Other People’s Work: “Why I’m Angry: An Anti-Theist’s 78 Reasons”

[Author’s Note: i promise i’ll start posting original content on here again soon.  (i know, you’ve heard this before from me…)]

This is a well-put-together list that very much jives with my own feelings on many of the subjects addressed.  It makes a nice companion to Greta Christina’s excellent book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, as well.  I encourage all of my readers to go check out both Greta’s book and this blog entry (as well as the rest of barrierbreaker’s material).

“Why I’m Angry: An Anti-Theist’s 78 Reasons”

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Other People’s Work: “7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression”

comingout3x:

So much this! Thank you for writing this!

Originally posted on Be Brave, and Talk:

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.)…

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It’s Not Quite Dead (Name) Yet…

[Author’s Note: So apparently a month between posts was too short, and i decided to go for a month and a half this time…  Seriously, though, i really do intend to make an effort to post more regularly on here.  i’ve just had a lot of stress and, to be perfectly honest, major depression lately, and (as tends to happen when i get really depressed) everything got jammed up in my brain.  On top of that, i’ve been working on staying ahead of myself this semester with both work school and class school, and not quite succeeding at that.  And in my leisure time i’ve been trying to create my own campaign setting for 5th Edition D&D.  i could try to use any or all of that as an excuse for my lack of sitting down and writing on this blog, but the fact remains that i’ve had six consecutive days off from work (last weekend plus four snow days), and i’ve spent most of that time mindlessly playing World of Warcraft or watching my backlog of episodes on Hulu.  The truth is that i really have no excuse; i just can’t seem to motivate myself to really do anything productive (or even semi-productive, like writing on this blog), and every time i feel like i’m starting to crack the shell of this massive mental block, it re-solidifies before i press the advantage.  Anyway, i’ll probably follow this up soon with a news update from the past month and a half.  Right now, i’ve got something that’s been sticking in my brain for a little while, and i’m going to try to use that to get some writing momentum built up…]

Many of my readers already know this, but for those who might not, here’s a quick background for what i’m about to write.  Among the Transgender community, names can be a tenuous subject.  It’s a part of the process for many Trans individuals to discard their given name and choose or create a new one that better reflects their actual self.  Their chosen name then becomes their real name for all practical purposes (and all purposes whatsoever, if and when they legally change it), and the old given name of the wrong gender is generally referred to as their “dead name.”  The term also has a verb usage–when someone dead names you, it refers to them calling you by your dead name instead of your chosen real name.  This becomes a serious issue, especially in the case of family members or others who outright refuse to refer to a person by their real name and insist on continuously dead naming them.  To say that this is considered to be quite insensitive would be an exercise in extreme understatement.

An extra layer of complication is often added in cases such as mine.  i am not out publicly, mostly for professional reasons, as i have explained in previous posts.  Because my public persona is still living under my old given name, i am actually addressed by it more often than i am by my chosen name.  i work five days a week, and my old name is pretty much all i get during that time (along with being called “Mr. ______” and “sir” by students, which doesn’t really help).  Even much of my leisure activity during the week is dominated by my old name.  Most of the crowd at the various structured leisure activities i attend on a weekly basis are not aware of my chosen name at all.  i only really get my chosen name on anything approaching a consistent basis on Sundays, when i go to my support groups.

As a result, my chosen name often still feels a little odd to my ear.  i definitely prefer it, but it isn’t the name i usually am addressed by by any stretch of the imagination.  So my “dead name” really isn’t dead yet, and i haven’t gotten to a point, either professionally or emotionally, where i feel offended by having it used by others.  They don’t know any better, so how can i fault them?  (Beyond the fact that they tacitly prop up a societal structure that makes me live in fear of revealing myself fully to the world, that is…)  i’m just… used to it, and i can’t really consider my given name a dead name.  Not yet…  Maybe not really ever, if i stay in public education…

This makes for an interesting mental state for me, where i don’t even feel hurt when someone who should know better accidentally refers to me by my old name (it happens… not often, but everyone makes mistakes now and then… especially the ones that knew me by my old name before my chosen name).  i don’t feel justified considering the old name a dead name when it is still the name that i am called by for at least 80% of my day-to-day life.  Would i like that to change?  Yes.  Do i see that as happening in the near future?  No, probably not.

So what is the best way to proceed with this?  In a perfect world, i would be able to explain to everyone with whom i have contact that my old name is no longer my preferred form of address.  i could also comfortably introduce myself to new people using my new name.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world, and the constraints i have placed on myself for professional reasons (while admittedly at least somewhat arbitrary and mostly self-imposed) still apply to my situation and are unlikely to change soon, if at all.  So i guess i just have to grin and bear it for the time being, which, since i haven’t been able to have the chance to truly acclimate to the old name being dead, won’t be too absolutely horrible, i guess…

It’s just yet another reason for me to wish i was in a more understanding geographical region than here in the buckle of the Bible Belt…

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Quickies: News Update 1/7/15 – UPDATED

Well, i had my neurologist appointment yesterday morning, and it was pretty good.  To begin with, the doctor said that my breakthrough seizure was probably at least partly due to my medication change, and my feeling fine since is more than likely a good sign.  he was also able to allay many of my parents’ fears about me living alone, and as of last night i am back to staying at the house that i am housesitting.

i also read some more information about the high degree of co-morbidity of epilepsy and depression.  It’s apparently over 50%, and can be really severe in some cases.  It also has a tendency to present in somewhat unique ways when it comes to epileptic individuals, including periods of less-depressed mood, or even euphoria, when external events are not so bad–and this gives my “unclassified bipolar” diagnosis from a few years back new context.  It isn’t necessarily that i have a  unique form of bipolar disorder that makes me fluctuate between manic and depressive phases rapidly (sometimes multiple times during a given day).  It’s more that the combination of epilepsy and depression create this unique state of affairs in my mind.

