[a post I never posted when I wrote it back at the end of May]
Trigger warning: suicide mention
So I was scrolling through my tumblr dash when I came across this post. And it opened up a whole can of uncertainty.
The intial question it brought up was: Does feeling a character would be less relatable to me in a relationship context if she was a lesbian make me homophobic? According to the post’s response, it does. But these kind of situations always get so complicated for me, even though I know they shouldn’t.
On a general base level, diversity (lgbtqa+, non-white, aneurotypical, nonabled) in stories makes me really happy. I love seeing it, reading about it, and hearing about it. If I had a choice I’d rather promote writers of diversity than myself. They’re the voices that matter, as far as I’m concerned.
This puts a clamp on my writing, of course. Not in terms of my characters (I know I have at least one character who I classify as white!) but in terms of myself. And when it comes to me, I’m a mixed up mess.
I’m indisputably white. And I’m pretty straight. I was also born in a relatively wealthy class bracket. Not rich, but enough that money (and access to anything I want and even what I don’t) has never been an issue until recently. Some of the other identifiers: gender, sexual, physical ability, and mental state are a little fuzzier.
In my gender identity, I’m pretty sure I’m female. Ish. I know it’s better to say “woman” rather than “female” to avoid equating gender identity with chromosomal gametes (as I think of it to myself), but I’m not sure I’d say I’m a woman. I’m not a man*. Admittedly, growing up I felt I had a more man-like perspective on the world, rather than a girl one. (I’ve since discovered the term “demigirl/demiwoman/demifemale” which seems to fit me.)
When I think back to my childhood, I wonder if my rationale for this hinges on heavily gendered stereotypes: men were active (this calls up memory of a jungle gym) and more logical (think science!). Additionally, when I played with my sister I would always have the guy’s role when there was an option between a man or a woman character. So being a man in a play context was more natural than a woman.
When I went to college and learned about feminism I was baffled. I didn’t disbelief it, it was just beyond my experience. On top of that, sometimes I feel like I don’t get how women think. Like, I think the way they think is foreign when lined up with my mental processing. My sister and my mom seem to have this understanding that I’m lacking. The trouble is that I also think that men don’t make sense either. (Animals and plants and inanimate objects, sure, I understand them, but humans…not so much).
As for my sexuality, I’ve addressed that already by saying I’m straight. I’m just not sure how sexual I am. Namely, I have a suspcision I’m somewhere on the asexual to gray-sexual spectrum. I’m not sure how much or in what context (I’m not sex repulsed, though some intimacy may unnerve me). Sex is mostly unimportant. Sexual arousal is fine, but to me there’s way more interesting stuff to think about rather than sex. (Also trying to figure out if I’m demisexual, too.)
Following the order of my list above, I now come to the really hard to pin down part of my identity: my body. I’m conventionally mobile. I have two functional eyes, legs, arms, and hands. I have really bad near-sightedness, but my powerful punch of a prescription glasses help with that. So based on a cursory glance, I’m not going to stand out as particularly nonabled. And I’m not. But I’m not normal-bodied either.
My right leg has a congenital deformity (fibula and tabula fused so my leg looks twisted). This means that shoes are pain in the butt since I have to break them in so my torqued foot fits (it twists out in the opposite direction most conventional shoes are designed for). Technically, I should have specially fitted shoes made but I’ve always tried to act as if there was nothing different about me.
I remember having someone look at my feet and he made this fascinating observation on how the muscles in my right sole were strained and tight in a way most other people’s sole aren’t.
And ever since I was little I’ve been very aware of this difference. My earliest leg doctor was really excited about when he’d get to cut my bone up and put pins in my leg to remold the bone. Just writing that makes me anxious. Eventually a later doctor said if it wasn’t bothering me, there was no reason for the surgery. This all happened under the age of 11. So, yeah, I’m hyper-aware of this physical unconformity.
Along with my leg, I also have a “star,” or more literally a puckered scar (with stitches I never want to pick!) right under my breasts. It’s the remnants of the feeding tube I had as a baby because my esophagus was not connected at birth. (I was a premie.) Because of my esophagus-tracheo-whatever-the-heck-surgery I can’t eat certain foods without drinking liquid in between. If I don’t, the food (starchy kinds usually) will clog my esophagus and I’ll spit up all the liquid. It hasn’t happened for years, but I never liked when it happened.
