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About this blog

The adventures of a genderqueer doctoral student.

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ChemFem

CW: sexual assault, abuse

Hey there Shy’s. Perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve been away lately, perhaps the thought never crossed your mind. In truth it hasn’t been all that long since I was last posting regularly, maybe a month or so. Objectively that’s not very long, but it feels like a lot considering that for a while I was logging on multiple times a day. I’d like to say I was just busy, and that would be partially true, but it’s not the whole story. I’ve been avoiding the site because I know it’s a place where we are open and vulnerable to each other and I haven’t been ready for that. Frankly I’m just starting to emerge from the mental equivalent of fetal position.

I made a post in March titled “Does Your Primary Limit You?” in which I described the experience of being dumped by my secondary partner because they disliked my primary partner. Things went downhill rather quickly after that. I took stock of my relationship with him and decided that things couldn’t continue as they were. He initially seemed to agree, looking into the logistics of getting his own place once our lease ran out in January. However in retrospect it seems that he was bluffing, hoping the prospect of him actually leaving would make me change my mind. Instead in only convinced me that I had made the right decision.

              I know now why it’s said that the most dangerous stage of an abusive relationship is leaving. As I began to assert my independence and embrace the prospect of being single, he became increasingly aggressive towards me. This came to a head on St. Patrick’s Day. My back was sore, so I asked him to help me into the bath. He agreed, being very solicitous and bringing me Epsom salts. He then started taking off his own clothes and got in the bath. I thought that was a little odd, but didn’t object. He stated an interest in taking a bath separately after I got out. Consequently I was surprised when he followed me into the bedroom as I went to get dressed, or should I say tried to get dressed. He leaned over and lay on top of me as I tried to put my panties on. At first it seemed playful, and I just asked him to get off so I could get ready for choir rehearsal. Unlike other times, he didn’t budge. He asked to do more and more, eventually demanding that I have sex with him before I left. I declined four times, but he still wasn’t getting off of me. At this point I was running half an hour late for my rehearsal so I told him to just get it over with. He entered me immediately without even pausing to put on a condom. After a few minutes it was over. Oddly, he was the one who cried afterwards rather than me.

              On the way to rehearsal I felt hollow inside. I wasn’t ready to call it what it was, but I still had a distinct sense that what had happened crossed a line. Once singing, I sang “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” with an unusual degree of enthusiasm. Afterwards I was scheduled to audition as part of an octet to perform the song “Quiet”, composed for the 2017 Women’s March. Singing the opening lines “Put on your face/Know your place/Shut up and smile/Don’t spread your legs” I almost broke down crying. Still, I wasn’t ready to explain to my fellow singers why I had been late, and stuck with the half truth that I had missed my train.

              Afterwards I went to an Irish pub nearby, as I had originally intended to do, but with a very different mindset. I grabbed as much Guiness as was put in front of me. At this point I began getting a string of passive aggressive text messages from my boyfriend asking where he was and if he could join. I responded that I would prefer not to see him but wouldn’t tell him not to come to a public place. This led to him berating me for not giving a straight answer and insisting that I state my preferences more clearly (fat lot of good that did me when I actually tried it.) We eventually agreed to the “compromise” of meeting at a nearby bookstore. While he traveled over my phone died and my primary concern was that I wouldn’t be able to contact him; the psychology of abusive relationships can be strange like that.

After hanging out at the bookstore, we went home and attempted to have a Serious Talk. He asked why I was still angry about what had happened that morning, since he had apologized a whopping three times. He also pointed out that he had forgiven me when I supposedly cheated on him by being naked with someone else he knew I was dating. Having not clearly established a rule against this, I didn’t view it as infidelity, but that is a discussion for another time (if ever.) In that moment I realized how much he had been holding a grudge over that incident. After I officially declared my intention to end things with him because of what he did, he exhorted me not to cope by hopping into bed with strangers “like you usually do” – despite the fact that I have never had casual sex in my life and have had only one additional sexual partner besides him. I mention this context not to slut shame, but to highlight that only a person with a highly distorted view of my sexual behavior and beliefs would make such a statement.

The next day I called my best friend and said I had something to talk about. I considered trying to beat around the bush but eventually elected to just spit it out – “I think I got raped yesterday.” She listened to me and confirmed that what I had experienced was textbook sexual assault. At this point we had already been planning a visit in honor of her birthday, but agreed that it would be a good idea to bump it up a week so she could give me moral support. Once I finally said the words, my feelings became very clear and I told my now ex-boyfriend he needed to move out ASAP.

