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Anti-SJW Trolling Is Pointless

CN: reference to rape, DV, suicide, suicide encouragement, threats of violence etc

Every who’s ever showed even the slightest of feminist tendencies online, or who has the temerity to exist in an online space while being a woman, trans, black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, and/or any other marginalised identity has come across the anti-SJW troll at least once in their life.  Even as someone who’s relatively new to the concept of truly dedicated trolling, I’m already getting to the point where I shrug it off as something that happens because the world is full of arseholes.  I don’t like having to accept this, but to remain astonished and angry for any length of time over this is just a waste of my energy – especially when I could be putting that energy into something productive, like making content that pisses these whiny little manbabies off.

 

But a thought occurred to me yesterday, and it’s one that I’m sure has occurred to many in the same position, and that is: what the hell is the point of all this hate?

 

I have a very small online presence.  I produce a hell of a lot of content for very little return.  I have a whole 15 subscribers on my YouTube channel, and most of them aren’t watching all 8 videos I post every single week.  This in itself is fine.  I’m new to the internet, and it takes time – sometimes several years – to build up even a small following.  Since I’ve only been making this content since the beginning of the year, I don’t expect to get very far for at least another year or more.  That said, I’ve already managed to attract more than one very dedicated anti-SJW troll, and a regular stream of one-off anti-SJWs who like to visit my channel, watch my videos, and explain to me why I’m not the gender that I am, why I will eventually end up committing suicide, and why I’m generally a piece of human trash.  These trolls are far more dedicated than the friends and genuine followers who actually enjoy my content, to the point where they’ve more than tripled my watch stats.

 

Let that sink in for a moment.  These trolls, who don’t come to my page looking for debate or discussion, but who come to insult and belittle, have literally tripled my viewership.  That right there is dedication.

 

And I can’t help but wonder why.

 

Why would they bother coming over to a channel that has virtually no impact, takes up virtually no online space, simply to yell into the void?  (And since I moderate my comment section, this is literally what they’re doing.)  What’s the point?

 

The point is that these people are afraid.  The vast majority of anti-feminists and anti-social justice “activists” I’ve met aren’t interested in actual action.  They are simply afraid that their small, limited understanding of the world isn’t right, and their response is to shout at people who challenge them until they stop talking.  These people don’t care that no one is listening to me, it’s enough that someone might.  They will spend literally hours trawling through Instagram posts, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, and Tumblr blogs, searching out anyone who might have the temerity to exist outside their worldview, so they can tell them to fuck off and die.

 

Many of these people talk about feminism as anti-man, anti-white, anti-whatever-privileged-group-they’re-currently-a-part-of.  They talk about the problems of men, such as higher suicide rates, prison rape, child custody battles, shorter life expectancies, and they will bemoan the concept of male privilege as a feminist conspiracy in order to keep men down.  And yet their solution isn’t to study male suicide rates and figure out why they’re so high.  (Feminist academics have already taken on that topic, and have discovered, lo and behold, that patriarchal expectations of stoic masculinity are a major contributor, among other things.)  They don’t work on providing men-only shelters for men who are DV victims, or men-only support groups for men who are survivors of rape.  They don’t put in any work whatsoever, in fact.  What they do is attack feminists online.  And “attack” is an accurate term.  This kind of trolling is an act of violence.

 

And this tells you all you need to know about how serious they are about their concerns.  They don’t really care about any of the issues listed above.  In fact, many of these groups are the first to ridicule men who are survivors of rape, particularly if the rapist was a woman.  They are completely uninterested in men who are suffering mental illness, or who truly want to raise their own children.  These issues only become important to them when they think they can use them against feminists.  Because the real threat to men, as far as they’re concerned, is the loss of male privilege that will inevitably come with the success of feminism.  The real threat to these men is that marginalised people, people over whom they have had power, are finding their own voices, creating their own spaces, making art for themselves, and no longer giving two shits about catering to white men.

 

This is the real reason why they shout at feminists and marginalised people online.  They are afraid that they will no longer be dominant.  They are afraid that they will no longer be the centre of every discussion.  They are afraid that other voices will be heard – perhaps more loudly than theirs.  So they shout, they curse, they send threats, they tell people to kill themselves.  They scream at marginalised people in order to silence us.  And the saddest part?  It often works.  There’s only so much shit someone can wade through before they give up.  And this is especially true for small creators like me, who don’t have a following to help me fight back, who don’t have that encouragement of knowing I have a positive impact.  Not everyone can take that, day after day.

 

The truth is, anti-SJW trolling doesn’t have any purpose beyond silencing anyone they consider a threat to white male power.  The good news is that they aren’t winning.  The internet has created such a vast array of platforms for marginalised people to speak from, and we are speaking.  Things might not be going so great right now, but we aren’t sitting down, and we aren’t being quiet.  We aren’t letting the trolls silence us.  We aren’t letting them win.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

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The Cult of Oversensitivity

Young people today are oversensitive. Everyone knows it. It’s just obvious, right?

Yeah, I know, I can’t fool you. You know I’m about to pick so many holes in this “common knowledge” you could catch fish with it.

I recently made a couple of videos (which you can check out here and here) where I talked about trigger warnings and why they were important, and the immediate reaction to these ideas was “real life doesn’t come with trigger warnings”, “it’s a miracle your brain has exploded, you oversensitive blankity blank”, and so on. This wasn’t unexpected. It’s a sentiment I’ve seen time and again, even from people with whom I usually agree. There seems to be this idea that we’re all a bunch of whining millennials, complaining about how life isn’t fair, and frantically trying to avoid ever feeling anything remotely unpleasant. And while, in some cases, there may be an element of truth to that, it’s definitely not the whole truth—and not the truth for the majority of young people.

The first problem with this “common knowledge” is that it’s been “common knowledge” for at least the last four or five generations. Every new generations has been labelled “the laziest” or “the most entitled” or “the most oversensitive” by the one before it. It seems to be Just The Thing To Do, a kind of socially acceptable version of “get off my lawn, you young whippersnapper!”. These accusations weren’t true for the generations before us—at least, not for the majority of them—and they’re not true for ours. Just because a group of people have a different idea of what’s appropriate, doesn’t make them entitled or oversensitive. But we still accept this as conventional wisdom without questioning it.

The second problem with this is that it’s actually a very convenient narrative, a simple way to gloss over the genuine concerns of particular groups—especially marginalised groups—and to paint those fighting for their rights as a bunch of whiny malcontents just looking to cause trouble. And again, this is not a new technique. But what about our generation specifically do people point to as “oversensitive” and “entitled”?

Well, one of the most obvious is the rise in diagnoses of mental illnesses. The response is often something along the lines of “in my day we didn’t have all this depression nonsense, we just got on with things”. And the obvious answer to that is, no Karen, people killed themselves and you didn’t talk about it. People were locked up in “asylums” and you didn’t talk about it. People were ostracised from your community and you didn’t talk about it. And there’s also the point that your generation had a completely different culture and social context. Life is different now, and comes with different challenges, as well as certain privileges, like access to better mental healthcare (although it’s still far from adequate). Are there people diagnosed with depression who probably would do better if they “just got on with it”? Sure. That’s the case with a lot of illnesses, though, and they’re the majority. Nobody wants to have depression. Nobody likes being judged for being ill, having to try out five different treatments before they find one that sort of works, struggling to work or parent or hell, struggling to get out of bed in the morning. This isn’t oversensitivity, it’s a fucking illness. And a similar principle applies to a variety of other mental illnesses that are now being diagnosed at far higher rates than ever before. This isn’t a cult of oversensitivity. We’re finally recognising that there’s a problem with the way we’ve treated mental illness in the past, and we’re doing something to address it. We might not have it quite right yet, but we’re working on it. And that’s a hell of a lot better than just pretending it didn’t exist, the way previous generations tended to.

