Category: Identity

Sometimes it is just about sex

I participated yesterday in the comments section of an article on The Age about infidelity and again whether or not monogamy is the answer to everything (it is, but not for everyone).

The comments, on the whole, were quite positive, very little slut shaming going on and some people opening up about how infidelity has hurt them.  Quite a few members of Australia’s poly community (myself included) spoke about being ethically non-monogamous, how expecting that one person can fill all your needs is unrealistic and that with trust and honesty, insecurity and jealousy can be reduced.

One commenter agreed that one person could not meet all your needs, but that was what friends and family were for and asked why it always had to be about sex.  I suggested, in response, that because sometimes it was.  I gave two examples, of which they responded to only one.  The first (the one that wasn’t responded to) was about non-monogamous bisexuals who wanted/needed the sexual contact of the gender of partner they weren’t seeing right now or felt more balanced when they had partners with different genders.

The second, which was responded to, was about BDSM and what did you do if your partner wasn’t into BDSM and you wanted that outlet.  I was told by the commenter that they were a BDSM practitioner and BDSM is all about freedom and not sex.  And that’s where I stopped playing and went and did something else.  Because, you see, it can be all about sex.

Prescriptive responses like that tend to annoy me.  It leaves no room for someone who wants their sex rough, if we stick with the example above, and for whom BDSM does not cease on penetration (as I’ve read it is “supposed to” in some books).  Clearly there are multiple groups in the BDSM community who practice their flavour of BDSM in different ways.  There is, apart from safe, sane and consensual, no right way to practice BDSM.  There are things that work for some people and things that work for others.  Telling me what BDSM is, as if it applies to EVERYONE else on the planet who is interested, dismisses my beliefs and experience with BDSM as not being correct or right or pure… basically that I did something else that wasn’t BDSM even if I call it that.

There is no one way for most things that people do.  There is no one way to be gay, there is no one way to orgasm, there is no one way to be trans*, there is no one way to be disabled, there is no one way to be white, there is no one way to be a person of colour, etc.  Each of these things are customised by me, my thoughts, experiences and feelings.  The people I tend to associate with get this, thankfully, so I do not have to constantly fight to identify certain ways or to use language that fits me best.  I am privileged in that way and grateful for it.

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29th Down Under Feminists Carnival

Down Under Feminists Carnival Logo
Down Under Feminists Carnival Logo

Welcome to the 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival.  Thank you everyone for your submissions which I have organised as much as I can.  I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I did, and that you continue to submit posts to an awesome carnival.  Thank you so much to Chally, of Zero at the Bone and FWD/Forward and Radical Readers and Feministe for organising this carnival and letting me host it.

Thank you to Chally, Jo, Mary and Deborah for hunting down and finding most of the great posts to include this month.  Thank you to everyone else who submitted their or other’s writings.

If I have used incorrect pronouns to identify any of the participants please let me know so that I can correct them.  Any misuse is unintentional and due solely to me being unfamiliar with the author of the post.

If I have misrepresented/badly summarised your post, please let me know and I’ll correct it.

So, this carnival is big and full of fascinating reading.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.

This month’s optional theme was Awesome Women.

So, put your feet up, down, sideways or however you feel comfortable and enjoy.

Awesome Women

Ilaeria blogged about the three people who have had the biggest impact in her life, her mother and two grandmothers and share the lessons she learnt from them.

tigtog writes about Bell Hooks week at Hoydon About Town.  Deborah at In a Strange Land, during one of her Friday Womanist posts quotes Bell Hooks.

Deborah from In a Strange Land blogged about the anniversary of Sufferage for Women in New Zealand (17 September 1893) and the hard work that was put into gaining signatures for the petition that helped make is possible.

Mary at Hoydon About Town has been awesome and has developed a Firefox bookmarklet to make submitting blog carnival posts easier.  Please go and install so it is much easier to submit posts for the next carnival.

Media and society

Wildly Parenthetical at Hoydon About Town talks about Sexting and Slut Shaming and how bad the Minister for Home Affairs’s new campaign is for young women.

I spoke about Rampant Sexism in an edition of the MX where it suggested the women were different than men, that women should earn less than men for the sake of their heterosexual relationships and that women can steal men and that men can do nothing about it.

the news with nipples shreds an opinion piece in the SMH by Paul Sheehan.