              The process of moving him out was a saga unto itself, so I think I will end the post here and add an explanation of that later on. Thank you all for your wise advice on these matters, both directly to me and in general. Particular thanks to N00Bi for helping me talk through what happened and encouraging me to maintain strong boundaries and prioritize my own emotional health. It would be lying to say I feel ok at this point, but I have a lot of support and I am healing. I’m optimistic that I will get through this.

ChemFem

I just saw the Black Panther movie on Sunday and have been excitedly discussing it with my new paramour ever since. If you haven't watched it yet, spoiler alert! Most of my comments are just about worldbuilding but I may mention some plot details.

Others have written far better than I can about this movie as a beautiful affirmation of all things African. Complimentary to that, it's also a powerful display of feminism. While the lesbian subplot of the Coates run was missing in the movie, it's still full of strong women who are realized as complex individuals. They also have different strengths from one another: prowess in battle, understanding of technology, knowledge of herbal lore, mastery of politics. Often in Hollywood speak "strong female character" seems to be code for "Jean Claude Van Damme with boobs." Here instead is a display of strong women as respected and integral members of society, not mere tokens.

Obviously any feminist take on Black Panther would be remiss without addressing the Dora Milaje. They kick ass like nobody's business, for sure. But they are also much more complex than that. Their purpose is not military might for its own sake but protection of peace and prosperity for the civilians. Wakanda reminded me less of Themyscira than of @celeste teal's description of Herland. Even General Okoye emphasizes that war is an absolute last resort. When's the last time you heard a male general arguing vehemently against war?

Afro-futurism holds out the promise of a world in which technological progress enables everybody to live free of oppression and that's beautiful. In battle and politics, we need to remember not just what we fight against but what we fight for. We may not have vibranium in real life but we can still have good government. Wakanda forever!

ChemFem

In the context of the women's march and pussy hats and whatnot, trans issues have been in the news again lately. This is my attempt to explain a subjective experience of gender dysphoria, a frequently misunderstood subject.

In the movie Shakespeare in Love, the protagonist Viola masquerades as a man named Thomas Kent to be able to act. In one scene she is rehearsing a dance with the company. The dance master calls out "gentlemen upstage, ladies downstage" and without thinking Viola steps downstage. The dance master, who had been referring to the acting roles of the (presumed) all-male cast, repeats irately "gentlemen upstage, ladies downstage, are you a lady Mr. Kent?" Viola is caught in a disconnect between her own identity and what others perceive of her.

I often feel like I am in a mild version of this situation. Conventional wisdom holds that because I have two X chromosomes I should go downstage. Yet sometimes I want to go upstage. Other times I just want to throw my hands up and exit stage left, pursued by a bear. My uneasiness with binary roles may make it more difficult to carry out the prescribed dances, but I think it's worth it anyways. Are you a lady, Mr. Chem? I don't know but I'm trying to figure it out.

ChemFem

Flake You

Well. The Republican tax bill officially has enough votes to pass the Senate. Time to gear up for a 300% increase in my taxable income, without any corresponding increase in real take-home pay. This after I realized this month that my bank balance is negative, because I was given less than $4500 stipend for the entire semester and have been filling in the cracks with credit card debt. 

I realize that in global scale of injustice, chronically underpaid graduate students are far from the worst off. However we are facing some problems, that are about to get exacerbated. Personally I will probably be ok. But right now I am just sad, mad, and scared.

ChemFem

Come Fly With Me

I'm on my way to the airport the day before Thanksgiving and I'm pretty stoked. I get to soar through the air in a miracle of modern technology surrounded by a cross-section of people that would otherwise never encounter each other. Many people have said that modern aviation has lost its romance but I beg to differ. Here's my favorite song by Old Blue Eyes to get us all in the appropriate magical mood. Happy holidays! 

 

ChemFem

Secret Worlds

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/413047-everybody-has-a-secret-world-inside-of-them-i-mean

This is one of my favorite quotes (I will also crosspost in the thread for favorite quotes). It does wonders for empathy to keep this in mind. That person who just cut you off in traffic is a complex system unto themselves that you can only begin to imagine. You and they and everyone live in defiance of entropy, making meaning where there was none. Happy Armistice Day, you incredible bundles of stardust. <3

ChemFem

I just finished a ten day course of surveys about social media use and the way it impacts my intimate relationship(s). The Amazon gift card at the end will be nice, but more than anything I wanted the self-knowledge. One thing I found was that simply writing about my primary relationship made me feel more positive towards my partner. I honestly felt like I could rank every positive quality listed about our relationship at higher than a 5 out of 7.