In other news, i have, of course, gone back to work at the school, and i am still feeling ambivalent at best about teaching.  i feel like my motivation and energy in the classroom are really suffering from this, but i can’t seem to shake this existential crisis in which i’ve found myself.  i have, however, been toying with another alternative to the ones that i had been thinking about…  i’m sorely tempted to just say “Fuck it all,” drop all of my pretenses, come out publicly, and let the professional chips fall where they may.

This temptation is even stronger since a conversation that i had with a student toward the end of the school day yesterday.  As i was roaming around the room keeping an eye on my seventh hour class, i overheard the word “Transgender” in a conversation.  When i asked what they were talking about, the student revealed to me that she had a cousin in kindergarten in my district who is a Trans girl.  She also told me that the school district is accepting her as a girl and accommodating her needs.  This was a reassuring thing to hear, especially after my principal essentially told me to watch my back in becoming the faculty advisor for the Gay-Straight Alliance that a student is working to form at the high school.

So i still don’t know what to do or think about my life right now, but there’s definitely a part of me that would love to just be myself and let whatever happens happen.  At the very least, it would ease some of this knotted up tension that feels like it’s killing me from the inside out…

UPDATE: 5:00 PM

Well, so much for that bit of positivity.  This afternoon i had another breakthrough seizure.  This one happened in front of students during my seventh hour class.  Luckily, my students reacted very well and sympathetically.  A couple went to get help from the office and the teacher across the hall, and another one who happens to be a first responder helped get me into a safe position and kept an eye on me until the seizure passed.

The upshot, however, is that i’m back to being stuck at my parents’ house, at least for the time being, and my neurologist doesn’t think i should go back to work until he’s had a chance to see me once again.  To that end, i have another appointment scheduled for Friday at 11:00 AM.  Hopefully the doctor will clear me to live alone again, because this really fucking sucks.

…shit.

Posted in LGBT, Life, Personality, Psychology, Quickies | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Not a Great Way To Start a New Year

[Author’s Note: Well, i’ve done it again… i’ve gone basically a full month without posting yet again, completely failing at posting with anything approaching regularity.  Maybe i need to make that one of my New Year’s Goals (i won’t say “Resolution,” because that would clearly doom it to failure, and we writers are “a superstitious and cowardly lot…”).  Alright, i hereby make it a goal to post at least one thing a week, with additional “Quickies” as they occur to me.  Let’s see how long that lasts…  Anyway, i’ve been having a lot of feelings lately, and things have been a bit eventful in my life, so there’s a lot of stuff rattling around in my head once again.  i’m not sure if some of it is worth writing about, because a lot of it seems “whiny-boo-hoo-cry-me-a-river-people-have-worse-problems-than-you” to me, but the fact is that these things are really bringing me down right now, and i need to get them out of my head and onto a “page.”  This one, like the last one, has taken a number of days to complete.  i have such trouble getting all of this out even in writing, because there’s just so much emotion, so many thoughts, so much mental clutter, that it’s like it clogs up my brain, creating a sort of mental logjam that stops up the flow of everything, and toward the end i really kind of went into a mental spiral.  Trigger Warning: Suicide/Suicidal Ideation (again)]

Well, Happy New Year, i guess…  December wasn’t a great month, and to be honest, January hasn’t started off all that well, either.  Though one of the few positives that has come out of the time since my last post is that i have finally settled on a new non-binary name for myself.  i will probably miss “simon” a bit… it was one of the first pseudonyms i ever used, as well as one of my first RPG character names, and i will probably continue to use the name for characters in my writing.  But i am now Raiyne, and though i am not changing it publicly or professionally, i feel like Raiyne is my name now more than the one that most people know me by (though i’m still a little bit in the getting used to answering to it phase).  As nice (and as big) a step as the whole settling on a name thing was, though, the majority of the past month really hasn’t been wonderful for me.

To begin with, i’ve been getting more comfortable in my role as a teacher, but the more comfortable i become, the less convinced i become that K-12 education is the right professional home for me.  The fact is that working in any educational job will necessitate a certain level of exposure to the public eye, but working in K-12 education is one of the most fishbowl careers in education.  Not only are the students and administrators watching you, but the parents are also heavily involved and very vocal about their views of you as a teacher and as a person.  The upshot of this is that i will probably never be able to be fully myself, i will never be able to fully pursue my desire for personal authenticity… for my outer life to honestly reflect my inner life, as long as i am working in public education at the K-12 level.  And honestly, the more i think about it, the more i wonder if it’s really where i want to spend the rest of my professional life.

