Semi-Permanent Questioning

This is a response for the first Gender Exploration Carnival theme (“Questioning”) for February 2021.

Summary: The process of realizing I’m nonbinary, multigender, and genderfluid has made it hard to know if I’ve hit the gender-saturation limit (and can ‘stop’ questioning). Being closeted offline has made it hard to experiment with offline specifics, and depression has made it hard to detect what’s going on internally, so I currently don’t have specific gender identity labels.

Continue reading “Semi-Permanent Questioning”

Notes On Using Pond.Email

Subtitle: This would usually be shared on Pillowfort, but I don’t think some folks want to wait that long for some notes on using pond.email.

{Image Description: A blue smiling droplet icon that appears as Pond’s logo. /End description.}

How I heard about Pond: Someone mentioned it in a Discord server on the 31st of January [2021].

Also has anyone looked into pond??

It’s a completely email based socmed

Post, comment, follow “blogs”, all via email

Why I tried Pond: I thought it could be a relatively low-key way to share the announcement posts for the Gender Exploration Carnival.

First Impressions:

  • The idea sounds interesting, but it may take a little adjustment and experimentation to get used to, especially if you want to do formatting in your posts beyond the basic italics or bold.
  • Both the Pond Digest and Personal Digest are sent out on Fridays at 7 am [EST], so this doesn’t seem like the sort of environment for daily or multiple posts in a day type of posting.
  • I haven’t gotten a feel for who might be using Pond and what topics are being discussed, but it seems quiet enough to make Pillowfort (which a lot of newbies describe as dead) seem like a lively and active place in comparison.
  • Unlike other social media sites that you’re probably used to, there’s no indication of being able to mute or block someone, you seem to need to hold onto the weekly Pond Digests in order to see someone’s old posts, and there are no tags or blacklisting features.
  • It’s entirely possible that no one else you interact with has heard of Pond. You might feel like you’re sending emails into the void with even less to gauge readership or interest than sites that allow reactions, likes, or easier commenting.

Summary above the read-more:

  • Briefly, what appears on the site, and registration notes.
  • What appears in the welcome email.
  • Reading past Pond Digests.
  • How to post (including Markdown formatting).
  • My test account experience (including what happens when you follow someone and the mystery of how to comment).
Continue reading “Notes On Using Pond.Email”

Losing The Map

For the Jan 2021 Carnival of Aros theme “Stories”:

What is a story you want to tell? What is a story you no longer believe? What is a story you feel is harmful? What kind of story do you want to see?

Take this theme anywhere you want to go. Tell a story, real or fictional. Complain about a story, or a recurring theme in stories. Analyze the story line of a movie or fanfic or a podcast. Create an adoptable character sketch for another writer to use.

Summary: A personal story about struggling to write romantic depictions, and in which losing a map showing romantic territory is not the same as already having a map that needs to be labelled Aromantic.

Edited to add (3 Feb 2021): The Round Up includes “a personal story about realizing aromanticism”, but I assume that’s being used in a very broad sense. I feel like I’ve ‘lost’ my alloromanticism more so than realized aromanticism. I also use ‘quoiromantic’ and do not use ‘aromantic’.

Continue reading “Losing The Map”

Bits’n’Bobs (and other blogs)

I put the prior post for contacting purposes up because I was in the midst of reaching out to a mod for a currently on hiatus blogging carnival throughout the end of Dec 2020 and the beginning of Jan 2021. A few other Pillowfort users and I were interested in unpausing that carnival, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

I got a WordPress set up for this new blogging carnival we’re going to try: Here There Be Genders: A Gender Exploration Carnival.

I’m afraid I can’t link to the Pillowfort posts relevant to this endeavor because, well, things happened after Pillowfort left Beta on 25 Jan 2021. It wasn’t horrible per se, but as of this posting (28 Jan 2021, 6 pm), the site is still down for maintenance. I didn’t realize how accustomed I got to checking on Pillowfort or how quickly I adapted to view-locking posts until I wound up cut off from the site suddenly. I didn’t make a meme for the occasion, but I did make the following vent-y edit:

{Image description: “I survived Pillowfort’s Opening” in an italicized font against a pale blue background, which has been added to the right of an image of ambergris from the Carta Marina (map). The ambergris looks like a clump of pale green misshapen lumps against a blue-grey background of the map’s ocean. /End description.}

For those who may not be aware, ambergris is a valuable for use in perfume whale feces related product. Undigested squid beaks, constipation, and floating around in the ocean are more or less involved to get ambergris itself. More than one synthetic version has been made, but with anything, some people insist there’s nothing that can replace actual ambergris [“In Search of Ambergris, a Highly Prized Slurry of Squid Beaks and Whale Feces“].

