (the swift rise and current decline of the Tea Party is evidence enough of that).  i say let them tear themselves apart and make room for the rational values that are already on the rise to truly take hold.

But Silverman’s words are even more troubling than the mere fact that he was there trying to recruit for the cause in the first place.  Silverman made a choice with his words that he would systematically knock down each of the main tentpoles of the Religious Right’s repugnant mockery of morality (and, by extension, that of the larger conservative movement as well).  He explicitly says that the issues of school prayer, the right to die, and gay marriage are “clean-cut” issues, but then, as if to leave the clearly hostile crowd that tiny, dangling carrot, he concedes that a woman’s, or, for that matter, a trans man’s, right to choose whether their body is more than a glorified incubator with a pulse is up for debate in a secular society.  Since when?

To be fair, Silverman’s exact words were that there is “a secular argument” that can be made against abortion, not that he supports or stands by that argument.  But if he’s merely going to say that such an argument exists, it is disingenuous to immediately claim (or at least imply) that no such argument exists for the other issues he names.  There is a secular argument in favor of school prayer.  There is a secular argument against the right to die.  There is a secular argument against gay marriage.  There are, as stated above, secular arguments for UFOs, homeopathy, conspiracy theories, and anti-vaccination movements, as well.  The point is that none of these secular arguments are remotely compelling, and can all be rejected with minimal effort by any person using physical evidence and rational thought.  By privileging arguments against abortion with specific mention and implying that these arguments have any weight whatsoever (by claiming that the issue is not as “clean-cut”) Silverman has effectively thrown all women and trans men (not just atheist women and trans men) under the bus in favor of his attempt to garner a more politically diverse membership.  He has sent the message pretty loud and clear that it is acceptable for members of the atheist movement to believe that a woman’s value in life can be reduced entirely to what’s going on in their uterus.

In truth, the only “argument” that matters in the abortion “debate” is that of bodily autonomy.  It doesn’t matter when, or whether, you think a zygote or fetus is “alive” or “a person.”  It is a violation on both legal and moral ground to force any person to give up any part of their body in order to sustain another person’s life.  If this were not the case, then it would be illegal not to check the organ donor box when you fill out your application for a driver’s license, and the government would have every right to kidnap you, strap you down, and steal a kidney from your body if you were a match for a dying person who needed one.  The fact is that neither of these hypotheticals is the case.  In literally every other case where a person’s right to live is in conflict with another person’s right to bodily autonomy, the right to bodily autonomy wins out.  Even if i had a child (already-born) who was in desperate need of a transplant for which i was a match, i could not legally be compelled to donate one of my organs.  It’s simple common sense, and the only reason it is at all “unclear” is because of irrational thinking, usually of the religious variety.  (Greta Christina gets even more into the bodily autonomy argument much more effectively than i can on her blog, and her other posts are similarly excellent…  Also see Dana Hunter’s phenomenally passionate work on the subject, which was a big part of the inspiration for this post…)

But apparently David Silverman doesn’t get that.  After the fact he has addressed some of the criticisms that have been leveled against him for his words.  For example, he insists that he is personally pro-choice, and for what it’s worth i believe that assertion.  But the fact is that it doesn’t matter what his personal philosophy is on the subject, and he has only protested his personal values; he hasn’t recanted a word of his claim to there being not-so-clear-cut secular arguments.  By even acknowledging the possibility that there was a valid argument of any sort, he has symbolically abandoned, dehumanized, and objectified women and trans men in the movement in order to make cheap political points with members of another movement that didn’t even want us there anyway…

Moreover, later on he also made statements to the effect that the Democratic party was “too liberal” for him.  Part of his reasoning for this was that he considers himself to be a “fiscal conservative” (there’s that weasel term again) who is a gun owner and supportive of the military.  But he seems to focus more on his personal “suspicions” about the Obama administration, citing both spying on the American people and drone strikes as his reasons.  It should be noted that this is a pretty awful straw man fallacy he’s constructed.  To begin with, i know of many liberal people who are just fine with well-regulated gun ownership and reasonable military spending.  As for spying and drone strikes, these are not “liberal values” any more than they are conservative.  Those of us on the left are against both of those practices now, and were against them back when they were being carried out by the previous Bush administration (and, i should note, the conservatives were acting as apologists for both as “doing what’s necessary to keep us safe”).  So Silverman’s arguments against liberalism don’t hold any more water than his supposed secular arguments against abortion.

