belenen: (Default)

June 2017


Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.

belenen: (bluestocking)
Findings Friday: gender doesn't predict online bullying among kids but cognitive empathy skills do
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

Ang and Goh (2010) administered a survey to 396 children aged 12-18, measuring their affective and cognitive empathy levels as well as their self-reporting on what cyberbullying they had participated in and how frequently they had participated in such behavior, and breaking it down by assigned gender. (note: Affective empathy is emotional: the ability to feel what others feel. Cognitive empathy is mental: the ability to understand the emotions of others.)

They found that when children don't have much affective or cognitive empathy, they're more likely to bully (obviously) and that this is the same regardless of gender. High scores of affective empathy made girls less likely to cyberbully even if their cognitive scores were low, but this was not true for boys. This could be due in part to the fact that overall, girls scored higher on both forms of empathy, so maybe 'high' affective scores for boys were not high enough to prevent bullying: the 'high' affective empathy for boys was significantly lower than the 'high' affective empathy for girls. Or it could be partly due to the fact that girls are trained to make moral decisions based on emotion (avoidance of guilt), whereas boys are trained to make moral decisions based on thought (avoidance of judgement); thus, affective empathy has a stronger effect on girls than it does on boys, because it is actively brought in to the decision-making process.

Regardless, the fact that cognitive empathy is the only form of empathy to reliably prevent cyberbullying across gender means that cognitive empathy is important to teach to children, particularly in online environments.

Ang, R. P., and D. H. Goh. 2010. "< a href="" alt="">Cyberbullying Among Adolescents: The Role of Affective and Cognitive Empathy, and Gender." Child Psychiatry & Human Development 41, no 4: 387–397. doi: 10.1007/s10578-010-0176-3

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belenen: (self-love)
to connect, I must be vulnerable: to be vulnerable, I must allow my imperfections to be witnessed
icon: "self-love (me sitting against the trunk of a Magnolia, leaning my head back, head turned to the side with my violet hair falling across my face, arms wrapped around my belly in a soft hug.)"

I'm crying right now because I just read a TED talk that felt like a portrait of my soul. (thank you thank you [ profile] deatacita for sharing it) Particularly this:

"...these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary." (emphasis mine)

If there is ever an aspect of me that you want to emulate, I hope it is my willingness to be imperfect and witnessed in that imperfection, even in my worst aspects. If I ever seem to be hiding my imperfections, I beg you call me on it. I must not lose my willingness to be witnessed as a complete mess, or I will lose my soul.

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belenen: (incitement)
I wanna build local community starting w monthly gathers around needs, food, play, intimacy, & touch
icon: "incitement (painting of a bald purple-skinned naked person standing among thick vines and ferns: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

I want a monthly gather, minimum. In it I want to address structural things like donations to pay for the space (if we can't find a free one). I also want to address people's needs in general and offer time for food, time for play, time for intimacy, and time for touch. I want it to last at least 3 hours, and I want people to commit to coming to at least the structural and needs-share parts. I want a safe space where we have a set of agreements for safe behavior and we pay attention and call people on it if they are not respecting consent, or if they are making oppressive/demeaning 'jokes,' etc. I want it to not be taboo to call people out OR to make mistakes. I want mistakes handled with as much kindness and gentleness as possible, and deliberate shitwadness to result in people being immediately escorted out (with the understanding that they are allowed to return next time if they refrain from being a deliberate shitwad).

I want a rotating group of at least four people who take turns doing the structural work, but I want everyone to feel like they have a commitment to keeping the group going and to making it better with their help and their suggestions. I want people to volunteer to as MOOP fairies (people who gather up 'matter out of place,' clean and tidy) at the end of the gather, and to volunteer to be consent coaches for cuddle time, or trick teachers for play time, or facilitators for intimacy time, or labelers for food time. I want people to be willing to really invest their time, effort, and material resources to creating community. I want people to hold each other accountable with things like reminding each other to attend and to bring/do whatever they promised.

To address needs in general: I want people to write down what they need help with on numbered papers (one paper per need, not per person) and put it in a bucket. I want one person to read those needs aloud and then people to raise their hand if they can offer a gift to fill that need. On a whiteboard, we can put the number of the need with a list of the people who can fill it. The person who had the need with that number can then spot those who raised their hand, or read from the list, and later go up to whoever they feel safe receiving from, and discuss it with them. The goal is to put no one on the spot. These can be needs like a ride to the doctor, or a can opener, or a person to talk with about assault.

For food, I want it to be a potluck where each person who is able to brings enough for 1-3 people -- nourishing food, not just munchies. If everyone just brings their own dinner, that's fine. If people bring more than their own dinner, I want them to provide ingredients lists so people with food allergies can participate. For play, I want there to be space and time for people to play with flow toys, or do art, or play music together. For intimacy, I want there to be space and time for people to engage in meaningful conversations, to do exercises like eye gazing and mirroring. For touch I want there to be time and space for people to give and/or receive touch, whether passive or active.

I want this gather to be in a wheelchair-accessible, non-allergenic, temperature-controlled space with non-fluorescent lighting. I want people to be scent-free. Ideally I want there to be at least one sign interpreter, and I want people to take turns talking and leave the room if they want to have a side conversation. I want notes to be available in text format (not images).

(this is a sketch and I may edit it as I think of more things)

(crossposted to Medium)

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belenen: (challenging)
local burners, let's build sustainable year-round community. 3-10 days per year doesn't work.
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

At least three friends who I think of as burners (people who attend Alchemy or Euphoria or other Burning Man events) have expressed a similar dissatisfaction with the way that burns are less and less community and more and more conspicuous consumption. We want burners to put resources toward building sustainable year-round community rather than dumping so much money and effort into a few days a year. It's highly reminiscent of Christmas-and-Easter Christians who make a big damn deal twice a year but don't bring the principles they supposedly care about into their daily lives.

Even the poor burners I know usually end up spending at least $150 on tickets and food and water and supplies, and it is easily two or three times that for the more well-off burners. (that's just regional burns: don't get me started on Burning Man) Each year most burners seem to upgrade something they bring, with the result that long-time burners have invested hundreds of dollars over time and there is a significant difference in 'burner class' even among people who have similar income levels. This effect heightens the seniority effect, so that one has to invest for multiple years with increasingly luxurious accessories to be treated as if one belongs.

When I first started going to Georgia burns they were only five years old. Five years later, the landscape has changed radically. Instead of a bunch of little tents with a few shared spaces, lots of camps have infrastructure they bring. This has the effect of making camps very insular; instead of going from place to place enjoying various shared spaces, most spaces are fairly self-contained. Most of the resources seem to me to be going to making one's home camp more and more elaborate. I don't think there is anything wrong with that in theory, but in practice, it reduces community. If all giving was meant to happen in a shared space, how different would that look? how much more would people leave their own little bubble?

And at this point you look 'uncool' if all you have is a tiny tent. In the absence of vibrant shared spaces (not private 'shared' spaces that actually function as the living rooms of the camp that 'shares' them) being poor means being alone. I think all shared spaces should be separate from sleep spaces -- this would not only reduce the effects of class, but it would allow people to have quiet space away from partying when they slept.

If I was going to a Georgia burn for the first time this year, I would have felt like my class, my lack of money, made me unable to participate. I was able to borrow a tent, but if not, what then? Do people contribute to any kind of a shared sleeping space? Tents are expensive, especially ones that have enough space to breathe. People are constantly upgrading -- what happens to the old tents? Couldn't they be kept communally and lent on a by-need basis to people who don't have them? There are just so many ways that class cuts in.

There are some other large issues with burns but right now I'm just discussing the community aspects. I'm not ready to try to make the local burns better; I'm ready to take the principles outside of burns.

How much more nourishing would it be to have community in a continual way rather than periods of famine broken up by glut? How much more true to the principles of civic responsibility, participation, and communal effort to be building community at home, taking responsibility for taking care of each other, and doing actual work to build something lasting? How much more true to the principles of gifting, decommodification, and immediacy to invest in each other, here and now, rather than buying needs and luxuries for a three-day party once or twice a year?

We need accountable, accessible, growth-and-healing focused community. I am ready to build this. We need to find a gathering space that everyone can get to relatively easily, then bring together everyone who wants to build real community and have a brainstorming session. We need to decide what we want it to look like and what minimum things we need to keep momentum, and what people can contribute. We need to set shared goals and values, as well as safe space boundaries and how to handle violations of those.

I'm writing my set of wants and ideas now, but will post that separately because this is already long.

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belenen: (bluestocking)
Findings Friday: learning to read emotions as a teen increases adult likelihood of having community
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

Allemand, Steiger, and Fend (2015) performed a 23-year study to determine if adolescent empathy could predict outcomes in adulthood. 1,527 adults were given surveys every year from age 12 to 16, and again at age 35. The surveys given during adolescence asked participants to rate their ability to read other people's emotions. When tested at 25, they were given three of the same type of questions plus questions on their communication skills, social integration, romantic relationship satisfaction, and frequency of conflict within romantic relationships.

The authors found that most people increase in their ability to read others' emotions in adolescence and that girls tend to start at a higher level than boys but their empathy develops at approximately the same rate. They also found that not only those who ranked higher as a teen but also those who developed empathy at a faster rate during adolescence had more empathy and communication skills as an adult. The level of empathy as a teen did not predict social integration as an adult, but the relative change in empathy did: those who became more empathetic as an adolescent tended to feel less lonely as an adult. The measurements of romantic relationship satisfaction & conflict had no significant relationship with empathy during adolescence.

This study has a significant flaw in that it relies on self-reports to determine empathy skills, and that they used a tool of measurement which only contained 8 questions, all about reading other people's emotions (which is not even half of what empathy is). I think most of it is thus not useful, and the only thing I take away from this is that when people learn to read others' emotions during adolescence, they have an easier time forming community as an adult.

The authors also fail to notice that they've used a self-reporting measurement tool which asks about gendered behavior and assume that their findings agree with "stereotypes and popular culture" which assume that women have "greater capacity" for empathy than men. If these people had done their homework as responsible social scientists, they'd have learned that young girls are trained to do cognitive empathy tasks while boys are not, and they wouldn't make such a ridiculous assumption of different "capacity."

Allemand, M., Steiger, A. E. and Fend, H. A. 2015. "Empathy Development in Adolescence Predicts Social Competencies in Adulthood."Journal of Personality 83, no. 2: 229–241. doi:10.1111/jopy.12098

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belenen: (bloodcurdling)
rant: mediocre bosses make drudges out of the best workers & protect & elevate mediocre workers
icon: "bloodcurdling (photo of me w wide-eyed snarling wild expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

The worst person I ever had the displeasure to meet (and I'm including people who abused me as a child) was a boss I had at a retail job. Unlike the people who abused me as a child, this person was cruel on purpose and I consider that far worse. He was a racist, sexist, cissexist, ableist, fat-phobic looksist who never showed compassion, had no sense of humor and literally zero good qualities. He talked about the sex he imagined his teenage son having in a way that made it clear to me that the only reason this shitwad wasn't assaulting young girls was that he didn't think he could get away with it. I can only hope that saves people from becoming his victims.

And this dude thought people liked him. He thought his employees were his friends because they laughed at his awful jokes and pretended to take an interest in his alternately brain-scrapingly boring or skin-crawlingly creepy stories. He hated me because 1) I violated his sexist beliefs by existing 2) I didn't allow him to mock me or put me in my place and 3) I did not laugh at his fat-phobia, islamophobia, racism, or other 'jokes' he made.