Some Good News

(For trans Ohioans interested in updating their sex/gender marker on their birth certificate.)

That Ray v Himes case I’ve mentioned a few times in the past?

On June 21, 2019, the Federal District Court for the District of Kansas entered a consent decree declaring Kansas’s prohibition on correcting birth certificates for transgender people unconstitutional, and ordering a new process allowing such corrections. As a result, Tennessee and Ohio remain the only states that do not allow transgender people to correct the gender markers on their birth certificates.

That one. Well, as of December 16th, 2020 – ACLU of Ohio Press Release:

Victory! Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio’s Anti-Transgender Birth Certificate Policy

Today, the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio struck down a discriminatory state policy that prevented transgender people born in Ohio from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates.

As far as I know, the original case name is Ray v McCloud because Stephanie McCloud was the Director of the Ohio Department of Health at the time of filing in March 2018. Lance Himes, who used to work as ODH’s counsel, is the current Interim Director, as of June 2020. (Some articles list the original case name.)

Fat & PCOS

A heads-up for trans men and nonbinary folks: I primarily know of The Well-Rounded Mama’s blog as a source for weight-neutral PCOS information (discussion of weight-neutral goal and HAES at the bottom of this page), and I use quite a few of her links. However, her posts still come from a place of assuming people with PCOS are cis women. Due to her death in May 2019 (tw: cancer), it’s probably unlikely that we’ll see a broadening of PCOS discussion to include trans men and nonbinary folks even if someone eventually gets through her drafts.

I originally wrote this to be my first post about PCOS, but then I thought I might need to do a little more explaining. However, I still think this is an important aspect of wading through PCOS material on your own and dealing with medical folks: Fat does not cause PCOS. Thin people can have other symptoms of PCOS without weight gain, and it’s not something that every fat person has, so it’s more likely that weight gain is one of the constellation of symptoms that not everyone experiences or a possible byproduct of symptoms. The extent to which one does or does not have fat and what factors affect weight gain are complicated (and beyond my ability to explain in this post), but the important takeaway is that having a certain amount of fat does not directly cause PCOS.

I even blogged about this back in Nov 2019 [link]:

For my own sake, I would like to note that there’s a difference between what today’s gyn said and what I’ve found while looking into PCOS on my own.

“PCOS is curable. If you lose 10% of your current body weight, your symptoms will start to clear up.”

versus

Some of my symptoms of PCOS may be reversible, but depending on treatment and management options, it’s not a 100% guarantee. Bodies are complex, and hormonal interactions are complicated, and even if weight loss could decrease the severity of a particular symptom, most people with PCOS won’t be able to lose the amount of weight that some doctors recommend (let alone keep said weight off).

Gyn is not the first medical person to say that losing weight would essentially cure me (GP also said it), and there’s a history of comments like this when it comes to PCOS [Turkey Awards: PCOS Isn’t A Real Disease]. Most people’s bodies don’t really want to lose weight in the first place and will regain the weight eventually, so honestly, why would someone expect the hormonal differences (testosterone’s effects on weight gain) and metabolic effects (higher odds of insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain) for people with PCOS would somehow make this work? Some people have shared anecdata that one of their symptoms for their general practitioner to look into PCOS included not being able to lose weight. It’s possible that the weight gain later may outweigh any temporary benefits from weight loss [PCOS and Endometrial Cancer Risk: The Dilemma of Weight Loss and Weight Cycling].

Unfortunately, I was a bit desperate in the stage of trying to prove my self-dx and included ‘weight gain that wasn’t preceded by lifestyle changes’ (seemingly random weight gain), so, I guess this is a lesson to not do that again. Because the medical people I’ve found so far will certainly try to blame shit on my fat for me. If no one remembers anything else about PCOS I may write here or on tumblr, please, remember that fat is not to blame for causing it, and weight loss is not the ‘cure’ for it. (Again, most resources still shrug in the direction of a cause, and I think it’s only been since 2018 that some people have pointed to ‘exposure to elevated Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) levels in utero’ [link to a study].)