Another example that’s often raised in these discussions of oversensitivity is the rise of “politically correct” language, and the idea that people are “too easily offended”. What people fail to recognise here is that people were always “offended” by casual racism, sexism, misogyny, classism, and ableism. Those people just have more access to public spaces now, and some privileged people are finally starting to recognise that these things are real problems and making room for marginalised people to speak for themselves. Just like with mental illness, these problems aren’t new. Racism has always been a problem. Sexism has always been a problem. But we’re finally recognising that, and trying to do something about it. And one of the ways we’re trying to address our harmful attitudes is by changing the way we use language. Language forms our thoughts, our attitudes, our ways of viewing the world. What words we use have significant impact, not only on those we’re speaking to and about, but on ourselves as well. When we make a conscious effort to change our language, it inevitably leads to a greater awareness of those around us, and of our own attitudes. What people who complain about “easily offended” millennials don’t realise is that we’re not really worried about being offended, although that’s still the go-to term. We’re finally recognising that this “offensive”, or rather oppressive language has real life, harmful impacts on marginalised people. And we’re no longer willing to accept that.

These are just two common examples of the way people misrepresent certain groups as “oversensitive”. It’s been a silencing technique used on mostly-marginalised groups since, well, forever really, and the problem is, it works. The irony is, of course, that the people yelling about oversensitive millennials are often very easily offended themselves. They screech about free speech and entitlement culture, but see what happens when you call one of them racist or sexist. Oversensitive doesn’t even begin to cover it. And they still fail to recognise that being called racist is not harmful, or even intended as an insult, while actually being racist causes real harm to real people.

So the next time you’re tempted to scoff at a bunch of “easily offended millennials”, stop and ask yourself: is there something I’m missing? What are they seeing here that I’m not? Because “common sense” isn’t always right. And young people aren’t always wrong.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: https://www.17h43.com/apprendre-ses-lecons.html

The Truth About Parenting

According to conventional wisdom, the most rewarding thing you can do in life is become a parent—or, more accurately, become a mother, because we all know motherhood is true parenting. It’s almost ten years since I became a mother, and while I love my kids, I don’t love parenting, and I know I’m not alone. It’s time more of us talked about it.

I know some people are wondering now how it’s possible to love your children and not love parenting. Surely loving your children is parenting, right? Aaah, no. Not even close. In fact, you can parent without loving your children at all (although it’s unlikely you’ll be any good at it), and you can love your children more than life itself and not parent one little bit. Primary parenting (usually done by the feminine partner, still) is hard, draining, and—especially when you have small children—incredibly boring. It’s repetitive, frustrating, and most days it feels like banging your head against a brick wall. Primary parenting is cleaning up the same mess three times in an hour, cooking the same meal twice a week because it’s the only thing they’ll eat, having the same conversation over and over again, finding half-drunk cups of tea all over the house because you had to go stop someone drawing on the wall halfway through drinking it. And as they grow up it’s mostly worry—not just about what they’re up to, but if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re teaching them what they need to know, if you’re helping them become a good person, a happy person, a whole person. This is doubly hard if you have a child who’s LGBT+, or who has a neurodivergence like autism, or a disability, because you know they’re facing barriers that other children don’t and there’s nothing you can do to protect them from that—and that hurts.

Of course, that’s not all parenting is. There are cuddles and babies falling asleep on you (gah, so cute!), and a toddler who can hardly speak telling you a story about a woof dog and a moo sheep (toddler, remember), and your nine-year-old who won’t hug you in front of your friends leaning on you while you’re trying to write and telling you about their day because they actually do love their parent, they’re just too cool to show it in public. And all of that stuff is great. But parenting, on the whole, is not fun, and a lot of us don’t enjoy it. And that’s okay.

I know hardly anyone who loves parenting—or, more accurately, primary parenting—in the way we’re told we should. We’re taught that this should be the most rewarding, fulfilling venture we’ve ever undertaken. We’re told to “enjoy it while it lasts”, while inside we’re screaming that we’d just like them to grow up already so we can be free! We miss having our own lives, being able to put ourselves first just some of the time, because having children means their needs will always come first—they’re children, and they can’t advocate for themselves, so the task always falls on us. Primary parents and “potential mothers” (because above all else, that’s how uterus-owners and femme people are still seen) are taught that this is the true purpose of our lives, and that desiring anything more than primary parenthood is selfish and somehow wrong. And yet most of us have many other things in our lives that are important to us, sometimes more important than the job of raising a miniature human. Our jobs, our hobbies, our friends, our pets—all of these things can be more important than potential parenthood—or actual parenthood. That’s not selfish, that’s just having different priorities. If you would rather stick needles in your eyes than have a child, that’s okay. Some people would rather work forever and be comfortable with their cat. And that’s okay.

But what about those of us who already are parents, and have discovered the truth that nobody told us—that primary parenting most isn’t playing nice games, or reading to our kids, or any of those fun parts, but is 80% hard, boring work, that nobody really values, that everyone is ready to criticise you for, that isn’t paid at all, and is not really our cup of tea? What do we do?

The first thing to remember is that you can be a good parent without loving parenting. Everyone has a part of their job that they don’t like (and if you don’t, how dare you, you unnatural human!). That doesn’t mean you can’t do that job well. (And yes, parenting is a job.) Whether it’s discipline, whether it’s the constant meal prep and housework bullshit (uuuuugh), whether it’s tolerating the same story over and over again without losing your goddamn mind, you can do it. And you can also remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect. The best parenting advice I ever got was from my counsellor, who reminded me that I don’t have to be the perfect parent, I just have to be “good enough”. Nobody can get it right 100% of the time, not even the most enthusiastic parent. We have to concentrate on doing our best for our children and ourselves with the tools that we have.

Be gentle with yourself. Realise that you can help break the parenting myth by being more than a parent. Study, work, have your hobbies. Make sure your kids are doing well while you do these things, but it’s actually good for your kids to see you as a whole person, with a life outside of them. You don’t have to be “just Mum”. You can have a life and be a parent—and be a good parent, too! Finding a balance is never easy, but it is possible.

And let go of “Mummy guilt”. You don’t have to be all and everything for everyone, not even your children. You can still be a whole, human person and a parent. Don’t feel guilty for longing for the day when they move out. Don’t feel guilty for zoning out halfway through that twenty minute recitation of every event in their school day. Don’t feel guilty for muttering swears under your breath at your turd of a child as they stomp away from you and slam the door because you dared to ask them to take out the garbage. You are not alone. You are not wrong. You are not broken. Parenting is hard, and you don’t have to love it.

If you liked this, check out my novel Conversion here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LXOM7IZ

Follow me on Facebook for my original work at: www.facebook.com/cambreypayneauthor/

YouTube for ridiculous rants: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnY6se-Zt88WVrjxMTh7K5w

Tumblr for total randomness: https://cambreypayne.tumblr.com/

You can also follow me on Insta: @cambreypayne

Or Twitter @m1sandr1stw1tch

Yes, I know, I have too much social media…

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Some Words Should Be Allowed To Die

CW: constant uncensored reference to s***id slut (and associated words), references to ableism

So there’s a common trend in certain marginalised communities of reclaiming certain slurs—I happily participate in this myself, by referring to myself as queer. In fact, I’m very proud of my intense queerness. I embrace that label with all of my queer little heart. Reclaiming something that was once a slur can be very powerful, but this is not the case in all circumstances. There are some terms that cannot be reclaimed as a positive—and some terms that can only be reclaimed by a portion of a community. One example of this is the attempt to reclaim “slut” through movements such as the Slut Walk. This seems like a positive move, since slut shaming has a seriously negative impact on the everyday lives of women and femmes BUT it ignores many intersections this word has with race. When the Slut Walk first began, Black women objected to the reclamation of the word, because for them, it had different connotations to those experienced by white women. Young Black women and girls were overly sexualised from tragically early ages, they were presented as innately sexual, whereas (wealthy) white women were often innocent until proven slutty. For white women, it made sense to reclaim this label, to attempt to find empowerment in sexual freedom. For Black women, the issue was far more complicated, because their sexuality had been used against them for so long. (Check out a copy of the open letter here for a more comprehensive discussion of these issues: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-brison/slutwalk-black-women_b_980215.html).