He deadnamed me and refused to call me by my real name, and told people hired after me that they could also deadname me. (to which I responded, "you can -- I won't answer to it but you can call me that." None of my coworkers were that disrespectful, at least not to my face) Lest you think that he was rude 'to everyone equally,' let me tell you that at least three other people went by a name that was not their birth name and he respected that fine because they were cis (although, the cis girl with a 'boy' name was always called "miss [name]" but I don't think she minded). When I was saving bottle caps for an art project (with all my co-workers aware and setting the caps aside for me), he asked why they were in a cup on the counter and when I explained that I was saving them, took it and threw it away. In full view of everyone, with no explanation; my coworkers privately expressed empathy for me after that blatant meanness (and symbolic violence). He knew that I lived an hour away and he continually gave me 4-hour shifts, even after I requested longer shifts to make the drive worthwhile, and he gave me shifts that ended at 5 so that I would have two hours to drive rather than one. He lived in the same city as I did, and he left every day at 3. He worked with most people's schedules, even the one who left the city for months at a time.

But it wasn't JUST me who was scapegoated. He also mistreated my Persian coworker partly because she was a transfer and he was angry that he didn't get to pick, partly because he wanted to give her shifts to his 'friends' and partly because he's a fucking racist. She reported him to HR and he responded by cutting her hours until she couldn't afford her apartment and had to move. He mistreated my Jewish coworker by continually scheduling her for Saturday morning, which was the one time she had asked not to be scheduled, even though she was fine with working Saturday evenings after sundown (when other people would rather not work). He did this over and over until she quit. He mistreated my black queer coworker by continually logging her as a regular employee when she was a shift manager so that he could cheat her out of a dollar an hour. She'd have to go in and fix it every time, or he'd steal her money. He mistreated another black coworker by continually belittling him and making him prove himself with tests despite the fact that literally no one else had to do these tests.

When I finally quit (after months of that shitwad trying to get me to do it), I felt panic at the thought of work even for months after. It wasn't until I'd been working for an actually supportive boss for a while that I stopped being terrified. To be scared of doing what you need to do in order to live and to have food and shelter is a profound problem. And I know it would have been at least three times as bad if I hadn't had a safety net.

Insecure abusive bosses require a scapegoat/drudge so that they can maintain social capital with the other employees. They pick one person (or maybe two) and give that person all the worst tasks, the things no one else wants to do. They give them fucking awful schedules so that they can give great ones to others. They make every problem into the scapegoat/drudge's fault. I have seen it not only with the unbearable waste of space that called himself my boss, but also with the bosses of my friends. One friend's boss literally gives them three people's jobs worth of work so that everyone else in the office can do nothing but chat with the boss all day.

This is what happens when you put dysempathetic, mediocre non-leaders in positions of authority. They don't care who they hurt, and they don't care or even realize that they're doing a shit job -- until an underling shows them up, and then they take the credit and punish the underling. Mediocre people respond to their inadequacies by lashing out rather than re-evaluating their behavior or trying to learn. If this happens more than once, that poor underling is the permanent scapegoat/drudge.

Unfortunately a lot of us underlings respond to attack from a boss by trying to do an even better job, which shows up the boss more and makes them more prone to attack rather than less. So honestly, it is often the best workers who are made into the scapegoat/drudges. Mediocre bosses want mediocre or even bad workers and they'll drive the good ones away so that they don't look bad in comparison. Capitalism: making mediocrity profitable.

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belenen: (disassociative)
How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed: the Don'ts and Do's
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

Several people have been concerned and reached out to me lately, as I'm dealing with a lot of stress due to still not having a job. I never really know how to answer when people ask "how can I help?" so I decided to tackle the issue by writing reference material, of course. I wrote a little bit on this before: what I need to live, to cope, and to thrive: notes for self-care and usermanual reference.

How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed

The Don'ts:

1) Don't offer advice or try to problem-solve with me unless I explicitly ask for it.
I'm almost always stressed by one of two things: my bodily needs, and the needs of people I love. These stresses have been a constant companion for many years and I have chased every cure. You cannot fix these problems (unless you have a job to offer me). Accept the stress as a fact of my life, and don't stress me out more by making me prove to you that I've tried all possible fixes. Especially don't give me job hunting advice.

2) Don't ask "how are you" or "how are you feeling." Instead ask "any changes in [the source of stress]?"
I feel like I must respond in detail to these questions, which involves reflecting on the overall tone of my life. If the overall tone is stress, that is a depressing and stressful thing to do. Asking only about changes allows me to dismiss the stress immediately if there have been no changes, and if there have been changes, I can process only a piece of the stress rather than the whole thing.

3) Don't be very sympathetic or mushy. Be matter-of-fact. Don't ask how I'm feeling.
You being really emotional or sympathetic makes me move more into the emotion of being stressed. My main coping skill is by shutting that down, and when you sympathize it opens it up. I feel relief when I mention being stressed and the person responds with "oh yeah, sorry *changes subject*"

4) Don't give vague affirmations.
When someone gives me a vague affirmation like "it will get better," that has no positive effect on me and sometimes it stresses me out, because I try to believe them and I cannot.

The Do's (easy):

1) If you sincerely feel them, give specific, descriptive compliments.
Unrelated to the source of stress is actually best. Specific like "I love the patterns in your eyes, they look like tree roots" (probably my favorite compliment I have ever gotten). Also, I'd like compliments that aren't related to social justice work because I often feel like that is the only thing people notice about me. Sharing links to my work, commenting and liking/reacting on facebook feels like a specific compliment, also. It doesn't get less special if you do it a lot, either.

2) If you interact with any of my art -- writing, fractals, photos, etc -- tell me about how you process it, in detail.
Examples: "this post made me reflect on [specific aspect of my life]" or "I have a similar experience to what you wrote about in this post [explains experience]" or "this photo makes me feel warm in a summery way" or "this fractal looks like an angry ogre or a creepy cave."

3) Remind me of successes I've had, if you know and remember them.
I have a truly dreadful memory, so even if it happened last week I've likely forgotten it. A success can be anything, large or small, where I tried to make a thing happen and it did. "Remember when you figured out how to save the code for your fractals even though the program won't do it?" (this makes me realize I need to write down my small successes)

4) In person, if I'm describing possible reasons for a source of stress to be the way it is and you think of other reasons, tell me them.
This is ONLY in-person, because when I write I don't list all the ones I can think of.

5) In person, if I describe a situation, respond by talking about your own experience.
So if I say "I'm feeling hopeless about [thing] because of [situation]" reply with "the closest thing I have experienced to [situation] is... [tell the story]" or "my experience with [thing] is..."

6) Show curiosity about the things I love and the things that nourish me.
Read my journal entries (and in some way mark that you have done so). Ask for details about things I share. Ask about specific projects (don't ask "what are you working on" because I can't remember, but ask "how is [specific project] going?")

The Do's (difficult):

7) Offer to feed me, if you can.
This relieves stress from worrying about money, and it means that I eat without having to spend energy on planning or preparing food, which are usually high-stress for me because I hate that I have to think about money every time I eat. It is extra helpful if it is food I like, but as long as there is no meat, highly-processed bread (such as wonder bread), artificial sugar, or soy sauce, I will eat it.

8) Take a responsibility or share one, if you can.
Going with me to social things or scary appointments, making phone calls, keeping me company while I tidy, doing dishes, doing laundry, helping me with bills, or keeping me company while I do paperwork stuff.

9) Pick me up or come to my house.
I am nourished by being in my house and by being with my people, but usually I have to choose. Social is far more nourishing to me when I don't also have to drive lots and be in spaces that are not comfortable to me (and most people's spaces are not comfortable to me).

10) Help me do things that nourish me by doing them with me.
Going to social events where I will meet new people who might care about social justice, walking in nature, going to natural places where I haven't been before, doing mixed media art, taking photos, writing, doing ritual, going to concerts, listening to my music with me, breaking taboos in public, prolonged eye contact, smoking hookah, drinking coffee, cuddling, sharing stories of growth and self-care, responding enthusiastically when I am enthusiastic, etc.

11) Relieving some of my memory stress by offering me memory markers.
Take photos of us and what we are doing when we are together, and afterward send them to me. Write down a summary of what we did and what we talked about afterward, and send it to me. Remind me to add the nice thing you just did to my love memory bank.

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belenen: (honesty)
be careful w sexual consent: discuss meaning, risk, safeword, triggers, roles, acts, sobriety, needs
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

There are a lot of ways to to cause others pain and even damage despite the very best of intentions, especially with sex and kink. This is not a comprehensive list, but it includes the most common ways I see people making consent mistakes. Here's a more in-depth discussion of most of this list: how to be careful with consent. Quoting myself: "EVEN IF you follow ALL of these steps, you may STILL accidentally coerce or violate someone. We live in a rape culture that makes it very difficult for us to understand consent, to respect our own boundaries and the boundaries of others; so sex is dangerous. We need to go in knowing we can hurt each other, and being careful to minimize that risk."

I have never discussed all of these things before first having sex with someone. There's always something I didn't think of, but I work towards being the absolute best I can at consent with each person I have sex with. I treat consent as an ongoing process of becoming more and more in-tune with what the other person wants and needs in sex.

To be fully careful with consent you need to:
  1. discuss the meaning of sex/kink for each person involved.
    • is everyone involved aware of current relationship structures and additional partners (if any)?
    • do any of the people need a shared emotional/spiritual meaning for sex/kink?
    • do any of the people need shared attitudes toward bodies for sex/kink? (I do)
    • do any of the people have a need for future connection or particular kind of relationship after sex/scene?

  2. discuss STI/pregnancy risks & how to manage them.
    • disclose your STI status and your risk factors and ask about theirs.
    • if relevant, discuss birth control and what to do in the event of barrier-method fail or pregnancy.
    • ask what methods of protection they want, tell what you want, and then go with whichever is more cautious.

  3. choose safe words/signals.
    • at least choose a word/signal that means 'stop everything'.
    • describe what you want the other person to do when you use the safe word.
    • it's good to have a non-verbal signal as well as a word since some people can go non-verbal when triggered.

  4. discuss known triggers and what to do in the event of an unknown trigger.
    • tell them your triggers and how you need them to react if they accidentally trigger you.
    • ask what they need you to avoid or be cautious with and what to do if you accidentally trigger them.

  5. discuss roles (or lack thereof) and define terms.
    • roles must be consented to and you can't guess what someone else would like.
    • define terms: there are hundreds of definitions out there, don't assume.
    • describing a typical scene/sexperience in detail is a good way to find unconscious expectations.

  6. discuss specific acts & label as ask-each-time or whatever.
    • ask what parts are okay to touch, when.
    • ask what kinds of touch are okay, where.
    • ask about marks before making any.
    • ask about sensitivities.
    • ask about oral, manual, toys, penetration, etc.
    • ask if there is anything that is never okay.
    • ask about which parts/acts are ask-first every time, and when in doubt ask first.

  7. define acceptable sobriety emotionally and physically.
    • how much intoxication is too much for sex/kink between you?
    • what level of emotional instability is too much for sex/kink between you?
    • what level of physical weariness/sleepiness is too much for sex/kink between you?

  8. discuss related needs which sex can compete with or create.
    • Do any of you have a strict bedtime?
    • Do any of you need privacy (such as not being overheard, or not having your shared stories told)?
    • Do any of you need a certain amount of aftercare time?

And within each sexual experience you need to:
  1. check for sufficient emotional & physical sobriety.
  2. ask in a way that makes it easy to say no.
  3. assume no particular acts to be included and no particular length of time.
  4. check in: pay attention to reactions and non-verbals, ask questions.