It also made me think about how I'm spending my time, which was the social media part. In fact, I stopped writing this blog post in the middle in response to the statement "on second thought I have enough energy if you do." ;) I'll let you draw your own inferences. Prior to taking this survey I think my response would have been, "Sure honey, but let me finish this post first." Really though my phone will still be there if I ignore it for a while. The same may not be true of another person.

I love interacting with new people, online and in person. There are all sorts of new perspectives to consider and new shared interests to find. However, I do need to remember to keep paying attention once the novelty has worn off. There will assuredly still be plenty of things to discover about the people I think I already know. If I care to put the time in I can find parts of the person snoring next to me that are absolutely dazzling. I just need to make it a priority.

ChemFem

Long Live the Agora

I wish the phrase "marketplace of ideas" were interpreted more literally. It seems rare these days to have devoted physical spaces to talk about ideas in a non-directed fashion. I wish we did this more often, freeform discussion without a set informational or social goal. I spent an hour today with a stranger, half of consisting merely of thoughtful silences, and I think it's the most productive thing I've done all day and maybe all week. Massive shifts in my personal worldview have originated from things raised in just such discussions. But from a societal perspective this is a waste of time, as frivolous as if I had spent that hour watching cat videos. It's popular to bemoan the ways in which modern society lacks emotional connection, but I think it also lacks intellectual connection. This is one of the reasons I love ShyBi; it's a place where people are willing to discuss anything and everything.

ChemFem

You May Be Right...

 Crazy is a pretty loaded term. From a certain point of view, it describes all of us to some extent. With some notable exceptions, most pathologies are merely the logical extreme of a trait that is beneficial in moderation. For instance, depression is thought to have evolved out of a natural instinct to keep to one's self and focus on problem solving during times of hardship.

I wish we could find a happy medium in discussing neurodiversity. Especially with autism, I've noticed a tendency to go too far the other way, and treat those of us on the spectrum like we have superpowers. We don't. It's a characteristic that like many others has a range of strengths and weaknesses. Treating us like an alien species is inaccurate, and so is assuming that we operate exactly the same way as everybody else. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

ChemFem

I like booze. Not just for how it feels but how it tastes. I am one of the pretentious people that can articulate the difference between a porter and a stout, and what I like and dislike about each. Despite having a fairly high tolerance, I am happy to take the easy out and claim after even one drink that any questionable behavior is due to being under the influence.

Even starting this blog is a consequence of good old liquid courage. How could I, in all sobriety, presums that other people would want to hear what I have to say? Easier to claim that demon rum (or in this case whiskey) drove me inevitably to it. It is so much easier to defend a choice when I can claim that it wasn't mine to choose.

Not quite sure where I'm going with this. More than anything I want a record, that whatever I say in the morning, what I do tonight is a product of my own autonomy. Whatever chemical processes it undergoes, my brain remains my own.

ChemFem

Bathrooms!

Unsurprisingly, this post will contain some degree of TMI. You have been warned.

These days, everybody seems to have an opinion, good bad or ugly, about where others should be allowed to use the restroom. Some go so far as to claim that trans women are waging a campaign of sexual harassment against cis women, simply because they have the audacity to posess a bladder that fills like anybody else's. Regardless of who is using the stall or urinal next to you, the overwhelming likelihood is that they are there for the same reason as you: they need to pee.

As a member in good standing of the Itty Bitty Bladder Committee, I can't afford to be picky about which restroom I use. Most of the time, I go along to get along and use the women's room. It's a lot easier that way. But it hurts to have to choose between losing my dignity by wetting myself and losing my dignity by espousing a gender presentation I don't agree with.

Many people think that conceding the existence of non-binary gender identities is mere political correctness. They believe that people are only male or female, or if they are more open-mind cis or trans. Does this binary obsession sound familiar to anybody? Just as not everyone fits neatly in the boxes of straight or gay, not everyone fits neatly in the boxes of man or woman. It would be nice not to be reminded every time I have to fulfill basic bodily functions that most of the world thinks I don't exist.

ChemFem

It's Not a Typo

Despite my current inebriation, the blog title is typed correctly. Mx is a gender-neutral prefix in the same spirit as Ms. Dr refers to the degree I hope to attain. Despite what some may say, PhDs are "real doctors" just as much as MDs. The title overall is a riff on the common phrase "Dr and Mrs" (or sometimes Dr and Mr) to indicate a couple in which only one member is a PhD. With the title explained, let's launch in!