Language is very powerful, which is why reclaiming slurs can be such a positive experience. It takes a label that has been hurled at you in order to injure you and makes it into something positive. But not every word has that potential. The words I want to discuss today are “stupid” and “idiot”. Seemingly normal, everyday words. Normal, everyday concepts. And yet these words are used as weapons against neurotypical and disabled people, used to exclude and destroy. These words have immense power—all the more, because we don’t think they do.

Before I get into precisely why these words cannot be reclaimed, I want to point out that the neurodivergent and disabled community in general has already said they cannot. As the community affected by these slurs, they are the only ones who can decide whether or not something can be reclaimed, or if it is too harmful and should be allowed to die. As such, we need to listen and support this community, rather than telling them the oppression they face isn’t real, which is what we effectively do when we downplay the harm done by these slurs. However, if you want to understand why the neurodivergent community feels this way, please read on.

It’s barely twelve months since I first came across the idea that “stupid” was considered a slur. I’d begun to look into various forms of ableism for the first time, an area of social justice that is woefully neglected and that I took a shamefully long time to come to. As I read more accounts of the marginalisation of disabled and neurodivergent people, I began to realise just how insidious ableism is in our culture, in our very language. When we fail to notice something, we are “blind”, and this is considered a bad thing. When we mishear someone, we are “deaf”, apparently a very rude thing to be. When we make a mistake, we are “stupid”. When we trip over our own feet, we are stupid. When we misspell something, we are stupid. When we forget something, we are stupid. When we misunderstand, we are stupid. When we cannot conform to social standards because we are neurodivergent, we are stupid. Whenever we mess up, we are stupid. There is no “good” way to be stupid, nothing to be reclaimed, not in the way “queer” can be reconfigured into something positive. Stupidity is the catch-all descriptor for every human evil, from a simple slip-up to a troll encouraging someone to harm themselves online. It’s all “stupid”.

What makes it worse is that people, even people who’ve suffered from the negative connotations of this word and the concepts that accompany it, insist it’s no big deal. “Oh, I was just using it against myself, it’s fine.” “It didn’t originally mean what it does now.” “It’s just a word, there’s nothing wrong with valuing intelligence.”

Except the way we value “intelligence” and the way we vilify “stupidity” is precisely the problem. Let’s start by looking at our so-called “value for intelligence”.

Firstly, it’s not intelligence we value, so much as a particular level of education, a particular ability to speak a particular language in a particular way, the development of a particular skill set, the ability to conform to a particular group of social norms—in short, we value the average product of a wealthy, middle-class education system: well-spoken, decent grades, entry into university (and completion thereof), etc. We value the appearance of intelligence. We value a certain amount of knowledge, which doesn’t necessarily have a link to intelligence. If it really came down to it, how many of us could really describe what intelligence is? As someone who is both incredibly intelligent and a social disaster due to autism, I have paradoxically been marginalised for both these things. Past a certain point, intelligence ceases to be an asset and becomes a problem (this is especially bad in anyone who’s not a man). And intelligence loses most of its value if you suffer simultaneously from disability or neurodivergence—and this includes physical disabilities, because people tend to dismiss any sign of intelligence, knowledge, or sociability, and assume physically disabled people are “less than” on every level.

Well, this is fun. Let’s talk about why valuing this intelligence/knowledge/education thing is a problem.

Well, not everyone is wealthy and middle-class, so this education isn’t accessible to any but a small, privileged minority. And race intersects with this issue as well, because the inherent racism in our culture paints non-white people, or non-English speakers, as less intelligent, regardless of the evidence. And even if we offered this education to everyone, we’re not all made the same way. Some people aren’t capable of this particular form of knowledge. Some people suffer dyslexia, some people’s brains simply process differently, some people suffer illnesses that prevent their participation, and so on (and so on forever). By valuing and privileging this form of education/intelligence/knowledge, we exclude and marginalise everyone who can’t fit that ideal. Because what is so wrong with being stupid? Who does it harm? Whose fault is it? Why is someone less valuable as a human being simple because they were made differently, or born to different parents, or taught a different language, or because they’re disabled? They are not! All human beings are innately valuable—yet we actively teach ourselves that the disabled are somehow worth less.

What is truly disgusting and terrifying, once you start to think about these issues, is how normal it is for people to argue that “it’s for the good of society”. Oh, they claim they don’t hate disabled/neurodivergent people, they claim they’ll “look after them”, but what they really want is for them/us to disappear. We are, first and foremost, a burden. Burdens who shouldn’t be permitted to breed, or interact with “normal people”. We are unproductive. We are drains on the national purse. We are the reason people want to do genetic tests for Downs Syndrome, and why they will abort a foetus if it comes back positive. I’m pro abortion, but that is horrific. And what makes it doubly horrific is how normal that is. We would rather mourn the loss of a wanted pregnancy than raise a disabled child. The government, our anti-abortion government, would rather fund an abortion than properly fund disability services and support families who need extra facilities etc. That is how much we fear disability.

I should clarify here that I support the right of all people to access publicly funded and universally available abortion without the need for justification or recrimination. Whenever they want it Whenever they want it, just because they’re carrying a fertilised egg and don’t want to be. This does not mean I can condone this common practice, which is a symptom of deep and horrific ableism in our culture, an ableism that is so insidious that it appears logical and rational to the vast majority of the population. In our country, disabled people are burdens. Only the truly angelic or the truly deluded would happily welcome a disabled child into the world. This is eugenics at its dark and dangerous heart.

Well that escalated quickly…

So where does something as small and seemingly insignificant as the word “stupid” come into all this?

Oppression begins in our language, the building blocks of our thoughts, of our beliefs. By painting “stupid”, always and forever, as the worst thing a person could be, by painting it as a universal wrong, a universal insult that can be used on all occasions, we contribute to ableism in its most basic form. Stupid is, at its heart, a slur. It is often aimed at abled and neurotypical people, but it is our fear of the disabled and the neuroatypical, or just those whose minds are different, that we express whenever we use it. When we call someone stupid for making a mistake, we really say “be careful you don’t keep doing that, or you’ll be no better than Them”. When we call someone stupid for being ignorant, we really say “be careful you learn better, or you’ll end up like Them”. We teach our children that it’s okay to fling this slur like a weapon at their peers who are slower or clumsier or less social or just different. And because we use it all the time ourselves, we fail to see the full, horrifying impact of the word across our culture. We fail to see the people this word harms, because while we are so used to seeing this word, we have taught ourselves to stop seeing the disabled, and the neurodivergent.

I’ve been told on multiple occasions that “cutting out stupid is just too hard”. That is how little the disabled are valued by our society. When a large portion of our community is writing and speaking about changing our language, when we are loudly proclaiming that stupid and idiot are slurs that are harming us every damn day, those outside the community insist that they are not. They would rather continue harming a whole community, a whole group of people already left behind by our society, than think about the words they use for even a moment. Mainstream society seems to finally be coming to a place where we recognise that “gay” cannot be used as an insult any longer. We need to look further, and recognise that we cannot stop this evolution of language here, we cannot pat ourselves on the back and say “we’re done now”. Our language is still inherently oppressive. And yes, it is uncomfortable and difficult to change the words you use to build your thoughts, your opinions, the world around you. But it can be done. It must.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017.