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belenen: (analytical)
Findings Friday: increased experience as a racial minority increases empathy for majority race
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

Zuo and Han (2013) measured relative empathy responses for Chinese people who had lived in the US most of their lives using a series of 48 video clips of white and Chinese people (gender and race numerically balanced) being poked in the cheek with a cotton swab or a needle while wearing a neutral expression. Participants had to press one button to say that the person was feeling pain or a different button to say that they were not feeling pain. This happened very quickly to try to measure the subconscious response.

They found no significant difference in response times, nor in the fMRI signal intensity, despite the overall trend of own-race bias found in many adults. They conclude that living in the US has increased the subjects' ability to empathize with the majority race. I further imagine that as the subjects have the perspective of the majority pressed on them at every turn, they are forced to perform the cognitive empathy task of perspective-taking, and over time this builds up their emotional empathy responses as well.

Cao, Contreras-Huerta, McFadyen, and Cunnington (2015) built on this by measuring relative empathy responses via fMRI for Chinese students living in Australia using videos of white and Chinese faces being touched with a cotton swab or a needle. They found that increased levels of contact are related to increased levels of empathy. Further, the kind of contact that is most predictive is incidental contact -- just seeing white faces around you.

Consider this in the inverse: empathy is decreased when you are never forced to take the perspective of someone else, and when you never see them around you in large numbers. When you do not consume any media by and about people of color, you automatically have less empathy for people of color. When you do not ever experience being in a majority-female space, you automatically have less empathy for women. If you want to be empathetic to people who experience oppression you do not, you have to change what you see and where you go.

Zuo, X. and S. Han. 2013. "Cultural experiences reduce racial bias in neural responses to others’ suffering." Culture and Brain 1, 34-46.

Cao, Y.; L. S. Contreras-Huerta; J. McFadyen; and R. Cunnington. 2015. "Racial bias in neural response to others' pain is reduced with other-race contact." Cortex: A Journal Devoted To The Study Of The Nervous System And Behavior 70, 68-78. PsycINFO, EBSCOhost.

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belenen: (overwhelmed)
hateful anonymous comments / shame over Mercury's death
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

So today was really shitty. Someone posted anonymously on two of my posts, on my hpv post calling me "promiscuous" (as if that's a thing) which wouldn't have bothered me if not for the other comment they left, saying that people shouldn't listen to me about cat food because I "poisoned and murdered" my betta fish. It was more than a year and a half ago that I wrote about Mercury's death.

That brought up all my guilt and regret over that... In the moment it felt so awful I felt like I was in a nightmare. My fish had gotten injured, its eye was swollen to 10 times normal size, seemed in pain, barely moved, wasn't eating. I felt bad for it and didn't want it to slowly starve to death in pain, and looked up ways to euthanize it. I watched a video where someone used clove to put their fish to sleep for a surgery (in a low dose you can use it as an anesthetic). It looked peaceful, painless, kind.

But when I tried it, I must have done something wrong, because my fish didn't peacefully drift off. It was clear that it was upset -- it had barely moved for three days and when I added the clove it started thrashing.
I felt so awful. I regret it so deeply. I hate myself for it. I feel like I should have not tried something like that, I should have waited longer to see if my fish would improve. If I could go back in time I would undo it. I worry that the fish wasn't in pain at all until I caused pain and suffering and death. Maybe I killed it because looking at it stressed me out and I projected my suffering. I hate that I did this. I feel deeply ashamed.

I'm mentioning it now because this is how I cope with being afraid people will learn something shameful about me and hate me: I confess. Now you can make your choice and avoid me if you need to.

A few weeks ago Pluto (my last betta, which I got when I got Mercury) died, and I couldn't bear to move the body for days because I was worried that maybe it wasn't really dead and maybe I'd take it out and it would suffer and die from shock (it was very old and had been lethargic for months). I just... I could hardly process the death. I couldn't have borne accidentally causing another of my fish to suffer so much that it died.

Anyway the fact that this person clearly has been reading my stuff for a long time, wanted to discredit me, and wanted to hurt me is really disturbing. I think it was someone who was angry about me criticizing intellectual elitism and use of the slur st*pid. I have had plenty of trolls over the years, but trolls don't know how to hurt me. This person did. I don't know who it was, but congratulations, you hurt me. I have no defense about this: it was wrong and I wish I hadn't done it.

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belenen: (kanika kitty)
tips for poor cat caretakers on how to choose a cat food (most of the cat food sold is bad for cats)
icon: "kanika kitty (a photo of my black cat Kanika in profile, backlit, with their golden eyes staring forward)"

About 7 years ago, I learned that most cat food contains ingredients that are bad for cats. I've since picked up some additional knowledge that I want to share. I'm no expert, but it is almost impossible to find good information as the only "healthy cat" information out there seems aimed at rich people, so this is what I've pieced together. In general, cats are healthiest on an all-wet-food diet but if you're poor (like me) that ain't happenin. Here's what to look for when you're figuring out what to get:

Seek out:
1) meat as the first ingredient and preferably the first 2-3 ingredients (if it has 'meal' after it, it does not count as meat: that's including ground bone & skin).
2) food with the highest protein & fat percentages (as long as your cat is pretty active).

Avoid (if you can't avoid it entirely, choose the option that has them listed later on in the ingredients (they're ordered by proportion):
1) avoid anything that has meat by-products listed as an ingredient. Not only are these gross, but they can make your cat food go rancid and then your cat either won't eat it or will get sick.
2) avoid corn and grains. Corn and grains will make your cat eat more because they are not getting enough nutrition; eventually your cat may get diabetes because of this.
3) avoid vegetables in the first few ingredients, especially especially high-carbohydrate ones. Some high-fiber veggies like peas can actually be good, especially on an all-dry diet, but it should be a fairly low percent.

It is not necessarily the more expensive the better: Iams is just horrible and costs more than Maxximum, for instance. Also, when you buy the food with less filler, cats eat less, so the cost isn't as big of a difference as you might think.

* When cats are kittens, feed them regular, recommended amounts, and don't give extra. Once they are very used to this, you can just fill the bowl and leave it and (usually) they will only eat what they need. As long as they are getting enough exercise they should be fine.
* Cats need daily exercise; if you play with them with toys while they are kittens they will continue to play when they are older, but if they don't get this early training they may not be active enough to be fully healthy as an adult.
* When cats are over 7 years old, they'll probably need wet food as well as dry or else they might end up with urinary tract blockages, because they don't have much of a thirst drive.
* Tuna fish is bad for cats due to high mercury content and can cause nerve problems as cats age.

I order my cat food via Amazon because it's significantly cheaper that way. For wet food, I get Natural Balance Platefulls and mix it with Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural (I don't recommend the Rachael Ray, but if I just give Kanika the healthy stuff they won't eat it more than once a week, and that's not enough to keep UTIs away) and for dry food I get Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach and mix it with Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Kitten (because of good ingredients, relatively low price (it's usually about $15 for 7lbs), and good protein/fat/etc ratio). I give wet food every other day (because I can't afford every day) and leave dry food out at all times. If money wasn't an issue, I'd probably make other choices (no 'chicken meal' and no grains at all), but these are the ones I feel like I can manage.
connecting: , , ,

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belenen: (analytical)
why the words 'stupid' & other slurs against people w cognitive disabilities are harmful / TW: slurs
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

---- TW/CN: slurs are used within this post without asterisks ----
---- TW/CN: discussion of systemic & personal abuse of cognitively disabled people ----

continue )

Another side note: not everyone CAN change their vocabulary; for some people training out or replacing slurs takes too much cognitive effort, or requires a kind of word control that they do not have (I have heard this particularly from autistic people and people who deal with aphasia). No one can know from the outside who is able to train it out and who isn't, but I hope that people who are able to will make the effort. If we do, eventually these words will become obsolete and thus easier for everyone to avoid.

Here is a list of ableist terms to avoid and non-ableist words to express negative feelings. But on the list of non-ableist words I would avoid 'ignoramus' because having knowledge is a privilege and so insulting someone for lack of knowledge is a very similar problem. Basically, if you want to insult a person or thing, make sure that you are not insulting them by relating them to a devalued group of people, because this further harms that group of people.

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belenen: (confused)
I'm behind on lj
icon: "confused (photo of a purple diamond-shaped sign with a line leading to four arrows all curving and pointing in different directions)"

I'm so behind on reading LJ -- I'm sorry friends. I've had a confusing & difficult week with some intensely high-anxiety days. I'm gonna try to catch up but it will be spotty, so link me anything you want me specifically to read in the comments. Comments screened in case it's a locked entry you want me to read.

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belenen: (Ma'at)
Findings Friday: people empathize w unknown-race strangers, but not w known-other-race strangers
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

Avenanti, Sirigu and Aglioti (2010) tested white and black people on their empathy for same-race, other-race, and unknown-race people using TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation: a way to measure emotions at a subconscious level), SCR (skin conductance response) and heart rate to measure their affective empathy (automatic emotional response) and a questionnaire to measure their cognitive empathy (ability to relate in a logical, thinking way).

The researchers had black and white people watch scenarios of hands being penetrated by a needle or touched by a cotton swab -- white hands, black hands, and hands painted violet to give no apparent race. The people all tended to react more strongly to their own racial group than to another. Despite the fact that they saw the violet hand as the most strange (this was measured to be sure), they reacted with empathy for violet hands yet not for other-race (though the violet hand was actually other-race for each group)!

Given no racial information, people are not AS empathetic as they are for their own race, but they are more empathetic than when race is apparent. This implies that the dysempathy people feel towards those not of their own race is a learned behavior, not 'natural.'

I am critical of the assumption that this bias is purely ingroup/outgroup, as the sample is composed of white native Italians and black immigrant Africans who live in Italy. As such, it doesn't solely measure race, but also national identity. Other studies have shown that minorities tend to have empathy for majorities across racial lines (I'll get to those). Gender is not mentioned, and may also have effect, as there is significant gender difference in the empathy of adults.

Avenanti, A., Sirigu, A., & Aglioti, S. M. (2010). Racial Bias Reduces Empathic Sensorimotor Resonance with Other-Race Pain. Current Biology, 20(11), 1018-1022. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.03.071

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belenen: (overwhelmed)
I have HPV (as if I needed more stress)
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

I went to the doctor today about a lump on my genitals. The good news: it's not cancer. The bad news: it's HPV.

I only this year learned about HPV. I knew it existed before, but I thought it was checked for on the standard set of STI tests. Nope. There are 100+ strains of HPV, so there is no test to prove someone does NOT have HPV (as they'd have to test for all strains), and most people who have it don't have symptoms. Also, it is spread through skin-to-skin contact, so even using barriers and taking caution with sexual fluids won't prevent catching it (though it will reduce the likelihood of course). "HPV is so common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives." Oh, and the strains that can cause cancer and other serious problems do NOT cause visible symptoms.

So, I could have gotten this from any of my partners, or I might have contracted it as a child enduring sexual abuse and just never had symptoms until now (when my immune system is low from extreme & prolonged stress). I feel incredibly unlucky. Most people with herpes don't have symptoms and most people with HPV don't have symptoms, but I got both. And all the people out there with HPV and no symptoms don't have to deal with stigma. It's really fucking unfair that people are going to think of me as undesirable because I'm one of the few that got visible symptoms, noticed them, had them checked, and will be honest about it.

It wasn't too hard to find out the best way to manage herpes: if you're not having an active outbreak, infection is unlikely if you use barriers and take caution not to swap fluids. I can't find a good source on the best way to avoid transmitting HPV because everything I find is like "spread by skin-to-skin contact" with no specifics and I'm pretty sure that there is risky contact and non-risky contact but there is no fucking information. I imagine the only skin that is likely to spread genital HPV is on your crotch and thighs. HPV doesn't seem to have a outbreak-vs-non-outbreak difference. So I suppose the new precaution I have to add is to not let people touch my thighs without having the STI conversation.

