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On being called out...

I'm not writing this to start a debate about the larger question of call outs, just to state unequivocally where I stand on receiving them.

I don't like being an ass, either carelessly or cluelessly. If you call me out on bad behavior, I may be hurt and embarrassed in the short term, but I will also be grateful. If we are friends, it will likely lead to me trusting the friendship more, not less. Just want y'all to know that, so you don't have to wonder/worry about consequences if I say something that bothers you and you feel a need to respond to it.

Brought to mind not by an actual call-out, but by some slips I made last night that would have been worthy of one. There's a language disconnect for me between common language around sexual and reproductive health and issues of trans inclusion. Several times I fell into old bad habits in that regard ("women's health", for example). Because these are both important issues for me, I expect better of myself.
Another cross-post from Fetlife, this one gets more graphic than some folks may prefer to read. Adding a cut-tag, since I'm not using filters on LJ anymore (because I'm using it to cross-post to FB -- *sigh* the trials of multiple social media platforms) I've added some contextual notes throughout to clarify, and anonymized any FL usernames that were in the original. I've also expanded a bit to describe the actual class, for folks who weren't there.
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So, I talked a lot about archetypes the other day, in a relatively general way. I'm thinking now about real and fictional characters that were role models for me in various ways. There are plenty of characters I dearly love, but don't personally identify with. Here, I'm trying to keep it to characters where I felt a strong sense of "I want to grow up to be like them!" (this feeling hasn't changed much as I've gotten older, my definition of "grown up" just keeps shifting)

Female characters that in some way defy gender expectations have always had a heavy presence on this list, especially those where physical power is an element of their persona. Iconoclasts and outsiders in general are a big touchstone for me.

This is off the top of my head; I'm sure I've missed a million that'll seem blatantly obvious in retrospect.

(the first three are especially central, and the characters I'll bring up over and over in these kinds of conversations):
[Maude - Harold and Maude][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_and_Maude]
[Aughra - The Dark Crystal][http://darkcrystal.wikia.com/wiki/Aughra]
[Pippi Longstocking][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippi_Longstocking]

[Ronia][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronia_the_Robber%27s_Daughter] Same awesome (read her bio) author as Pippi Longstocking, and I only wish I'd discovered this book when I was a kid. SO highly recommended!
[Nausicaa][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausica%C3%A4_of_the_Valley_of_the_Wind_%28film%29] I only had access to the bastardized american version when I was a kid, but I didn't know any better. My joy at finding the full version as an adult? Oh happy day!
[Tatterhood][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatterhood] One of my favorite fairy tales, and one of few I can tell entirely from memory. This and "Three Strong Women" are from a collection of feminist fairy tales my grandmother gave me when I was little, and which I still treasure.
[Xena][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xena] I use old Xena eps to talk to Kidlet about violence and ethics, actually, and to talk about different kinds of bravery (Xena and Gabrielle being two very different models of that)
[Zhaan][http://farscape.wikia.com/wiki/Zotoh_Zhaan] - Loved Farscape in so many ways, but Zhaan is the character who really spoke to me, especially her light-hearted and matter-of-fact approach to sexuality.
[Three Strong Women][https://soundcloud.com/sarah-young-24/3-strong-women] Another favorite fairy tale. If you have 20 minutes to spare, the link is me reading it.
[Beast (X-men)][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beast_%28comics%29] - If I could be any X-men character. Oh yes.
[Encyclopedia Brown][http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia_Brown] Actually, about equally with Encyclopedia and his tomboy best friend Sally. I've been introducing Kidlet to this series, and remembering just how much I loved it.
[Valka][http://howtotrainyourdragon.wikia.com/wiki/Valka] Oh, if I'd had this movie when I was 9! She is everything I wanted to be.

