Chrissy Metz is one of the stars of the television show This Is Us. As is all too often the case, she plays a fat character who is “struggling with her weight” As is less common, the contract she signed to play the character includes a requirement for weight loss. She says: In our contract, it […]
I have so many things to write about, I don’t know where to begin. So, for today, here is an article by Transgender Universe about this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. It lists the trans people who have died this year, and in many cases includes the cause of death.
It’s sobering, to say the least. A moment of silence in their memory.
And then we get back to work.
I was in graduate school when I first heard the term “millennial.” It was at a conference. The session was about how to serve millennial students, because they have different characteristics than the Generation X students that went before them. It was here that I first started hearing things like “millennials need to be recognized for participation,” “millennials feel they are special,” “millennials are sheltered,” “millennials are likely to have helicopter parents,” and more. Society as a whole loves to hate on the millennial generation (those born between 1980-1999), calling us “special snowflakes” and sarcastically referring to us as “social justice warriors,” calling us out for “being offended by everything” and, everybody’s favorite, pointing out how very entitled we are.
Here’s the secret: We’re not.
The negative opinions directed at millennials are a perfect example, on an enormous societal scale, of cultural gaslighting.
Glad you asked. I learned…
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People seem to like making reference to mental illness, whether it’s for humour or to support their political arguments. When they do, it often is not in the context of trying to help people with mental illness access quality care, experience less stigma, gain the social & financial supports we need, or to help our families. When they do call for better access to care, it is often to solve another problem that would be better addressed by all people examining their privilege, biases, enacting sensible policies, and standing up to those who perpetuate the problems. I find it rather frustrating.
I recently saw a joke implying that people who think X have a mental illness – and yes, it explicitly used the phrase “mental illness” within the context of a doctor-patient interaction. I asked the person to take it down, said it’s not funny, and explained why. In response: one person questioned my reasoning abilities, one person told me to “find something better to do,” one person argued with me about why it is funny and said if I’m that sensitive I shouldn’t hang out online. And one person stood up for me, supporting and adding to my argument. I’m so grateful for that last person, and I wish more people would have a similar response.
Different people find different things funny. Maybe some of the people who find jokes like that funny have mental illnesses/mental health issues – who am I to judge?
The problem is that people use the terms “mental illness,” “crazy,” “have issues,” “something wrong with their head,” etc. to cast judgment on others who do or think things that are perceived as inappropriate, unacceptable, or downright wrong. I’m not comfortable with that; I think jokes or serious statements that reference mental illness to judge others contribute to the stigma people with mental illness face.
Maybe there are times when a person doesn’t mean it that way and I’m not helping by assuming they do and calling them out on it. Maybe I need to take a step back. I’ll give folks that. I’ll try to resist the temptation to respond in the moment, and instead formulate a response (or choose not to respond) after I’ve cooled down a bit.
But I think, if anyone has the right to determine whether a reference to mental illness is appropriate or funny, it’s the person with a clinical diagnosis – followed by caregivers and close family members of someone with a clinical diagnosis, followed by mental health professionals. We generally give that kind of deference to people with other health issues and members of marginalized groups – in some cases to the point of removing words or phrases from our vocabulary. I think that’s appropriate and necessary. I think people with mental illness (and members of other marginalized groups, particularly people with disabilities) should be given the same respect.
Different people find different things funny. Something that offends me might make another person with my diagnosis literally roll on the floor laughing. That person has every right to disagree with me. For that matter, people with no personal experience of mental illness (if such people exist) have every right to disagree with me.
But I think we can (or should) agree that no one has the right to attack or insult me for calling a frivolous reference to a serious health issue that has threatened my life and the lives of people I love inappropriate. If I say “I have a mental illness and I don’t think this is funny; please take it down,” people should take my request seriously. Even if they disagree with me, even if they choose not to take it down, their response should convey respect for the fact that I too am a person who deserves to be treated with dignity. Is it really so much to ask?