Additionally, because of stomach acid that was coming up post-lets-connect-my-esophagus surgery, I had something done whereby nothing in my stomach can come up again. That means I have never experienced vomiting and I never will. It also means if I’m poisoned my stomach will have to be pumped. As a result, I’m very hyper-sensitive about any non-edible item (toothpaste, chapstick, shampoo) getting past my lips.
All this esophagus stuff happened before I was 1 or thereabout. Twelve to thirteen surgries before I was a year old. Yeah, I wonder why I’m anxious about doctors, the smell of hospitals, and the possibility of surgery.
I suddenly remember this barium swallow I had to do. Yuck. I had to drink this nasty stuff so doctors could track my disgestion. To make sure it was dilated? I don’t know. I was kid. I must have pretty young too… I got a day out of school for it, though.
The problem is that, as far as I know, no one else has what I have physically. And here we come to why writing is so interesting to me. While I can’t experience discrimination, two aspects gives me an odd outlook.
First, it’s always been pretty natural to imagine what it would be like to be not-me. Since I was at least 11, I would wonder how, if I swapped bodies with other people, that would alter my experiences and how my bodily, social, mental, and internal experiencing reality would change. What would my mouth taste like if my body wasn’t mine? That sort of thing.
As I got older, this expanded. For example, when I was about 12/13 and I read about someone who was paralyzed, I spent the night after reading it laying in bed imagining what living like that would feel like. Now, I’m more likely to think things like: when I’m filling a pan with water for pasta, what if I only had one arm, and how that would change how I interact with my world and how the world interacts and sees me. Or when I look in a mirror, how having darker skin would create not only a signal of Otherness with a history of micros-aggressions and discrimination (which would induce hyper-vilgience in the world at large) but a lack of visual confirmation in reality (i.e. A lack of dark skinned characters compared to white ones).
This same idea is also applicable to any religion that has a distinctly visual signal. Imagine that as your reality, then the consequential reaction and interaction with society and people, and then the (natural) panic that induces, followed by thinking about the bravery and will power and fear people who are actually like that experience ever day.
Obviously, I can’t know because I’ve never literally experienced any of this. But the idea of imagining another conscious that is Othered by society is not a big leap for me.
Second, I’m hyper-sensitive to becoming visually Othered. It was all right if I told someone about my leg; it was a way to make myself sound unique. But it was on me whether I told anyone because otherwise no one would see it. The fear that my physical differences will become visually obviously scare the heck out of me. This has been a fear since I was a kid. It’s also why I’ve never worn a bikini. I mean, I might not want to anyway, but I never could have because of my “star” scar.
This has evolved to general anxiety about having leg amputations and becoming paralyzed or bed-ridden. Also, it’s worth noting that if I read or watch anything about a medical or physical difference I am going to fret abut having it and be hyper-aware of it.
For example, I read a book about a lady who has something happened to her that makes her completely unaware of one side of her body (left side?). After reading it, I was, of course, more aware of a lack of sensation on that side of my body.
And that’s just the physical aspect. I’m also afraid of being mentally different. It’s like if people got inside my mind, past my normal-appearance and ability to act normal in society settings, they’d take me away to an institution. I have no examples, other than its a deep rooted fear. Oh, and my mom taking me to a psychiatrist because I talked to (character) voices in my head.
God, I’m self-oriented. Geez.
Anyway, the whole point of all this is persistent question: if I am white (and possibly homophobic) are my stories worth writing? I could of course just be conscientious and aware of my previliges. But here’s the crutch: why should I take away space from other writers who voices and stories I would rather see percolating into society, and additionally, I’ve read confirmation that white people should die and how that’s a good thing. And I can’t discount that. The inherent value of my life as a white woman-female is marginally lower than a lesbian, black, or trans woman. So what value do my stories have? Wouldn’t it be better to kill myself and rid the world of my whiteness?
But the terrible hypocritical thing is that I really want to write my stupid stories about demons and friendship and adventure and family and epic legends and romance. I want to write lgbtqa+ characters and plots that are happy and diverse, that are imaginative and quirky. But I’m me and that’s the worse crime I can commit. And I’m just so sorry.
*Although the idea of male drag or presentation is something that sparked my interest years ago, but not something I would probably do. I’ve never been misgendered, but the idea of possibly being able to pass as male had been something I felt proud of. Until my breasts swelled up in the last couple years so that I’m more aware of them when I cross my arms. I should also note that puberty and menstruation were nonexistent, not in so far as they did not occur, but it did not register in my mind as anything valuable to pay attention to.
Going to school was the same – as long as you followed the rules and played along like everyone else