Jealousy Maketh The Manchild

Anyone who’s spent any amount of time around (heterosexual) couples who are just starting down Parenthood Boulevard (don’t do it, it’s a trap!) will have heard the common refrain of “things just aren’t the same between us any more”. A common complaint is that the man in the relationship feels jealous of all the attention his partner is now giving to their infant child—a sentiment that has been so naturalised in our culture that it’s almost a cliche. Of course the man feels jealous! He can’t feel as close to his child as its mother, of course he can’t. He can’t possibly hope to care for it in the same way, and not only that, but now the loving partner he’s so used to having all to himself is taken up with this new, loud family member. Life will never be the same again.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Because this idea that a father has a natural right to feel jealous of his own child is bullshit.

Now, no one is saying that having a new child is easy. It’s exhausting, you’re trying to figure out new routines and new ways of relating to each other, all while running on basically zero sleep. It’s not always fun, and if both partners feel a little resentful of this little bundle of joy from time to time, that is only natural. This resentment becomes a problem, however, when it becomes more than a passing moment of frustration, the kind you naturally feel when your infant, who you thought was sleeping peacefully for the first time in three days, suddenly insists that they’re literally dying when you’d just got comfy with a cup of tea and an episode of Doctor Who.

This kind of jealousy is most commonly expressed by men who are not the primary carers—the men who “help” their partners, rather than actually fucking parenting. They rely on their partners to give instructions, to keep track of what needs doing and when, to write shopping lists, to know how many clothes baby has, when baby needs to sleep and eat, and to micromanage every little detail of their domestic lives. Rather than taking an equal share of the exhausting task of raising a child—or more than one child—they put the bulk of the physical and emotional labour involved on their spouses, and claim it’s only fair because they are in paid work. All this, despite the evidence that women who are full time carers consistently work more hours, and consequently have fewer leisure hours, than men who are working full time. And then these men have the temerity to turn around and complain that their partner doesn’t give them attention any more, and that they’re jealous of their child. Their new, infant child, who can’t even see more than a few feet. There are whole counselling practices based on this form of jealousy.

Imagine that for a second. They’re jealous of a baby. And we tell them they have every right to be.

Except they don’t. Well, it’s obviously not quite that simple—you can’t help your feelings, but you can help how you deal with them and act on them. If you start resenting your child, this might be a sign that you’re an entitled dickhead who needs to get more involved with parenting and support your partner more. It might be a sign that you’ve deluded yourself into thinking you’re the centre of the universe and that your spouse somehow owes you all of her time and effort, when in fact you’re an adult human being how needs to learn how to behave like it.

There are two points to this problem, both of which should by now be obvious: the first is that there is still a significant labour gap when it comes to caring, and women are left with the majority of that labour, and are left working more hours altogether than men. The second is that there is still a tremendous sense of entitlement in normative heterosexual relationships, and it all goes one way—men feel entitled to the time and attention of their partners, even when that partner has very real demands on her time that should and must be prioritised. An infant cannot care for itself. An adult man should be able to.

And thus is born the “manchild”. How many times have our women friends joked about “having an extra child” in the form of their partner? We all laugh it off, it’s just one of those things, right? Absolutely not. The patriarchy has developed relationship norms that are not only unhealthy, but infantilise men and make us believe that it’s natural for men to be demanding, entitled, whiny babies. But this isn’t true. Men are fully grown, fully capable adults, absolutely able to take on an equal share of parenting—including the emotional labour involved—absolutely capable of recognising that their partner is not “abandoning” them, and absolutely capable of being mature, responsible, and loving of not only their partner, but their child.

That’s right, the partner is not the only one suffering here. That child is being resented instead of loved. That child is growing up seeing one parent doing all the work, while the other whines that they’re not getting enough attention—because this jealous manchild doesn’t magically grow up with the baby. Oh no, they keep throwing that sulky little tantrum forever, emotionally manipulating their partner into feeling guilty for abandoning them, when in fact they were just doing what was necessary to keep a child alive. In fact, many of these women end up driving themselves into depression, anxiety, OCD (and more), simply because they feel as though they have to prioritise everyone’s needs before their own—and, as a consequence, they never have time to prioritise themselves. They often don’t even have enough time to sleep!

So what’s the solution? Expect more of men. Stop naturalising this idea of the “manchild”, the incapable adult male who can’t possibly look after himself because he’s just a big silly man. Men are just as capable of looking after themselves and their families as women. It’s time they did.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: http://www.w24.co.za/Love/Relationship/Dating-a-Man-Child-20140711

Performing Transgender

Good morning, lovelies! Pride Month may be over, but I’m still here and still queer, so I’m going to keep writing about all the queer things as long as I damn well please, and nobody can stop me! *insert evil laugh here*

One of the criticisms I frequently see directed at trans people is that we “perform” our gender “too much”. This is one hell of a criticism, and it has several layers of bullshittiness, so I’m going to unpack it a little bit at a time. The first issue is the idea that some people don’t perform their gender. If you haven’t read Judith Butler lately, most feminists explain gender expression as a form of performance—not necessarily like acting, but our gender expression is a way of interacting with the world, of letting them know who we are, what kind of general traits we might be expected to have, what kind of behaviour might be expected of us. Of course, there are as many different ways of performing gender as there are human beings, but cisgender and gender-conforming people tend to perform their gender in ways that are recognisable to the rest of society. Trans people and gender-nonconforming people may not.

So to accuse trans people of “performing” gender as though this is some terrible crime completely ignores the fact that 100% of people perform their (a)gender*. We signal our gender to others using clothing, language, posture, interactions, relationships, hobbies and a million other choices that may appear “natural”, but are actually heavily influenced by the world in which we live. Now, this is not to say that gender is not “real”—just because you are performing your gender, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a real impact on your life, and doesn’t mean you’re somehow “faking it”. But your choices will be coloured by the kind of performance you want to give, because, at its heart, the purpose of this performance is to show other people who you are. Gender is meaningless when it doesn’t interact with other people and other genders, and the purpose of performance is to give your gender meaning.

For cisgender people, this performance feels natural. It doesn’t feel like a performance, because cis people don’t usually spend a lot of time questioning their gender. They feel mostly comfortable with their style of performance, because it roughly matches up with what their culture expects of someone with their body type. Born with a vagina? Your culture will have a rough code of behaviour that goes along with that, a code you learn from birth, and one that seems so natural that you don’t even realise you’re learning to perform it. And yet, you are still learning a particular set of behaviours that people teach you based on your exterior genitalia, one that differs from culture to culture, and across time. So for cis people, the idea that they might be performing is very uncomfortable. It can somehow feel like they’re being told their gender isn’t “real”—and this discomfort is a very strong indicator of how we’re taught to think about trans people’s genders. Cis people’s genders are “natural” and “real”, while trans people’s genders are “unnatural” and “performed”. The reality is that all genders are a performance, an interaction between people, and a way of signalling to others who you are. Cis people just have the luxury of not having to be so conscious of this.

So we all perform gender. But the people criticising trans people for this performance are often familiar with Judith Butler, and claim that trans people are performing their gender too much, that trans people are conforming too closely to gender norms, and are therefore harming feminism in some way. This criticism is particularly levelled at trans women, usually by trans-exclusionary feminists (who are basically scum). They claim that trans women who conform to normative notions of femininity—who perform their womanhood in ways that seem “normal”—are antifeminist, that they’re trying to enforce gender roles. Can anyone else say “bullshit”?