Pickled Think writes about media and societal pressure on men to propose regardless of what their girlfriends may feel about marriage because it seems that their feelings aren’t important (all girls want to marry right?), and Pickled Think also discusses the patriarchal institution of marriage and the lack of the “big gay proposal”.  (The last line on the first comment is also gold).

Blue Milk demonstrates a little lesson in undermining women in power with thanks to the Courier Mail.

Blue Milk reviews Radical Act, a documentary about queer/feminist musicians in the USA, made in 1995

Ju at transcendancing has written a review of Glitter Rose, a short story collection by an Australian author doing interesting and challenging things with female characters.  The collection is published by a press that is also doing interesting and challenging things with a feminist focus in publishing.

Kim writes at Larvatus Prodeo about feeling sympathy for Stephen Conroy and the ongoing debate about the internet filter being more complex than liberties or the rights of adults.

Mary at Hoydon About Town wrote about #groggate and the outing of Grog Gamut’s legal name by The Australian.  The scary thing about The Australian’s justification is that they’re arguing for the outing of anyone who attempts to influence politics (or anything else) regardless of the wish for anonymity.

There are many ways that the less powerful are silenced, and conflating having something to hide or keep private with being not worth listening to is one of them, and insisting on identity disclosure is another. Not all pseudonymous writers are using pseudonyms to ethical ends, this is abundantly clear to anyone who has ever been on the Internet. But insisting that only those who name themselves and state their interest to everyone who lives in the country can speak is far worse.

Ariane at Ariane’s little world, adds to the discussion regarding #groggate by explaining that a person is not their job.

Image by Judy Horacek. Three panel cartoon of a Christmas decoration on a Christmas tree. The first panel reads, "I'm not a feminist but", the second "just hanging round being decorative is a bit boring", the third has the decoration walking away from the tree saying, "Actually I really am a feminist"

Bodies and health

Ariane calls bullshit on obesity being the root of all evil and society’s with  focus on fatness as a health issue.  Ariane also points out the negative health consequences of dieting.

Maia at The Hand Mirror discusses the politics of food and how our diet (what we eat) has changed, how food manufacturers want to make a profit from food and the impact that has.  Maia also posts a thread about why she hates The Body Shop and how conflating health and moral good or health and beauty are wrongMaia also posted a great 101 post on food and “healthy food” and how that is a misnomer.

Split Milk talks about why she doesn’t want to engage in discussions about dieting and how important fat acceptance places are.

Many fat activists also identify as feminists and in my opinion the most important tenet that those two movements have in common is a core belief in bodily autonomy. Advocating for fat acceptance is about asking for freedom from oppression and prejudicial treatment.

Spilt Milk also guest posted at Feministe about Fat acceptance: when kindness is activism where she discusses how acceptance of your body and kindness to yourself are activism.

Mimbles at Mim’s muddle writes about being fat and visible and includes links to posts that she’s found (some of which are in this carnival).

Michelle at The Red Pill Survival Guide writes about being fat and how societal sanctioned abuse of fat people is harmful.

You know what? Fuck you. You’re not me. You’re not that other person. You don’t know the circumstances surrounding why someone is the way they are unless they tell you. Yes, we all make superficial judgements but does that give you the right to be abusive or phobic? No.

Fat Heffalump shared her paper that she presented for the Australian Fat Studies conference this month.  She shares the effect that the “war on obesity” has had on her and most likely has had on others.

Sam at fat dialogue writes about her experience with Control Top Underpants and how important making people uncomfortable is as a really powerful critical and political intervention.

Julie at the Hand Mirror writes about Thin Privilege and how it isn’t all that great.

The Thin versus Not Thin dichotomy is yet another false division that just sets women against each other.  We need to fight, together, against a culture which judges us on our physical appearance, whether that appearance is one that conforms or not.

Steph writes at LadyNews that although Christina Hendricks is great, and the media acceptance of her not typically represented body type is also great, having her body shape/type as one to aspire to is not a good thing.

Pickled Think shreds an article discussing a new sitcom hopefully not coming to a screen near you, and how fat really isn’t coming back to Hollywood.

Health and disability

Jo at Wallaby writes about Accessibility and Sydney’s public transport, focusing on Sydney’s buses.

Michelle at The Red Pill Survive Guide (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) writes about World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, and talks about how she understands that level of despair.

Chally at Zero at the bone, writes about taking a sickie and how hard it is for people with disabilities to take a “sickie” for legitimate reasons let alone “bludging”.