Solidarity With Athletes

I’m originally drafting this in September 2020, which is when the news of an update was announced, but this is being scheduled for November, specifically November 8th or Intersex Solidarity Day (aka Intersex Day of Remembrance). The ‘too long, didn’t read’ version is that I’m hoping to share a bit about how gender/sex policing as it relates to ‘sex verification’ in sports is a more immediately intersexist issue, even though it is harmful to perisex trans folks.

Yes, the implementation of who gets such a verification suggested is racist and aims to uphold a particular white Western sex-as-gender binary, but it’s not quite ‘just transphobia’ in a medical guise. Framing the issue as not accepting trans athletes isn’t quite the point when the women frequently mentioned in 2000s era cases are, to my knowledge, all cisgender (some intersex bloggers might use ‘ipsogender’). I’m not aware of them actively calling themselves intersex, but that doesn’t stop intersexism from being at play. Regardless, this is more of an intersex and trans solidarity issue with intersex women being affected regardless of how the rule-makers handle trans athletes. (Because men have not been the targets of sex verification, I can’t say intersexist rules will affect them in a similar manner.)

First, I kind of need to set the scene.

Officials in charge of who gets to compete in athletics, especially at the international level like the Olympics, have had a concern that supposed men might try to compete in the women’s events. Sex ‘verification’ tests go back to the 1950s and anti-Communist stuff, which means that early examples of athletes affected tend to be Eastern European. It started with ‘nude parades’ before a panel of doctors, switched to chromosome testing in 1968, revealed the amount of women who hadn’t known they had something considered intersex who “failed” the tests, and by 2000, had evolved into a case-by-case verification that often focuses more on hormone testing in the public arena (specifically, testosterone levels). (I’m not coming up with anything new, and the Sex verification in sports wiki page goes into more detail and has more sources.)

Due to no longer doing sex verification tests to all athletes competing in women’s events and only doing it when someone’s sex is supposedly called into question, examples of affected athletes from the 2000s on tend to be athletes of color who are (probably) evaluated under the premise of determining hyperandrogenism. From a 2014 OII Australia article sharing the news of a British Medical Journal report about four women “from developing countries” being forced to undergo ‘corrective’ surgeries in order to compete: “The authors note that issues of ethnicity, nationality and perceived masculinity are interrelated, and authorities ‘actively investigate any perceived deviation in sex characteristics’.”

I would like to note that these supposedly corrective surgeries included partial clitoridectomies or the removal of part of the clitoris, which are unnecessary to address hormone levels because the clitoris does not produce testosterone. The gonads – testes or ovaries – are involved, which would be an orchidectomy {BrE; an orchiectomy in AmE} or oophorectomy of some sort. A reduction in a clitoris deemed to be ‘too large’ by outside authorities has no bearing on athletic performance regardless of what they consider the source of the athlete’s hyperandrogenism. It’s not really subtle in some cases that ‘hyperandrogenism’ is a cover for the attempted correction of any deviation in sex characteristics, but back to the timeline.

Dutee Chand was disqualified from the 2014 Commonwealth Games due to hyperandrogenism regulations dating to 2011, which led to Dutee Chand vs AFI & IAAF going before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2015:

The Court of Arbitration for Sport […] questioned the athletic advantage of naturally high levels of testosterone in women and therefore immediately suspended the practice of “hyperandrogenism regulation” by track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations. It gave the organization […] two years to provide more persuasive scientific evidence linking “enhanced testosterone levels and improved athletic performance.”

– “Dutee Chand, Female Sprinter With High Testosterone Level, Wins Right to Compete” (July 2015). This is also covered in this tumblr reblog chain that starts out with questioning gender/sex segregation in sports like archery, surfing, and chess.

I did not set out to try to write anything comprehensive about intersexism in sports, but now that I’ve finally reached the point where I can talk about the update about Caster Semenya, I’m tired of reading about bullshit regulations from the IAAF. She’s been dealing with public debate around sex verification testing, hyperandrogenism, and rules aimed at intersex athletes since 2009 with varying times when she could and couldn’t qualify for international stuff. (I’m not giving a blow-by-blow account. She has a wiki page with sources.) “Bias Against Intersex Olympics Athletes Is What’s Unfair – Not These Athletes’ Bodies” dates to 2016, and while it specifically addresses comments a fellow athlete made, it’s a pretty good explanation for the assumptions, fallacies, and just wrong shit that gets dragged into conversations about women with hyperandrogenism competing. This brings us to 2018.