There are several factors at play here. First: not all trans women are super feminine. There are butch trans women, non-passing trans women, sort-of-feminine trans women—every variety of trans woman (all of whom are beautiful and absolutely women). The argument that “all trans women are destroying feminism because they enforce gender roles” is immediately nonsense.

Second: trans women have as much right to perform their gender however they are most comfortable as cisgender women. So shut up and stop policing gender expression.

Third: trans women often do perform more feminine femininity because it’s literally a matter of survival for them. Trans women are some of the most vulnerable and oppressed people in the world, particularly trans women of colour. They are frequently subjected to acts of violence—physical, verbal, and sexual—as well as being refused homes and jobs and services, and all manner of other shitty things. Trans women who can “pass” are less likely, at least on a superficial level, to be faced with these shitty things. (They are still at risk, so don’t assume passing trans women no longer suffer transphobia and oppression.) So of course they perform femininity in a way that’s going to improve their quality of life.

Fourth: most trans women grew up being told they weren’t women. They didn’t have their gender recognised until they forced people to recognise it by performing it in a way that other people acknowledged as feminine. This is true for all trans and agender people—women, men, non-binary, or no gender. The vast majority of us grew up being told we were getting it wrong. People constantly tried to give us the wrong script, and we often didn’t understand why. So when we were finally able to decide on our own script, we often choose one that makes absolutely goddamn sure that other people will recognise us for who we are. We don’t have the luxury of unconsciously performing our gender. We chose our mode of performance, often after a lot of trial and error, specifically so that we could not only feel comfortable in ourselves, but so that other people would finally acknowledge our gender.

Not all trans people experience (a)gender this way, but most of us experience some level of it. We go through a lot of questioning and experimenting before we settle into a particular gender performance, and even then, it can change over time—just like anyone’s gender changes with age and experience. Many of us will perform our (a)gender in a way that’s more “obvious” or more “extreme” than we otherwise might, if the world didn’t require us to constantly signpost who we are, but that in no way makes our gender (or lack of it) “not real”, or “wrong”. Everyone performs their (a)gender. Trans people are just more conscious of it. And until we live in a culture that doesn’t force us to conform to certain modes of performance in order to be recognised, that’s going to keep being the case.

Until next time, lovelies, misandrist witch out.

*(a)gender: agender people do not experience a relationship to gender, and/or do not have a gender. They may often perform this lack of gender, although how they do this differs from person to person. Yes, this is a real thing. Yes, it is possible to have no gender. Just because you can’t understand it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017.

Image from: http://drama16.info/

What Does Aromantic Even Mean?

Good morning, lovelies! I’ve just made it back in time for one Pride Month post (not that I don’t talk enough about queer issues outside Pride Month…). There are so many issues to choose from, I spent the last week feeling very confused about what I should discuss, and since I concluded that I was completely incapable of making a logical decision, I should make a personal one instead. So today I would like to talk about what it means to be aromantic.

Like many other queer identities, the aromantic identity is one that seems reasonably simple at first, but gets far more complex the closer you look. Asexual and aromantic identities are still reasonably new to the LGBT+ mainstream, not to mention the general public, who still tend to view these things as illnesses or flaws that are unhealthy and need to be ‘cured’. The truth is, however, that ace/aro identities are as natural as any queer identity – not everyone experiences sexual or romantic desire in the way we’re taught to consider ‘normal’. But the variations within the ace/aro spectrum can be pretty confusing, even for those of us who find ourselves somewhere along those spectrums, so your friendly neighbourhood misandrist witch is here to… probably make things even less clear, let’s be honest…

At first glance, being aromantic simply means one doesn’t experience the desire for romantic connections or relationships. This sounds pretty simple, right? That is, until you start to question: what is romance exactly…? Is it what we see in romantic comedies? Is it long term monogamy? (Hint: no, it certainly doesn’t have to be.) Does it have to involve dating? (Ugh.) Does it have to involve physical contact and desire? (Nope, just ask any asexual person.) Is there a strict divide between friendship and romantic attachment? (Gods no.) Can you really form true romantic attachments to more than one person? (Hint: yes, many people can.) What even is romance?!

As someone who’s spent quite a lot of time questioning their own identity, these questions really bothered me for a while. In spite of my very angry inner feminist, I love a good romcom (or a bad one, I’m not fussy – but don’t tell anyone). I read romance novels, I love a bit of fluffy fanfic as much as the next queer. And I certainly wouldn’t be averse to having a romantic partner. So how on earth could I be aromantic?

Well, to start with, I love being single. Like, really love it. And I prefer friendships over romantic attachments. I rarely feel romantic attachment to people, and even when I do, I even more rarely want to act on it – and not just because I’m a bloody coward.

But here’s the part where everything gets complicated. Because what we think of as ‘romance’ has a pretty narrow definition, and what I think of as romance doesn’t fall anywhere within those boundaries. I don’t hate the idea of a romantic relationship. But I also enjoy being single, and there are a hell of a lot of parts of singlehood I wouldn’t be willing to give up for any romantic relationship. I like to make my own decisions, manage my own money, and I don’t like the idea of being dependent on another human being for my happiness – the idea of someone else being dependent on me for the same is frankly terrifying. My concept of what a romantic relationship would involve looks very different from most people’s – in fact, it looks more like most people’s ideas of a really close friendship, although admittedly with more snogging… So does that mean I’m not really aromantic?

Hell no.

For me, being aromantic isn’t just about not experiencing romantic desire – although that is definitely what being aromantic means to a lot of people, and I certainly don’t desire romantic attachments in the way I’ve been taught is ‘normal’. But just like any other queer identity, there isn’t just one way to be aromantic, and for a lot of us, being aromantic is about not experiencing normative romantic desire. It’s about desiring and forming relationships outside the normative romantic/friendship binary. It’s about desiring and forming relationships that queer people’s expectations. I already have some deep relationships that are more loving and committed than most normative romantic relationships I’ve seen. For us, they defy definition in the normative system, making them inherently queer. Are they romantic? Are they friendship? I’d say it doesn’t matter – they’re loving, and the idea that there’s a strict binary division between romance and friendship is bullshit, and one of the biggest reasons I identify as aromantic.

Being aromantic is about rejecting normative ideas of romance. It’s about forming relationships that work for you as an individual. It’s about embracing the idea that there are more ways to relate to people than merely platonic friendship or sexually active romance – so many more! And people have been exploring these alternatives for centuries. These aren’t new ideas, they’re just not mainstream ideas.

To anyone who is wondering why they can’t form romantic relationships, or why they feel uncomfortable in them, or why they can’t relate to them – you are not broken. You might just be aromantic. You might be asexual. You might be both. And these things are absolutely okay. You are a whole person, with your own unique needs and desires, and provided those needs and desires aren’t hurting anyone (including you!), you don’t need to change, you don’t need ‘fixing’, or ‘curing’. You are beautiful just as you are.

This Pride Month, please remember to include your ace and aro siblings. We exist, and we are out there queering the normative concept of romance, sexuality, and gender, just like the rest of our LGBTQI+ community.

Get out there, be proud, and be awesome! I love you!
Misandrist witch out.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing.

When Consent Is Impossible

CN: This post contains reference to sexual assault and consent. If this is a triggering topic for you, please proceed with care.

One of the more extreme beliefs of radical feminists™ is that all sex between men and women is rape, due to the oppressive nature of patriarchy. (Because radfems are pretty anti-trans, they’re referring to penetrative sex between cis men and cis women.) To everyone who isn’t a radfem, this sounds pretty absurd, and the logic that supports it is pretty shaky – they basically believe that because men hold all the institutional power in a patriarchal society, women are unable to consent to sex, because they are powerless. In this world view, sex between men and women is a central form of oppression. Obviously, this simplistic view of sex and power relations is bullshit. But can we really say that there are no places in our culture where consent gets shaky – if not downright impossible – simply due to the nature of patriarchal oppression?