All of this is not to say that American Atheists as an organization does nothing of value.  On the contrary, they have done and continue to do a great many good things for the promotion of atheistic ideas, science, and reason.  i have friends who are members of the organization, and i still look up to individuals in leadership roles with the organization.  It is unfortunate that Silverman, as the most visible representative of the organization, has made the choice to alienate people who were already on his side in order to try to bring more into the fold, and it is somewhat telling that he and others in the movement continue to wonder why the movement is still so prominently white and male.

And this is, when it comes down to it, the problem with using “Atheism” as a rallying philosophical position.  As i said above (and as many before me have stated much more eloquently) Atheism is merely a negative quality of belief when it comes to deities.  That’s all that’s really implied by the word, and that means that literally anything else could theoretically be included, whether rational or irrational.  Only charting the negatives opens the door for anything else positive to move in.  Attempts have been made to re-brand the word, such as with the term Brights or the Atheism+ crowd, but they have met with limited success.  i agree on some level that we shouldn’t shy away from the word atheist, because of how thoroughly the word has been dragged through the mud by the believing community, but using it as the primary term of identification feels… lacking.  It seems better–more philosophically tenable–to take a stance based on positive principles instead of negative belief.

For me, this means secular humanism.  i’ve identified for years a secular humanist, and in point of fact it is the best philosophical fit for me.  i’ll still use the word atheist to help fight the stigma, but first and foremost i have always thought of myself as a humanist.  Luckily, there’s an organization specifically geared toward secular humanism: the American Humanist Association.  And they are more explicitly committed to certain values and issues, such as LGBTQ, feminist, and reproductive rights, that American Atheists do not name on their webpage, while still being committed to the same secular and rational values that American Atheists also stands for.

So, for this reason as well as the things stated above, this year i will not be renewing my membership with American Atheists.  Instead, i will be joining American Humanist Association (which i’m kind of surprised i hadn’t already done anyway).

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Some Thoughts on Comic Book Movies and Inclusivity

So much for resolutions… i said i was going to try to write something on here every week… and that didn’t even last a month.  Nothing left to do but try to do better…  Anyway, tonight’s post is another one that has to do with comic book movies.  This started as a conversation i had with a friend on Facebook, but i decided i wanted to expand it into a proper blog entry.

It all started when Cracked published the following article: “Five Superheroes Who Should Have Gotten Movies Before Ant Man”.  A friend and i had been having a similar conversation a few days earlier, and he posted the article to my Facebook wall, commenting that the Cracked writers must have been listening in on our conversation.  i read through the article and decided to respond with my own personal analysis.  Let me preface this by saying that i consider myself to be a male feminist, but i know that i am human and imperfect, and i know that as a beneficiary of male privilege, i am not the most qualified to discuss these matters.  But i am a fan of comic books and comic book movies, and i would really like to see them do a better job at representation of non-white-male characters.

Alright, having read the article in its entirety, i have to say i agree with many of the points brought up.  i still think Ant Man is a much better, more interesting character than non-comic-readers give him credit for being (he’s kind of become the Aquaman of the Marvel Universe in that respect), but i definitely agree with the more substantive things the author has to say.