In April, the IAAF announced new rules that required athletes with specific ‘disorders of sex development, testosterone levels of 5 nmol/L and above, and certain androgen sensitivity’ to take medication to lower their testosterone levels. (This seems a bit overly specific, y’know?) These rules would also apply to only those athletes competing in the track events that Caster Semenya competes in. (Like, they’re not even being subtle.) Understandably, she challenged that. From my understanding of 2019, there was a ‘nah, we’re not listening’ decision, an appeal higher up, a ‘we already told you to stop the DSD regulations’ ruling, and then a waiting game during which the rules were considered in effect. (“Ten ethical flaws in the Caster Semenya decision on intersex in sport” was published May 2019 around the time of upholding the DSD rule.)

In October of 2019, the IAAF got a new name, World Athletics, but the case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport is still Caster Semenya vs ASA & IAAF because it was filed in 2018. So, this brings us to September of 2020. Basically, Caster Semenya lost her appeal and still has switched the specific track events she’s in in order to compete without taking anti-androgens (or undergoing surgery) to reduce her testosterone levels. See: “With New Ruling Against Semenya Caster, Track and Field Upholds Restrictive Gender Norms Rooted in Racism”, “Caster Semenya loses appeal in Swiss court over restriction of testosterone levels”, and “Caster Semenya continues to be punished for simply being born”.

I honestly can’t say that any individual reading this blog can change what an international sports court has ruled, but I hope that it might be a little more clearer about why intersex focused blogs specifically talked about intersexim when Semenya lost her appeal and why some bloggers might not have been very keen on trans focused blogs subsuming this conversation within the lens of transphobia.

Deprioritization

Carnival of Aros theme for October 2020: Prioritization. Host: @jay-aro (tumblr).

Question: Do you have a different orientation you prioritize over your aromanticism? What about gender identity?

Question: How entwined is your orientation and gender?

From “Growth (& sharing a poem)” for the Jan 2020 theme ‘New’:

I don’t necessarily combine gender musings with aro musings, for example, and especially when it’s far more obvious in my daily life while closeted on the gender front, I just don’t prioritize finding out I’m under the aro umbrella in the same way that other aro bloggers seem to.

From “I Redact Myself” for the March 2020 theme ‘Aromanticism & Gender’:

Honestly, I don’t really connect my gender experience and aromanticism, whether that involves using arogender or not. […] Maybe the aro part is just still too new, relatively speaking. Maybe there’s still some lingering guilt over being a young trans person desperate for breadcrumbs of love because I was so used to hearing stories about how it was too difficult for a cis person to ‘deal with that’ and I would be lucky if anyone stuck around despite my transness. Maybe it takes too many spoons to be this introspective during a quarantine.

I don’t doubt that I could draw connections between different gender experiences and my [fill in the blank] orientation if I were to strike up a conversation with someone and we got around to more probing questions, but on a surface level, no. I started stumbling around on figuring out I wasn’t cis years ago, and I’ve had to cope with being closeted for a few years now. Personally, my gender will eke out a higher priority for me when compared to most orientation related questions because I’m so much more aware of the discordance.

Question: Do you use the split attraction model? Does your identity feel split between romantic and sexual attraction or not?

I find the focus on a singular Split Attraction Model that often prioritizes the presence or absence of romantic and sexual attraction as the means of designating romantic and sexual orientation to be a sideways approach to talking about attraction, orientation, and identity. (Some folks add in other types of attraction, but this question appears to reflect the prioritization of romantic-and-sexual orientation labeling when talking about the Split Attraction Model, so I’m not going to touch on other types of attraction.)

I’m not saying that it’s an unhelpful model for everyone, and I’ve still wound up using this model with other people regardless, but I find it a bit simplistic to go: If yes to attraction, then go to this orientation and that identity. For example, I experience sexual attraction, but due in part to fluctuating intensities and types of gender dysphoria (that would be the genderfluidity, for new readers), I don’t find that the mere presence (or an accurate internal detection) of attraction communicates an exact sexual orientation as identity to someone else.