Okay, okay, I know you’re probably worrying about where this is going right now. Rest assured, I’m certainly not about to advocate the universal victimhood of all people with vaginas, or claim that every person with a penis is automatically a rapist, because that is patently false. Even oppressed people do have some semblance of agency in many circumstances, and to declare that all sex=rape denies even the possibility of any oppressed person ever making an independent decision. However, there are many circumstances where we have created and recreated a culture* that makes it very difficult for non-men to consent, or, more accurately, to deny consent. And it’s this blurry grey area that I want to talk about.

How many of us have talked about sex with our friends? I bet that’s most of us – and contrary to stereotypes, I find that women and feminine people tend to go into waaaaaaaaay more detail than any of the men or masculine people I’ve met.

Like, so much detail. We have no secrets.

Have you ever noticed the existence of what I’ve always thought of as “obligation sex”? I bet most of us immediately understand what I mean by that. You’re in a relationship, and you haven’t had sex for a while. Your partner’s** getting antsy, but you don’t really want to do anything. So what do you do? Eventually you give in, because it’s easier than putting up with your partner whining at you. And on the surface it seems like consent. You didn’t really want to have sex, but you chose to do it because it was easier than dealing with the consequences. That’s a choice, right? Right?

Weeeelllllll….

The form of consent that is now favoured by legislators and feminists alike is “continuing and enthusiastic consent”. Does obligation sex – sex you have because you feel guilty, or because your partner won’t stop whining – sound “continuing and enthusiastic”? Yeah, no. Because it isn’t. But does that mean that you’re being sexually assaulted every time you have obligation sex?

Sadly, this is where things get blurry.

Some people who are having obligation sex, and who believe they’re giving a form of consent, ARE being sexually assaulted. These are people who fear the consequences of not doing it, consequences that could include violence, deprivation of freedom or money, emotional and psychological manipulation, verbal abuse, and so on. Any of these consequences make it impossible to give free and enthusiastic consent, because you’re faced with a choice between sex you don’t want and something pretty freaking awful. And these people often don’t realise that what’s happening to them is assault and/or abuse until they’re out of the relationship. Our cultural ideals around sex and relationships are so messed up, they actually believe they’re in the wrong for not wanting sex in the first place.

But there are other people who aren’t facing these serious consequences, who still feel obliged to have sex for a variety of reasons. They might know their partner gets upset when they don’t have sex, even if their partner doesn’t abuse them. They might feel guilty for “withholding” sex from their partner, because they’ve absorbed the ridiculous cultural narrative that sex is a compulsory part of a healthy relationship (Hint: it’s not), and they believe they’re depriving their partner and their relationship of something vital.

It’s this last cultural belief that blurs the line of consent in so many circumstances, and especially in long term, heterosexual, monogamous relationships. There are several beliefs that feed into this problem, namely:

  1. Sex is absolutely vital for a healthy relationship
  2. All physical contact within a relationship will inevitably lead to sex, and if it doesn’t, it’s teasing and therefore ‘unfair’
  3. All men want sex all the time, and need sex regularly to be happy
  4. All people are inherently sexual, and asexuality/demisexuality etc are problems and things that need to be treated by medical/psychological therapy
  5. Penetrative sex is the only valid kind of sex
  6. Women regularly withhold sex from their male partners as a form of manipulation
  7. It’s okay to get upset with your partner if they won’t have sex with you
  8. Denial of sex is a form of abuse
  9. You don’t have the right to withhold sex in a long term relationship
  10. All people desire and need a romantic and sexual relationship in order to feel whole and happy

All of these beliefs are built in to the very structure of our ideals around romantic relationships, our ideals about what counts as ‘real’ love, ‘real’ passion, ‘real’ intimacy. All of these beliefs are false. And all of these beliefs make it very difficult for people in long term relationships to navigate the blurry areas of consent.

But surely, you say, these are problems for men as well. And yes, you’d be right. There are men who suffer from these beliefs, who are having ‘obligation sex’, and who are struggling with this blurred consent. But because of the way masculinity and femininity are constructed in our culture, women form the vast majority of people whose right to consent is, at best, restricted, and worse, often completely removed.

So how can we change this? There are several ways, and since I’ve already started down the road to hell with a listicle, I’m going to continue.

  1. Destroy the idea that sex = masculinity. There is nothing inherently masculine about a high sex drive. There are asexual and demisexual men. There are men who are sexual but don’t want that much sex. There a women who like lots of sex. Sex drive is not a gendered thing.
  2. Destroy the idea that wanting sex and not getting it is a tragedy. Not getting sex when you want it can be frustrating, sure, but it won’t actually cause you harm. Someone denying you sex isn’t ‘selfish’ – in fact, it’s selfish of you to expect sex – from anyone – just because you want it. If you can’t cope with being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want sex as much as you do, you shouldn’t be in that relationship. But them not having sex with you doesn’t cause mental harm and it doesn’t cause physical harm. It’s just frustrating. Get over it and go masturbate. That’s a thing.
  3. Normalise communication about sex. This would be way less of a problem if people didn’t simply assume that sex was always on the table in romantic relationships, and if they discussed it early in a budding relationship. If two people are on completely different pages with regard to sex, they shouldn’t be getting involved, and if they know this early on, they can avoid a whole lotta heart ache and grief.
  4. Stop assuming that sex in romantic relationships is necessary. Sex is not an integral part of a healthy relationship. Sex is just one of about a million valid, wonderful ways to feel close to someone – and sex is only going to be truly intimate if both of you are 100% into it. If you don’t think that’s true, then you’re a shitty partner and you need to get your act together.
  5. Destroy the idea that everyone wants sex and romance. This is bullshit. The end.
  6. Someone not wanting to have sex with you is not a personal insult. They just don’t want to have sex with you. It’s not something they’re doing on purpose. Get over it.
  7. Acknowledge that obligation sex is not sex to which someone has freely consented. It’s not a good thing. Why would you want to be having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have it with you? You can’t force someone to want to have sex with you – not by guilt, not by bribery, not by threats – it cannot be done. Stop acting like obligation sex is as valid as sex to which everyone has enthusiastically consented, because it’s not and never has been and never will be.

So get out there, peeps, and change the world one refusal or one enthusiastic consent at a time. You are always entitled to say no to sex you don’t want, no matter how long it’s been since you had it, no matter who you’re with, no matter what gender you are. There is nothing wrong with you if you find you’re not interested in sex, whether it’s for a short while or forever. Say no to obligation sex, because a world in which all sex is enthusiastic and completely wanted is a happier, healthier world for all of us.

Misandrist witch out!

*As usual, I’m talking about Anglo-European (white af) Australia and similar cultures. These patterns may appear in other cultures as well, particularly cultures that have suffered the effects of colonial imperialism, but I can only speak to my knowledge of Anglo-European Western culture
**In this article I’m specifically addressing patterns in heterosexual relationships. Although they may occur in queer relationships, the power relationships are often different and will therefore have different dynamics.

Image and text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

No Justification Necessary

CN: contains reference to oppressive violence and some (attempts at) dark humour. Also contains frequent sarcasm – I’ll try to mark it for those who have trouble with that, but I might miss some.

Good news, marginalised sibs*! I have been hard at work in my Sciency Lab of Science, and I have discovered a Thing! We don’t actually have to justify our existence!

If you’re not a member of a marginalised group, you might be wonder right now what I’m talking about. Fear not, friend, for I am about to Learn You A Thing!