Six years ago when I got herpes and posted about it someone who was 'concerned' about me (ha) told me I should never have sex again. Now that I have another fucking STI, I'm well and truly a pariah. Not that it would be terrible for me to never use my physical genitals in sex again. They're not that important to me. But they tend to be important to other people. And the idea that people would rule me out as a romantic partner because of STIs... I just find that so gross and I wish I didn't have to think about it. It's upsetting even if I wouldn't want to be romantic with them anyway.

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belenen: (honesty)
How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

I've told this story many times now, though never as one piece: How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me. In the worst period of my life, when I was suicidal for months and felt in more pain every day, I learned several vital things:

1) relationships don't have to be abusive to be profoundly damaging.
2) self-awareness is as necessary for safety as anything else.
3) I literally cannot handle living in a place where anyone wants my attention randomly every day.
4) just because you can caretake someone does not mean that you should.
5) giving doesn't have to be in huge pieces to take a huge toll.
6) once you are situationally depressed for long enough, your brain can forget how to be non-depressed and need chemical help.

I love Kylei as one of my favorite people, but living with them when they didn't have someone else to have casual social interaction with (and thus talked to me randomly through the day whenever we were both at home) was one of the most depressing and draining things I have ever experienced. It was just as bad for me -- if not worse than -- living with an abusive person.

It wasn't good for them either because the best I could offer was not enough to be nourishing, so it drained them also. Let me emphasize here: I was not doing anything that felt generous; I was not doing anything that was significantly helpful. I was allowing them to come into my room 3-4 times a day and randomly engage me in conversation for 1-3 minutes. That's it. I didn't think to tell them not to for months because it was 'such a small thing' that I could 'easily afford to give.' But it was torture for me. They were small gifts but they took superhuman effort from me.

I felt just as much need to hide as I did when I lived with my abusive parents. I had to be just as hypervigilant and seeing them became a stress to the point where we couldn't have any good interactions. Yet I missed them and was sad to have none of the connection that I wanted because there was too much of the unwanted! this made it even worse than when I was living with someone abusive who I didn't want to be around: that at least I could withdraw from and feel better. Withdrawing from Kylei made me feel worse because I missed them! But I just cannot deal with unexpected real-time interaction. It only took about six months of that for me to be drained to the point where I could not recognize myself.

There was additional stuff going on at the time, but most of the reason I can't handle this is because with my ADD-PI, that breaks down my ability to process anything; it literally shatters my ability to think. My thinking becomes disjointed and even more forgetful, like the thinking of a person who hasn't slept in three days. I can't do any art or reading or anything that matters to me at all, which rapidly increases any latent depression and makes me feel worthless.

I learned that I mustn't allow people to randomly talk to me when I am at home, that I mustn't take on responsibility as a person's only source of comfort (nor be more than 70% of their comfort), and that I mustn't be the only one initiating connection with anyone for more than a few months. I was doing all three of these things and together it made me drained to the point where I could not even feel the most basic motivation of my life: empathy.

I could no longer care about any suffering, human or otherwise. Even when I realized the problem and stopped it happening, nothing got better. My brain ran completely out of the chemicals necessary to feel happiness, and stayed there for about four months. Every day I would have said it couldn't hurt more and then the next day it did.

--------CN/TW: suicidal ideation, deep depression, medication, stigma against mental health medication (the rest of this entry)--------

I would have committed suicide if not for the fact that Topaz had already experienced too much tragedy for me to be able to handle the guilt of causing more pain for them. I daydreamed about making them hate me so that I could feel free from that guilt and able to kill myself, but that would have required me breaking my ethical code to do things that would cause them to hate me. I didn't think about anyone else. I didn't feel like anyone else would really care, even though I knew logically that people would mourn. I felt unloved and unloveable and it was only through Topaz proving daily that they cared that I managed to believe that they did love me.

Eventually I felt desperate enough that I went to get medication. I was put on citalopram, and after a month of slowly stepping it up, I stopped feeling worse every day. Just that was such a relief I can't even describe. After a few months, I started to feel better each day rather than just the same. A few months after that I started to feel aware of being numb and it started making me feel worse, so I weaned myself off of the drug. This all totaled maybe 8 months. Mental health medication saved my life.

There are people who push their personal quackery on others who are depressed, telling them to "just" exercise, meditate, think happy thoughts, take herbs, change their diet, etc. That might work if you're just feeling a little bad one day. It does not fucking work when your brain has worn a rut in the negative emotion pathways and forgotten that the positive emotion pathways even exist! Also, while talk therapy is effective and important, it only works if the problem is that you need to process your experiences -- it doesn't work if the problem is chemical!

I suffered so much longer and so much worse than I had to, because of the stigma against depression medication. If not for the coincidental timing of Topaz, stigma against medication would have killed me. I did not try to get medication until after I was already suicidal enough to go through with it. I will not take any of that quackery lightly because it literally kills people.

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belenen: (healing)
processing through music: Florence + The Machine / heavy hearts
icon: "healing (a photo of me and Hannah curled up together, naked, with Hannah's head resting on my legs and my arms around/over them. it's colored in violet with a fractal overlay of purple, blue, and green.)"

My heart sings to me today through Florence + the Machine. It started with

"Heavy heavy i'm so heavy in your arms
(i'm so) Heavy heavy i'm so heavy in your arms
(i'm so) Heavy heavy i'm so heavy in your arms
(i'm so) Heavy heavy i'm so heavy in your arms

I was a heavy heart to carry
my beloved was weighed down
My arms around your neck
My fingers laced to crown

I was a heavy heart to carry
But you never let me down
When you had me in your arms
My feet never touched the ground

And is it worth the wait
All this killing time?
Are you strong enough to stand
Protecting both your heart and mine?"

Today I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed with sadness, with this longing ache, and I wasn't sure if it was mine, or the pain of someone I am connected to. It didn't feel poisonous or like it was damaging me, it just felt desperate, needing expression, needing LOUD needing SHOUTS, and I was grateful that today Serenity was away from the house because I went to the living room and put that song on (it had been repeating in my mind), put it loud, and sang and screamed along and wept and sobbed and danced in fury and meaning, flinging my roots down and my wings wide, thrashing wild. I kept on listening to more songs from Florence + the Machine's "Lungs" and "Ceremonials," singing and gesturing fiercely to the music.

I tell myself it will be worth the wait, I can make it through the slow death of time, I'll eventually be able to have joy that is not constantly strangled by they far-too-long sharply-thin unbreakable strings of my stress and have growth that doesn't wither every time I put out a new leaf. I try so hard to believe me, but part of me doesn't believe such a thing exists.

My heart is so heavy and I'm the only one strong enough to carry it. Why couldn't it be lighter? why couldn't I have people around me with light enough hearts and strong enough arms that they could help me with mine? But people with light hearts don't develop strong arms and people with heavy hearts always seem at their max. We don't know how to say no to carrying for others unless it will actually break us... so we allow gradually more and more to be added until we can't carry our own and end up dragging it behind on a leash, getting bruised and cut and bashed by every slightest bump in the road.

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

And I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
'Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It's always darkest before the dawn

And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
It's a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat
'Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Well what the hell
I'm gonna let it happen to me

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belenen: (fantasy)
Tsundoku Tuesday: "Biting the Sun" ~Tanith Lee. fascinating world, wonderful protag, but assumptive
icon: "fantasy (a photo of a tiny plastic toy faery laying in the curve of a dried beech leaf)"

Sci-fi / utopian dystopia / bodies as constructs (literally); the nature of happiness; seeking meaning rather than bliss; sentience ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ [five out of five stars: worth owning and reading over and over]

In a world where gratitude is currency, fantasy is reality, and ecstasy is obligatory, an unnamed character rejects norms and seeks meaning at any cost.

This is my fifth or sixth time reading this, but the first time reading it after my social justice awakening. I was so scared it would be horrible. And maybe nostalgia is coloring my lenses, but it was still wonderful (though not without flaw) and I really loved the read. I could happily recommend it to most people.

sex, disability, size, race, age )

Gender is assumed to be binary and related to sex, but in an odd way; people are men when they are in assigned-male bodies and women when they are in assigned-female bodies, and have a tendency to prefer more time in one than the other. However, this is not related to what sex they are assigned at birth.

When I first read this, before I understood that both sex and gender have more than two options, this was a profound, new and beautiful concept to me. For its time (1976) it was revolutionary; transgender and intersex were not words the general public knew, much less understood. All attractions in the novel are binary, but there are a few who seek queer relationships.

writing style )

The only content note I can think of is for the death of an animal. It made me cry the first three times I read it; it's really heartbreaking.

notes on the cover )

about the author )

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belenen: (distance)
Findings Friday: by age 10, children think that black people feel less pain than white people
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

Starting a new thing! Findings Friday: I describe a study and share the findings. I learned soooo much writing a giant research paper on empathy, so I'm gonna go through and summarize at least most of the studies in that paper. Here's the first, chosen at random.

White USian adults tend to assume that black people feel less pain than they do in the same situation. To figure out where this begins, Dore, Hoffman, Lillard, and Tawalter (2014) interviewed children -- 144 white children and 15 children of color. Their study asked 5-year-old, 7-year-old, and 10-year old kids to rate the pain they'd experience in 10 different scenarios, both for themselves and for another two children, one black and one white. The 5-year-olds didn't have a racial bias in how they rated the pain, but the 7-year-olds had a small bias and the 10-year-olds had a significant bias.

To see if this pattern was still true when one controlled for overt racism, the researchers included three additional measurements: how often a child would choose to play with a black or a white child, how much difference a child used in assigning positive traits to black or white children, and a questionnaire of the parents to control for parental bias and interracial friendships. None of these had any significant effect on this trend.

Interestingly, all the children rated the pain of others as stronger than their own. My thoughts on this is that the exercise is one which involves taking the perspective of another person, which has been shown to increase empathy in significant and immediate ways.

Dore, R. A.; Hoffman, K. M.; Lillard, A. S.; and Trawalter, S. 2014. "Children's racial bias in perceptions of others' pain." British Journal Of Developmental Psychology 32, no. 2: 218-231. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed December 3, 2015).

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belenen: (bodylove -- me)
my aesthetic for my body: how I dress & self-decorate
icon: "bodylove -- me (me sitting at the foot of a tree wearing a plunge-neck mottled blue shirt and black skirt, arms relaxed with hands together in my lap. I have violet hair and am wearing a large amethyst ring)"

prompt from [ profile] lusimeles: do you have an 'aesthetic'? if so, how would you describe it?

Yes, I have an aesthetic for my body and one for my space. Due to length I will split this into two posts.

My aesthetic for my body is comfortable, colorful, and cool (temperature-wise). I like my clothes to be solid colors, abstract mottled patterns like tie dye, or geometric patterns, but will occasionally allow a floral pattern. Dots and stripes are NEVER acceptable, unless they are so small or indistinct that they blend together from a few feet away. Tiered skirts are permitted to have multiple patterns, but otherwise I will wear one patterned item and the rest as solid colors.

tops: shirts and overshirts )

skirts and dresses )

Aesthetically, I prefer my hair to be long in a wide strip down the center, shaved extremely short on the sides. I prefer the long bit to be a few inches below my chin in the front and gradually shorten into a point in the back before being shaved at the neck. I prefer it to be bleached and dyed with Special Effects Wildflower (a vivid violet dye). Second best is my natural color, cut to be short in back and long in front. That's pretty much what I have right now while I look for a job.

accessories: scarves & jewelry )

makeup )

shoes & socks )

underwear & bras )

winterizing )

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belenen: (rainbowarrior)
22 months writing image descriptions: 4 awesome side-effects / resources & explanation of the need
icon: "rainbowarrior (me, face at a sharp angle, staring boldly with a streak of rainbow light falling on the side of my face, through my eye to light up the pupil so that it looks like its glowing)"

After 22 months of using image descriptions, I've noticed some great side-effects:
  1. I notice things more. When I write an image description, I have to really look at the image multiple times, and most of the time I realize aspects that before I would never have brought to my consciousness. In this way I get to look at it for the first time twice. It's a great mind-sensation. This used to happen for me when I edited photos I took, but now I can have it for any image whether I created it or not.