Helen at talks about her ordinary and what she does to manage day to day.  Helen also discusses how her ordinary may change with a review of her medication and trying some new treatment.

Race and Racism

Hexpletive blogged about the NSW Parliament amending the NSW State Constitution to finally recognise indigenous Australians as the first people in the State.

I wrote a piece about Boat People and how it should not be an issue.

Queen Emily at An Army of Rabbits discusses the concept of whiteness and the difference between white in Australia and white in the USA.

Jo at Wallaby writes a post about an anti-violence march asking some very pertinent questions for you to answer before you read Blue Milk’s post below.

Blue Milk writes about the march in Alice Springs by Aboriginal men to “stop the violence” and the lack of media coverage about positive Aboriginal stories.

Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 writes about japan ken and barbie, how they’re in Japanese inspired clothing and not actually Japanese, leading to the fetishisation and exotification of non Western cultures.

Chally wrote at Feministe about one of her favourite bit of cognitive dissonance.

stargazer at The Hand Mirror wrote about how collective responsibility is not productive, and states that, “i still don’t accept that i have any responsibility to apologise for the actions of someone i’ve never met and have absolutely no chance of influencing.”

the news with nipples writes Another burqa blog post and reluctantly gives Sergio Redegalli some of her time while she discusses how wrong his latest “art” work is.  Then asks why the debate about burquas is still being controlled by people who do not wear burqas.


Blue Milk talks about how Stephanie Rice’s apology to queer people was not adequate and points out all the flaws in that apology very nicely.

Steph at 天高皇企鹅远 went to WorldCon and discusses her experiences with two panels, one on queer themes in SF, which she had to walk out of and the other chaired by a trans academic which was a far more positive experience.

PharaohKatt at Distinctly Disgruntled (*trigger warning – discussion of suicide*) deconstructs Bob Katter’s comments regarding the apparently non-existent LBGTIQ population in his electorate, the high rate of suicide of LBGTIQ people and Bob Katter’s comments about suicide on a Q&A segment.

Fire Fly at The Long Way Home writes about Queer Femmes of Colour and their multiple burdens of authenticity.

I think the dynamic is deeply conditioned by internalised queerphobia. Specifically, internalisation of the double standard that there’s a threshold of queerness that someone has to prove in order to be ‘really’ queer (when there’s no such threshold for heterosexuality).


Maia at The Hand Mirror discusses a proposed bill in New Zealand which would re-criminalise street sex workers and how the relevant political parties have voted.

It is specifically targeting street sex workers. Street sex workers do not generally have $2,000 to pay a fine. The fines, when they’re awarded, won’t have the magic power to stop someone being poor and working as a sex worker, it’ll just make them poorer. It won’t make street sex work disappear, it’ll just make it harder, more dangerous, and more marginalised.

Steph at vegan about town discusses how veganism, race and ethnicity intersect and how calling for China to be “wiped from the face of the earth” for the way they treat animals is hypocritical when every country mistreats animals.

Maia at The Hand Mirror also discusses how there is a connection between problems the way food is discussed and the problems with way food is produced and looks at this under a feminist framework.

Shiny writes about how she is all out of cookies and isn’t going to give them to people who meet basic human standards of decency.

Callistra writes about safety and safe spaces, what they can be and how they are created.

Safety and feelings of safe spaces are also a place of sanctuary. It’s an intimately known quality, where so much discussion has already occured that the system can meet your needs. It means when you’re miserable and need company to listen to, you have friends who can answer that need. Or if you’re miserable and need to talk; you know you can have these needs met. It means if you need to sit quietly and absorb group energy, you can do so without worrying what others might think, say or do. I noticed this as being ‘a place where you can exist without struggle of identity’.

Callistra also writes about what connections are and how they contribute to safe spaces.

Writing at The Hand Mirror, anjum writes about women in minority cultures, who as feminists want to criticise and change the culture, but who fear that it will only give ammunition to haters in the majority culture.

steph writes at vegan about town regarding exclusionary language in the vegan and animal rights movement in Australia and how veganism and the animal rights movement are often seen as white/Anglo-Saxon, middle-class movements.


A Touch of the Crazy shares her recent life experiences, reflections and the importance of getting lost when travelling.

Pickled Think writes about surviving the Christchurch earthquake and how she feels right now.