If you pay attention to current events, you may have noticed a strange trend when it comes to how certain groups reply to criticism, attacks, and violence. This covers a whole range of oppressions, from racism to fatphobia, transphobia to ableism. It covers an equally broad range of violence**, from verbal abuse to literal death. When a black person dies in police custody, for example, any sympathetic media coverage will always focus on how they were a good student, or how they were working two jobs to support their family, or how they had never committed a crime in their lives. When a fat person is shamed for being fat, people are quick to point out that they’re depressed, or they had an illness, or that they’re working hard to try and lose weight. When a trans person is assaulted, we’re forced to defend ourselves by pointing to our work in the community, by proving that we spend our weekends working at soup kitchens instead of clubbing, and that we never drink alcohol. When people with disabilities or mental illnesses are attacked, people often defend us by claiming we’re unable to defend ourselves, that we should be treated as innocent, ignorant, incompetent children, who are basically angels because of all the horrible terrible things we have to deal with because we’re ‘not normal’.

Excuse me for one moment, writing that last sentence made me nauseous…

Okay, so you might be thinking: ‘But Cambrino, what’s wrong with pointing out that someone’s a good person? Shouldn’t we be breaking down the negative stereotypes about marginalised people?’ And yeah, you’re absolutely right. We should be breaking down stereotypes. You know when we should be doing that? All the damn time. But that’s not what this kind of justification is about. This kind of justification is about people saying “this marginalised person didn’t deserve to be treated like a marginalised person because they don’t fit our stereotypes of a marginalised person”. When we make these kind of excuses, we basically take that marginalised person out of that marginalised group and make them an honorary not-marginalised person. And that isn’t helping anyone.

This kind of justification also leaves no room for imperfection. Black student on a B average? Nope, sorry buddy, you probably deserved what happened to you. Fat person who goes for the occasional walk but doesn’t exist on broccoli stalks and lemon water? Too bad, we’re gonna shame you forever. Trans person who smokes marijuana and likes a drink on the weekend? Maybe just stay home, it’ll be safer. Disabled person who just hates other people? Basically you’re the reason nobody likes disabled people probably. /sarcasm/

It leaves everyone who isn’t five times as perfect as literally any other human being out in the cold. And all the while, members of privileged groups suffering the same kind of violence (physical or verbal) don’t need a reason why they shouldn’t have been targeted. A white, middle-class cishet man being assaulted is always a tragedy. It doesn’t matter if they’re an habitual drinker who was high on three different drugs and yelling obscenities in the middle of a busy street – if someone comes up and punches them for it, the person who punched them is an arsehole, and a criminal arsehole at that. And that’s true – but it should still be true if the victim were a black trans woman sex worker, one of the most marginalised people in the Western World.

It also glosses over the fact that a lot of people in marginalised groups suffer because of that very marginalisation, and this means that there is a higher statistical likelihood that we will have criminal records – not only because more of us live in poverty and are forced into situations where criminal behaviour happens, but also because police target marginalised people – particularly people of colour – far more, because the entire legal system is racist as hell, from police to court. Because more marginalised people live in poverty, we are therefore less likely to have university degrees or high grades, because education is hard to access when you’re broke. People living in poverty are also more likely to have substance dependence issues, for a whole host of reasons that don’t stem from them being shitty people, but have everything to do with the fact that being marginalised is hard and people will find coping mechanisms for that. The point is, not everyone who is oppressed is, or wants to be, or can be, the ‘perfect person’. It doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated badly. But when we try to justify someone by pointing out how great they are, we throw these other, less idealised, people under the Oppression Bus.

The real reason we keep repeating these justifications is because there is a deep-seated, unconscious belief in our society*** that marginalised people somehow deserve to be treated poorly. Now, before you start jumping up and down and explaining to me why you think all people should be treated equally and how you would never be so horrible, let me just say: chill.

I’m not saying we’re all monsters who happily go about beating up marginalised people. Of course we’re not. This isn’t something most of us are consciously taught or aware of. It’s mostly a subtle social message that we get through media, art and literature, the law and politics – our whole culture is based on it. And that is super uncomfortable, because we want to believe in free will and individualism and all the rest, and not that we live in a society with strong cultural prejudices that oppress certain people for no good reason.

So when we see someone harmed, and we feel bad, we react in the only way we know how. Rather than saying “this oppressive violence is bad because it’s oppressive violence”, we try and explain why this particular individual didn’t deserve what happened to them. This allows us to preserve the status quo and believe that we’re good people at the same time. Sadly, it doesn’t help the people who are being harmed by the oppressive violence, because it makes that violence about individuals, instead of about cultural systems.

What do we do, then? Should we just stop talking about the people who are harmed by this violence? Should we stop pointing out the ways in which they were good people?

The answer to both of those questions is obviously no. We should celebrate each and every human for whatever is good about them. But that shouldn’t be limited to a narrow view of perfection involving achievement and self-sacrifice. It should involve things like ‘they made me smile’, or ‘they tried’, or just ‘they were human’. Some people aren’t ‘good people’ by any popular definition, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be victims of oppressive violence.

And we absolutely must acknowledge, openly, honestly, and sensitively, the oppressive systems that led to that violence in the first place, because if we only ever focus on individuals – and this is where we need to talk about perpetrators as well – we will never address the root of the problem. Nobody should have to be ‘perfect’ in order to exist. People deserve to be free of violence because they’re people, and for no other reason.

I’m just gonna repeat that last bit: People deserve to be free of violence because they’re people, and for no other reason.

Thank you, and good night.
* sibs: short for siblings
** violence: I’m using violence as an overarching term for physical, emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse, attacks, assault and so on. Violence is never only physical
*** ‘our society’: I’m referring to Australian society here, but this can apply to the US, Canada, the UK, and much of (particularly Western) Europe as well.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017.

Image from: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/sexual-assault-the-new-justification

Can Autism Make You Trans?

Well, lovelies, this is the final post for Autism Awareness Month, and I’ve saved the most mind-bending for last. I’ve had some difficulty writing this, because the research available is so sparse. This means that a lot of what I’m about to say is necessarily based on anecdotal evidence and my experiences coming into the autistic and trans communities. While I have no problem giving my opinion on any topic, as you no doubt have already noticed, this particular subject is a very prickly one, and I’m aware that those who are neither trans, nor autistic, can very easily misinterpret our reality and use it against us. Nevertheless, the link between autism and gender variance is something that cannot be denied, and needs to be talked about. So here goes…

The link between autism and gender variance has been recognised for over two decades. What studies have been done suggest that up to 10% of people diagnosed with ASD or related conditions show some form of gender variance (see the end of the article for links). Another study estimated that the rate of gender variance in people with ASD and ADHD is about seven times that of people without. Sadly, the research into this issue is limited at best, and faces a lot of problems when it comes to finding accurate data and reaching helpful conclusions. This means that talking about gender variance in autism still relies heavily on anecdotal evidence and personal experience, which a lot of people outside the autism community are very quick to dismiss. There are several reasons for this.

The first is the slowly changing, although still common, belief that gender variance is a problem, and something that should be discouraged. Gender variance is an umbrella term that covers gender identities and gender expressions that don’t conform to binary gender norms; that is, what we consider “normal” masculine or feminine behaviour. This can include transgender people (whether binary or non-binary), people who are cisgender but don’t behave in ways we expect people of their gender to behave, and anything in between. Since we’re now recognising that gender isn’t some stable fact, but something that changes over time and across cultures, “gender variance” is difficult to define. Many children are considered gender variant, when they’re just, well, kids with their own individual tastes and behaviours, and they haven’t yet been taught to conform to particular gender norms. Gender has no meaning to them yet, and they’re just expressing their “natural” inclinations, so is that really gender variant? And when you start trying to define gender itself, the line between what we consider “masculine” and “feminine” is so blurred and subjective that the terms basically have no real meaning. However, there are still many people who believe that a binary division of male and female is “healthy” and “natural” (cough *bullshit* cough) that they will actively force people to conform to these ideals.