  2. I've grown far better skill at describing things. I have to figure out what is important for meaning and feeling, and put that into words. I have come to be much more aware of lighting, textures, and mood.

  3. I am more intentional in what I share of both my own and others' images. There is a bit more work to sharing things, so I don't just click 'share' on any image I come across that I like. Instead, my feed ends up being weighted toward original content. I value creation deeply and am grateful that that little bit of extra work keeps me from ever getting in the habit of merely re-sharing others' content.

  4. It has made me more expressive. Rather than popping in an emoticon, I have resurrected the art of emoting: I will type *smiles* or *excited bouncing* and this is oddly far more vulnerable and makes me feel far more connected.

Even if I didn't have great side-effects AND I had no friends who were blind or low-vision, this would still be very important for two reasons. 1) I make public posts, and many people who I am not friends with can observe my shares. 2) To make the web accessible, EVERYONE has to do this. More than 1 out of every 50 people in the US has a visual disability (and that number quadruples when you don't count children under age 16) which makes it likely that some of your friends or at least some of your friends-of-friends have a visual disability. I use image descriptions partly to influence sighted people to start writing them also and stop excluding blind & low-vision people by default.

Len Burns, a blind facebook user, writes:
"As one who strives to fully participate in community, I value what you communicate. Each time I am excluded from your conversations because a photo is undescribed, stings. When the "sting" is multiplied hundreds of times per day, I feel excluded and unvalued. Plain and simply, it hurts like hell... If inclusion matters to you, really matters, describe the next photo you post, the one after that, and before you know, it will become a habit. Choosing not to describe a photo or consider the accessibility of other media you plan to use does not differ from ignoring physical barriers that exclude people from community. Exclusion is exclusion. If inclusion is a core value, please think before you post. Thank you."

This past March the official twitter app gave users the ability to add image descriptions, but you have to enable this in the accessibility settings. This allows users to give descriptions that are just for screenreaders (which otherwise would take up the whole tweet). This is a great first step, but people have to be proactive, and the fact that it is an option rather than a requirement reinforces the idea that access for blind/low-vision people isn't important.

A few weeks after twitter released this, facebook released AAT (Automatic Alternative Text), which is nearly useless, as Tasha Raella explains:
"I am a blind Facebook user, and examples of image descriptions I have received so far include 'Image may contain indoor,' 'image may contain one person smiling,' and 'image may contain hat.' ... Rather than questioning the assumption that providing image descriptions is a burden and that blind people’s access needs are blind people’s problem, Facebook is reinforcing the ableist status quo...

As it is currently implemented, Facebook’s automated image description tool promotes independence, rather than interdependence. It sends the message, loud and clear, 'Don’t bother writing a description of your new baby. Our AI has it covered.' In ten or twenty years, that might be the case, but not now. With existing technology, the only way to ensure full and meaningful access to images is to encourage sighted users to describe their photos."
I heartily encourage you to begin writing image descriptions, at least in any shared space such as facebook groups or LJ communities. They don't have to be fancy; something like "[image: photo of dog with a bone]" or "[image: cartoon of two kids holding hands]" is just fine. I use more in-depth description when I'm describing art such as my icons. I could also describe my icon for this post as "photo: my face" and while a blind person would not get the feel of the image from that, they would get the information that I am using an image of myself to introduce this post, and that might give a variety of impressions, depending on how they interpret that act. Such a bare-bones description at least gives the most basic info.

Some resources on writing image descriptions:

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belenen: (bluestocking)
Tsundoku Tuesday: Triad ~Sheila Finch. intriguing concepts yet underwhelming, problematic execution
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

Tsundoku is a Japanese word for when you keep on bringing in new books but let them pile up without being read. Starting now, I'm posting book reviews or previews on Tuesdays with the end goal of shortening my 'to be read' pile -- but more importantly, offering recommendations which factor in representation. (it still counts as Tuesday because I haven't gone to sleep yet!)

Triad by Sheila Finch: Sci-fi / first contact / language, gender, sentience, colonization. ✰ ✰ ✰ [three stars out of five]

In Earth's future, most people are conceived through artificial means, and the population is sex-selected for females by the computer that has taken over and designed the culture. Main character Gia is a 'lingster' (a trained linguist who uses a neural implant and hallucinogenic drugs to decipher unknown languages), assigned to go to a recently discovered planet to determine if the inhabitants are sentient.

The characters are all fairly alike. The main character is a young white cis woman, with primary supporting character a middle-aged white cis woman. All are average-sized and fit except Lil, who hates her fat. There is a black supporting character, but everyone else is white. All but one character are cis women, all non-disabled and neurotypical. Class is not really addressed. Culture is only referenced in memories and history. The point of view shifts between the characters, but their perceptions are so similar that it is hard to tell whose thoughts you are reading. This detracts from the book and makes it frustrating to read. Dialogue is not interesting, and most of it is internal.

I got this book because I knew it dealt with gender, sentience, and language, and some of the ideas were very interesting, but they felt undeveloped. cut for length )

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belenen: (presents)
gifting: what makes a gift more meaningful for me
icon: "presents (a photo of a colorful pile of presents: my gifts for others for winter Solstice 2013)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: If someone wanted to give you a gift, what would make the object, or action, more special and meaningful?

Unlike most people, a gift is more special to me if it is given in honor of a day that matters to me: winter solstice, spring equinox, my birthday, my spiritual birthday, or if we are close enough to have one, our friendiversary. So that is one way to make it more meaningful. Another is to tell me ahead of time (but not more than a month ahead of time) that you are getting me a gift, and give me a very general idea of the genre of the present, because I like to anticipate (but if you tell me exactly what it is then it just feels like an annoying wait, not anticipation). That's not to say random gifting isn't special, but it doesn't have the additional aspect of "I know this day is important to you" or "I value our connection enough to celebrate it with gifts."

The things I want a gift to express are: I know you, I value your contributions and support your efforts, our connection is important to me, I want you to be happy, I want you to be taken-care-of.

I know you )

I value your contributions and support your efforts )

Our connection is important to me )

I want you to be happy )

I want you to be taken-care-of )

A gift has the opposite effect when it shows a lack of knowing me. Examples are giving me perfume, lotion, or bath products (because I don't like or use those); giving me boring makeup or lip balm with artificial ingredients (I only like extreme colors and I am very particular about lip balm); giving me shoes or clothes (unless I chose them they are almost guaranteed to be stuff I won't wear); giving me pens or stationary (I am very particular! though there have been exceptions -- Elizabeth I genuinely liked your gifts!); giving me scented or ornamental candles (I like very few scents available in candles, almost never burn anything other than tealights, and I loathe when practical objects are made impractical); or giving me jewelry (I prefer to make my own jewelry and almost always dislike any other jewelry, though there have been exceptions when the artist knew me and made it in a style I'd like, or when the piece had deep personal meaning somehow). It also has the opposite effect if someone gives me something that violates my core values (one-time-use objects like glowsticks or k-cups, conspicuous consumption stuff like an expensive 'big name' purse, objectifying or exoticizing art, media that affirms oppression, etc), though that is more on a spectrum because what seems problematic to me may not seem so to others. For instance, I would feel somewhat pleased and known if someone gave me a copy of Tina Fey's "Bossypants" (more so if it was a used copy!) -- there is a lot of problematic stuff in Fey's feminism but if I only ever consumed perfect media I'd consume none at all.

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belenen: (dammit)
what prevents me from making enough money to feel financially secure
icon: dammit (a gif of Zach Braff saying 'dammit' with an emphatic head motion)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: What stands in the way of you making enough money to feel relatively secure?

Someone recognizing my skills and hiring me for them. If all people cared about was skills I'd have a job already, but they care more about credentials. I'm hoping and praying for this one particular job that would use my skills, allow me to do good, AND help me go back to school for my master's, which I'd like to do in a few years. I would do better than most people who have more school than me - I am 100% certain that I would do better than most people with masters' and 95% certain that I would do better than 95% of people who would apply. No one could be better than me at passion and drive, very few would know anywhere near as much as I do, and very few would have more relevant life experience to inform the work.

I just wish that getting a job wasn't such a political dance that rewards owners of really expensive paper and punishes people who achieved excellence without having it spoon-fed to them. Ugh. Doesn't help that I'm read as a woman! The wage gap increases with each level of education. To make as much as a man with a bachelor's, I have to have a masters. And it gets worse from there.

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belenen: (bel bites happy apple hannah)
play intimacy: sillinesses with Topaz
icon: "bel bites happy apple hannah (photo of Hannah and I from their first visit in 2006: they are smiling into the camera awaiting my kiss on their cheek but I'm biting it instead)"

^side note: holy shit it is exactly 10 years today that I first met Hannah in person *glowy hearts*

Topaz and I have a LOT of play intimacy. My connections with Hannah and Kylei were also very playful, but not this consistently. I think that part of the reason we have so much play is that Topaz really enjoys competition, and I hate it, but in play we can do it and both have fun.

A lot of our play is physical silliness. Topaz will bite me and I will bite back a little harder, and they'll bite again harder yet, and so on until they say "ow!" and we stop and rub our sore spots. Or they will try to kiss my cheek while I try to kiss theirs, both of us trying to avoid getting kissed, and landing kisses on random bits of face. Sometimes we will have raspberry-blowing battles where we both try to blow against the other person's skin to make a fart noise. Sometimes I will give them sloppy pets on their face and hair, which I would find unbearable but it makes them laugh, and I'm amused at how rude I'm being. Sometimes I will kiss all over their face, and they'll say "oh thanks, thanks, thanks!" while scrunching up to avoid the kisses. Sometimes I bite the apple of their cheeks.

Or they will try to kiss my neck, which tickles me, and so I will try to kiss theirs without baring mine, and we wrestle and giggle until we fall apart, laughing. The other day we were doing that and they accidentally blew in my ear, so I blew at theirs, which made them laugh harder than the kissfight, and they blew at mine, and we went back and forth hardly able to blow for the laughing.

We also do silly forms of affection like the 'flamingo hug' where we wrap our arms around each other and each lift one leg and wrap it around the other, so that we are both standing on one leg. It never lasts long because it is so awkward and unbalanced, but it always makes us laugh. And we will do 'puppy excitement' at each other because we decided that greeting each other as if we were lonely puppies whose human had just returned home was a fantastic way to show love. That always brings giant smiles and giggles.

And we sing silly made-up songs to each other, send poopin selfies, and poke at each other about our idiosyncrasies. We tell each other made-up stories, talk in silly voices, and color together. We used to play word association games but haven't done that in a while. We over-the-top complain about the other one's farts or bad breath, and laugh if we are the one creating the smell (but will also brush teeth or whatever if requested because we're considerate).

We also play in a more cuddly, animalistic way, where we make noises at each other and playfully demand attention like a cat (usually this is just through texting). I bunt (a feline gentle headbutt that expresses affection) and Topaz squeezes themself into my lap or between me and what I'm doing. We nip, and nuzzle, and do 'tooth hugs' (soft holding and gentle shaking with teeth). We wrestle, and sometimes when I start to get up they cling like a sloth. Sometimes I give them rides on my back (though not often lately as I am not very in shape right now). Sometimes I squeeze them until they squeak (happily).