Every girl who dressed as a boy and ran off ever
Lots of characters that ran away to live in the wood self-sufficiently
Many adventurous hero princesses (especially if those that made friends with dragons)
Awkward geeky outcasts and misunderstood monsters of all kinds

Perhaps oddly, despite my username there are few muppets or moomins I strongly identify with (except Aughra). Many I love, few where I feel a direct reflection of me all in one character. In those worlds, I find bits of myself scattered amongst many of the characters instead, and it's actually the _world_ I identify with, not the characters, and that's fine, but not so useful for this post.

Something that seems worth noting; although I don't identify strongly with either tricksters and priests (by which I mean the broadest sense of religious vocation regardless of tradition), I have a deep affinity for both, and they're over-represented in my social group almost as heavily as the artistic/creative-types who balance my rational/linear thinking. Many of my favorite characters at least arguably fall into these categories.

Who do you identify with/aspire to? Who do you want to be when you grow up?
I like the opportunity for exchange of sexual energy with seemingly incompatible people sometimes even more than compatible. There's the intriguing possibility of being surprised, but as a rule things generally stays less serious (flirting or mutual appreciation, or maybe casual play), when less serious is what I need. When I'm out of emotional spoons it's fun without being overwhelming in its potentialness. And it's pleasantly thinky for times when I'm more in the mood for mental masturbation than physical. (I crave new thoughts about dynamics and interactions and sexuality like I crave touch and orgasms) I like stretching to understand (if not always participate in) new kinks, and I love when people give me insight into their experience in some way. So I don't want a community full of people whose kinks and fetishes and personalities all mesh with mine. I'd get laid more often, but I'd get so much less out of the experience as a whole. Thankfully, there's no risk of that happening anytime soon. ;)
Certain things make me twitchy. One of the fastest ways to get my hackles up (although I try to be polite about it) is when someone goes white knighting on me. White knighting is one of those bad old internalized misogyny tendencies of mine, one I do my damndest to control. Part of why I get twitchy is the reminder of that, but the other part is that I rather instinctively take it as a power challenge. My automatic internal reaction is basically "Back the fuck off. Don't you know _I_ do the rescuing around here?!" It forces me into the role in that dynamic with which I emphatically do not identify (Which is also how I really learned just what an ass I was being when I did it to others).

(Honestly not related to any recent interactions, fyi)

(catching up on cross-posting from FL; there will be a spate here for a bit)

Prophylactic honesty

I commented in another post recently that I often feel less vulnerable nude than clothed. And I feel more comfortable being open than closed, psychologically. (in both cases, barring situations where I feel I have rudely overstepped local norms; I hate that feeling)

This is nothing like clear-cut bravery. This is self-defense. Prophylactic honesty.

It is very easy to hurt me with rejection if I care the least little bit how you feel about me. Hell, it's not hard for complete strangers to do it, but it draws less blood. I'm a deeply social creature; to pretend otherwise is a farce (although I engage in farcical behavior at times anyway).

I don't handle dread well, to say the least. My brain eats itself when I'm trying to guess what horrible outcome might be barreling down the track. I get neurotic if I suspect miscommunication. Anxiety paralyzes me when confrontation looms.

When I worry that I am being accepted (and, ooh, that feels good), but could be rejected down the line when X or Y comes out, I live in those worries, let them make me more hesitant and withdrawn and everything I don't want to be. Let them leave me worrying that when the time comes, I won't have the guts to say what I need to, that I'll end up in some closet or another, or that I'll be rejected and it'll be so much worse for the build-up of previous trust.

So I try not to let there be anything to make me feel that way. Not sure whether you will like my body? Here it is naked, now I can stop worrying what you'll think when I take off my clothes. Not sure whether you're interested in me, and I'm feeling crushy? I'll probably tell you so directly, so I don't turn into a babbling idiot around you while I try to second-guess every word and action. Worried a dark secret or bad habit will turn your opinion against me? Then I'll probably lay it on the table first chance I get. I explain, and clarify, and re-explain to a ridiculous level at times.