Blue Milk writes about breastfeeding and how she felt when she first started and how she feels about it now.

Hexpletive writes about the 9th World Indigenous Women and Wellness Conference she attended and presented at in Darwin and then goes on to discuss the other Conferences and Conventions that she is interested in for the remainder of the year.  I’m going to have to look some of these up.

Spilt Milk shares an experience of encountering penis graffiti with her young daughter and recounts Helen Barne’s Young Adult novel ‘Killing Aurora’, in which the protagonist draws vagina dentata graffiti in response to penis graffiti.

Spilt Milk wrote about her childhood comforter and how that was taken away from her, and now how the childcare centre her daughter goes to wants to take away her daughter’s teddy bear.

Queen Emily writes at An Army of Rabbits, two (related) things that never happened to her in Australia, specifically the assumption that she’d been to church followed by an exhortation to keep god in her heart.

General Feminism

Chally wrote about how social justice can also be about staying silent and doing what is right for you versus the wider world (this post could fit under most categories, and I struggled to find the best fit).

Wallaby writes about how prioritising and choosing your energy drain is important for your wellness, and your choices in this regard should be admired, fostered and encouraged.

tigtog clearly states for the record why banning commenters and refusing comment publication is not censorship as blogs are privately owned spaces.

Women of Colour Australia has put a transcript up of their speech at NOWSA 2010.

the news with nipples writes about the petition put together by Plan Australia to make September 22 the International Day of the Girl.  You can sign the petition here.

Natalie at writes about her feral leghair and why she’s going to grow it.  She includes a great discussion about The Gruen Transfer and their discussion about redefining femininity based on advertising.

steph discusses at LadyNews the current Jadelle (a contraceptive implant) furore in the media.  steph advocates choice and education for women, which some of the quotes in the article also supported.

Megan at Craft is the New Black writes about the need for the ‘generations’ of feminism to recognise and celebrate each other’s worth.

In a post to mark Women’s Suffrage Day in New Zealand, Ele at Home Paddock writes of the need for us to exercise our hard won right to vote in the upcoming local body elections.


*Trigger warnings – posts in this section discuss violence against women*

The Dawn Chorus discusses Street Harassment and how when reporting it or writing down what has been said, the tone of what was said is missing which is one of the reasons why street harassment is often belittled or dismissed.

Blue Milk explains that asking is sexy and that without consent it isn’t sex and the comments are great too.

I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence.

Jo at Wallaby wrote about the treatment received by two women who had been sexually assaulted in different legal systems and how much those legal systems differed.

XY writes about why he won’t be walking in Reclaim the Night/Take Back the Night march and provides and excellent resource (if you need one) to explain to some men why they are not always welcome to march.

stargazer at The Hand Mirror writes about the governmental response to the task force for action on sexual violence and sadly how this seems to have been missed by the media.

AnneE at The Hand Mirror takes some relevant material from a paper on people who abuse their partners.

blue milk at Hoydon About Town writes about the strange behaviour of the state and society when a mother whose daughter was victim of incest is upset and protective of her daughter when pornography is displayed at a 7-11.

And isn’t it a strange world where police can be called in to protect your right to display pornography? So unquestioning are we about it that the newspaper article actually describes what unfolded as a “bizarre incident”. It is the same strange world where it is estimated that up to one in four girls will be sexually abused during their childhood.

Both Deborah from In a Strange Land and I wrote about Brendan Black and his opinion piece in Fairfax media on breastfeeding and breasts.  Unfortunately he fails terribly at being a feminist ally when he could have done very well.

Jo at Wallaby suggests that men should not go out alone otherwise they might, “be accused of, and/or commit, indecent assault, sexual assault, rape or other sexual violence.”

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Things I have learnt – kitchen edition

Although not a post about everything I’ve learnt (because that would take a very long time to catalogue, and you’d all be bored before I was done), this is a post about cooking mostly.

I was a very precocious child (I have finally looked up what that actually means and yes it does fit me).  My mother had a stroke when I was 3, and that’s when I started acting like an adult – well as much as a 3 year old can.  By the age of 5 I had 3 younger sisters and I looked out and after them – though I didn’t actually have to clean up after them or cook food for them.  My early memories of my mother after her stroke were of a woman who slept a lot of the time, which is understandable really.