Often after we have had a little play-bout they will hug me and say "You're so fun!" and I tell them they are so fun too.

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belenen: (healing)
bad actions =/= bad person. absence of effort to reduce harm one causes/benefits from = bad person
icon: "healing (a photo of me and Hannah curled up together, naked, with Hannah's head resting on my legs and my arms around/over them. it's colored in violet with a fractal overlay of purple, blue, and green.)"

I've said much of this before, but I am going to try to make it more specific and plain-spoken.

If I judge your actions as bad, that does not mean I am judging you as bad. Almost every action I rail against as harmful in some way is a thing I have done in the past. I have believed wrongly and damaged people with my actions. I have been classist, racist, sexist, fatphobic, ableist, looksist, anti-sexworker, queerphobic, and gender essentialist, and acted on those ideologies in my actions toward others. I have believed in rape myths and imperialist dogma. I have manipulated and disrespected my partners.

---specific examples of my wrongs: CN/TW for violence, oppressive attitudes, and slurs---

I judged poor people if they bought a small luxury. I avoided people of color because I thought they were too different and I could not relate. I thought women should submit to their husbands. I thought fatness was ugly and that fat people should hide their bodies. I expected all people to be able to learn and perform in the way that I do. I thought cleverness and education made a person more worthwhile. I ranked people on a scale of attractive to not attractive. I assumed that people could not choose to sell sex and that if they did they were forced or acting out of damage. I compared queer sex to sticking your hand in a blender: 'misuse' of intended purpose. I assumed everyone's gender matched what they were assigned at birth, and I assumed that there were only two sexes. I used slurs, especially ableist ones like 'stupid' and 'crazy.'

I have violated people's consent (thankfully not in ways that caused lots of damage, but I was lucky). I have been invalidating of people's identities. I have considered myself to have the 'one true' god and dismissed others as false. I have made relationship expectations without discussion or agreement, and manipulated people into the performance I wanted. I have assumed the worst motives of people I loved and not bothered to check. I have screamed at partners. I have called names. I have hit children (I was a child also at the time, but it was damaging and terrible).

---end TW/CN---

All those things are things I consider deeply wrong and I am profoundly ashamed of them. I mention them because I do not think of myself as a bad person, yet I have done all these bad things. There is not a thing that I say "don't do this" that I haven't done to some extent. So, I cannot think of other people as bad because they do them.

For me, there is only one sin that makes you a bad person: not making any effort to reduce the harm you cause to others and the harms that you benefit from. You don't have to make the efforts I suggest; you just have to make SOME effort, repeatedly, to reduce the harm you cause and/or benefit from in order to not be a bad person. You have to consider carefully if your behavior needs changing when someone says that you are causing harm.

When it comes to creating justice, intention means nothing; your harm-reduction needs to be effective in order to matter at all. When it comes to a judgement of moral character, intention + effort is everything. If you keep on trying to get better, and you keep on trying to learn from a variety of sources, I believe you will eventually get to a place where your efforts are effective and you do reduce harm. So I don't care where you are now; I care if you are repeatedly learning and trying. The more you try, the better a person I think you are.

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belenen: (revolutionary)
me on LJ vs me on FB: beginning work to correct perceptions of me by being more open on FB
icon: "revolutionary (a gif flipping through four of my nude self-portraits in dancy poses lit by natural light, showing my soft rounded body)"

I had a conversation with Cass the other day about the way people perceive me through facebook. She told me that I come across as very judgemental and hasty to dismiss people as unworthy; that she in the past and others who she has talked to have this perception. At first I found this really baffling, because I am used to people who know me through the internet thinking of me as really accepting and emotionally warm, and anyone who has known me for a while knows that I always want to work shit out rather than throw people away. But it has been a long time since I took a 'fresh read' of people's opinions of me and even so, the last time I did I think people only responded if they had something nice to say (which wasn't my goal, but was nice to read). So maybe people's perceptions of me have changed in general and I just don't know it.

Anyway, there is a huge difference in my LJ presence versus my FB presence. Livejournal gets the best of me. Things I am sure I want to read again, I put on my LJ. Random comments go on twitter which cross-posts to facebook; those posts are automatically less nuanced just because they're 140 characters or less most of the time. I don't share my more warm-fuzzy or introspective stuff on FB because nobody responds so I expect that that means nobody is reading them. My tweet-sized comments usually get about a dozen likes/reactions, whereas my cross-posted LJ entries are lucky to get 3 likes/reactions.

But this means that people are never reading about how I am working out difficult friendships or how I am dealing with personal struggles, so they really don't get a good feel for who I am. And I don't want people to get the wrong impression of me, so I have decided to try and be more open on facebook, even if I get no feedback. Then at least it is not my fault if people have the wrong impression. I'm going to try to cross-post even the 'unimportant' 'too personal' stuff for a while and see if that helps.

There is also the fact that livejournal allows me to give responses to people's experiences rather than just dealing with the more surface stuff. On facebook most people do not bare their soul, so there isn't a lot of valuable reflection I can give; an "I read this and I care" means a lot more in response to a soul-baring than it does in response to a post that isn't very personal. So I can't show my caring so easily there, even with the same amount of effort. That, I do not think there is a remedy to. There are simply too many people and too many posts for me to be able to find the emotionally-deep posts that would be best for thoughtful responses.

ETA: Just realized that the fact that my comments on LJ have mood-appropriate icons (often of my face which makes me more relatable) and the fact that I am much more affectionate in my speech on LJ must also contribute to the difference in perception. The latter I can be conscious of and shift somewhat on facebook. I don't necessarily feel less affectionate toward people I know through FB, but I tend to be more reserved with affection there, not sure why. Perhaps because it does feel much more public. People can happen across my facebook pretty easily, whereas when people come to my LJ, it is a much more deliberate act of connection.

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belenen: (intrigued)
date w Evelyn: meeting Demeter, intense emotional & philosophical discussions, many cuddles & kisses
icon: "intrigued (a photo of a snow leopard with ears flattened, peering intently over a log)"

So I had a date with Evelyn on Saturday that was surprising, nourishing, exciting, scary, and overall quite magical. Part of our time will be described in my my sextalk filter, but this whole experience is so long and complex that I decided it was fine to put it in two separate posts.

seeing their house, meeting their cat )

Evelyn asked me about my life and I talked about frustrations with biofamily, then asked about their life. They didn't know how to answer at first and said that they have been feeling a particular kind of anxious that means they are avoiding something but don't know what it is (I do the same thing) and as they talked around it, the thing that had been weighing on them came up. They looked really sad and I asked if I could lay next to them -- they said yes so I climbed next to them on the couch and pulled them into my arms.

They talked about the thing that was making them so sad and cried, and apologized and said they felt bad for imposing their vulnerability on me. That made me laugh because it is so the opposite of my experience, and they said "I know, I know" when I laughed because they know that I feel it as a gift and not an imposition but still have the guilty response. We cuddled that way and I listened while they talked about it until their housemate arrived home, and then we went upstairs to their room.

We talked a lot for a while, about all kinds of things. I talked about my philosophical stance as an idealist and how I see 'objective' reality as an illusion, that to me all minds contribute a nearly-invisible layer of reality and 'objective' reality is merely the conglomeration of all that, a sort of 'average.' That the more complex a thing is, the easier it is to change the reality of it through thought due to a domino effect. I mentioned my experience of my self as five parts and how my non-physical parts are capable of shapeshifting. I can't remember all we talked about but it was really interesting.

They wanted to be spooned several times, so I asked them what being spooned meant to them and they talked about it: being small, being held. As they talked about it I realized that I do like being spooned also, but I like spooning someone else more. I like that feeling of enveloping someone. They also talked about how they find themselves more and more attracted to traits commonly referred to as masculine. I listened and didn't say much as they seemed to be working out a self-perception, but I think in me they're attracted to my assertiveness and power (which I do not consider masculine, as nothing about me is gendered).

I asked for coffee so Evelyn made french press and we sat in the living room to drink it. Demeter came to sit with us and Evelyn scooped them up and cuddled them, telling me how Demeter had helped them through the emotionally difficult times they've had lately. Evelyn said they had never connected with a cat before (partly due to allergies) and had considered themself a dog person, but that Demeter had changed that. Evelyn blamed the effect on toxoplasmosis, which I like as a general theory but in this case I think it is more about Demeter's personality; they seem very nurturing and sensitive.

We talked about the fetishization of coercion/non-consent, and about my insecurities around the fact that people might like someone being careful with consent, but they don't fetishize it, they don't think of it as actually sexy, and how sometimes that really gets to me. I can't NOT be careful about consent but I don't want to be considered unsexy because I check in and don't do things without discussing it beforehand. They told me that they find it sexy. I think still, not in the way that I mean, but I appreciated them saying that.

kissing them is wonderful )

discussing future plans )

They are outrageously beautiful and sexy to me and I remarked on this several times, to which they responded with hiding their face and laughing in seeming disbelief (with maybe/hopefully some happiness to it). I told them that they will eventually get used to it because I will do it a lot! I feel very strongly about them and so I notice every gorgeous aspect, and they have several aspects that I find aesthetically pleasing as well.

One feature I find sooo aesthetically pleasing is their lower eyelid shape -- their lower lid comes part-way up the curve of the eye, enough that there is a crease under the eye. I don't know why I find this so beautiful but I do! (Angelina Jolie has lower eyelids like that, which is one of the reasons I find them so aesthetically pleasing) Evelyn also has very mobile eyebrows, lips that are very sharply defined, a full lower lip, and very pronounced smile lines as well as dimples! all of which I adore because it makes the face seem more expressive to me. And their face is very expressive overall, and their eye color is gorgeous, and their smile is so radiant! I am more than a little smitten.

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belenen: (colors of the wind)
3x3 color meme: name three items in these three colors...
icon: "colors of the wind (a crop of my fractal "Colorflight": wild colors with a swooping shapes and patterns)"

[ profile] kehlen_crow invented this 3x3 color meme!

Drop a comment and I will give you three colours. You will then look around from where you're writing the reply, and name three items you see in each of those colours.

From me, an example:

violet -- my tall, sectional plastic water bottle (which I carry with me at all times), my zippered fabric trapper-keeper (which I have had for over 20 years and currently use to carry my laptop and keyboard), and some rhinestones on my phone.

black -- my phone (though the black is half-covered with many different brightly-colored stick-on rhinestones and dimensional stickers), my lap desk, and my laptop.

medium blue -- the ink of a highlighter pen on this desk, the stripe on my trapper keeper, and part of the mottled glaze on the coffee mug that Topaz got me which I keep at their house (it is hand-made and glazed with slate blue, deep fuchsia, pastel plum, and just a little bit of forest green).
connecting: , ,

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belenen: (interconnectedness)
my lj patterns / job stress / Ace visits, explosion of social w biofam & friends / Sense8 marathon
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

reflecting on LJ patterns )

job hunt stress ) Also I was super social for like a solid week and am just now feeling like I can handle voluntary interaction with human beings. My youngest sibling, Ace, came in town with almost no warning and hasn't visited in at least four years, so I hastily threw together some plans so that Ace could meet my people and vice versa.

discomfort with biofam due to them not putting in any effort to connect with me )

Anyway, other than that discomfort, it was an okay visit. Ace wanted to go to a lesbian bar, so we did, but it was Monday night so not much was happening. Cass, Katie, Katie's person Molly, and Topaz hung out with me and Ace and just talked, and afterward Topaz and Ace and I went to dinner and Ace laid out some heavy questions. First Ace tested Topaz with a point-blank "so what do you feel about [ profile] belenen?" (or something very close to that) and Topaz reeled briefly and then answered honestly and openly while looking me in the eyes, and Ace judged them as truthful. Ace is extraordinarily observant and blunt and doesn't fuck around when they want to know something.