On top of the defense against my own worst mental glitches, it's also an issue of positive reclamation. (Like many of us) I was a geek with no social skills growing up. I learned the power of claiming my identity, and reclaiming the words used to torture me, long before I got to college courses on the politics of being Out. You want to use "weird" or "geek" to insult me? Fuck you, I'll wear them with pride. Fat? Crazy? Queer? Mine, mine, mine.

I live loudly so people can find me, but also so they can avoid me if they choose. So that whatever decisions they've made along those lines are fait accompli long before I care enough for them to be able to deeply hurt me.

And that's the end of my workday, so the end of this post, for better or for worse. (I work on a helpdesk, lots of time for typing while users are rebooting and such)

Thoughts on archetypes

The recent split was prompted entirely by my need to be who I am, not by lack of love on either side. I'm grateful for the gentleness of it, but reeling from the loss. So now seems to be a good time to focus on being my full self again, figuring out who that is at this point in my life, with everything new I've learned about myself, good and bad. To restate what it is I want and need to be.

A while back I had a half-finished post about that, couldn't get it out because of the dissonance in my head. I think I'll try again, see how much hard choices have brought me back to myself.

A silly online questionnaire on archetypes recently informed me I was:
46% intellectual
29% caregiver
25% advocate
The percentages are meaningless, but in their particular breakdown (http://www.archetypes.com/category/archetypes/), these were certainly far and away the best matches for me, I won't argue that. (I will argue the validity of asking my gender for the first question grrrr)

Before I jump into the navel-gazing portion of tonight's program, a quick PSA. I do not think I am any more special a snowflake than anyone else. When I say "I am like this", it's not because I necessarily think I am uniquely or shockingly so, or that I am engaging in life-shattering revelations. Just testing how the ideas fit together in my head, because I think our aspirations and beliefs about ourselves create us to a great extent, and I try to create myself as intentionally and with as much self-awareness as I can. Ideally, I want to be able to recognize what is _true_ about me, and from that, make choices about the directions I go with the particular resources I have. I believe being honest about my strengths makes it easier for me to be humble about my many weaknesses, and also helps me be more clearly affirming of the complementary strengths others bring to the table without getting defensive or self-loathing. And overall, I want to be continually better at finding a life that capitalizes on the former and minimizes the latter.

As an example of this, I think I'll talk some about body image. It's comfortable territory for me, something I think and write about a lot, and have my entire adult life. I'm passionate about body acceptance, and loving my body is something I see as one of my great triumphs in the face of a fucked up culture. It's also something I see as a form of activism, in a very "the personal is political" kind of way. It matters to me not to feed into body hatred, and you'll find I will never partake in the "what part of your body do you hate?" casual water cooler conversation. I will not feed that beast. I will do my damndest to set an example, because there are still too few models for what it even looks like to not casually hate your body, especially if you're fat and female.

I said earlier about being clear about what is true, and making choices from that. My body is fat. It is pale, and has freckles, and has bobbles here and quirks there, and it is strong, and yet it breaks down entirely too frequently for my liking. These are all true. Facts. Even setting aside all the self-loathing paths I could choose, I'm still left with many ways I could conceptualize my body and shape my life. I could be cute, curvy, bouncy femme with it, appear soft and luscious. I could go old-school butch dyke with it, and use that mass to create a sense of masculine unapologetic taking-up-of-space. I could celebrate softness, or strength, or sheer size. So when I talk about the archetypes that resonate for me, certainly my physical body makes some paths an easier fit than others, but it is no such easy equation as "I identify with earth mothers because I'm a fat lady and that's all there is". Fuck that noise.

This is the post I'd started a few weeks ago:

I don't believe in Gods but I do believe in stories

I make the "gods" point to clarify that while issues of archetype and totems are spiritual for many people, that is not true for me, but it also doesn't make those ideas invalid to me. I'm an atheist and skeptic to the core, but I don't find that incompatible with recognizing that humans are storytellers, that we imagine ourselves into existence in many ways, that we create our own self-fulfilling prophecies.