I cannot remember exactly how old I was, but it probably was about 8 or 9, I decided I was going to make some biscuits for everyone.  Apart from helping mum chop up ingredients (with blunt knives) for Christmas puddings, I had never actually cooked anything all by myself.  I thought that making biscuits would be nice for everyone when they came home from where ever they all were.  I remember my parents were not in the house, and I’m not sure about my sisters.

So, the chocolate biscuits, you see the recipe said that the biscuits were chocolate, but I had no idea what cocoa was, so I used chocolate Quik instead (I can’t remember them tasting evil, so the Quik must have been ok).  I knew I was not allowed to light the oven, or play with it, so I went next door and asked my neighbour if she could come and light the oven for me.  She stayed to supervise the rest of the proceedings.

From thereon, I learnt how to cook, mostly teaching myself by following recipes and clearly not daunted by things that looked complicated as long as the recipe was complete and had clear instructions.  I also learnt that there were some ingredients where measurements were guides and others that had to be exact.  I learnt to cook in Imperial and Metric and translate such wonders as “quick”, “hot”, “moderate” and “slow” ovens into actual temperatures.

It is in relation to the exactness, or not, of ingredients that I found the creativity of cooking.  I surprised my father one day when making some spiced biscuits as I measured the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger directly over the mixing bowl, levelling off the teaspoons into the bowl.  He asked if I realised I was putting in more than the recipe called for, to which I replied, “yes, trust me, they’ll be good”.  And they were.

For a very long time, cooking was my main creative outlet.  I’d experiment with tastes and textures (and sounds… have you ever thought about how important sounds are when eating?) and recipes from different parts of the world.  I still do these things, but now cooking is not my only creative outlet.

For me, cooking was easy.  I grew up in a house where cooking was normal and both my parents did (though mum was always a better cook than dad).  I was not discouraged from experimentation and from the age of 15 was expected to cook dinner regularly for the family (as did my sisters once they reached that age also).  My cooking was actively enjoyed by family and friends and I had relatively few disasters in the kitchen (and the ones I did have I learnt from and never ever did again – honest).

Another part of not being scared to try new things and new dishes (I’ve now fallen in love with Moroccan cuisine), is that as a child I was told I could do anything, be anything, achieve whatever I wanted and that nothing would hold me back.  This translated, in part, to me being ambitious in the kitchen and trying out new (and potentially difficult) things.  Growing up believing that shaped me as a person but also has its drawback.  I’ll blog more about the ambitious child in another post – including the benefits and drawbacks of that.

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A background story

There is a town I grew up in, well spent some of my formative years in, that I never ever want to return to.  I am envious of those people who have school friends who they spend time with, share history with and have connections that span the years.  I just don’t have that and some of the reasons are valid, and some relate to me being a slack teenager.  Let me explain.

I spent a bit over half of my formative years (traditionally from birth to 18), in Alice Springs… this is not the town I never want to return to.  Alice Springs, to this day, remains my spiritual home for want of a better phrase.  Alice Springs was a fantastic place to grow up in the 1980s.  I made friends with indigenous school children, local school children, blow-in school children (those whose parents had taken a 12 month contract and then were going to move onto the next place) and children whose parents had migrated from other countries.  I had the privilege of going to kindergarten with a group of people who I then went to school with.  I went to ballet school and did well, I was allowed to take what was then known as an “extension” program for gifted children at school and I fit in.

The fitting in part was the biggest and most important part for me, because of what happened when we left Alice Springs.  The people I went to school with in Alice Springs and those I was friends with accepted me, my quirks, my interests and the fact that I enjoyed school.  It wasn’t an ideal paradise, I did fight with girls and boys about stuff, but that wasn’t about who I was deep in my core that was just school yard politics in a very mild form.

We moved to a large country town in Victoria because my parents were concerned about their parents and wanted to be halfway between them (Melbourne and Corowa respectively).  It was a former gold mining town full of history, beautiful buildings and things to do.  On a purely aesthetic level it was a lovely place to be.  On a personal level, for me, it was hell.

My parents thought, at the time, that the best school to send me to was the Catholic High School because a) they were Catholic and b) Catholic Schools provide good education (apparently).  This school, compared to my Catholic High School in Alice Springs was MASSIVE.  I went from a school of 250 students in total to a school where there were 300 people in my year level, and as the school was divided over two campuses, years 7 to 9 and years 10 to 12, my campus had 900 students.