I’m aware that people have used ace labels for reasons other than a mere yes/no to sexual attraction [“A Condensed History of Asexuals Arguing with Asexuals Over What Asexuality Is”], but I’ve also encountered bloggers who don’t take that into account when talking about aces, allosexuals who also use ace terminology, those who could use ace terminology but who identify as allosexual, those who use both ace and allo to describe their experiences, and folks who don’t want to label (or disclose) their sexual orientation. It’s not entirely helpful for communicating with other people, but both of the following sentences feel true: Yes, I experience sexual attraction, but my orientation is more gray-ace and I identify as allo. Yes, I experience sexual attraction and my orientation is allosexual, but I’ve given up on disclosing how I identify as a specific extra label (whatever-sexual) within certain aro contexts.

While I can find words to label my experience of romantic attraction and sexual attraction (and I have been able to use varioriented descriptions in the past), I don’t have a sense that my identity is split, really. I did the Questioning and the bi/pan/poly/omni ‘what am I?’ cycling when I was younger, and the simple answer is that I’m not straight. I’m queer, and I’ve gone on to find some more specific words that might help someone to understand my queerness, but ultimately, my identity is queer.

Question: If activism is something you’re interested in, how does your aromanticism play into that? Is aro activism something you focus on or are interested in?

Not particularly, and no.

Question: How important is aromanticism to you?

I’m not aromantic, so aromanticism has no personal level of importance to me. If you’re wondering how important being able to label romantic orientation is to me, I’d say that it’s occasionally important, but not most of the time.

Question: If you’re on the aromantic spectrum, how does that impact your identity? Do you ever use the label “aromantic”, or just your arospec label?

I don’t use ‘aromantic’, have gotten away from ‘aro-spec’, and sometimes use ‘aro’. I might be considered underneath the aro umbrella (depending on if quoiromantic is included), but some of the tri-labeling conversations concerning oriented aroaces in the summer of 2019, in which aros who were greyro or somewhere along the spectrum instead of ‘pure’/‘endcase’/zero romantic attraction Aromantics were considered less aro (and thought to prioritize any romantic attraction they experienced), has left me a little lukewarm to talk of an aromantic spectrum. The aro umbrella and using ‘aro’ doesn’t carry the same perception of a spectrum with those who are ‘more aro’ on one end and other aro identities being ‘too close’ to alloromantics on the other end.

(I used ‘aro-spec’ because I also find it a bit hard to read ‘arospec’, ‘acespec’, ‘aplspec’, ‘aspec’, and the like, especially when a lot of these spectrum words show up in one text. I might personally be fine with rephrasing to talk of an aro umbrella, but at the very least, I try to add a hyphen or a space between all these ‘a’s and ‘spectrum’ because the spectrum phrasing seems too popular to change. And yeah, I am aware that it’s a character saving abbreviation, but that doesn’t magically make it easier for me to read.)

Question: Hypothetically, if you could only choose one label to come out as, what would you choose?

1) Why should I continue to prioritize the idea of ‘coming out’ to others? There’s a reason why I shared a link to a pdf about Inviting In on National Coming Out Day.

2) I’ve been non-straight and non-cis for years, so I’m not entirely sure how vague or specific this hypothetical question is. Only one label for romantic orientation? Only one label for romantic and sexual orientation? Only one label for some sort of orientation, even if it’s not romantic and sexual? Only one label for communicating attraction to other people? Only one label for communicating who I’d be willing to do [insert activity] with?

3) I am queer.

Awareness: A Double Edged Sword

For this International Intersex Awareness Day, I’m sharing an excerpt from “The fight to end intersex surgeries at a top hospital took a deep toll on activists” by Kate Sosin. (This August 2020 story was published by The 19th, ‘a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy’. You can find the original article here.)

A quote to help contextualize the title:

Lurie’s end to intersex surgeries marks a watershed moment for intersex rights. Lurie is ranked among the top pediatric hospitals in the nation, and intersex rights activists hope that other hospitals follow suit.

But for advocates like Wall, the campaign has also taken a deep toll. Pagonis and Wall garnered support and educated the public by sharing intimate personal stories. It’s largely considered disrespectful for reporters to ask transgender people about their surgeries or genitalia. Intersex activists don’t have that luxury yet, says Hans Lindahl, director of communications for youth intersex organization InterAct.

“Something that we say a lot is that we have not yet had our Laverne Cox moment,” said Lindahl. “We’re still so under the purview of being medicalized that I think there’s a pressure that we almost have to tell these stories at this point in our movement in order to get people to listen.”