I believe in the magic of neurochemistry and human imagination.
I believe the stories we tell ourselves and each other shape us, in real and meaningful ways. That knowing the stories a person resonates to, and the archetypes to which they aspire tells me something deeply important. Not "right" or "factual", but true. And equally, that it matters that I understand my own resonances in that regard.

And it can be hard to talk about these things, to not feel presumptuous or foolish for daring to compare ourselves to the larger-than-life and romantic. Especially if we fear others will look at us and see not a shred of it, or will believe that we confuse aspiration with actuality and are getting lost in our own deluded egos.

So I'm going to talk about what resonates for me, and hope you will be gentle and generous in your interpretation of my words.

First and foremost, I should clarify that I'm genderqueer; I identify with both masculine and feminine imagery of various sorts, and where my head is at in that regard shifts from day-to-day and moment-to-moment.

I'm also a reader, and that's probably equally important. For some reason I don't seem to have the skills at creating fiction, and have not been interested enough to put in the amount of work to find out whether I could, but characters live in my head, always have. I'm mostly an SF/F geek, so there's a lot of archetypal material out there for me to connect with. The characters I identify with or aspire to have most definitely shaped me. So have my political/philosophical traditions, especially feminist and activist history and heroes.

That archetype quiz for way back at the beginning of this post? Intellectual/Caregiver/Advocate -- yeah, this is where that's relevant. What traits matter most of to me to bring into the world, which do I most aspire to? Courage, wisdom, passion, strength, knowledge, reason, love, ethics, calm, protection, refuge. That's what I want to be in the world. I think of myself as a defensive warrior: a shield, not a sword. I aspire to cronehood, and seek to be balanced and wise in how I share knowledge. I also want to be a refuge for my loved ones and community, a place of calm and acceptance and love. I identify with the bear's physicality and strength but generally playful and placid nature. The more my life is in line with these goals, the more I live them minute-by-minute, the more whole and fulfilled and affirmed I feel. When I lose track of my aspirations, or disconnect from the ways in which I fulfill them (retreat socially, cease being involved in activism, etc), it crumples me up inside, breaks me in deep and scary ways. Getting back to how I need to be becomes a matter of psychological survival. I'm feeling more on-track in that regard than I have in a number of years now (since mid-2012).

There's a bunch of stuff still rattling in my brain that didn't make it in. I may add more in comments as I sort it out.



[cross-post from Fetlife]

It's sometimes funny, and sometimes uncomfortable, that so many of y'all are meeting me at this point in my life, when I'm more superficially heteronormative than at almost any other time. Because of the ways I cannot compromise, because of the level of freedom I need to be happy, I did not expect to end up with a primary partner. Sure, it might happen, but I wasn't waiting for it or worrying about it. For most of my adult life I've done best as a non-primary partner to relatively large numbers of people (it's typical for me to have a half-dozen or so pretty long-term involvements of all different shapes and intensities). I liked the freedom, liked how my more outrageous side brought down thunder only on me, without worrying about collateral damage to others by association. I created my household to fill my need for family, and those who've known me since college know that I always wanted communal households, not a partnership. I live in networks, not dyads. I don't want everything from one person, it makes me feel uncomfortably dependent, and that's not ok for me.

Chad was a late-in-the-game surprise, to say the least. As dearly as I love him and Kidlet, they shifted my life on its axis, and its taken a while to restabilize. I still chafe a bit at how it changes how the world tends to read me. But he continues to amaze me more every day with his ability to accept and love and _welcome_ all the parts of me that make me a good fantasy and bad reality for so many people. Ooh, I'm a bi-poly-kinky-nudist-sexgeek-babe isn't that hot? Um, yeah, until you realize you're going to have to enter my life as a potential primary when I have decade-long girlfriends whose place is sacrosanct in my life, and most certainly not on the chopping block for a new partner's comfort. Until you realize your parents may read about me at this protest or that, or see me out with other partners, and that even if none of that happens, that although I may not volunteer information that's awkward for you, I won't lie if asked, that I will chafe even at the "not volunteering" part, because I'm chatty and this is my life. Until you realize that my fascination with sex, and discussing sexuality, is never going to let you pretend for one minute that you're my only lover, so you better be deep-down ok with that. Until you realize the fun porn and smutty writings are public and searchable and tied to my identity. Until you realize I will fall passionately in love with other people and want you to be my best friend and hear all about it. Until you realize that I am philosophically incapable of not being a scandalous woman from a long line of scandalous women, and I like it that way. Until you realize that my politics _deeply_ inform my beliefs on child-rearing; there is nothing "just in the bedroom" about dating an activist. I am the _wrong_ primary partner for most people. That's truly fine, and it was never a do-or-die relationship configuration for me anyway.