The second is that there are a metric shitton of people with ASD who haven’t been “officially” diagnosed due to shitty medical care or simple lack of access to appropriate care, who have self-diagnosed, who have been misdiagnosed with other conditions (such as Borderine Personailty Disorder, a misdiagnosis more common in women and feminine presenting peeps), or who just have no freaking idea that they’re autistic. If you spend any time in the autism community (the part of it with actual autistic people, not the part full of Autism Moms TM bullshitting about how hard their lives are), you quickly realise that there are about as many people without an “official” diagnosis as there are with, and yet we all have autism. Sadly, when it comes to research, those without an official diagnosis are not included. It makes sense from a scientific standpoint, but it renders any research into these issues basically useless.

The third is that autistic people aren’t trusted to know our own minds. What little data I could find when researching for this article relied heavily upon the reporting of parents, rather than the self-reporting of autistic people. This is a problem on so many levels. Parents who think gender variance is bullshit will not report in the same way that parents who support gender variance will. Some parents will not recognise gender variance. Most parents don’t have a full understanding of what gender variance means, and don’t recognise things like non-binary identities at all. And it’s still a cultural norm to dismiss the reality of autistic people as a “symptom” of our “illness” (reminder: autism is not an illness) rather than a genuine aspect of our completely valid reality. Bascially, ableism is a bitch.

All that being true, however, it’s clear that gender variance is more common among autistic people, and probably more common than the current research acknowledges. The next question is: why? And this is where we step into a realm of pure theory, because the truth is, nobody really knows. But as someone who is both autistic and trans, I think I’m one of the people more likely to have an opinion worth a damn than, say, an allistic* cisgender scientist with limited data. And no, that doesn’t mean my perspective will be more subjective than theirs, because even the most ostensibly objective scientist is still viewing their results through the lens of what they consider “normal”. Hang on to your hats, kids, it’s about to get gendery up in here.

There have been many theories posited about why autistic people are more likely to be trans or gender variant, the most popular of which is that, because our brains are wired differently, this creates a biological difference that “causes” us to also be trans. This is total bullshit. Anyone with even a basic understanding of how gender works will be able to tell you that you can’t be hardwired to be trans. Gender isn’t a stable fact, it’s a bunch of social norms that we as a society have lumped together and whacked a label on. It changes over time, and it’s as much about how we relate to other people as it is about what’s going on in our heads. And it’s this second part of gender that gives a clue as to why so many autistic people are also trans.

Autistic people don’t relate to others in the same way allistic people do. It’s a major feature of autism. A lot of people typify this as us “struggling” with social interaction, and yes, a lot of the time it is a struggle. But that’s just because the social norms of communicating are FUCKING WEIRD. None of it makes any sense, and most autistic people are intensely logical, at least after our own fashion. We aren’t able to absorb these weirdnesses the way allistic people are, and have to consciously process every interaction and try and remember every little bit of weirdness every time. There are so many arbitrary rules when it comes to normative communication that trying to figure out a pattern is basically impossible, and if you’re having to process all of these rules consciously every time you interact with someone, you’re going to fuck it up. The problem, from an autistic person’s perspective, isn’t us – we make perfect sense. The problem is the straight up shitfest that is human communication. WHO INVENTED THIS SYSTEM?!

Okay. Moving on.

Part of communication – a really major part of it in the English-speaking West – is gendered, right down to communication styles, which vary drastically across genders – and no, I don’t just mean the words they use. I mean gestures, personal space, facial expressions, the hidden meanings behind words, power plays, displays of empathy and all the rest. Communication is waaaaaaaaaaay more than just language, is basically what I’m trying to say. And since gender is at least 90% communicating with other people – whether through our appearance, our movements, our words, or our relationships – if you relate to people differently, your experience of gender is going to be different. Of course autistic people are going to be more gender variant. We are consciously processing communication styles, instead of unconsciously absorbing them, which means we’re noticing what doesn’t make sense, what suits us and what doesn’t, what’s comfortable and what’s plain pointless. Even those of us who are so bamboozled by social interaction that we can’t process it (and frankly, who can blame you?) are still left in a position where the normal rules just don’t apply, and we’re left making it up as we go along. Obviously we’re going to be more likely to choose a way of relating to the world that suits us, and not what suits the world.

Let me be quite clear. JUST BECAUSE WE CHOSE OUR GENDER EXPRESSION DOESN’T MEAN IT ISN’T REAL. In fact, unlike allistic people who, if they thought about gender more, might actually find they don’t fit the binary as well as they thought, we’re more likely to be expressing the version of ourselves we’re most comfortable with. We don’t “decide” we’re trans on a whim, or because it looked like fun and we’re so divorced from “reality” we don’t understand what it means. We know what trans means, we know what gender means, we know what it means to be trans. And if we say we’re trans we are fucking trans and that’s a real fucking thing. So to people who dismiss autistic experiences as “not real” because we look at the world differently, I say: you are ableist cockwombles, the lot of you. Go stick your head in a toilet.

Of course, not all autistic people are trans. Plenty of us are quite happy settling somewhere within the realm of what society considers cisgender, and that doesn’t actually change everything I just said. It simply means that cisgender autistic people looked at gender norms and decided they more or less fit, and went with it – and that’s fine. Just because gender is a social construct, doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing. It just means we need to recognise that it won’t suit everyone.

It’s also true that not all trans people are autistic. Gender variance can happen to anyone of any neurotype. You don’t have to be autistic to not fit into gender norms. Trying to claim, as some researchers have done, that being trans is the result of autism and nothing else, is completely ridiculous. Like, laughably ridiculous. It’s actually mind-boggling to consider that there are researchers out there (one in particular is mentioned in the links below) who have looked at the available data, have spent time with trans and autistic people, and have decided: nah, fuck science, I’m gonna be a transphobic dickhead anyway.

That’s not how you science, arseholes.

Now, the theory I’ve outlined above is incredibly basic, and certainly doesn’t cover every aspect of this issue. If I were to go into detail about all the other ways autism can influence your relationship with gender, I’d have to write an academic paper, which would take a couple years of research at least, and this post is already a week late. I will be talking about this issue more in the future, however, because it’s something I feel is important. If you take nothing else away from this, it’s important to understand that trying to find a biological “cause” for being trans is misguided at best, and will only cause harm in the long run. The truth is, you can never expect to find a biological cause for a socially-created phenomena – gender isn’t biological, and therefore, neither is being trans. Searching for a biological cause will, at its worst, lead to unscrupulous scientists “testing for trans”, declaring who is and isn’t allowed to identify as trans, and, in the long run, might lead to people attempting to “cure” something that isn’t a problem in the first place. Just as autistic people are whole, valid people who don’t need curing, so it is with trans people. The problems we face are caused by a world that refuses to understand us, and not by our gender, or our neurotype.

Thanks for joining me this Autism Awareness Month! I hope you learned something new and interesting, or just enjoyed reading a different perspective. I’ll be back every Friday with new topics, which will include more autism-related issues, April or no April.

Take care, lovelies! Cam out.

*allistic: non-autistic. I use this term instead of neurotypical, because not all allistic people are neurotypical.

References:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-autism-transgender-idUSKCN0W62EY
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24619651
https://spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/living-between-genders/
http://genderanalysis.net/2017/02/playing-both-sides-trans-people-autism-and-the-two-faced-claims-of-ken-zucker-and-susan-bradley/

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017.