[Edit: If you missed watching it live, you can still watch at https://berniesanders.com/stream/]
Bernie’s message transcends politics. It’s about making the U.S. government work for all of us. It’s about having actual democracy. Please join me in watching.
TW: full text of a conversation with my mother, in which her responses are abusive (gaslighting)
It started with an online swimsuit sale. I’m not sure why my mother decided I need a new swimsuit – I think the ones I have are fine – but she “strongly encouraged” me to take advantage of the sale… and have her buy the items for me so she can get “points” (credit card reward program?). I haven’t completely overwritten my programming, so I agreed to do the online shopping in her apartment, even though I knew I should have known better.
Clothes shopping has always been triggering for me, and swimsuit shopping is the worst. I’ve been working hard to love my body the way it is, but the internalized fatphobia and body size-related insecurity that tortured me my whole life springs up anew when I simply cannot find clothing in my size.
And then there’s the whole being non-binary thing. At least with everyday clothes it’s possible to do some gender-bending: no one needs to know I wear “men’s” boxer-briefs and an undershirt instead of a bra. T-shirts are considered unisex. Socks and shoes – who cares?! So far I haven’t ventured into trying to find “men’s” pants that might fit me, mostly because they’re simply not designed for hips that are considerably larger than the attached waist. But finding a pair of jeans shaped to my body feels so good, I can keep wearing “women’s” pants without too much dysphoria. For now.
Swimsuits are very gendered. Just the fact that men are expected to run around bare-chested and women have to cover up sends my brain into a dysphoric frenzy. Ideally I would love to just swim naked – I had the opportunity to do that once and it was glorious! No gender performance, just diverse bodies. Everything floats when it’s not tied down by a swimsuit. I loved the sensation. I felt so free!
So I’m swimsuit shopping online with my mother. She’s sitting at the computer with me mostly behind her, looking at what she thinks I’ll like. Fortunately, we agreed that the “women’s” swim shorts this company offers are far superior to typical “women’s” swimsuit bottoms… but she was going to get a shorter length than I wanted (so I had to argue with her about that) and the ones I wanted were out of stock in my size (of course). I convinced her to add the swim leggings (way more coverage than I’d like, but still better than the alternatives). And I don’t remember if we added a couple pairs of “men’s” swim trunks together or I added them myself later, but either way they’ve been ordered. Maybe they’ll even fit! (A bit of a long shot, since the measurements are smaller than my hips.)
Then we started looking at tops. I would have been happy with a simple “shelf bra” tankini thing. They all have underwire or soft cups. Ugh. We get in an argument about it. I’m concerned because with a tankini one has to consider both chest (“bust”) and hip measurements, and mine are too different to have one size fit both properly. I think everything I own is too big on the bust and too small on the hips – I just try not to worry about it. We have another fight, I get her to let me sit at the computer and look at stuff myself, without having to try and convince her to click on each item for me. Nada.
I decided to look at bikini tops, thinking it might solve the hip-bust ratio problem. Bad idea. They’re all basically bras. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe something more like a sports bra at least? But no, my dysphoria went through the roof. I eventually found and selected a couple “men’s” rash guards, which as far as I can tell are essentially fitted t-shirts designed for swimming?
Again, way more coverage than I wanted, but probably a million times more comfortable than the weird boob-obsessed gendered performance nonsense Mom probably would have bought for me.
So, it was pretty cool that this company/site had these options. And Mom was pretty cool about “letting” – god, I’m an adult, who they hell is she to decide what I’m “allowed” to wear or buy? – me get mostly “men’s” swimwear.
But look at me, writing over 700 words about swimsuit shopping! Throughout our interaction she kept saying little things that were bothering me: “You really need to give yourself more time to get places.” “I went in your apartment and thought ‘I just have to help them out,’ so I did your dishes.” “I don’t know how you’ve been handling your finances.”