Chad fully accepts that he's a grown-up who has chosen to be involved with me, with everything that entails, and he has not flinched from that, even when it's sometimes difficult for his more introverted nature. And he is never begrudging or guilt-inducing about giving me that space, either. Guilt and shame destroy me, and I am extraordinarily sensitive to them. I can't be with a primary partner who _copes_ with me expressing myself, I have to be with those who _want_ me to. That's a lot to ask, it's part of what makes me such a difficult primary -- life and emotional entwinement on that level asks much more of a partner. It's part of why Chad has been such an amazing surprise. Even when we have our struggles, he _wants_ that for me, _wants_ to work on things in order to support my freedom more wholely. And I want it for him, too. Our philosophies and need for freedom are so similar, dovetail so wonderfully. I'm the loud one and he's the quiet one, and there's a lot of our partnership others never really see; how his stubbornness balances my force of personality, how he supports and accepts me through the hardest times, takes care of me whenever I need it, navigates the complexities of our lives with me. How queered any relationship with me in it necessarily is, how different our poly rules are than many people's (pretty far on the "no rules" end of the poly continuum, not a good fit for even many other polyfolk).

Part of what I love about being poly, and part of what prompted this part of the post, is that my relationships nurture each other. That's what I want and need. The happier I am in one relationship, the more I feel the joy and good fortune of my entire life and appreciate my other partners more deeply. Tends to make for amazing cycles of sexual energy, too. And giving each other love and acceptance through our individual relationship woes is part of how we maintain and build closeness. Right now I'm so, so sad, but also so fortunate. It's a lot of contradictory intensity to hold in my head simultaneously, so I needed to to write it down.

I should note that I was able to write this, and express this important element of who I am, because Chad and I have talked deeply and continuously about my need to be out, about what that means when my posts on FB (where I'll probably cross-post this) talk about kink identity (or any of my other outside-the-mainstream identities and views) and his family can read them, for example. He has given me extraordinary freedom to express myself how I feel moved to, and to handle the consequences if they arise. Four years in, and so far his family has been wonderfully accepting of me, although I think I baffled them a good bit in the beginning. (Mine's already well-broken-in after 40 years with me)

(I do tend to think that cheerful proactive casual honesty is a very practical coping tactic. Being neither ashamed nor argumentative seems to walk a pretty effective line in terms of the reactions it elicits.)


Middle-aged political nostalgia

My current "commute and break" audiobook is Speaking Sex to Power: The Politics of Queer Sex, by Patrick Califia. It's a collection of his late-nineties/early-2000s essays, just as he was really starting to transition, with some wonderful additionally contextualizing notes and introductions. His writings about both kink and parenthood are connecting more for me these days.

It's making me feel a bit old, I have to admit, seeing the work of the 90s become the historical foundation for the current generation, seeing the "big new ideas" that shaped me in the context of developments since that time. Susie Bright, Pat Califia, Carol Queen, Tristan Taormino (hey, wait, wasn't she the new kid on the block just yesterday?), Betty Dodson... I was reading another FLer's post about Betty Dodson and Sex for One just the other day. It warms my heart that people are still discovering her.