The X-Men franchise has fallen for the same Wolverine Publicity trap that the Marvel print comics have.  There’s more to the character than this intentionally humorous Cracked article makes mention of, and he is really an interesting character, but they should spend more time with other heroes (especially because part of what makes him so interesting is his interactions with the others), and Armor would be amazing to see on the big screen.  That being said, the X-Men franchise is currently under the creative control of Twentieth Century Fox, not Marvel Studios, because they sold the rights before they had their own production studio (back in 2000, for the first X-Men film).  As long as Fox keeps making X-Men films every few years, they will be able to keep the rights unless Marvel pays an arm and a leg to get them back (and, to be honest, The Wolverine was a pretty good film and brought the character back from the brink that Origins’ crappiness had taken him to… also, Days of Future Past looks like it might be good on an X-2 or First Class level).

It would have been about ten shades of amazing to see Pepper Potts as Rescue in Iron Man 3, and for a brief moment in the film, when Tony puts her in the Mk 42 armor during the attack on his house, i had hopes they might go that route.  As good as Iron Man 3 was, that was one of the disappointing facets of the film, at least for me as a fan of the larger mythology.  They may put her in her own armor eventually, but given the way things have gone thus far, i doubt it will happen.  Pepper’s going to be stuck in the love interest role until they stop making films, and as much as i enjoy the franchise, i cannot deny that they are problematic from a feminist (or even just non-Caucasian-male) perspective in that regard.

Oracle would be a really interesting, especially as part of a larger Birds of Prey movie.  You could even throw in a Batman cameo or two to help get it off the ground (see what i did there?).  The only problem there is that they tried a Birds of Prey television show, and it didn’t fly (bird metaphors are too easy).  Also, to really do Barbara Gordon properly, you’d almost have to bring her in as Batgirl first and do the whole story from “The Killing Joke” in order to explain how she got paralyzed, which A) would be worth an entire movie unto itself, and B) would require a recast of The Joker, which i’m not sure the DC people are quite ready to do, despite the fact that they’re rebooting Batman (again) for the Superman/Batman movie…  Speaking of which, Oracle is a DC hero, so bringing her up in a conversation about the Ant Man movie (a Marvel property) is only really kind of relevant as it relates to the comic book film genre in. general sense.  The article as a whole would have been stronger if they’d stuck with all Marvel heroes, and there are plenty of them to choose from, even if you’re approaching from a completely feminist perspective. More on that later…

Black Widow.  Yes!  This!  Black Widow needs a solo outing, especially now that we’ve seen her in full-on action mode in The Avengers.  Hell, you could even make it a Black Widow/Hawkeye joint film (which, personally, i think would be amazing).  Throw in a little cameo time from Nick Fury, or even Captain America, to get things rolling, and then let them go do their S.H.I.E.L.D. thing.  We’ve already got a television show for Phil Coulson doing a similar sort of thing, getting Black Widow up on the big screen, with or without Hawkeye, should not be that big of a jump.

Alright… Wonder Woman.  I’ll get to her in a moment, but first i want to talk briefly about that graphic that opens up her section of the article.  All i really have to say is… wow.  It’s not necessarily something you think too actively about when these movies come out a year or more apart, but damn that’s a lot of white men.  And the fact that they tried to make Ghost Rider into an interesting movie not once, but twice, is (i think) even more telling than the fact that they’re doing Ant Man.  The superhero franchise really has been dominated by white men ever since Superman in 1978 (to take it even further back than Batman Begins).  Sure you’d get women or non-white side characters, but never as headliners.  Some people might point to Jim Rhodes as War Machine (or Iron Patriot) in the last couple of Iron Man films, or even the fact that Anthony Mackie is going to be debuting as Falcon in the upcoming Captain America film.  This is true, and it is kind of a step in the right direction, but what is the actual title of the film?  Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Not Falcon.  And there is no apparent plan for Falcon or War Machine to have their own solo outings either.  They are both listed on the IMDB page for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but no films are listed for them to shine on their own.  It’s a problem that needs to be addressed in order to bring these 20th Century comic stories kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