That last one was the last straw. I used to keep my checkbook perfectly balanced. I used to have my own income, so I could save money every month and otherwise be a financially-responsible adult. But I don’t have my own income, and I haven’t figured out how to consistently track finances for two people (especially since Fox is the one who makes all our money and spends most of it). I’ve been reduced to checking our bank account balance once a month, to make sure we have enough in there to pay our credit card bill. I’m not happy with the situation; it feels wrong; I’m embarrassed by it. But between my mental health issues, the work I’ve been doing in therapy, volunteering full-time for the Bernie Sanders campaign (which I love), and being primary caregiver to our pet rats, I consider it an accomplishment that I manage to pay the credit card bills on time. And eat, occasionally. That requires constant vigilance.
So I walked out. “Please don’t walk out on me.” I barely even looked at her. I’d fallen mute. I couldn’t say or do anything. My legs just carried me out the door and down the stairs and into my apartment.
A little while later she was leaving the house, so I hugged her and apologized and told her I love her. She told me that she wasn’t pushing the bra-like tankini innards on me because of gender, but because she likes to have support for her anatomy. “You want some support,” she said to me. “No, you want some support,” I told her. “That doesn’t mean it’s what I want.” I escape the conversation – mostly because she needs to leave. Everything seems peachy.
She even called on her way wherever she was going to say she’s proud of me for all the work I’m doing on the campaign.
On Wednesday she posted one of those image-with-text meme-like things on my Facebook wall:
I am not your friend. I am your parent. I will stalk you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare, & hunt you down when needed – because I love you.
I got very angry, hid it from my timeline, and proceeded to send her multiple text messages:
Posting threats on my Facebook wall is not going to improve our relationship – quite the opposite. You and dad and your in-laws and other family members already drove me insane; that’s why I’ve needed to work my ass off in therapy for the past 6 years.
You’re not my friend, you’re my parent – so ACT LIKE ONE. Get the therapy you need to be able to do it properly. Stop using me as your therapist. I’m not your friend or your therapist I’m your adult child. Respect that I’m an adult and respect my boundaries. Help me in the ways I ask you to; give me the advice I ask for; listen to me and support me! And think about how what you say might impact me before you say it.
I’m grateful for everything you do for me and I understand that it’s not easy. But enough is enough. If you think it’s okay to stalk me and knowingly do things to “drive me insane” then you need to make some effort to learn how to parent responsibly.
“I do these harmful things because I love you” is what abusers say.
The rest of the conversation proceeded in a rather alarming fashion (from my point of view) during which she did not apologize.
M: “I do not abuse you. You are taking things too seriously.”
Z: “No, YOU are not taking me seriously enough. You never have.”
M: “Stalk you?”
M: “Not a threat. I thought it was cute. And told you that I love you. Something parents always say. We make many sacrifices for our children. We should talk later. Take things lighter. Love you.”
I freaked out and called Wakana. She got so upset with my mom, I had to ask her to stop yelling. She told me about a million times that I was not overreacting, I was having a healthy response, I need to separate emotionally from my mother, and I should unfriend my mother on Facebook. So that’s what I did, and that’s the text I sent Mom.
The next text I got from Mom was telling me I needed to move my car. We haven’t spoken since. No apology.
I’m not talking to her until she apologizes to me.
In the meantime, I got a nice short androgynous haircut that I love and everyone has complimented me on. I have a street to canvass and volunteers to call this afternoon. I’ll be working in the campaign office for a handful of hours this evening. And then we begin our GOTV (get out the vote) efforts in earnest. 9am-9pm Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. And, I imagine, the full time polls are open Tuesday. I signed up to be part of the voter protection team on Tuesday, so I will either be doing that or juggling it with work in the campaign office. It’s finals week on steroids. Crunch time.
If you can help us out go to map.berniesanders.com for local events and/or berniepb.com to phonebank. If your state’s primary is on Tuesday, visit canivote.org to look up your polling place and/or other useful information.
This is what’s been keeping me going. I need Bernie to win on Tuesday.
“Why do they direct their animosity toward me?”
“Because they sense your power.”