But at the same time, i’m not sure what the best alternative would be.  My problem has always been that my interests range so widely that it is difficult to pick a direction and maintain it indefinitely without feeling that other aspects of myself are getting short changed by the decision.  If i stay in education, though, it is pretty clear that i will have to sooner or later get a more secure educational career, such as teaching at the college or university level.  Even then, though, is that something in which i will be satisfied?  i don’t know.  They say that your ideal career is the thing that you would do with your life if money were no object.  i’ve been doing a lot of thinking along those lines lately.  If i didn’t have to worry about supporting myself financially, what would i do?  There are a few possible answers to this question.

One thing i might do if i didn’t have to worry about financial health would be to stay in school and never come out.  Basically, i think i could live a very fulfilling existence stringing together degrees like paper dolls.  It would also allow me to pursue all of my various interests over the course of many years and truly live up to my Renaissance Person self-conception.  Without a regular income, however, there is basically no way i could keep taking classes indefinitely and paying tuition and student expenses.  i have enough trouble with that on my current salary as it is.

Another thing i might do if i didn’t have to worry about fiscal responsibility is to actually focus on my writing.  i’ve always dreamed of writing novels, and it would be really great to be able to afford to work from home full time as a novelist (ha ha ha), reading and writing and improving my craft as i tell the stories that are in my brain but tend to have trouble getting out because of all the stress in my current existence.  It would just really be nice if we had the sort of society that could actually support artistic endeavors like that, but unfortunately i live in the United States, where the profit motive drives everything, and simply being a living human being doesn’t mean shit.

And that’s another thing.  i’ve got a really strong drive inside me for activism (in several different sociopolitical areas).  As a public school teacher, i can’t do too much activism of any kind, really.  i want to be out there, promoting intersectionality issues, but i have to hide that part of myself in my current job, as well.  i’m sick of having to hide the better parts of myself because of the ignorance and intolerance of so much of the public, parents especially, who could, and likely would, clamor for my job loss if they caught wind of my true nature.  i want to actually do something to advance the social justice causes that i hold near and dear to my heart, and whose current states of affairs often make me want to just rage-quit the world.

All of these ideas make for nice, pie-in-the-sky thoughts, but in reality i cannot see how i would even start to accomplish any of them.  i am not independently wealthy, or able to ignore the financial issues that still plague me, the student loan debt that i may never get out from under entirely, or the fact that i will be essentially chained to a pill bottle by my epilepsy for the rest of my life, and if i’m going to be able to afford that, i will need some kind of employment with health insurance.  i feel like i may have painted myself into a corner here, and i don’t know what the right thing to do is.  It seems like no matter what change needs to be made, if i’m going to find the direction in which i need to go, i’m going to have to take some sort of “leap of faith,” stepping off into nothingness without a safety net to catch me if i fail.  And at this point i’ve made so many abortive attempts at starting the course of the rest of my life, that i don’t think i have any faith in myself left.

On top of that, i’ve had yet another breakthrough seizure.  This time it was on a full dose of my medications, too–i hadn’t missed a pill at all.  It was Christmas Eve, and i had gone to church with my family because it’s the one service i still allow them to drag me to out of sheer diplomacy.  Up in the choir loft, the temperature was oppressively hot that night, so that may have been part of what triggered it, combined with the stress of having to be around my emotionally taxing family, with whom i am not in the least bit out of the closet, and who misgender me and call me by the wrong name because they honestly don’t know the real me.  i will probably never let them see a completely unedited version of myself, because i truly believe that they would not understand, and it would be yet another thing that they would lash out against and be passive aggressive about and be ashamed of me for.  As much as i may wish i could tell them everything sometimes, i most likely never will, and a part of me is very comfortable with that concept.

The problem is that this new seizure hasn’t just set back the date of my return from February 5 to March 24.  It has also severely freaked out my parents about the entire concept of my living alone and independently, and they are essentially keeping me in their house, unable to return to the house that i’ve been housesitting for the past couple months, until i can get in to see my neurologist on Tuesday.  This means that i’ve been stuck in this stressful environment for much longer than i otherwise would have this holiday season.  My sister left town on the 30th, and if i could have, i would have gone back over to the other house on that day, but they’ve gone into total helicopter-parent mode, to the point that i have been asked to inform them every time i enter or exit the shower, so that they know i’m not drowning in an inch of water.

This came to a head the other day, because (in a very unwise moment) i confided some of my feelings on this subject to my father.  For some reason i forgot that i can’t actually tell him anything in confidence, because he always goes and blabs to my mother.  The resulting one-sided conversation essentially consisted of my mother telling me what an immature human being i am (this is her standard refrain for anything i do that she doesn’t agree with; essentially, she’s created this comfortable overarching narrative that rationalizes all of her feelings and behaviors as being completely reasonable and any objections or choices i make that differ from her to be evidence of my enduring immaturity and unwillingness to become a grown up human being), bringing in all of the other things that i do that she considers “childish” (such as going and playing D&D during the week instead of being a professional automaton until the weekend like she is), and taking it incredibly personally that i would ever object to a single fucking thing she did from “a place of love.”

