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”

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.

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.”

PCOS & Hormones

Honestly, hormones are complicated, and I felt a little out of my depth just reading an introduction to how hormones can get whacky with menstruation [PCOS and You: WTF Do Hormones Even Do? by ~butts-bouncing-on-the-beltway]. Luteinizing hormone, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, etc. There’s a hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis, and everything. I am not an expert, and I’m alright not becoming one.

However, PCOS more or less involves a hormonal imbalance that your body maintains as its setpoint instead of what’s considered normal. I’ve got the hyperandrogenic type, which is the most common type, so when the blood test was run, I came back with “high” levels for a perisex female. Metaphorically speaking, it’s a bit like having two recipes where one calls for 1 cup of testosterone and the other calls for 3 quarts (or 12 cups). Between these two choices, having 3 cups is an awful lot for the one recipe, but nowhere near high enough for the other. Keeping in mind that this is a simple example that doesn’t take into account other hormones (like changing the estrogen and progesterone levels, so the ratio of testosterone is high even if it’s still 1 cup).

My point is that PCOS can lead to a hormonal balance that doesn’t align with the perisex female recipe, and it may be somewhere ‘in between’ either perisex recipe, which means it can fall under a hormonal area of intersex experiences. Not every person with PCOS does in fact consider themselves to be intersex, but I didn’t pull this out of nowhere (see: link 1, link 2, link 3, and link 4). I’m comforted by framing PCOS as being hormonally intersex instead of a ‘broken perisex female in need of fixing’, but it’s also taken most of 2020 for me to really self-internalize that I’m allowed to opt-in to calling myself intersex.

PCOS Awareness Month

At the end of 2019, I hesitantly pencilled into my Google doc of writing ideas that I would like to post about PCOS. I aimed for coming up with one post a month for 2020, and then I got sidetracked by a global pandemic and other events. So, I’m changing things slightly by starting in September and hopefully getting to September 2021.

I’ve found mention of September being PCOS Awareness Month prior to US federal recognition in 2017, but I’ve got to admit that I don’t really feel comfortable wading through the ‘cyster / cysterhood’ and ‘fight like a girl’ material to get to any timelines, an explanation for why teal is the awareness color, or why September is the specific month. I tend to get redirected to PCOS Challenge for US information, and despite a hint that Verity started with an awareness week in the UK in 2010, most searches still seem to focus on the current awareness month.

I can’t say it’s impossible to find this information. I’m just not having much luck with trying to weed out 2020 events, Wear Teal For Me / Reveal the Teal, and trying to avoid most promotional material focusing on cis women as the only ones “suffering” from PCOS. I did find a historical tidbit that the earliest known reference to what we now call PCOS comes from 1721 in Italy, though (PCOS wiki source). There’s also something moderately funny sounding about using the name Stein-Leventhal Syndrome from 1935.

Spinning in Squircles

#1: Family

Having my grandmother move in before we were expecting her to and her tendency to bulldoze everything into being her way are exhausting. I can’t believe I once thought my anger was hidden away beneath numbness, never to be felt again.

#2: Fannish

That vagueblogged fanfic challenge is over in the sense that authors have been revealed and awards given out. I’ve gone back and forth on splitting the original submission and revised ending into two separate fics, but as of now, it’s just a two chapter fic. Because a private FB group is involved, I anonymized the comments that were posted there instead of on ao3 in this post, and I didn’t reveal admin names in the awards post here.

#3: Writer’s Block

Carnival prompts, AAW, ASAW, AroWriMo, fic drafts and WIPs, etc. I got nothing. I can’t focus. It’s like my tires are stuck in the mud, and I’m just spinning without moving.

#4: Sunna & Solarpunk

Generally, I’ve associated a lot of solarpunk content with Sunna, but I can’t say that some of the Vanir don’t sneak in on certain topics (Frey and gardening, as a major example). After the weird, not fully attached to my body feeling while hearing about the hippogriff shit surrounding the president and him wanting to start a war with Iran, I reevaluated which blogs were inactive and followed some new solarpunk blogs. I can’t guarantee exactly what I can do in my living space and community, but it feels a little less like I’m at the mercy of what life is throwing at me.

#5: RIP Windows 7

My family got me a new laptop because my old one couldn’t handle an upgrade. Honestly, I’m not a real big fan of Windows 10 or this new laptop’s setup, but I’ll adjust eventually. I’m pretty sure I got Cortana to stop talking to me, so that helped. My old one was bought way back in the summer of 2012 before I started undergrad, and all things considered, it’s up there in laptop years. It deserves semi-retirement (Linux Lite 4.8).

Limbos & Murmuring

I’m not sure if I’ve missed the roundup post for November’s CoA prompt or not, but I’m waiting to share the cross-post here on WP, so I don’t have link/pingback confusion on two posts. I’m prodding at December’s prompt, but I got a bit distracted by trying to finish an Xmas challenge that was due by 15 Dec 11:59 pm. (I slid into that deadline like that gif of Simpson turning in his taxes – stuffing crumpled paper into an envelope, running after the mail truck, and throwing the mess at the door where it slides underneath in the nick of time.)

I’ve had various pre-deadline panic and post-submission regret posts over on tumblr, but I’m hoping to get a revised ending worked out because I’m not thrilled with the ending I slapped on there very quickly (mere minutes before the deadline). I’m currently thinking of adding it in Ch 2 with clear notes about being uploaded after the submission deadline, but I have to wait until the reading, commenting, and voting portions of the challenge are over on 31 Dec. {Note: Explicit details and links that may reveal which challenge I’m talking about have been left out so I can vagueblog in peace and not reveal myself early.}

I didn’t really set out to write a piece that revolves so much around X and Y being poor, but I tagged #Poverty because there’s something there that’s too nebulous for other tags (#financial trauma? #the horrors of reality?). The geographic isolation of X not being able to Apparate around Muggles or utilize driving/cars like a Muggle could. Carefully balancing out the box from the food bank with a strict grocery list against the monthly allowance that doesn’t have much wiggle room. X has to write to the account holder and justify asking for more money for an Xmas dinner and (maybe) a gift, except there’s a cold dissection of the request into its financial costs, a partial denial, and admonishment for claiming a higher price item in last month’s allowance. A dancing around of decorating and celebrating, as long as it doesn’t cost too much, and the sense that X is scrounging the holiday together from the scraps of free and cheap ideas. I don’t want it to be pity porn, and I suspect the identities of X and Y provide some insulation against that, but there’s a particular flavor of stress that’s there.

(Food bank note: I tried to find info for that country and local region, but I’m not sure if I wasn’t using the right terms because it didn’t sound like they have a system of charities/orgs providing monthly food parcels for families that qualify like I’m thinking of. There was like 3 days of emergency food from the one charity, but that was it? I must admit that the description in the fic may borrow from the US then.)