Despite charging fees (I ended up on a music scholarship, which is good because my parents would not have been able to afford the fees for long), the facilities at this school were quite poor compared to new shiny Catholic High School I attended in Alice Springs.  The campus coordinator thought that education in the Northern Territory was at a lower standard that Victoria (HA!) and wanted to put me back a year, but my mother put her foot down (thank god) and I remained in year 8.

As a smart and inquisitive student, I was suddenly bored.  I was a long way ahead of my fellow students, in all the core subjects and due to the move and my mother’s inability to find work, there were no extra curricular activities for me except choir – which I took up the year after we moved.  No home work, or at least no homework at the level I was used to in Alice Springs (combined with all the extra stuff I used to do) and suddenly my knowledge was a liability instead of an asset.

For the first time in my life I was picked on by others for knowing things.  My good vocabulary was laughed at.  When I told someone I was sceptical that X liked me, the boys went around for the next couple of days going, “ooh, I feel very sceptical today”, because they had no idea what it really meant.  In Alice Springs, I was one of the ones my fellow students went to when they wanted help with something.  In this town, I was shunned.

And not just shunned, I was bullied.  I was kicked, had my hair pulled and my school uniform skirt lifted.  I was picked on by girls for being different and determined to remain different.  I liked books and science and learning and enjoyed school – with the exception of the bullying.  I argued with mum about returning to school, spent time flatly refusing to go to school due to the way I was treated and eventually just got on with it as much as I could.

In my first year in this town I had one friend, who was someone very few people liked (including some of the teachers), but I thought was sweet.  Her family moved away from the town a bit over half-way through the year and I was then friendless until the following year.  Then I started making friends – who were mostly all outcasts like me and oddly were all people who had moved to the town later, they weren’t born there.

The bullying by the other girls continued throughout my entire school years.  This has resulted in me having a lot of trouble trusting women who I suspect are likely to play any sort of “game” beyond certain limits.  As a bisexual woman, this has added an extra layer of complexity that it’d be nice to do without.

Later in my school life in this town I was sexually assaulted by a boy who lived down the road, and nothing was done by anyone I told.  My mother has since apologised, explaining that her own sexual abuse as a child (though not the details) taught her that children lie – because that is what she was regularly told during her childhood.

Later again I was raped by my boyfriend, and since no one was going to act as they didn’t the first time, I didn’t bother telling anyone – having learnt that I had to deal with stuff on my own.

The relationship with my then boyfriend was incredibly toxic.  I endured emotional abuse and it took me a long time to find a way out of the relationship.  Only when I was at uni, in the same town, did I discover that I was appreciated for who I was, that my curiosity, thirst to know things and difference were ok things to have and that suddenly there were multiple people interested in me, versus the incredibly tiny number at school – well one.

When I dropped out of uni because engineering was not for me and moved to Melbourne I lost all the friends that I had gained in the town.  My ex-boyfriend still lived there and our circle of friends found it easier to be friendly to him as he was there than to remain in contact and/or friendship with me.

Moving to Melbourne was a good thing for me.  I’ve made friends again and lost friends and made new friends.  I have built up a family of choice of wonderful people I am happy to have in my life.  I have left behind the mess that was that country town and avoid going there as much as possible, even though there are a still one or two people I would not mind getting in touch with again.  I have a home now (and I’m even paying it off) and have filled it with people I love dearly.  I have a great circle of friends and have sorted out most of my genetic family stuff.  I have learnt that I’m me, and that those who cannot deal with that have a problem, not me.

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I am not like you

Recently, and unfortunately I can’t find the page that I read it on, I found an article which discussed visual and verbal thinking.

Research by Child Development Theorist Linda Kreger Silverman suggests that less than 30% of the population strongly uses visual/spatial thinking, another 45% uses both visual/spatial thinking and thinking in the form of words, and 25% thinks exclusively in words.” (Source: Wikipedia)

This amazed me, because I’m part of the minority that thinks only in words.  Visualising something is really hard work for me, and has to have words with it, from which I can draw the picture.  Most of the time I walk around with a conversation in my head about things, it is rarely quiet up there.

I asked my parents, partners and friends how they thought, to test the hypothesis… most people thought in pictures and words, I was the only one I knew at the time who thought in words.  My mother thought solely in pictures and was most distressed that I didn’t have images in my brain like she did – though it adds to the reasons we don’t communicate well.