She also informed me that she wasn’t “holding me against my will,” and that i could go back over to the other place if i really wanted to, but that really wasn’t true, and i think deep down she probably realized it.  If i had decided to go back over there instead of toeing her line and staying until after my appointment, it would have just been more evidence and material for her to use in her passive aggressive emotionally manipulative bullshit that, even though i know that’s exactly what it is, still fucking kills me on the inside whenever she does it.

Amid all of this loveliness came the story of Leelah Alcorn (link is to a Daily Mail story, TW: Suicide, and the article itself doesn’t misgender Leelah, but quotes a person who does), and it hit me really hard, and it hit me pretty close to home.  To be fair, my family is nowhere near as extreme as Leelah’s.  If i were to come out to them, i doubt that they would completely cut me off from my friends, and they would definitely not try to make me go to reparative therapy, but i also know that they wouldn’t accept me for who i am (when i tried to come out to them as bi/pansexual, they asked me how i knew i was, and then pretty much dismissed the whole thing when i retreated into a lie, no longer feeling safe to talk to them, that i hadn’t done any actual experimentation).

What really hit close to home with Leelah’s story, though, was the manner in which she killed herself.  She jumped in front of a semi truck.  In my times when i have thought most seriously about suicide, including some of my recent episodes of ideation, this was one of the ways i thought about doing it… impulsively throwing myself in front of a large vehicle at the last possible second, so that the driver wouldn’t have time to react and brake.  Seeing that someone else chose this method really sent me into a bit of a tailspin for a couple of days.  Yet, on another level, knowing that my problems aren’t on nearly the same scale as hers were, it feels almost like i am disrespecting and dishonoring her memory to even think about comparing anything about my life with hers…

What with all of this coming together, i’ve been in a really bad place mentally and emotionally.  i’ve come close a couple of times to calling the Trans Lifeline, and a couple of times i’ve even toyed with the idea of having myself committed, at least for a little while, but i always manage to push these feelings down by focusing on something else for a while.  They never really go away, though.  They’re always there in some way or another in the background.  i think i’ve come through the worst of it, but the depression is still very much there.

All of this is despite the fact that i know that i don’t have it as bad as many others, even because of it in a strange, opposite day sort of way.  i know that my problems are not nearly as bad as so many people–my family of birth isn’t so far out there that they would actively try to damage me for who and what i am, i am the recipient of white privilege, ability privilege, even male privilege because i’m non-binary and mostly closeted–and others have cited this same concept as a way that they gained perspective and realized that their problems weren’t so bad after all.

It doesn’t seem to work that way for me, though.  Try as i might to recontextualize my emotions in this way, it never helps me feel any better.  And when i realize that i’m not feeling any better about my issues even though they don’t hold a candle to others, i hate myself, because i am clearly so incredibly selfish that i can’t see beyond my own comparatively petty concerns.  My family of birth may not be the most supportive people ever, but i still have the family of choice who i have referenced in earlier posts who i know love me and want nothing but my happiness and inner peace, but i somehow can’t make myself feel better because of it, because all i can see even with all of this is the negative side of my life and my own problems and depression.  And i feel like, if my problems aren’t on the same par with those of others, and i have these support systems that truly do exist, that i am unworthy of even toying with the concept of having the idea of suicidal thoughts… but that just makes me feel even worse still.

This is only intensified when i think about the fact that i am non-binary and living mostly in the closet.  As a non-binary person, i will most likely never be in a position where i can’t simply present as male and have cisgender passing privilege.  But a part of me rebels against this very idea on principle.  While it’s true that i benefit from presenting as male, is it really a privilege to have to hide?  Is it really a privilege to publicly deny my true nature in order to avoid personal and professional repercussions?  It may be practically indistinguishable from the outside, but on the inside it feels more like a cage than a privilege.  It feels like i am trapping myself inside the confines of my biological sex, like i am choosing to suppress my true self and hide in a prison of my own making because it is “safer.”  It feels like utter cowardice, and i would truly like nothing more than to shake off these self-imposed chains, chains that paradoxically empower me in society while destroying me emotionally.

i’m tired of hiding.  i’m tired of betraying myself in order to keep a career that i’m not even sure i belong in so that i can afford to keep myself healthy and at least somewhat independent.  i’m tired of compromising myself for practical expediency.  i hate it, and i hate myself for living in fear and cowardice and dishonesty.  i want it to stop, but i can’t quite live with the possible repercussions.  If i expose my true self to the public world, i make a jump into air with neither trapeze nor net.  i want to make that jump, but i am terrified of the fall.

i want to scream, but i’m afraid that if i let go of the reins of my emotional control i’ll never get them back.

i need help, but i don’t know how to ask for it.

i want to be free.  i want to feel safe.  i can’t currently have both, and it infuriates me.

And underneath it all, i know i have it good compared to so many other people, and i hate myself because i still feel so horrible about my own problems.

i know i’ve become more than a little redundant at this point, and my writing on this entry in general has not been up to my usual standard (it’s been downright shitty, to be honest), but i can’t quite seem to express the sheer magnitude of what i feel… the anger and the sorrow and the utter helplessness… like i’m drowning in my own emotional detritus, and i can’t find a way to honestly love myself for who i am.  i’m not a naturally violent person, but all i want to do right now is destroy something.

