Monday, 25 March 2013

Gender: Drug of choice?

I've been reading a certain author's work for years, at least since the late nineties. I love her writing. It challenges and transports me in ways that are so very singularly hers. No one else does what she does. She has a way of trapping you in the story before you even know where you are and keeping you there until she's done with you. You're not always sure what's happening because you go on the journey along with her characters - and they're not always the most reliable of witnesses. All of her characters are well-considered and written, but she writes female characters with a deftness of touch and understanding that I have always admired immensely.

Today I learned she is transgendered. I had absolutely no idea. It has never crossed my mind that she is anything other than a woman. And that's because she isn't. She is, was, and always will be a woman. That's who she is. The fact that I had no idea shows you just how little relevance the body you're born into has on who you are. For me, she is an exemplar of women's writing and the fact of her being transgendered changes that opinion not one whit.

The Richard Littlejohn piece in the Daily Mail that singled out and bullied Lucy Meadows, a woman who had courageously stood her ground and lived her truth, shows you just how achingly archaic the mind-set of some parts of society still are. Lucy was driven to suicide because of who she was. That is more wrong than mere words can ever express. We need to be teaching younger generations acceptance not aggression in the face of difference. The conformity writers like George Orwell warned us about should be feared, not encouraged. Gender constructs are the drug of a world that should be moving forward. Gender is an anachronistic tool for keeping the unruly masses in check. It's holding us back when it simply doesn't matter any more.

It takes all sorts to make a world.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Rape. Whatever.

The Steubenville rape case passed me by and I only came across it because of the outpouring of vitriol for the girl involved and the support for the "poor" boys whose golden futures have been ruined because of them being prosecuted for rape and all. Aw, those "poor" boys, they could have played in the NFL rather than being raping scum shitwads who were made to answer for their crimes.

According to some well-meaning types, in this case it was totally the victim's fault because she was drinking. In fact, she herself should be charged with underage drinking and held to account. When I say "well-meaning" I obviously mean raging fucking dickbags with the moral compass of a shitty arsehole. I just hope nothing happens to any of them while they're having a drink because, from what they say, drinking alcohol means you relinquish all standard human rights.  How many of us are asking to be mugged on the street after a night on the sauce? Shouldn't we all get beaten up and told we're trash because, after all, we were drinking? When you see someone being kicked to death in the street and you realise they've been drinking alcohol, make sure you film it, YouTube that shit, and golf clap as the victim's death rattle shimmers in the night air. If it's your boyfriend, so what? He fucking deserved it, being so drunk and shit.

When will people get it? It doesn't matter how drunk a girl is, a man's penis doesn't get sucked up into some irresistible slutty vortex of alcoholic indulgence she has created. He puts - or rather, shoves - it there because he wants to. In that instance, he is the one with the choice. She might be drunk, but her alcoholic consumption doesn't grab him by the balls and make him do it. He does it of his own free will, unlike his victim who has her's taken from her. What about her life? What about her future? It will never be the same, she can never go back, do over. Rape stays with the victim forever, one way or another. She has already paid for his crime. She will carry on paying for it for the rest of her life.

Friday, 1 March 2013

In Which I Talk About Self-Harm *trigger warning*

I might be the only person (who wasn't a troll) to have provoked censure from a self-harm forum. For a while, when my shit got really bad, I burned myself with a certain kind of liquid. It prolonged the pain and left a "better" wound than cutting. Literally no one understood - fuck, why would they? Nevertheless, there I was, sitting at the computer, not wanting to go down that path again, wanting desperately for someone to tell me ... something, something that would make more sense. I wanted acceptance at least. All I got was virtual open mouths and quite a few WTFs?! It didn't help. Every one has their limit, it would seem.

Today is Self Injury Awareness Day. Self Injury or Harm is one of those things that people find almost impossible to understand. You hear it and think "save us from one more teen angst attention dramz" or  you might be all "That shit be crazy. Why would anyone do that?". Indeed, that last is an excellent question.

Why the fuck would anyone do it? Let me tell you why I did it.

I'm a self-harmer (you got that, right?), although I haven't self-harmed for a long time now, many years in fact. There was a time when it was the only way that I had to cope with simply being me. What was worse was that although I had been a perennial picker of scabs etc as a child and self-harmed on and off during adolescence, I developed into a major league SH'er in my twenties. I know, right? Get your fucking shit together, loser. Who does that?

A lot of people. They just don't talk about it. Because of shame.

Well, I'm not ashamed. Shame can fuck right off. It’s not a useful emotion and I want no part of it. As Augusten Burroughs says in his book This Is How,

         “Shame is the landfill emotion. It’s not organic, like joy. It was dumped there by somebody else.
         A manipulation.
         Shame is very heavy, dense disappointment; somebody else’s in you.
         Inside of disappointment is a deeper judgement: Less than. Inferior. Defective.
         …  Shame can lead to a shitload of problems.”

So fuck that shit. For various reasons, I had a tough time, mentally, for a very long time. Self-harming got me through a lot of it, as bizarre as that may sound to you. It got me through because in the cacophony of self-hatred, paranoia and confusion that I experienced for so long, it was the one thing that made me certain about what I felt. When you're lost in Dorothy's twister with no land in sight, you hang onto the one thing that makes sense. For me that was pain and the mark that followed. I knew what that was. I could deal with that. Easy peasy.

It's not about suicide, although I did try that too but not at the times I was self-harming. Self harm is very different from suicide. It might seem similarly self-destructive, but SH is about wanting to be alive, not wanting to end it all. It was a way to manage the blaring racket inside me, to control my pain, to make sense of things. I wanted to feel something, to know that I felt it and to decide when I felt it.

I would never suggest it as a form of therapy. I would a) truly hope that no one ever felt even a tenth of what I felt, b) but if they did their family and friends would see it and give them the support they need rather than ignoring or admonishing them or c) that they themselves find another way out of the spiral. 

Do not treat Self Harm as the problem. It is a symptom. Casting the shadow of shame on it because you don’t understand how someone could do that to themselves is a bullshit move. If you care about someone, be there for them. I know it's hard, but sometimes simply taking the next breath is hard. Believing you're not worth the effort of taking the next breath is hard. If you don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or can be fixed with that good old maxim “sort yourself out”. That shit does not work. DOES. NOT. WORK. Self-harm happens because other shit is kicking the self-harmer’s arse and while you might not stop it, you can at least do them a solid by not ignoring them and not judging them. Because you care, right? So your squeamishness about the harm they do themselves can be contained. You never know, just not being a dick about it might be enough to make them stop. They’ll know they’re not alone, that although they might not be understood, they’re not lost in that dark vortex of self; that they have a strand of red in the labyrinth. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes it isn’t. But you’ll never know if you don’t quell the urge to ignore it.

Of course, they won’t want to talk about it. I never did. Patience and acceptance worked for me. Both mine and that of my lifeline. I've been enormously lucky. It wasn’t easy. It can become addictive – what shit that makes you feel better, if only for a moment, can’t? But I stopped. I don’t say I don’t ever think about it, but I don’t do it. It’s not my first port of call. I have control without it now. More than anything, however, I learned not to be ashamed. 

Shame. What a useless ballbag of an emotion. So fuck it.