Then Ace asked me "why do you hate our parents?" and I replied calmly that I don't hate them, I'm just not that attached. Topaz later told me that they were amazed at the full blast of the questions (because they got more pointed from there) and at how I handled them, and then I realized that they were some hard questions, but I appreciate bluntness and while Ace did ask very leading questions, I'm pretty good at not being lead. However, I was also way too literal in answering them, because I think what Ace was looking for was some empathy for their suffering, but what they were asking about was my suffering, which they were then comparing to theirs. I didn't realize this until later, talking about it with Topaz, who realized it during the conversation. I felt shitty that I didn't realize and thus missed the opportunity to connect there.

The next day I had planned a small gather which Topaz hosted, with Topaz, me, Ace, Allison, Elliot, Serenity, Kylei, Jaime, and my cousin. It was a wonderful group of people and I really enjoyed everyone's company, though my ADD got way out of hand when we all played Dixit together. I'm gonna trust the box next time and agree that more than 7 people is too many, unless everyone is a fairly quiet person. We had four or five boisterous people and I just couldn't manage it after a while. Nobody got mad when I said I needed a break or when we didn't end up returning to the game, though, so it was okay.

I was hoping to have more time with Ace but since they were smoking a lot of the time and thus were outside while I was inside we didn't really interact directly very much. They said they liked all my friends (said this to me multiple times) and said to Topaz "I love you for my [sibling]," which I was very pleased by because they're usually very suspicious of anyone I am close to. This was also the first time I got to introduce several people to each other (which I love doing) and people volunteered their positive impressions of each other to me which made me VERY happy.

Then Wednesday I spent time with Ace, my cousin, and my grandparent, very casual, working on a long-term art project of Ace's. I was so so so wiped out after that though -- family Sunday, family AND new scary place (I'd never been to a lesbian bar and I get very anxious about not looking queer enough) Monday, big social thing including family Tuesday, more family Wednesday. I took Thursday to recover and then spent Friday vacuuming the dust/dander/fur out of the rugs and then spending time with Topaz.

Saturday was a day I had been planning for two months: a Sense8 marathon. Topaz, Sande, Evelyn, Serenity, and I watched it on the projector that I borrowed from Kylei. I don't remember how many episodes various people watched but it felt really wonderful to be with people that I feel such strong connections with, watching a show that feels like a part of me. And it was good that it was low-interaction because I certainly couldn't have handled more active social at the end of such a week!

It was really really wonderful to have Topaz in my house, after so long of them not being there due to allergies. I replaced the air filter very recently, dusted the week before, vacuumed the day before, and Serenity mopped the floors the day before too, and I turned the air conditioning high while Topaz was here (because cold helps). It all paid off -- Topaz didn't seem to have much of a reaction at all, and was able to stay for like five hours.

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belenen: (challenging)
relationship health check-up questions: abusive red flag questions & relative healthiness questions
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

Someone recently asked me if I had any relationship check-in questions to determine a relationship's health. The closest thing I had was questions to determine if a relationship is difficult-but-worthwhile or possibly/definitely abusive, so I went through that list and expanded it into two larger sets of questions. The first is a set of yes/no questions, and any 'no' to these is a red flag for an abusive relationship. The second list is about the relative health of the relationship, and a 'no' is not necessarily a red flag but does mark a place that potentially needs work (a 'yellow' flag perhaps).

to determine if the relationship is abusive )

to determine if it is a worthwhile difficult relationship )

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belenen: (eccentric)
LJ stats
icon: "eccentric (a photo of me tilting my head and with raised eyebrows and a pursed-lipped smile)"

I looked at my stats today and liked the repeated numbers. Look at all the threes! also, my comments-received finally outstripped my comments-posted. *sigh* I liked having it ahead!

screenshot of my LJ profile stats

[purple dragon userhead] belenen
[icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"]
challenging [blue down arrow]
the eclectic ecstasy of an ecphorizing eccentric
treehugging, agender, queer, fat & proud, ADD social justice activist

[gold star] Permanent Account, Created on 29 August 2003 (#1289251), Last updated on 12 July 2016
[miniature bar chart] 13 place in User ratings
[gold coin with face on it] Social capital: 193

2,363 Journal entries
33,934 Comments posted
33,994 Comments received
339 Tags

174 Memories
3,545 Photos
15 V-Gifts
163 Userpics

Share yours? (please just copy paste the text if you do so that the comment thread is accessible to screen readers, or describe your image) I am very curious to see all of them in one place to see if there are any patterns *smiles hopefully*

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belenen: (disassociative)
anxiety workaround: turning off my brain and doing the scary thing on autopilot
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

Actions that are emotionally scary but physically simple, I can do more easily than most. I just decide to do it, then turn my brain off and do it on autopilot. So, if I'm scared of applying to something, I will prepare the application while carefully not thinking about what I am going to do with it, and upload it. Then before I click the submit button, I turn off my brain so that I am not thinking about what the click means, and click it automatically. Usually then I have an explosion of panic, but it is short-lived most of the time. If I have to face heights without safety restraints, or catch a wasp, or deal with something really gross, or handle a dead/wounded creature, I do the same thing.

The only thing is that the more complex the action is, the less possible it is for me to turn off my brain and use autopilot. I can't do this for a conversation (which is the most scary thing for me to face, especially one that is related to job or money), or for something that takes multiple steps. If I didn't already have a cv prepared and hadn't written dozens of cover letters lately I wouldn't have been able to trick myself into editing them for this job that I really want. If I had to start from scratch I would have had to face that I was doing the actions specifically for this job, and it would have frozen me.

I suppose it's a kind of disassociation. I turn off my decision-making and consequence-considering capabilities. It's almost like being super drunk for a very short time. I wonder if I learned this from disassociating when I was younger, or if it's a thing anyone can do.

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belenen: (interconnectedness)
'where I'm from' poem from template
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

I wrote this using a template shared by [ profile] wildrose and really liked how it turned out! I did not do it about my biofamily, but about my chosen, local tribe.

"Where I’m From"

I am from (reusable) water bottles carried everywhere,
from Cool Beans coffee and Blue Ridge honey.
I am from sultry, sweaty, stretched-out summers where the heat falls on you like a weighted blanket.
I am from the sweet airy scent of silk trees,
the sticky sap of pines and the twilight flash of fireflies.

I am from winter solstice gathers awash in rainbow fairy lights
and well-accepted neurodiversity and bodily limitations
(as will grow among folk who are all depressed, anxious, and/or ADD/autism-spectrum, most with multiple chemical sensitivities and/or chronic pain/illness)
I'm from Georgia and Atlanta, from
food-for-sharing marked as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free
(checked for high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial dyes, and annatto).

I am from Topaz and Kylei and Heather and Allison and Hannah.
I am from social overwhelm and rabbit-trailed conversations, from intense questions and frank observations.
From "how are you feeling?" and "what are you thinking?"
I am from self-built spiritualities, atheisms and theologies which do not match but somehow harmonize with each other.

From the kinfolks who refuse ask for help but have slowly learned to occasionally accept it when offered
and those who run away for fear of rejection
and those who create and customize and build relationships with their things.
I am from lost photos and fuzzy memories, from carefully kept scraps and trinkets, from wild hair and dirty feet.

The “Where I’m From” Template
I am from (specific ordinary item)___________________________,
from (two product names)________________________ and________________________.
I am from the ____________________ (home description... adjective, adjective, sensory detail).
I am from the ____________________________(plant, flower, natural item),
the _______________________________________(plant, flower, natural detail).
I am from ______________________________(family tradition)
and ____________________________________(family trait),
from _________________(name of family member) and ______________ (another family name)
and ______________________(family name).
I am from the ____________________________ (description of family tendency) and _______________________ (another one).
From ______________________________ (something you were told as a child) and ______________________ (another).
I am from ___________________. (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.
I'm from ____________________________ (place of birth and family ancestry), from
___________________ and ____________________ (two food items representing your family).
From the ___________________ (specific family story about a specific person and detail),
the________________________(another detail about another family member).
I am from ______________.(location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).
connecting: , , , ,

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belenen: (curious)
poll: do you read the comments before, after, or neither?
icon: "curious (my face, looking straight forward with one eyebrow up and a sideways smile, head tilted down a little)"

I realized just now that I usually do not read other people's comments before leaving my own, because I do not want to sway my response -- yet I often do read the comments before adding mine in places that aren't LJ. So I want to see if this is unusual, or if there is a discernible pattern to be found.

[Poll #2048714]

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belenen: (disassociative)
anxiety very high for days / Kanika injured, vet visit, healing now / meds issue / all the stresses
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

I have had really high anxiety for the past five days. Eating became really difficult; I've managed a food bar once a day and other than that it has been a struggle. I don't know if this is situational or because they gave me a different anxiety pill (same med, supposedly, but by a different manufacturer) but I have not been able to calm myself down like I should.

At like 3am on Friday I realized that my cat had an abscess on their butt, and after googling concluded that it was a ruptured anal sac which required antibiotics at the least. I frantically looked for options to take Kanika to the vet, and sent out emails, then went to sleep and when I woke up, called everyone who had responded and asked about payment plans or other options. No one would do payment plans for any cost less than $200, and the quote I got for the cost of Kanika's needs ranged between $85-150, when all I had was $30. One vet office gave me the number of a person who offers free vet care, and I called them and left a message despite thinking it wouldn't work. (that vet office is the one I will most definitely use next time I actually have money)

They called me back later that night and said they were offering care the next morning and could help Kanika. I was hugely relieved but also in disbelief, and couldn't really believe I was getting free care until I was actually in the RV which was set up as a mobile exam room. Kanika was fairly easy to put in the carrier, which scared me because they are never docile, and they were purring with distress when I was trying to put them in. I held Kanika's scruff as the vet examined their wound, and I think that the fact that I was able to stay and talk with Kanika the whole time made it much less traumatic. The vet said that the wound was open and draining so didn't need cleaning or lancing, then gave them a shot, shaved the area, and finally expressed the anal sacs, which was very painful and Kanika grabbed and bit me without thinking (not very hard, but enough to leave marks).

After Kanika was finished and back in the carrier, the vet gave me a prescription for antibiotics and told me I could get them free at Publix, then gave me a little speech and pamphlet about their love for God. I thanked them and told them that when I get my next job I will donate. I felt awkward because while I do worship the same deity, Jesus isn't my only one and while I felt a resonance with them living out their faith in this way, I felt like they'd be insulted if I told them that I'm similar. Maybe they wouldn't be, but *shrugs* So I just smiled and nodded at them and left.

I'm still worried about Kanika because the wound is so wide open and they lick it every day. I don't know how it will heal. I have to give them antibiotics every 12 hours, which sets a constant rolling deadline which I find very anxiety-inducing. I also just discovered they have worms again so I ordered medicine for that but I'm stressed at the delay before I can give them the meds.

Also I'm constantly running a background mourning about Kylei, and I'm worried about a friend who is going through an intense loss. I'm also deeply concerned about another friend who has a major event happening this week that decides their quality of life, essentially. I am part of this event as a support, and am empathetically so anxious for it to be done, and done in the best possible way. And also, at the end of this week the application for my dream job closes, and I plan to go in to the office with letters of recommendation and try to wrangle an interview or at least a good impression, and I am mega scared of doing that. Also I have only gotten one of the promised letters so far and I feel bad sending more than two reminders but I know I must.