Fuck.  What am i going to do?

Posted in Gender, Life, Personality | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Breaking Yet Another Extended Silence: A Saga of Many Emotions

[Author’s Note: Honestly, i’m working on getting into a regular posting routine.  i really want to start posting at least once a week, if not more often.  Lately, though, i’ve just been blocked up entirely for writing.  i started a NaNoWriMo project again this year, and didn’t get very far at all.  So here i am, trying to get things flowing again by just posting whatever the hell comes to me.  i’ve got lots of thoughts and feelings, and they’re kind of a jumbled mess in my head right now.  So, in a desperate attempt to actually impose a bit of order on this disaster area, perhaps the best thing to do is to just give an update on the state of affairs in my life right now in something approaching chronological order.  Update: Well, this took me the past two days to actually get written, and it took me into some pretty dark territory.  This also turned out to be really long, but i hope at least some of you will stick with me until the end, because i feel a need to share all of this.  Trigger Warning: Suicide/Suicidal Ideation]

The obvious place to begin is at the beginning of this last month.  i had another seizure.  i had another seizure behind the wheel of a car.  i crashed another car because i had a seizure behind the wheel.  i crashed another car and totaled it because i had a seizure behind the wheel.  This time it was my father’s 2006 Jetta TDI.  i was driving his car that day because he and i had done some work on my 2002, but we had forgotten to reattach something when we closed it back up.  i had to get to a counseling appointment that evening, and the fix was kind of a one-person job anyway, so he told me to go on while he finished it up.

i almost made it to Saddlebrooke.

As i passed 176, i started to feel that sort of dizzy, dissociative feeling that tends to precede a seizure.  Unfortunately, i didn’t have enough time to do anything about it before the main event struck.  i woke up to find myself surrounded by first responders, 180 feet off the highway in the bottom of a ravine.  It is only through a stroke of sheer luck that i didn’t flip the vehicle, instead going straight down a sort of path down the hill.  It was still obviously a pretty nasty ride–the bottom of the car was almost totally ripped out, and the airbags deployed when i stopped.  i also banged up my knee and got a bruise on my thigh, along with a pretty bad bruise on the forehead that took a couple of days to clear up.

i can still see the broken car, lying wounded at the bottom of the ravine, hazard lights flashing in a sort of mute cry of anguish, when i close my eyes sometimes.

Needless to say, i didn’t make it to my counseling appointment, and i haven’t been able to make it to one since the accident, because i’m back to not driving until February.  i had an appointment with my neurologist a few days later, and informed him that the seizure had occurred after i had only missed a single dose of medication.  He said this was not normal at all.  i asked him if there was any possibility that the seizure had broken through because i’ve been on the same medication for close to 15 years, and he agreed that that might be an issue.  So we’re switching my medication to another one that he says should work better and should also come with fewer side effects once we get the therapeutic dosage built up and wean me off the old one.

So between the accident itself and other things that have been happening in my life, i’ve been pretty deeply depressed.

On top of it all, i’ve been having what i can only describe as a severe “crisis of faith” when it comes to my future in education, or at the very least in K-12 education.  All of the various hoops i’m having to jump through are just par for the course, but they make it really difficult for me to allow my passion for literature (one of the big selling points for teaching for me) to really shine through, and even discounting all of that, so many of the students are just not buying what i’m selling.  i’ve tried to make it relate to them, to bring the literature into current events and even things in their life, but the apathy level is remaining unchanged for a large plurality of those who i teach.  So that’s discouraging me to begin with, and i realize that i’m discouraged and am trying not to make any rash decisions from a place of frustration alone.

But there’s more to this story.

About a month or so ago, i was approached by a student who wanted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at our school and wanted to ask me to be the faculty sponsor.  He was already a member of my D&D Club and recognized the HRC sticker on my laptop, so he had a feeling that i would be willing, or at least friendly to the idea.  i agreed, and gave him a bit of guidance in creating a mission statement and focus for the group so that he could more effectively present it to the administration.  He apparently took this as carte blanche to create posters and try to get administration to approve their posting in the halls.

So about two weeks ago, i got called into my building principal’s office.  He had a copy of the poster the student had submitted and a number of questions.  He also had, and still has, no idea that i am pansexual and Gender Fluid.  He had, however, done some homework on GSAs after the student had submitted the posters, so his questions were educated and well-reasoned.  He agreed that the GSA would be something that could benefit the school, but only in a very low-key and careful way.  He was concerned about the very conservative, often outright homophobic attitudes and culture among many students in the school.  He also urged me to be careful myself as the advisor in how much direct involvement i had with the group itself, especially when it came to the possibility of parent backlash.

i wanted to respond with something like this: “The conservative and homophobic culture of this school is one of the biggest reasons we need to have a GSA.  We need to provide a safe space for our LGBT+ students, and they need a place where they can be themselves, or even come out.  Moreover, studies have shown that when people actually know individuals of an identity that they do not understand, phobic attitudes tend to diminish or even disappear.  A GSA might be exactly the sort of thing this school needs to help counter the ignorant culture that is so endemic to this area.”