These are some of the people whose ideas and perspectives helped shape me, my role models and idols. They're all human, and flawed, and sometimes just as confused as I am, but that's part of what I love, why they give me confidence. They gave me visions of the life I wanted, blazed paths for me to follow. When I live loudly so other people can see what that looks like, it's my attempt to pass on the gift they gave me by opening themselves in essays and smut, speech and vid, so I could feel less alone. It's gratitude for all the transgressive cultural outlaws who have helped shift the boundaries, expand the space for all of us, those who've taken the punishment in order to find their freedom, and mine. It's recognition that the risks I take pale in comparison to those of many others, both historical and modern. (and now I'm trying really hard to keep this from going off on a general activism and social justice tangent; I'll never end up hitting "post" if I try to tackle all of that)

Sometimes the generational shift is the kind of shock to my system that epigenetics was to my science geek side (holy shit, did that blow my mind). Mostly the evolutions are pretty clear in retrospect, though. Listening to Patrick talk this morning about class and queerness, and about the complexities of community for a behaviorally bisexual leather dyke gone trans man, I just kept thinking how grateful I am that intersectionality has come to fore. At times I feel out of the loop in modern conversations, wonder where I fit anymore, think that maybe I'm stuck in my 90s feminist theory and haven't kept up with the debates well enough, but I'm also so, so proud of the new generation, joyful at the explosion of excellent sex educators and speakers and writers, the ease with which I can find awesome queer/trans-inclusive feminist porn, the plethora of amazing resources. 20 years ago I had to hunt down these writers' books, dog-ear my copies of On Our Backs and Anything That Moves, hear rumors of fascinating happenings far across the country, treasure the few friends who didn't stare blankly at most of what I wanted to talk about. For all the struggles and dust-ups of online community, I wouldn't go back for a minute.

And I'm taking "break time" to mean "time to post" time, or I never will. Always more to say.

Related second post:

Who was transformative for you, sexually?

Related to my most recent post, who was transformative in your life, sexually?

I've been talking about writers, primarily, but I mean this broadly; there are lovers and relationships I identify as watersheds in the development of my sexuality, moments of connection with community, essays that reflected parts of my soul back at me and made me think and discover new things about myself; all of that counts. I may add some of these in the comments as they come to mind, but there's one I always think of:

I still remember exactly where I was sitting (outside the Drexel in Columbus, at a little cafe table on a bright summer day) when I started Carol Queen's Real Live Nude Girls, when I read the line in her "Letter to My Mother" essay:

"I could never explain to her how important sex was to me, what a journey I was making of it."

It didn't just resonate, it rang through me like a bell. It still does.


Kinko and Community

I was commenting to my partner and others that this weekend and being involved in the setup and support has really caused a huge jump in my overall sense of comfort and connection with the community. There's nothing like working with people during stressful times to create that, and it's something I enjoy immensely regardless of which of my communities it's happening in. I was also thinking about why this is a community that feels like "home" to me...

Although I certainly wasn't everywhere, and no community is perfect, I did not once this weekend hear sexist comments in my vicinity. I didn't hear body-shaming, or pressure for gender conformity, or kink-shaming. Negotiation and awareness of active consent were all around me, not just for scenes, but in general interactions, and I LOVE that. In general, I think the awareness of the variety of sexualities helps us remember how different we all are in so many ways, and provides frameworks for appreciating that rather than trying to minimize it. The awareness of need for aftercare for things like event drop, not just direct play-related drop, is something more communities need, too.

I also felt clearly recognized and deeply affirmed many times over, and appreciated the opportunity to comfortably flirt, explore, and enjoy others' sexual energy while I continue to get to know people. I got to show off a bit, and be seen at my best, most in my element, and that's always fun. I had more excellent conversations that I can count, and that's priceless to me. Despite the physical and psychological stress of the work, this has been such a profound spiritual holiday for me, for all those reasons.

Edit to add: Can't believe I forgot to mention all the new things I learned, and potential new kinks I got titillated with! I got to watch some excellent educators in action, see various forms of play I haven't before. That was all wonderfully stimulating in a multitude of ways, and has left my brain so full of chewy thinky-thoughts to play with.



Animals/Nature:Bear in water
The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

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