So the fact that my anxiety has been so high for days could have nothing to do with the pills and be purely situational. But the pills also are a fucking stress because they only gave me a 15 day supply for almost as much as it costs to buy a 30 day supply by the other manufacturer, because my psychiatrist wrote the instructions down wrong (it's supposed to be 1.5 pills per day of 30mg, not 3 pills per day of 15mg). And I have to go fix this somehow and I'm so angry that they didn't listen to me when I was there and they made me think I was getting my normal pills, not this fucking inadequate pile of shit.

Ugh. The good news is it seems to finally be letting up a bit. Yesterday I could barely do anything but today I did manage to tidy my room (only a little bit, but still), work on my timeline, and make myself a real meal and actually finish eating it. And I wrote this. I hate how my thinking gets stuck now, and I can't just be like "okay brain, let's be logical. What is the worst possibility, and how would you handle it? See, life would still be worth living" and then move on. Even though I use the same coping skills, they just don't work if the anxiety is based on an upset system rather than the situation that it is pretending is the problem. My brain won't even drop it for a minute when it's in that state.

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belenen: (pensive)
acknowledging difficult truths: expected & actual feels / lack the resources for endless caretaking
icon: "pensive (photo of me with a dark purple glitter goatee, looking down pensively with sunny woods in the background)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: Remember a time when you acknowledged a difficult truth about yourself, whichever it was. What was the difference between what acknowledging it really made you feel and what you'd thought it would make you feel?

Mostly I acknowledge difficult truths as soon as I notice them, I think, because I don't know that I have ever thought something like "I would feel X if this was true about me" and then later realized it was true about me and felt X or something else. I've had lots of those experiences about situations, but not about my selfhood. So, I may have thought "if I lose this person my life will be nothing but dreary doom" and then realized that wasn't true, but that's not really a truth about me but about the situation.

Although, it was a hard truth to acknowledge that I don't have infinite resources and I have to take care of myself first. I think I thought that would feel like being a bad person and I thought I'd be eaten up with guilt, and there was some of that but only externally. Mostly I felt relief at coming to know for sure that I actually did not have the ability to keep pouring out endlessly, because if I don't have the ability I am free from the responsibility. So I think that counts.

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belenen: (disconnected)
relationships review: Topaz, Kylei, Heather, Allison, Cass, Serenity, Arizona, Evelyn, Sande, etc
icon: "disconnected (a gif of the lovers from the tv show "Moonlight" standing on opposite sides of a door and both looking devastated. One leans their forehead on the door and the other leans their face on their hand on the doorsill. Underneath the repeating gif is the word 'pain' in a handwriting-font.)"

topaz )

kylei )

heather )

allison )

cass )

serenity )

arizona and evelyn and etc )

Last night was really wonderful. Topaz hosted a gather and Sande, Allison, Heather, Brian, Cass, and Jess came, and the 8 of us had alcohol and snacks and just hung out and talked. It was very relaxed. I got very drunk (first time in a long while, and more drunk than usual). I got sad at one point, thinking about Kylei and feeling abandoned, but people were kind to me and helped me feel better.

I loved watching everyone interact. I think this is the first time I felt like Allison was there for more than just me -- it's quite possible that happened before but this time I felt like Allison would still have attended if I didn't, and that made me happy. And I didn't catch much of what was being said, but Sande and Topaz seemed to have conversations with lots of resonance which pleased me lots. And I cuddled with Topaz and Sande and Cass and a little with Allison, all of which were sweet nourishing cuddles.

I'm realizing the more I think on it that I am really deeply sad about Kylei. I feel really lost and adrift. I feel a deep sadness in the loss of hope for being close with them anytime soon. I think it could still happen eventually but I no longer can trick myself into thinking it's just around the corner, next week maybe. It's not going to be soon. And I miss Kylei in particular, or rather, I miss the way we used to connect. I miss their magic. I miss doing magic together.

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belenen: (ADD-PI)
what helps me most to relieve stress
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

prompt from [ profile] vanita: What is your most effective way of releasing stress? Is it also the one you use the most? If it isn't, why not?

My most effective way to de-stress is to tidy my room, watch 2-3 hours of netflix, and then do something creative, like crafting or LJ. I do this fairly often but unfortunately when I am out of ADD meds it can be nearly impossible to switch gears out of watching a show, and it doesn't help my stress if I spend all day watching stuff -- UNLESS I'm depressed, then it can be helpful because my brain will only put down bad thoughts if I hand it something else that takes full focus and doesn't allow for multitasking.

But generally, my problem with watching netflix is that I find it difficult to stop. I have had more success lately by hitting pause mid-episode, going to do something else for a minute, then coming back and closing the window. Since so many shows put lots of curiosity-teasers at the very end of each episode, I cannot stop watching at the end of episodes. But if I pause it and leave the computer, my brain has a chance to gradually shift gears rather than me trying to do it by force.

Reading can help in the same way as watching shows but it has to be a very continously engaging book; I have to be deeply invested in the characters and/or plot, which doesn't happen often because I find most characters unrelatable (so many Gary-Lous, god) and most plotlines have boring shit like battle or political scheming or bad-relationship false-drama scenes. With TV, I only have to be interested in an actor's facial expressions to stay engaged (though I am a lot more engaged with a relatable character). With reading I already stop mid-page as my general habit and there is no structural intentional addiction (usually), so it is easier to stop when I want.

Watching shows is probably my most common method of relieving stress, but it is less effective when not combined w cleaning and crafting. However, cleaning and crafting both take a certain level of mental energy that I may not have, so I can't always do it.

Also, shows are better than movies because they usually have a layered and gradual plot, so I don't need to watch the whole thing, and they tend to be better as far as representation goes, and if I get bored with a show after one episode I haven't wasted 2-3 hours.

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belenen: (snarling)
CN/TW: rape / rant on the 'unintentional' rape AKA the 'misunderstanding' victim-blame argument
icon: "snarling (a photo of a snow leopard snarling in profile with teeth bared, whiskers back, and ears flattened)"

TW: discussion of rape without malicious intent )

Further discussion of this kind of rape: the 'feigning ignorance' consent violation tactic: if they care, they change their behavior. TW: rape

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belenen: (bluestocking)
list: sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, & speculative fiction by & about WOC &/or trans/queer people
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

A list of authors and the first book by them that I want to read:

under a cut to hide the ugly formatting )

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belenen: (imperious)
easiest way to pick a good novel from a pile of unfamiliar books: choose the non-default authors
icon: "imperious (photo of me w imperious expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

This is a great illustration of why I don't read 'classic' sci-fi. I also generally* do not read books written by defaults (straight white cis non-disabled non-poor neurotypical men), because they are almost guaranteed to be mediocre and full of Gary-Stus and women-as-props. There are some notable exceptions, such as Stephen Leigh (Mictlan series) and Nick O'Donohoe (Crossroads series), but generally, after a lifetime of being a default, you're trained to be terrible at perspective-taking which is the exact skill you need to write good characters. And when you never need to figure out your own solution to problems, you don't develop your imagination, so most aren't very imaginative either. (Alan Dean Foster is an exception to this -- wonderful imagination, sadly tainted by constant, condescending 'benevolent' sexism)

On the other hand, practically everyone else has to be exceptional in order to get published. Now there may be some who are exceptional only in who they know or how much money they have, but because it is so much more difficult to succeed as someone who is a person of color, female, trans, queer, disabled, etc, the available books are automatically higher quality than the average book written by a default (may not be true of self-publishing). And, as an oppressed and/or marginalized person, you automatically have more practice at perspective-taking, as you need it to live, so you write better characters. And if you have very limited resources, you have more practice at making shit work in ways it wasn't meant to, so you're more imaginative.

So the first thing I look at when I am scanning books at a used bookstore is the name of the author, and if available the author bio. Then I check to see who the main character is, and flip through the book until I see that person talking to someone else. By that dialogue I judge if the book is worth it. Most books will have a male main character who talks to other people like they don't matter -- instant nope. If the book has a female main character, I will scan to see if the dialogue centers around men -- if it does, nope. If the book has a main character who is neither male nor female I will get it regardless, because I don't get to see people like me in print and that is the closest I'll get.

When I am looking through books online, I look at the author first. If it's an oppressed person, I read the overview to see if the main character is a default: if they are, I won't read it (unless I already love the author) even if it is good because there are too many books with default main characters. If the main character is not a default, I look at the reviews. I look in positive reviews to see if anyone said that it made them realize new things or it kept them intently engaged, and I look in negative reviews for any criticisms that I consider legitimate, like a lack of thoroughness in world-building or rape being treated as titillating or harmless. Here is my wishlist of sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, & speculative fiction by & about women & girls of color &/or trans/queer people -- I've shared it so that others can find good books without having to go through this intense process. I plan to add to it as I find new ones, so if you have any to recommend feel free (I'd love to add disabled authors & main characters). I also want to share a list of the books I HAVE read which are amazing, but I'm getting stuck on thoroughness there and finding it difficult to get started, because I want to do reviews of all of them.

I do still read books by defaults if they are exceptional and if they do not have a default main character (and sometimes even if they do); it's just rare.

*this is not a hard rule across the board, and sci-fi/fantasy is actually better about this than many other genres. The only one which is a hard rule is that I will not ever purchase a book on self-help or spirituality written by a default, not even for ten cents. I consider such books to be somewhat blasphemous, due to so much desecration done by defaults. I feel that if a default genuinely wants to be a good person, they aren't going to profit off of self-help and spirituality. If they were giving away their book or making zero profit, I would take it and read it with interest. Otherwise they need to be silent. Their voices have been far out of balance for far too long and they need to not contribute to maintaining that imbalance.

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belenen: (curious)
describe me to a stranger (round 5, a decade later)
icon: "curious (my face, looking straight forward with one eyebrow up and a sideways smile, head tilted down a little)"

It has been a literal decade since I did this, so nearly everyone who knows me now hasn't done it before. I'm so curious!

in a comment, describe what sort of person you think I am,
as if you were telling your best friend who had never met me.
Be completely honest and uncensored.
"Belenen is..."

and if you post it in your journal I will be sure to respond!

Comments are screened but will be unscreened unless you request privacy.

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belenen: (incitement)
plans for being a more inclusive speaker/leader at group events
icon: "incitement (painting of a bald purple-skinned naked person standing among thick vines and ferns: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

I recently went to an event that was really inaccessible, but didn't have to be. Through my frustration at not being able to do anything about it, I've realized that as a presenter at conferences or leader of events, I can make this better. At the very beginning I will say something like:

"Before I get started I want to make a request. If at any point there is something I can do to make this more accessible for you -- like if you need me to face you when speaking, or to repeat or explain something, or to wait a minute so you can make a note or handle a potential trigger -- please interrupt me with a signal like raising your hand or saying 'pause.' It is important to me that I not accidentally exclude people, so if you're up to it, please point out any way I can be more inclusive. Also, if I use any language that hurts you or if I say something that reinforces oppression in some way, please let me know if you can."

If this or something like it had been said at the beginning of the event I went to, I would have interrupted to say that I couldn't make out what people were saying and would have asked that they make room for me at the front so I could hear more and watch faces to help me parse what people were saying. My experience would have been completely different. But without being invited to interrupt, I know that even though they may very well have accommodated me, many people would have had a negative and even angry reaction to me asking for that and thus implying that they were inconsiderate and that my needs were more important than maintaining the flow of their event.

I'll of course continue self-educating and hope to be able to predict most access needs and be ready, but I know I can't predict everything, so it's important that people feel welcomed to tell me in the moment.

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