What i actually said was this: “i understand, sir.”

More reason to retreat deeper into my personal closet.  i began to have this feeling come over me that i would never really be able to be entirely my true self if i stayed in K-12 education.  There will likely always be issues like homophobic parents to worry about and give me reason to stay in my closet and not risk exposure.

Then i went to Skepticon, and, like previous years, i had a great time.  i got to see some really interesting talks given by speakers who in many cases i had not previously encountered.  The nice thing about Skepticon is that they commit themselves to a pursuit of diversity in their guests and speakers.  So some of the real standouts for me this year included ex-Muslim Heina Dadabhoy talking about cultural taboos, author Sheree Renee Thomas talking about writing and suicide prevention (ironically enough, given where this is headed), and queer activist Kayley Whalen talking about Transgender Day of Remembrance and issues (and dangers) faced by Trans* people.  And i picked up a copy of Greta Christina’s latest book, Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How To Help Each Other, and Why. It was a good convention.

One of the other highlights of Skepticon this year was the “Dino Prom,” basically a dance.  All manner of attire was encouraged at the dance, from formal, to casual, to cosplay.  So i decided to go to it in a very Gender Fluid manner.  i wore a button-down dress shirt with my Ravenclaw tie, a waist cincher, a long black skirt, black heels (that i made it an hour in before changing into low wedges that i had also brought along), and some relatively subtle make-up.  The idea was to straddle the line between the two binary gender presentations.

It was a fun time, and it was the first time that i had really gone for an extended period of time in anything really approaching public while presenting as anything other than male or neutral-assumed-male.  There is a picture of this outfit.  Some of my readers have seen it.  For reasons of maintaining the (apparently crumbling) pseudonymous nature of this blog, i will obviously not be posting it.  The highlight of the evening was when Kayley Whalen complimented my outfit and told me i looked very feminine!  That was a really good feeling.

My high from Skepticon (and attending my support group meetings after the close of the convention) crashed pretty hard into the cold reality of Monday morning and returning to work at school.  Skepticon always has a tendency to stoke the fires of activism in my belly, and this year was no exception; it was actually the strongest it’s ever been.  The situation in which i have found myself ever since beginning my gender journey has only served to create an even sharper contrast between my activist leanings and the closeted, inactive life i find myself leading in order to play it safe professionally.  The truth of the matter is that if i could find a way to engage in activism that reflected my values and the truth of my existence, and would also pay me a living wage, i would probably jump at the opportunity without a second thought.  i’ve been thinking A LOT about trying to find some sort of work along the lines of Atheism+, combining the drive for more secular values in government and society with other intersectional issues like LGBT+ rights and acceptance, feminism, etc.  Unfortunately, i don’t know that an opportunity to work in this realm in a full time manner and still feed myself currently exists…

In any event, the force of the snapback dropped me firmly back into the depression i had briefly begun to rise out of, and then… Thanksgiving.  Holidays suck, because holidays mean being stuck with family and not being able to escape.  This Thanksgiving was no different.  Instead of the usual guests from my father’s side of the family, this year we had my mother’s side of the family over, and this invariably brings out the worst in my mother.  This time was no different, the fat-shaming and attacks on my introverted nature that have been historic issues with my mother came out of the woodwork in force.  By the end of the week, i was barely speaking to anyone at all, because i had been stuck in energy-draining socializing with no reasonable escape for several days and hadn’t been able to recharge effectively.

On top of that, one of my uncles is a rather ignorant individual.  He is, quite frankly, a racist, homophobic, classist conspiracy theorist who loves to make his opinions known.  When he’s not waxing rhapsodic on one of those subjects, he can be endearing and downright funny, but get him on one of his tirades and he is positively insufferable.  This is made all the worse for me by his homophobia, as i have not come out to him about anything.  For example, at one point he was talking about how much he enjoyed watching the television show The Big Bang Theory.  He mentioned what a talented actor Jim Parsons is, but then he had to go off on a tangent about Jim Parsons being gay and how that creeped him out.  That was a lovely conversation to sit silently through, let me tell you…

At any rate, i came through Thanksgiving week alive, if practically mute, and after the guests left i was verbally attacked directly by my mother on the issue of the amount of time i spent looking at my cell phone during the course of the holiday break while others were around.  It was the only really viable way i had to escape at least somewhat from the constant social time and get a tiny little energy boost from checking out of the situation in short bursts.  The only other option was to go for the tried and true introvert method of hiding in the bathroom, but the aforementioned uncle also has the unfortunate habit of teasing me if i spend too much time in the bathroom, so it wasn’t the best way to go.  Either way, the haranguing from my mother was just a great way to cap off such a lovely week.

Also, before they left, my other uncle told me that he thought i seemed like i was the happiest, or at least most content with life, that he had seen me in some time.  If he only knew…

As my sister parted company with us to go through airport security, it occurred to me that my mother will most likely never cry as hard when we part company than she does every time my sister leaves town… even when they’ve moved out of state.  On one hand, it probably shouldn’t bother me that much… she’s been a source of emotional and verbal abuse since i’ve been a child.  On the other hand, like it or not, she’s still my mother, and there’s not much i can do about that.