Now, back to Wonder Woman.  She absolutely needs her own movie.  A Wonder Woman film on the big screen is at least 15 (if not 25) years overdue, and i’m really not sure what’s holding them up.  If DC is serious about bringing together a Justice League film in the same vein as The Avengers, they need to get on the ball.  Batman could have waited.  Batman’s never not going to be strong in the public mind.  Wonder Woman needs to be a higher priority.  That being said, the last rumor i heard was that Megan Fox was in talks to play her.  This would be a colossal mistake.  If you’re going to do Wonder Woman, give her to an actress with talent and emotional depth.  Don’t just make her another sex object for teenage fans to ogle.  Wonder Woman needs to be strong, smart, and independent.  Now, once again, this is a DC character and out of the creative control of the people who are making Ant Man, but while we’re in the DC realm, i can stop to say this…

i am more of a Marvel guy than a DC.  i love both companies’ heroes and stories, but if pressed i will pick Marvel.  However, DC has the opportunity here to do what Marvel’s films have not.  Give Wonder Woman a solo film… write a strong female character who doesn’t need to be a costar in order to carry a story.  Second, as much as i absolutely love the character of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds screwed that up for the big screen for a while.  So, instead of rebooting Hal, bring in John Stewart for the Justice League movie.  He’s the GL that the fans who grew up watching the Cartoon Network JLA show will know best anyway, and giving him a solo film gives you a black superhero in a starring role.  DC has the opportunity to break up the all-white-male hegemony that recent comic book films have established.  Hopefully they’ll take it.

Now, what can Marvel do (aside from the stuff i already talked about above) to make their films more inclusive?  Well, for one thing, i think they’re ignoring one of their best female heroes altogether.  It would be really awesome to see the Carol Danvers Miss Marvel in her own movie.  She’s a strong leader among the comic book Avengers, even leading her own team of Avengers for a long time.  The Carol Danvers character took what began as a simple distaff counterpart to Captain Marvel and made it 100% her own identity, separate from him.  She would be absolutely great to see on screen.

She-Hulk is another good example.  Yes, once again, the character began her life as a simple distaff counterpart to the Hulk, but (like with Carol Danvers as Miss Marvel) she has become so much more than that.  To begin with, Jennifer Walters is an attorney, and the film could be as much of a courtroom drama as a superhero film.  Furthermore, She-Hulk has a lot more control over herself when she Hulks out.  She is able to talk in coherent, well-formed sentences and think logically.  She’s less of an unleashed force of destruction than the Hulk is, and that contrast would be really interesting to see on the big screen.

In the X-Men realm, Fox could make an unbelievably easy quick fix after Days of Future Past.  There is already an all-female team in the comic book canon, and they could put that on screen with minimal additional effort.  They’ve already got three of the six characters involved cast (Rogue, Storm, and Kitty Pryde).  Psylocke and Jubilee would be pretty easy characters to bring in with little to no additional effort.  The only difficult one would be Rachael Grey, given the direction (and stupid, stupid decisions in the third film) that Fox has taken with their films.  But that could be handled easily enough, too.  Just replace Rachael Grey with, say, Vertigo, Pixie, or even X-23 to get the obligatory Wolverine angle, and you’re golden.

Finally, let’s address Sony Pictures, who own the rights to the Spider-Man film franchise.  They’re probably leery of taking too many out and out risks because of how badly Spider-Man 3 tanked, but one thing that they could do, either after they finish this Sinister Six thing they’re setting up or even alongside it, is give Felicia Hardy/Black Cat her own stand alone film.  It would be a really good heist movie to introduce the character and the tension between her criminal lifestyle and her desire to earn the trust of those she cares about (don’t say it’s a rip-off of Catwoman, because Black Cat was created first).  After her solo film, she could be put into a future Spider-Man film as an anti-hero ally.

Those are my opinions on the whole matter.  i’m definitely interested to hear what others might think as well…

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