Until I read this article, I assumed that everyone else was like me, that they had only words in their heads, that they held conversations with themselves and others all the time.  Of course, I should have known better, I’ve been learning all my adult life that everyone is different and that our tastes, colour perceptions, enjoyment of sensation, and tolerances for things are different.

James likes to be touched firmly, a light touch or caress annoys him.  Scott loves to be caressed lightly for days at a time, his brain turns off and he relaxes into it, my girlfriend and a few other friends I know are the same.  I can tolerate a repetitive touch for a little bit before it has to stop or the caresser will lose their limb.  Every one of us likes different things, or subsets of the same things, but in different places or with different textures.

One of my sisters swears my car is more yellow than green, I tell her its more green than yellow.  Each of us see the same vehicle, but due to quirks of nature, we see colours slightly differently and texture differently and each of us goes around thinking that the world looks the same to everyone – because we all think we’re the same and why wouldn’t we?  Its not like we can see or feel through someone else’s body and in a big way we know we’re all part of the same species, we have the same bodies more or less… but we don’t really.  We’re mostly shaped the same, but our nervous system mapping is always slightly different – hence the different enjoyment in sensations.

I think I started to realise this a long time after reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, specifically:

“[The horse] slowly surveyed the whole field, and then decided to plan out a nice relaxed day for itself.  A little trot later on, it thought, maybe around threeish.  After that a bit of a lie down over on the east side of the field where the grass was thicker.  It looked like a suitable spot to think about supper in.

Lunch, it rather fancied, could be taken at the south end of the field where a small stream ran.  Lunch by a stream, for heaven’s sake.  This was bliss.

It also quite liked the notion of spending half an hour walking alternative a little bit to the left and then a little bit to the right, for no apparent reason.  It didn’t know whether the time between two and three would be best spent wishing its tail or mulling things over.

Of course, it could always do both, if it so wished, and go for its trot a little later.  And it had just spotted what looked like a fine piece of hedge for watching things over, and that would easily while away a pleasant pre-prandial hour or two.


An excellent plan.

And the best thing about it was that having made it the horse could now completely and utterly ignore it.  It went instead for a leisurely stand under the only tree in the field.

I thought that Mr Adams might actually have an idea about happiness, and specifically how to be happy – in this instance by making plans for the sake of making them and then letting them go.  I’m a big organiser, I can’t help myself, but I thought maybe I’d be happy if I made plans – because that’d make me happy – and then ignored them.  It failed miserably.  I felt like I achieved nothing I set out to achieve and just got more miserable.  Then I realised what was wrong.  Douglas Adams knows what makes Douglas Adams happy, he doesn’t know what makes me happy.  He is not like me and I am not like him.  Despite our physical similarities, we’re very different inside, in the way we think, feel and act.

Everyone is different from everyone else and this is not a bad thing, but it is a very important thing to understand.  Just because someone does or doesn’t like something that you like, doesn’t mean that they are less of a person or more of a person as a result.

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My gender identity

I was asked recently about a statement I made where I indicated that I viewed myself as both male and female, and asked to expand on that further.  Thanks to my wonderful girlfriend who was happy to be the other half of my brain so I could put it all together in writing, I came up with the following:

I do see myself as parts of both.  I don’t think I fit neatly into society’s expectations of female, despite my female body.

On the gender continuum, I believe I sit in the middle… not fully female and not fully male.  I don’t tend to express this in appearance, but I think I express it in behavior.  I dress to look good, but I don’t dress “girly”… I don’t do makeup (unless absolutely called for), false nails, pink or bling… Though I do wear corsets, skirts, jewellery, lingerie etc.

I tend to relate easier to men than to women, I tend to bristle when someone refers to me as feminine, and that might be more political than identity, because I bristle the same way when someone calls me a “lady”.

As my girlfriend so succinctly put it, I am a human who happens to be female. I can choose to act feminine one day and masculine the next and nothing at all the third. That has no real bearing on anything I inherently am.

Is it problematic?  Rarely.  I don’t deal with much sexism because I am quite good at being deaf to it, or being sufficiently intimidating for it not to happen in the first place – that and surrounding myself with non-sexist people.  If someone attempts to impose their gender assumptions on me I tend to ignore them or tell them off – this happens more online than in person (the telling off).  Generally I don’t care what people think of me, unless they are quite close to me.  If some stranger wants to think X, then its not worth my energy educating and/or correcting them.

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