But then i had to go and reinforce some of my mother’s words.  On Sunday, i went to my support groups, and it was a good time.  In fact, i probably talked more at one of the groups that night than i’ve talked at previous meetings.  Afterward, however, as is our wont, we went out to dinner.  This time it was at a restaurant with an eating challenge.  The challenge was to eat a four-pound bacon cheeseburger and a pound of fries in under an hour.  i wanted to try it, because i’ve done other food-related challenges at other restaurants, and i may still have a touch of lingering youthful invincibility that pops its head up every once in a while.  So i decided to try it.

You all know how this is going to end, right?  Well, it’s worse than you might think…

The food came out, and it was pretty impressive.  The fries essentially filled a basket, and the burger took up an entire plate and was divided into nine sections slightly larger than a slider in diameter (but much taller).  At the outset, it looked like it would be a manageable task.  i only had to divide up the time by the number of mini-tasks contained by the challenge, in this case ten.  It started out great; i had the fries done ahead of schedule, and i got through the first four sectors of the burger with little trouble.  When i hit the fifth sector, at the geographic center of the burger where all the patties overlapped, my speed was severely reduced.  i never really recovered from that slowdown, but i pushed myself anyway through Sectors 6 and 7, getting to Sector 8 with a mere 15 minutes remaining.  In Sector 8, all of the wind went out of my sails.  i felt horrible, and i just couldn’t manage to get another bite down.  i tried to force myself once more before finally admitting defeat about three quarters of the way through the section.

After conceding, i proceeded to the restroom, but i didn’t just use the restroom for its standard function.  i threw up.  i fucking threw up.  i ate so much food that i couldn’t hold it all down.  As much as i joke about gluttony being my second favorite of the Seven Deadly Sins, i’ve never actually eaten so much that my stomach has forcibly ejected it because it was too much to contain.  i became a living stereotype and practically reaffirmed every incident of fat shaming i’ve been subjected to in my entire life.  After having such a nice day on Sunday, it basically soured the whole works and brought back all the depression and anxiety i had been feeling previously.  And i kind of hated myself for it.

But the self-loathing i felt over that doesn’t hold a candle to what i’ve been feeling about a different situation i’ve gotten myself into.  As i mentioned earlier, i’ve been in something of a writing drought this past month or so.  Well it hasn’t just extended to personal writings.  i’ve also been unable to produce for my practicum class that i’ve been taking this semester.  There was one particularly massive paper in particular that has been looming over my shoulder for the past few weeks, and i haven’t been able to get it churned out.  Every time i’ve sat down to write, my mind has just not been able to engage with the subject matter.  After having written so much in this blog entry, i think a lot of the problem may have just been that i needed to get all of this shit out first before i could write good academic stuff.  i hope that’s the case, at any rate.  i’d rather it not be a side effect of the new medications i’m on for the epilepsy.

In any event, this all came to head for me on Monday, because said humongous paper was due, and despite the fact that i got a snow day due to short-lived sleet showers at bus time that morning, i still couldn’t manage to force myself to pump this thing out… and i’m usually a really good last-minute clutch writer in situations like that.  But i couldn’t get it down, and the self-loathing i felt because i couldn’t manage to do the thing that i needed to do only made the mental block even worse.  i finally wound up e-mailing the professor, letting her know the situation–the complete situation, including the seizure, accident, new meds, and depression–and asking if there was any way i could get an extension.  It sounded like nothing more than lame excuses to me as i wrote it, but it was all the account of myself that i could give.  i then spent the rest of the day despising myself and doing my best to relax and take care of myself despite that.

Yesterday morning i got an e-mail from the professor telling me that she was going to put me down as an Incomplete for the semester and work with me over Winter Break to try to get everything completed before the next class in the sequence is scheduled to start in January.  i guess that’s as good a resolution as i could have hoped for…

Amid all of this overwhelming negativity, i’ve also come to a realization that is, quite frankly, incredibly amazing, and i’m still trying to wrap my head around it a bit.  For a long time i’ve been thinking about the idea of the “family of choice”: the people in your life who you choose to be the closest people to you, who will support you no matter what, often moreso than your family of birth.  It’s been a term that i’ve used primarily to describe the old core group of friends who i lived and spent time with in Columbia while i was up there, but the fact is that my family of choice is larger than that.  The fact that i’ve been working on wrapping my head around over the past few weeks is that i have this amazing extended family of choice that spans a number of states.

It is odd, coming from a place of depression, to realize that there are actually a lot of people who are happy, excited even, to see me when they can… who will go out of their way and put themselves out in order to accommodate me or ensure that i can be present for a planned activity… who stop what they are doing and contact me to make sure that i am alright when i express even a small portion of what is roiling and churning inside me… who really do love me in a familial sense of the word, and will continue to do so and stand with me no matter what i might do or how horribly i might fuck up.  It’s refreshing, especially when compared with the feeling i generally get from my family of birth.  It has me positively floored, really, mostly because i can’t figure out why.

And that’s really the hell of my mental state lately.  i expressed some of these feelings to one of my closest friends in the entire universe.  She asked me to tell her what reasons i thought my family of choice might have for loving me and standing with me.  i had trouble coming up with even one answer to that question.  i am still struggling with it.  The one reason i was able to come up with is that i am always willing to listen, even if it means i have to stop my world to do so.  Aside from that, though… i don’t know.  And this has really pushed me a little further into depression as i think about it.  Because i have come to this world-changing, words-can’t-describe-how-awesome-it-really-is discovery, and not even that has shaken me out of this existential crisis.  How much of an ungrateful asshole must i be?

So this is the life cocktail i’ve been sipping from for the past few weeks.  And it comes with a garnish: suicidal ideation… or at least increased suicidal ideation.  For as long as i can remember, i’ve had at least a touch of ideation operating in the background and popping into my head every once in a while.  i haven’t had it this serious in a long while, though.  Especially recently, i’ve just felt trapped in situations, mostly of my own making, and unprepared to face implications or fallout (especially as my mother is concerned) of the situations in which i have found myself.  i am generally naturally inclined to choose flight over fight, and my response has been to consider flight from life even more.  Sometimes, somewhat seriously.  There have been several occasions when i’ve looked at the roof of the Hilton in Downtown Branson, and it has seemed kind of inviting.  i’ve wondered how difficult the roof access would be to find.  Riding in my parents’ car, i’ve thought about pulling the handle and bailing out into traffic.  i’ve even toyed with the idea of writing a note, so that there would definitely be something left behind just in case i did something impulsive like that.

i write all of this now not to attempt to curry sympathy or shock, but to truly express the things that i have been feeling and bottling up inside myself for a long time.  For those whose response might be that choosing to end my life is selfish or cowardly, i have to ask what saying something like that to me is supposed to accomplish if i already feel bad enough about myself to no longer really want to live inside my own head anymore.  Just a little food for thought, i guess, regardless of what your personal thoughts are on the idea. Truthfully, though, it has been the awesome realizations about my extended family of choice that have kept me from making any serious plans.

In any event, i’ve been doing slightly better since hearing back from the professor, but the thoughts and anxiety are still there, just below the surface, almost as if they’re waiting for a new excuse to come out.  i’m not really sure what the answer is.  i definitely need to get back to counseling, but beyond that, i’m totally bewildered as to where my life is going, or even precisely who i am sometimes.

Posted in Atheism, Gender, LGBT, Life, Relationships, Sexuality, Skepticism, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quickies: My Shortlist (What’s in a Name, Part II)

i’ve been thinking about the issue of gender-neutral names for the past few days (and poring over several different lists found online and provided by friends…), and that thinking has led me to create a shortlist of names i am considering using.  In the creation of this list, i employed a multifaceted selection criteria: the name had to originate from a language or culture in my own ancestry (so as to avoid appropriation as best as i could), the name’s meaning had to have some kind of appeal to my personality, the name had to have more than incidental gender-neutral usage, and it had to be a name that wasn’t too closely connected to someone else who plays a regular part in my life.  So, without further ado, here is my shortlist.  Input is welcome, of course…

  • Aubrey/Avery – Anglo-Saxon – “Elf ruler” – This name, of course, appeals to my enjoyment of fantasy fiction and role playing games.  i am very fond of elves.  i’m more drawn to Avery than Aubrey here, because Avery tends to be more gender-neutral in its modern usage, and it has a better mouthfeel when matched up with my last name than Aubrey does.
  • Dylan – Welsh – “son of the sea” – This name appeals to my affinity for water, in both physical and mental terms.  Water-related names also appeal to the fluidity of my gender.  The drawbacks of this particular name are the fact that its meaning is rather gendered, despite its generally gender-neutral modern usage, and when matched with my last name, it causes alliteration, which makes me come off like a Stan Lee protagonist…
  • Glaw – Welsh – “rain” – Water again…  And i love a good rain storm.  i’m not totally sold on this name, though.  It isn’t all that common in modern usage, and it would feel a little “put on” to use.  i’m not totally sold on its mouthfeel, either.  It doesn’t sound quite right as a name for me…
  • Indigo – English – “purplish-blue” – i like blue, i like purple, and i kind of like the mouthfeel of this one.
  • Morgan – Celtic – “dweller of the sea” – Water yet again.  i also rather like the mouthfeel of this name when paired with my last name.
  • Morwenna - Welsh – “ocean wave” – This is probably my favorite of all the meanings in the names i have selected, but the flow and mouthfeel of the word feel a little artificial to my ear, as with “Glaw,” it feels a bit “put on.”
  • Ocean – English – means exactly what it says – It’s another water-based name, but it’s a bit too literal for my taste, i think.
  • Phoenix – English (via Latin through Old French) – mythological bird that rises from its own ashes – This one feels appropriate given the changes i’m going through, but again, it feels a little too literal.
  • Rain – English – means exactly what it says – Water again, yes.  And this one has plenty of modern usage, so that its literal meaning doesn’t sound quite as hackneyed to my ear as “Ocean” does.
  • Sasha – German – “man’s defender” – It’s kind of a cool meaning, but it’s probably the one that fits me least.  Mouthfeel is okay when matched with my name.

i think my  front-runners right now are probably Avery, Morgan, and Rain (possibly spelled differently)…

Posted in Gender, Language, LGBT | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment