Let’s Play Skyrim

Welcome to a repeat of my post from April 2014! I like to think I’ve come a long way since then: I’m hopeful regarding my future. I feel a strong positive connection with Fox (my husband) and other loved ones, especially when we express our mutual affection. I have been playing video games, but for reasonable periods of time and without allowing them to interfere with living my real life. (It’s been several months since the last time I played Skyrim.)

On Tuesday my prescriber told me that I’m doing great, switched my prescription to one dose per day, and said to come back in 3 months. I’ve started addressing my social anxiety with help from my music therapist, Wakana. The last couple days have been a fun reunion with dear college friends. Honestly, the only not-so-awesome thing going on for me right now is the problem with my computer… and even that seems close to being resolved.

I’m doing this re-post because I’ve started obsessively practicing lines for the first couple episodes if I ever do a Let’s Play of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s kind of annoying because I’ve already said the same things many times, and yet I still feel compelled to repeat them over and over. It’s better than having a panic attack because a bee bounced off my windshield while I was driving, imagining wasps attacking me, or being afraid to look in the mirror at night because I was traumatized by a movie I watched as a pre-teen, though.

My anxieties – social anxiety, general feelings that something horrible will happen, and my bee/wasp/hornet phobia – have been flaring up like crazy lately. It kind of makes sense that my defense would be to concentrate on a fantasy world, where I can load from a recent save if I don’t like what happens. The lines I’ve been practicing focus almost exclusively on character creation, the one part of the game over which the player has nearly total control.

There are a lot of parallels between my current situation and the context for the original version of this post (below). I was feeling good about my life, being active and social, trying new things, and acting like a responsible adult then, too. My anxiety was flaring up then, too – driving my mind to grab onto whatever it could as a security blanket:

I had an epic day of being awesome on Thursday, so I was exhausted on Friday. I spent what part of the day I wasn’t sleeping practicing Zentangles and hanging out with friends. Saturday was similarly low-key. After drawing my Zentangle for the day, I was itching to play a video game: something beautiful and epic and new…

So I started a game of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on PC. Next thing I knew, the sun was rising. I took a nap and basically spent all of Sunday playing thoroughly immersed in that fictional world. I’m enjoying the game and want to experience the story, but to be honest there are aspects of it I find rather stressful. Melee combat, for one – especially since the default difficulty was too high for me and I kept dying. I’ve been doing much better since I dialed it down a notch, but I still prefer to avoid melee combat when possible.

The other thing I find stressful is that, whether a character is attacking me physically or not, they’re talking at me. The physical attackers hurl insults that can hurt more than their blades (except that they’re obviously wrong, because I end up killing them.) Other characters I pass might say something mean, ask me for something, or randomly tell me their life story.

Some of the other characters in Skyrim say very mean things to the player character, especially if you’re playing one of the less popular races. […] I’m still concerned that hearing negative talk consistently for hours at a time can be harmful… at least for me.

[…]

Anyways, as much as I want to just play the game and have fun with it – learning things as I come across them and making decisions spontaneously – my mind wants to plan out a Let’s Play. The most basic definition of a Let’s Play is a video that combines actual gameplay footage with simultaneous audio commentary by the player; it can be a walkthrough, a challenge run, friends goofing off (whether playing competitively or collaboratively), even a talk about a topic that has nothing to do with video games. Fox’s favorite Let’s Player (LPer) is HCBailley.

I love the idea of Let’s Plays and have wanted to do one for a few years now. I had a couple false starts, but on some level I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before I get one going that I can be consistent with (and get all the YouTube followers!). It’s an opportunity to do some video editing – which I enjoy for the process at least as much as the product – and share my thoughts about the game. I want to share the story, be witty and entertaining, and give a feminist critique.

I’m trying to convince my mind to put the Let’s Play idea on the back burner for now. Let me learn to be consistent with things that are important to my real life before I start a project that requires me to play a long and involved video game on a regular schedule (and in manageable doses). […]

The thing is, if I think about the game when I’m not actively playing it, there isn’t much to say. I have my character. I’d like to improve my smithing and melee combat abilities. I’m really glad I can mute the voices and determine when subtitles appear. I’m not entirely sure it was wise to drop all of my gold on a house this early in the game, but it’s a place to keep the dragon bones and scales I’ve been collecting. It also enabled me to adopt a child; interacting with her causes me to feel warm and fuzzy inside. I could think about which quest to start next, but they’re all in a nice convenient log for me so I can just decide next time I play.

The above don’t give my mind much to grab onto, and it doesn’t like that. Moving forward with my real-life career goals, dealing with real-life people (especially strangers in positions of authority), and even just being fully present in the moment are all things that provoke my anxiety. My mind needs something to grab onto, something to think about so incessantly there isn’t room for thoughts about the real world in general and my own life in particular.

It was hoping the Let’s Play would provide such a security blanket; it wants to lure me into thinking about my ideal character build instead of actually developing skills I need in real life. It wants me to direct my creative energy into witty commentary about the game instead of into composing original music, creating original art, or writing anything worth reading. It wants me to feel good about earning virtual money to make a virtual home pleasant and cozy… instead of finding a real job, earning real money, decluttering my real home, and raising a real family.

Oh, Mara, I thought I’d gotten past this. I should have known! How could reading a few chapters of a book once truly change the way I think about and perceive myself? How could it counteract a lifetime of internalized messages reinforced by my perception of my experiences?

[…]

I thought I was doing better but then… I don’t know! Did I push myself too hard and need some downtime to recover? Did I relapse? Am I making any progress, or am I just walking in circles completely lost? I hate being unable to trust my own perception of reality.

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Sims 3 Legacy: Beyond the Veil

This is the fifth installment of my Sims 3 Legacy; I’m halfway to my goal of 10 generations! Today’s post picks up where Part 4 left off: with Oma pregnant very soon after her high school graduation.

Legacy Family

Oma gave birth to a boy (whom she named Patrick), followed soon after by a girl (Penny).

This served as a sort of wake up call for her uncle Nash: he wasn’t getting any younger, and he wanted to be sure his nieces’ children would have plenty of adults available to care for them. So, he reopened his workshop and built a second simbot, whom he named Kim.

Back-profile view of an older man (left) looking at a silver metal anthropomorphic robot (center).

Kim (right) tells Nash (left) about zir awesome features. Nash’s other, non-sentient inventions are visible in the background.

A man crouches with arms extended to a toddler with long hair, who is standing with hands extended toward the man's face. A robot stands holding a male toddler, who appears to be laughing.

Nash (center) teaches Penny to walk, while Kim (right foreground) tickles Patrick.

Nash died soon afterward, much to his chagrin. His love of inventing had been reawakened, there were new children to help raise… but he was out of time. Though his legacy wasn’t quite as world-changing as he’d wanted, Nash tried to take comfort in the fact that he had created a simbot who outlived him. Death claimed Nash as ze must do to all sims.

Oma had always been uniquely attuned to the reality beyond the grave, so it seemed only natural for her to become a ghost hunter. At first she was called upon to capture simple spirits who had lost their self-identity – and whom her clients found annoying. Most of these spirits turned out to be friendly, scared, or hurting. Oma discovered that, by catching and releasing them, she could enable these spirits to be at peace.

It is nighttime in a clearing surrounded by trees. A young woman in a yellow jumpsuit holds out a container. Above her, a bright green semi-transparent ghost-like shape rises out of the container.

Oma releases a recently-captured spirit into the night.

Oma quickly built a reputation as a successful ghost hunter, which brought a welcome influx of clients. She was increasingly called upon to eliminate ghostly presences that made her clients feel uneasy in their own homes, and that at times even threatened clients’ safety. These ghosts were sentient and took forms similar to the ones they’d had in life. Oma found they simply needed someone to be compassionate and reassure them that it was safe to let go of this existence.

The image features a man (left) who is purple, transparent, and wearing chain mail. He is shaking hands with a woman wearing a yellow jumpsuit (right).

Oma (right) shakes hands with a ghost (left) whom she has convinced to move on.

Meanwhile, Oma’s sister Olive graduated high school and joined a criminal organization in hopes of someday becoming a master thief. She had an affair with her superior (a fairy named Luis Case) and birthed a son (whom she named Paul). Olive has been working hard and rising in the ranks (despite numerous arrests).

A large family poses in front of a beach scene.

Patrick (left), Nicole (holding Paul), Kim (center), Olive, Oma (right), and Penny (seated in foreground) pose for a family photo at the summer festival.

Proud to have 3 grandchildren, Nicole spent much of her time caring for Patrick, Penny, and especially Paul. As the children became more independent, she dedicated increasing amounts of time to alchemy. Nicole created a large stock of elixirs, which should prove useful to current and future generations.

A woman with gray hair uses a long wooden spoon to stir the contents of an opaque cauldron. A large book lies open on a stand to her right.

Nicole stirs one of her many artfully-crafted elixirs.

When Death came for Nicole on Spooky Day, she greeted zir with grace and gratitude. Ze had given her children, who in turn gave her grandchildren. Now, after a long full life, ze offered her rest.

The family, though saddened, has been doing quite well. Kim – inspired by Nicole’s artistic brilliance – has developed a love of painting. Patrick has grown up to be quite the socialite; he loves making new friends and is always ready to throw a party. Penny loves everything having to do with music and works diligently to master a variety of instruments. Paul – brilliant, ambitious, and… a bit odd – is doing well in high school.

Several sims wearing formal wear pose in front of a snowy backdrop.

Paul (seated, front left), Oma (standing, left), Kim, Penny (center), Olive, and Patrick (right) pose for a family photo soon after Penny’s high school graduation.

A woman plays an electronic keyboard outdoors. Behind her, a large excavated area reveals a platform with an ornate door featuring images of the grim reaper.

Penny (center) plays her portable keyboard near the excavation site. A small group of sims (left) listen to her play. In the right background, a tourist converses with Death.

Family Tree

I have expanded the Legata family tree, pictured below, to include the newest generation. On the far left, the symbol for Nash is now crossed out to indicate that he is deceased. Kim is represented by a diamond (filled with black to indicate that ze is a simbot); a blue arrow points from Nash to Kim to show that Nash built zir. The symbol for Nicole is also crossed out to show that she is deceased.

The symbol for Oma (bottom center) is connected to the one for Quintin Beaulieu with a blue dotted line to indicate that they dated briefly. The symbol for Olive (next to Oma) is connected to the one for Luis Case with a pink dashed line to show that they had an affair – that is, Luis cheated on his girlfriend with Olive. The symbols for Luis and his sister Tanesha are filled with green to show that they are fairies. The symbols for their (divorced) parents are filled with gray to show that their supernatural status is unknown.

Finally, the symbols for Patrick, Penny, and Paul (far bottom) are filled with yellow to indicate that they – like their mothers, grandmother (Nicole), great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother (Lisa) – are all witches!

The Legata Family Tree, generations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

A Place for the Dead

The Legatas expanded Nash’s astronomy tower downward to create their own private catacombs. On the first level they interred Nash and Nicole, whose remains had been cremated. Their urns rest on a table, surrounded by flowers, with their portraits on the wall behind them.

A gray stone wall with two portraits on it, behind a dark table. On the table are two white urns with gold embellishments, one in front of each portrait.

The memorial to Nash (left) and Nicole (right), inside the newly-built Legata family catacombs.

Legacy House

I expanded the legacy house so all the bedrooms – 5 in total – are on the second floor. The bedrooms on the first floor have been converted: the one near the front of the house is now a playroom/nursery and features a porch opening out onto a playground. The bedroom in the right back corner of the house is now an alchemy lab, and the one in the back center is… essentially a hallway. A large addition to the front left of the house features a double staircase going up to the second floor. I added doorways to facilitate movement from room to room.

The first floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to show all the rooms. Kim reads in the livingroom (near the center of the house).

The first floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to show all the rooms. Kim reads in the living room (near the center of the house).

The second floor features two full bathrooms, five bedrooms, and plenty of hallway space. The hallway has easels for painting and is often the location of impromptu music performances. Two of the bedrooms are intended for one sim, and two feature double beds. The bedroom in the back left has three single beds – one for each of the children born in this generation.

The second floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to make all the rooms visible. The back center bedroom is dark because Olive is sleeping in it.

The second floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to make all the rooms visible. The back center bedroom is dark because Olive is sleeping in it.

A large 2-story house surrounded by a fence. A two-car garage is visible in the left front. There is a tower in the left rear, surrounded by graves. A fenced-in garden and playground are visible in the far right.

The legacy lot and surrounding countryside.

The Next Generation

Penny has started casually dating the young adult male sim behind and slightly to the right of her in the image where she’s playing piano. It seems likely she might start having children with him the next time I play… 😉

Speaking of which, I’ve been feeling a lot less temptation to play The Sims 3. There’s definitely a correlation: the worse I feel, the more I play. The better I feel, the less I play – because I’m too busy doing other awesome real-world things. I also tend to feel worse as a result of playing The Sims 3, especially when it’s slow and glitching or I’ve made the mistake of giving my sims autonomy. The absolute worst is when I let it eat my whole day (or multiple days…).

So, yeah. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with my Sims 3 Legacy; I’m quite proud of it. I might even be able to just end it here: reread my posts, look at the succession of family portraits, pat myself on the back, and walk away. Of course, the more I think about it, the more tempted I am to boot it up as soon as I publish this blog post…

My point is, if I continue playing, it will be for the fun of playing the game. I might continue the Legacy Challenge. I might make a new game so I can explore aspects of my existing expansions that I still haven’t gotten to yet. I might just make ridiculous sims or build incredible houses. That’s kind of the point: it’s a sandbox game.

If I continue this legacy, I’ll definitely post about it. The posts will just be a lot less frequent.

Sims 3 Legacy: Sim-Cyborg Relations

This is the fourth installment of my Sims 3 Legacy. It picks up where Part 3 left off: with Nash inventing and Nicole vigorously studying Alchemy in order to produce an elixir that can cure transformed sims.

Legacy Family

Nash and Nicole’s aunt Mira retired as soon as she reached the appropriate age – none of this “waiting until I’m about to die” nonsense her mother and sister did. This enabled Mira to fully enjoy her golden years receiving a hard-earned pension. She spent as much time as she could in werewolf form, finding a variety of rare and fascinating metals, gems, and insects. When not hunting, she went on dates with her girlfriend and helped raise her niece’s children.

The Door of Life and Death

The Riverview Association for Amateur Archaeologists (RAFAA) caught wind of some strange, seemingly sim-made protrusions coming out of the ground in a grassy, undeveloped area near the fish hatchery. When they excavated, they discovered a peculiar door that seemed to lead to nowhere. Perplexed, they withdrew to covertly observe what happens when sims interact with their discovery.

The site has since become a popular place to hang out, though a few outsiders have suddenly gone missing. To Nicole and her high school sweetheart, Savannah Drummond, it seemed the perfect place to go for a date. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that, by knocking on the door, they could talk to Death – without dying!

Nicole felt that Death owed her one for ruining her high school graduation ceremony. So, she requested a new life – a pregnancy – created from a combination of her and Savannah’s genes.

Death summons a bolt of light that strikes at Nicole's feet, causing her to become pregnant. Nicole's girlfriend, Savannah, watches nearby.

Death summons a bolt of light that strikes at Nicole’s feet, causing her to become pregnant. Nicole’s girlfriend, Savannah, watches nearby.

The thing is, such a merger defies the laws of nature – and that is risky. The two children Nicole conceived in this manner (on two separate occasions) “dance to the beat of their own drummer,” somewhat out of touch with the reality most sims agree on. Perhaps they are more in touch with another reality, such as that beyond the grave?

I gave Nicole’s daughters the “insane” trait to reflect that their ways of being in the world seem … a bit odd … to other sims. I share some of their tendencies, particularly talking to myself (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we talk among ourselves almost constantly very frequently “all the time” – and seldom agree have trouble coming to a consensus). Most notably (and refreshingly) they don’t lose focus whenever they are in the same room as a ghost; I guess seeing dead people is “normal” to them.

The Master Invention

While Nicole was negotiating with Death, her brother Nash was hard at work inventing. He moved his bed into his workshop to make it easier for him to stay up most of the night working on his craft.

His dedication finally paid off very soon after Nicole gave birth to her first child, Oma. After searching all of Riverview for rare materials (with the help of Mira) and working tirelessly in his lab, he finally created the invention that would define his career and change life for all simkind – hopefully for the better…

A robot sits on the edge of a crafting table, smiling with arms extended as though to give a hug, while the inventor who created him cheers. An unmade bed is visible to the left, several other inventions to the right.

a simbot!

Nash named the simbot Josiah and adopted zir into the family, where ze was fully accepted and loved. A good-humored virtuoso, Josiah learned to play guitar with ease and became an active member of a local rock band. When not practicing or performing, ze helped to care for Oma and her younger sister, Olive.

Josiah plays zir guitar

Josiah plays guitar

Josiah reads with Oma, a toddler

Josiah reads with Oma, a toddler

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Life in the Legata household was going well. The children were well cared-for, Nicole learned to create her elixir and used it to cure many sims of zombie-ism, and Nash turned to improving his handiness so he could keep Josiah in good health.

Josiah (far left, holding Olive), Mira (left center), Nicole (right center), Nash (right), and Oma (seated in foreground) pose together in front of a wintry backdrop.

Josiah (far left, holding Olive), Mira (left center), Nicole (right center), Nash (far right), and Oma (seated in foreground) pose together in front of a wintry backdrop.

Then Oma, ready to grow up into a teenager, had her birthday on the night of the full moon. When she went to blow out the candles, her cake mysteriously caught fire! At the same moment, Mira died of old age. Death seemed to gloat as ze claimed her, further influencing the life ze had helped create: Oma developed the “brooding” trait, which predisposes her to melancholy thoughts about existential issues. It reminds me of my tendency to ruminate, especially when my depression symptoms are stronger.

[I wish I’d taken a screenshot!]

During Mira’s funeral, Death visited once again – this time to claim Josiah. The simbot greeted Death graciously, but the rest of the family was devastated.

Josiah shakes hands with Death, surrounded by zir family members (who are crying). They stand atop a recently-filled grave, with two other tombstones visible in the right-background.

Josiah shakes hands with Death, surrounded by zir family members (who are crying). They stand atop a recently-filled grave, with two other tombstones visible in the right-background.

Aftermath

The loss of two family members hit the Legatas hard.

a man flails, suspended in a vertical beam of light in a nighttime, suburban scene

Nash is abducted by aliens in his own front yard!

Nash swore off inventing and lacked focus … until he was abducted by aliens. They ignited a his passion for – no! obsession with – all things having to do with outer space. He built a tower between Mira’s and Josiah’s graves, equipped it with the basics he needed to survive, topped it with telescopes, and retreated from everyday life. (This enabled him to master the logic skill, the third and final skill he needed for the lifetime wish: “Renaissance Sim.”) Though he has identified several celestial bodies, he has yet to find whatever it is he is looking for.

Oma sits cross-legged, deep in thought about her heartache. The graves of Mira, Lisa, and Melanie are visible through the window.

Oma sits cross-legged, deep in thought about her heartache. The graves of Mira, Lisa, and Melanie are visible through the window.

Oma spent hours contemplating both the meaning and the hollowness of reality. Though her brooding did not interfere with her school performance, it limited her ability to develop skills, socialize, and otherwise live a fulfilling life.

a young female sim, submerged to her neck, with an anxious facial expression, surrounded by nature

Suddenly finding herself in the middle of a body of water, Olive looks around anxiously.

Since becoming a teenager, Olive has been having sudden impulses to run out into the nearest body of water and swim. She suddenly realizes she is in deep water and becomes anxious and disoriented. Fortunately, she has thus far been able to find her way back to dry, solid ground. No one has been able to explain the reason for – or meaning of – these impulses.

Oma’s transition to young adulthood went smoothly enough, considering the circumstances. She graduated with honors at the top of her class. The family went to the Fall Festival immediately afterward to take a photo together and celebrate.

Nash, Nicole, Oma, and Olive pose in front of an autumn backdrop after Oma's graduation from high school.

Nash, Nicole, Oma, and Olive pose in front of an autumn backdrop after Oma’s graduation from high school.

Below is the updated version of the Legata family tree. Mira’s symbol (just right of center) is now crossed out to show that she is deceased. I added a diamond to represent Nash’s simbot, Josiah, in the lower left. It is filled with black to show that ze was a simbot, and crossed out to show that ze is also deceased. A blue arrow with the word “Invented” shows that Nash created Josiah.

I added the family tree of Nicole’s ex-girlfriend Savannah on the far right side of the Legata family tree. The symbols for Savannah, her father (Rex), mother (Windy), and youngest brother (Jaques) are filled with white to show that they are “normal,” non-magical sims. The symbol for her sister Hannah is filled with fuchsia to show that she is a vampire. The symbols for George Dean (upper left), Mira Legata, and Savannah’s brother Antwain are filled with reddish-brown to show that they are werewolves.

Death is represented near the middle of the family tree by a diamond (filled with gray to show that zir “supernatural status” is unknown). Red arrows point from Death to Oma and Olive to show that Death helped Nicole conceive them. Finally, the symbols for Oma and Olive (bottom center) are filled with yellow to show that they, like their mother (Nicole), grandmother (Melanie), and great-grandmother (Lisa), are witches!

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Next Generation

Oma met a fellow witch named Quintin Beaulieu at the Fall Festival and quickly fell in love. She slept with him that very night. Several urgent visits to the bathroom later, Oma discovered that she is pregnant with her first child!

A young woman (left) talking to an older woman (right) whose eyes and mouth are opened wide. In the upper left corner is an image of a man and woman holding hands in bed, surrounded by a thought bubble that points to the young woman's head.

Nicole (right) is shocked to learn that Oma (center) is pregnant at such a young age. In the thought bubble (upper left corner) Oma remembers the night she spent with Quintin (left).

Sims 3 Legacy: The Next Generation (Reprise)

On Sunday I introduced the founder of my new Sims 3 Legacy family. This post continues her story and introduces her twin daughters.

Legacy Family

Meet the Legata family, pictured below. Lisa (standing, far back) is the legacy founder, the sim I made in Create a Sim. Melanie (seated in front) was the first twin to be born; she is a witch like Lisa. Mira (standing, middle) was the second twin to be born; she is a werewolf like her father (not pictured).

An autumn scene: trees in the background with orange leaves, pumpkins on either side. A woman poses in the middle with 2 children in front of her, one standing and the other seated in the foreground.

Lisa Legata (back) poses for a “Spooky Day” picture with her daughters: Mira (middle) and Melanie (front).

I created the family tree below using Genopro Genealogy Software. I’m using color coding to show how supernatural status (human, witch, werewolf, etc.) is passed down from one generation to the next. The symbols for the twins’ paternal grandparents (top left: Bennie & Lonnie Dean) are shaded gray because their supernatural status is unknown. The X through Lonnie’s symbol indicates that she is deceased. The symbol for the twins’ father (George Dean) is filled with reddish brown to show that he is a werewolf, as is the symbol for Mira (bottom right). The symbols for Lisa (top right) and Melanie (bottom left) are filled with yellow to show that they are both witches.

The line connecting George and Lisa is blue and dotted to show that they had a short-term, uncommitted relationship – in other words, they dated for a while. Melanie and Mira are connected to this line at the same point, forming a bottomless triangle, to indicate that they are fraternal twins. (If they were identical, the triangle would be complete.) Symbols for sims in my active household (the Legata family) are considerably larger than symbols for sims outside the household (Bennie, Lonnie, and George Dean).

a genogram depicting 3 generations of a family

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, and 2.

Raising the twins on her own was not easy, especially since Lisa was also working full time. She struggled to manage everyone’s needs and teach the toddlers skills essential for their development. Due to their rough start, I was unable to select traits for the twins when they grew up into children. Melanie gained the “grumpy” trait, which has elements similar to my experience of depression (when it’s relatively mild): she can function normally most days, but her mood is lower than it would be for sims without the trait, all other things being equal. At times she feels sad or angry for no reason. It is difficult for her to enthuse about the good things in her life, including her accomplishments. Some days she randomly wakes up feeling “out of sorts,” which affects her entire day (23 hour moodlet). This predisposes her to worse moods and limits her ability to feel happy.

The twins were less dependent as children, so life in the Legata household became much easier. Lisa alternated among progressing her career, developing the magic skills she would need to cure transformed sims (her life goal), and caring for her children. Melanie and Mira did well in school and enjoyed playing dress up and pretend. Mira discovered a lifelong love for transforming into a werewolf and hunting for metals, gems, and insects.

Melanie’s magic abilities didn’t manifest until she was a teenager, but once they did she began enthusiastically learning new spells. Each twin held down a part-time job through high school. Unfortunately they missed a lot of school due to snow days, so they were barely able to pass with acceptable grades (B and higher). I was able to choose a trait for Melanie, who had taken advantage of an opportunity that boosted her grade to A. Mira was assigned a random, relatively neutral trait. They were both thrilled to graduate from high school and enter young adulthood.

An older woman stands with two young adult women wearing graduation caps and gowns. They are surrounded by spring flowers.

Lisa, Mira, and Melanie on graduation day!

As soon as they graduated, Melanie entered politics and Mira joined the military. Their life goals are to become the Leader of the Free World and an Astronaut, respectively. Toward those ends, they have been training and networking relentlessly; Melanie has become quite the expert at hosting fun and profitable campaign fundraisers!

Meanwhile, Lisa continued climbing the journalism career ladder, while simultaneously using magic whenever possible. She magically upgraded every appliance, electronic, and plumbing fixture in the house. She cast good luck charms on everyone she met. She even gave in to the temptation to turn sims into toads! But no matter how much she practiced and experimented and studied, she could not learn the spells necessary to accomplish the kind of magical healing that had been her lifelong goal.

So, instead, she focused on her career (in other words, I used her happiness points to buy the “change lifetime wish” aspiration award) and became a rather prolific writer. Among other things, she wrote: two memoirs, a survey of the supernaturals in Riverview, and an exploration of Possible Solutions to Riverview’s Zombie Problem. Lisa’s dedication (that is, my gaming strategy) paid off: she fulfilled her late-in-life goal of becoming a Star News Anchor! She looks forward to retiring and (hopefully) helping to raise grandchildren.

Three women sit around a fire pit at night, roasting food items. There is snow on the ground and they are wearing heavy coats.

Lisa, Mira, and Melanie roast food items over a fire pit.

Legacy House

To be honest, I probably haven’t been expanding the legacy house as much as I should be: the whole family is still sharing one bedroom. It’s not a particularly large bedroom either; Melanie and Mira never graduated from sharing bunk beds. However, they now have a state-of-the art kitchen, spacious dining room, and outdoor eating area complete with a very nice grill. Each of these rooms has a dishwasher and trash compactor, so there is no excuse for leaving dirty dishes everywhere. I also added a half bath, which is accessible via the dining room. Mira’s garden is visible in the background of the screenshot below; it looks like it’s coming out of the bedroom wall, but it’s actually a separate outdoor space, fenced off to protect her plants from zombies.

The interior of a house at night with the lights on. The house is surrounded by snow. The trunks and lower branches of leafless trees are visible in the background.

The legacy house with some walls cut away to show all the rooms. Picture taken on the diagonal with the front porch/original gazebo to the far right.

The Next Generation

Melanie and Mira have lived through most of their young adulthood; Melanie will become a full-fledged adult in a few game days. Being a werewolf gives Mira a longer lifespan, so she has an additional week to enjoy life as a young adult. My current plan is for Melanie to start having children soon: she was born first, making her the heir; if for some reason she’s unsuccessful, Mira will have more time to step in as heir before she becomes an elder and loses her ability to get pregnant. However, I’m running into some difficulty:

Melanie is having trouble finding a suitable mate. The game assigned her a romantic interest when she was in high school, but she doesn’t want to pass his traits on to her children. She should have asked to “just be friends” a long time ago, but that’s a “mean” interaction and she’s friendly. She’s become romantic interests with someone else, whose traits are ideal, but he doesn’t respond well to her romantic interactions. He’s an elder, but I don’t think age has anything to do with it: the game hasn’t let that hold it back before. (It does impose a time limit, though.)

No, I think the problem is that she kissed another sim once. Despite the fact that they never became boyfriend and girlfriend, and they haven’t had romantic interactions in the sim equivalent of real-life years, my sim has a “naughty” reputation for pursuing a new love interest. The sim she wants to have children with may never consent to it, even if I buy the aspiration award that would clear her reputation (aptly named “clean slate”). She needs to hunt down this guy she hasn’t done anything with in years – who’s probably become involved with at least one other sim since – and tell him she’s no longer romantically interested in him. If that doesn’t work, she has to tell this guy who won’t have romantic interactions with her that she wants to “just be friends” – before she kisses anyone else. Whether she breaks up with them or not, they’ll both be annoyed with her.

I think Mira has a much better idea: she’s in love with her best friend but has yet to become romantically involved with her. Perhaps it’s best to keep it that way… at least until either she or her sister has a daughter.

I find reputations very annoying. I have to admit they’re quite realistic, but the game imposes a double standard that’s driving me crazy. Sims outside my control keep bombarding my sims with love letters and flirting with them, even when my sims are married and have “eternally faithful” reputations. Heck, outside sims will flirt with one member of my active family, then turn around and flirt with another in the same room! But the instant my sim acts on her (or his) romantic attraction – even in the privacy of their own home – they are judged for it. Boo game, booooo.

I guess the lesson is: it’s better to communicate clearly, even if it’s considered “mean.” Riverview is going to be full of broken hearts.

Disability

I finally did something I should have done at least 2 years ago: I contacted the disability resource center on campus regarding accommodations for my mood disorder. It feels like signing my own death sentence, or at the very least admitting defeat. I would never have done it, but I need an extension to complete my degree (I “should” be graduating this semester) and my academic adviser suggested this as my first step.

disability form

part of the registration form requesting information about the type of disability, problems it causes in an academic setting, previous and currently-requested accommodations

I’ve been putting the whole thing off because of internalized stigma around mental illness, and possibly also some ableism. Saying I have a disability – rather than “I’m going through a rough time” – marks me as different, deficient, other. Possibly for life.

My hope for the future has relied heavily upon the belief that the difficulties I’ve been facing (my whole life) are temporary – “a minor setback” – and soon I will “recover” and have a “normal” life. Ironically, I was able to take this step because I’ve been feeling better: with more hope, positive self-esteem, determination, energy… but the obstacles to functioning in society are still real. I keep saying I just need things to settle down a bit so I can get my feet under me, but experience says they never will. (And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want them to. For things to settle down as much as it seems I need, life would be boring.)

Life is chaotic. Our society isn’t built for people like me. (It actively and persistently oppresses us.) I can learn, grow, adapt, take meds, reach out for support, request accommodations… I recently learned about MTHFR mutations and suspect they may be a contributing factor; I plan to talk to the APN about genetic testing and supplements that might be helpful, in hopes we can get my insurance to cover them. But even with that: much if not most of the food that is available to me has been “fortified” with folic acid, the very substance that may be interfering with my body’s functioning.

My point is, social, institutional, economic, and other norms need to change before marginalized groups and individuals will be able to live “normal” lives.

If that’s what we even want. “Normal” as defined by whom? I don’t want to “be productive” and “contribute to the economy.” I want to thrive. I want to express myself creatively, share joy with others, feel safe and whole and loved…

One of the things that makes requesting disability accommodations at school so painful is that academic excellence used to be a major strength – possibly the major strength – I relied on to survive. I wasn’t being challenged on my level in elementary and middle school, so all I really had were my grades. They were my proof that I was worthy of existing. They provided some stability in a chaotic home. Even as I began to be challenged in high school and undergrad and developed a love of learning, my grades were a primary source of self-confidence and pride. Academic excellence was – and to some extent still is – an important part of my identity. Too bad it doesn’t actually mean all that much in the real world.

A woman smiles broadly while holding up a letter.

Maria was very happy to receive an A for the term!

Now my classes aren’t really about learning information and answering questions on a test or writing papers. I can do those things – when I manage to concentrate, which is becoming quite difficult. They’re about practical skills, social skills, being and doing and interacting – often on a deeply personal level. They’ve been churning up the painful realities of my life – that’s what forced me into therapy. I can’t just put my blinders on and memorize facts anymore, I have to look in the mirror, internalize things, face my worst fears, and guide others through them.

I have to juggle academic responsibilities with everyday life, which has become a lot more complex since I graduated college. There’s always something. Getting Fox to and from work every day. Remembering to take antibiotics that are making me sick following periodontal surgery. A problem with our plumbing that’s got Mom stressed out. Everyday chores… I never got the hang of them. And for some crazy reason I’ve decided that now is a good time to adopt new pet rats…

from reelmomevents.com

from reelmomevents.com

The worst part is, I have to prove that there’s something wrong with me. The head of the disability resource center replied to my email: she won’t even schedule an appointment to talk to me until she receives documentation of my difficulties. The guidelines for said documentation are quite intimidating:

  • a complete DSM-IV diagnosis (which Wakana actively avoids and psychiatric professionals have disagreed on)
  • description of my specific symptoms (I could write that)
  • my current treatment
  • “identification of the substantial limitation on a major life activity presented by the disability” and how that applies to academics
  • recommendation of specific accommodations that are supported by the diagnostic information
  • all this information has to be on official letterhead that includes the mental health professional’s credentials and contact information

I think Wakana and I could come up with something useful for most of those items, but we’ve drawn a blank when trying to come up with specific accommodations relevant to an academic setting that would actually help me. (I doubt “not having to demonstrate the skills I’m supposed to have been developing over the course of the semester” is an option.) That’s part of why I wanted to talk to the head of the disability resource center: to explain my situation and learn what requests might be considered relevant and reasonable. (e.g. What accommodations might reduce the social anxiety I experience around having to demonstrate my skills?) There’s information on the website, but it’s not really relevant to my situation.

It also irks me that throughout the site, “it is the student’s responsibility to” fight tooth and nail for these accommodations. I’m thinking perhaps the people who came up with these policies do not have disabilities – psychiatric or otherwise. At the time(s) when I would have benefited the most from having a documented disability and certified requests for accommodations, I was in no condition to be acquiring such documentation and meeting with indifferent strangers. (One might argue I was in no condition to be taking classes, but that perspective might exclude me from higher education indefinitely. Isn’t that what the disabilities resource center is supposed to help avoid?)

Reaching out for help with psychiatric issues isn’t easy. People say “go get help” like it’s the easiest, most obvious thing in the world. It’s not. It’s counter-cultural. It’s acknowledging a reality most people don’t want to accept: that we’re vulnerable and have fears and doubts and feel pain … That dedication and hard work (and good grades) don’t provide happiness, wellness, or financial stability. People don’t want to consider the possibility that maybe the dominant Western cultural expectations aren’t realistic and may even be harmful. They don’t want to believe that we’re honestly having a problem; they tell us we’re being lazy.

In a way applying for disability accommodations is admitting defeat, it’s saying: “I find your game too difficult, so I need you to change the rules for me, specifically, because I’m less capable than everyone else.”

Except that clearly it’s not everyone else.

And when we do reach out for help, the response is far from welcoming and supportive. We’re put on waiting lists, required to fill out mountains of paperwork, interrogated, told we can schedule an appointment after providing documentation, etc. It fuels the cognitive distortions that are common in depression, especially “I don’t matter.” and “No one cares about me.” It makes following through on the initial request for help very difficult.

Almost as though the very people who are supposed to be helping us don’t want to.

This Post Took Three Days to Write

As I was crafting my last post, I came to understand why I was prioritizing a game over the mountains of important things (some of them very good) that are exploding in my life. It’s a defense mechanism.

I was suicidal last week – or, at least, the voices in my head were. It took everything I had just to pay attention in piano class last Thursday; thank the gods the instructor didn’t call on me to improvise in front of everyone!

Banji came over on Friday and helped me clean the area around my computer desk. I’m amazed by how much better I feel just being in this space now! It was really awesome of her … and it was also incredibly stressful for me. I kinda want to say maybe it wasn’t the best timing, but if I hadn’t done it then the clutter would have just kept making me increasingly miserable. It was the timing we had, so I’m glad we did it. I needed her support.

I visited with her family on Saturday. Her uncle was there; he kept criticizing her cousin and making passive-aggressive comments that were too subtle to respond to appropriately but could be devastating to a child’s self-esteem. I tried to ignore him, to connect with everyone else present, to enjoy our group activities… but it grated on me. Like a mosquito bite in a very awkward place. (It reminded me of how my mom has treated me, my own inner critic, and the cognitive distortions that make depression such a devastating illness.)

After they left, Banji and I were free to enjoy each other’s company. We played duets, sight-read my current composition project on a variety of instruments, and improvised on piano. The piano improvisation became incredibly silly, referencing inside jokes that are over a decade old. It felt so good to laugh with her, especially over shared experiences that helped form our relationship. It helped restore some of the sense of continuity I’ve been missing.

Then we moved to the couch and she decided I make an excellent pillow. We talked for hours. While I was holding her, everything felt right. My worries melted away. I felt whole, complete.

And I had hope for a future where little things like eating dinner together and playing duets and talking on the couch all night can happen whenever we both want them to.

Then Sunday came, and she had to drive home. For 5 hours.

I’m not suicidal anymore. I’m just sad. It’s going to take a lot of work to make our dream of living within a short drive of each other reality. (And even then, everything won’t magically be perfect.) A lot of it is outside our control. I have to include Fox in all my major decision-making. It’s big and scary and overwhelming.

Lately I’ve been trying to do too many things that are big and scary and overwhelming:

I’m re-taking 2 classes I had to drop 2 years ago because they were triggering my worst depression symptoms. In that time I was supposed to do useful things like find a medication that works for me and improve my music skills. Well, if Lamictal/lamotrigine has any chance of working, I need a much higher dose. The APN took me off it, then had me on 25 mg; I got frustrated and stopped taking it, then realized it seemed to help reduce my suicidal ideation so started taking it again yesterday… The point is I’m kind of starting over on it, I need to increase my dose gradually, and by the time I get any clinically significant benefit from it (or a different medication, if the APN puts me on one when I see her in three weeks) the semester will be over. I’m on my own. As for my music skills… they’re not as improved as I’d like, but I’m working on them. They’re serving me better than I’d expected (when I trust them).

The point is, these classes are challenging me in every way imaginable, but I just have to keep struggling through them. If I drop them again I might not be able to finish my degree.

Even if I do everything I need to, my school has a limit for how long you can take to graduate, and I’ve reached it. I’m at the mercy of a stranger who gets to decide whether I can have the extra time I’ll need to finish my degree. My recent experience of strangers making important decisions that affect my life has not been very good.

I’ve also re-structured my personality (in therapy) to the point where I have to change the way I interact with my mom. If I don’t, I’ll just continue doing unhealthy behaviors that ultimately hurt both of us. The ways I interact with my mom have been shaped my whole life to reduce the overt conflict between us and prevent her from abandoning me or falling apart emotionally or having to change the unhealthy behaviors she developed to adapt to live with her parents, etc. Changing them means risking the very things I’m programmed to avoid happening. I don’t always choose the best alternative behaviors, and she doesn’t always react well to them.

Based on our recent conversations, we’re both acutely aware of this and feel threatened by it. We’re afraid of… whatever comes next – but we also want the ways we’ve been relating to each other to change. I don’t know whether what each of us wants is compatible – or healthy. She won’t give me a straight answer when I ask her to join me in family therapy.

On top of this I’m (sort of?) coming out as non-binary. I’m in this really painful place where I’ve fully accepted it as my gender identity, but I’m not fully out to the people I interact with most regularly. They keep using the pronouns associated with my assigned gender; every time it happens it’s like a tiny stab in the heart. I don’t correct them because I’m not sure how to do so constructively. (And somehow it’s almost comforting because it’s familiar?!)

Worse, no one seemed to notice when Fox used my pronouns (in a shining moment of glory that filled me with joy) on Saturday. There was an almost imperceptible pause (that I might have imagined), and then the conversation continued as though nothing revolutionary had just happened. No one asked about the strange way he’d referred to me (“ze”). Their brains probably changed their perception of the phonemes to match their expectations.

Finally, my plan for this semester had been to join social groups on campus that might help me feel better about existing. My contact at counseling services has been respectful of my gender identity and tried to help me join a group that addresses some of my needs. But I just can’t stop thinking of it as yet another place to be misgendered! I feel like withdrawing into what’s safe and familiar, and where I know I can be perceived as I am… not reaching out into something new and scary.

The LGBTQ+ coming out group would probably be perfect… except that it’s a new social situation I’d have to adapt to. I imagine once the conversation started I’d either find it easy to participate, or get something out of listening to other people speak. But when it’s time to leave the house I feel anxious about entering a new, unpredictable social situation. I don’t feel like I can handle those at the moment.

I’m falling back, regrouping, re-prioritizing. This isn’t a matter of entertainment, personal growth, or self-actualization. It’s about survival. (Maybe my brain wouldn’t be in survival mode if my body were consistently getting the nutrients it needs…)

Anyway, priorities. The big 3: food, sleep, and physical activity. Let’s add emotional intimacy to that: hugs are amazingly comforting. Research across psychological disciplines consistently finds that the relationship between therapist and client is the most important part of therapy. Being emotionally available and supportive and non-judgmental heals, whatever the therapist’s orientation(s), modality(ies), and technique(s).

My mental health must be my first priority (followed by my physical health). Without that nothing else matters because I won’t be alive to enjoy it…

My classes come next; it’s very important that I pass both of them. Even if I don’t get the extension I need, I might be able to re-apply to the program and keep the credits I’ve already earned toward the degree – or transfer them to a new school if necessary. I’m so close to finishing, it’s painful.

The groups I wanted to join come last – possibly after video games. I thought they would help me to grow as a person, receive support for the issues I’ve been struggling with, and develop important skills I’ve been lacking … maybe even to make friends? I also decided at the beginning of the semester that it’s okay if I just need to focus on my classes right now. Making that decision – setting that boundary – is a way I can assert myself. That’s putting my hard work in therapy into action!

The nice thing about the LGBTQ+ groups is that they happen every week and I can show up when I’m ready to. I can make the decision of whether to go up to an hour before the group meets; my decision has no effect on whether I’ll be allowed to join in the following week. This week I decided not to go, but by the time one rolls around again I might be up to it. I’m thinking of calling and asking for a basic idea of how the time in group is structured, so it won’t be quite so unpredictable.

The counseling services group isn’t like that. It’s a specific 6-week course (complete with homework) and I’ve already missed the first week. I was invited to join in the second week (that is, today), but I’m feeling very ambivalent about it. On Tuesday I was wondering why I even wanted to be part of this group in the first place. By last night I was thinking maybe it would help me feel more confident and able to focus in my Thursday class (and more likely to go, because I’d already be on campus). The group closes after the second week, so if I miss it again I can’t join. I’ve been asked to let the facilitator know my decision ahead of time.

Perhaps it would be best to tell her I’ve decided against it. I already have a lot that I’m struggling with. I want to send in my own written appeal for periodontal treatment, I need to start working on the request for extended time in my academic program, I have instruments to practice, and I have papers to write. I’m counting primarily on the paper to get a halfway decent grade in piano class. If I don’t join this group, I’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to those things. I won’t have to deal with the social anxiety it’s bringing up. And I’ll have more time to recover from waking up before I have to coordinate getting ready to go somewhere with everything I need for the day, etc.

The main appeal of the group is that it’s an opportunity to practice yoga, meditate, learn ways to calm the nervous system, and cope with difficult emotions. I could do the yoga and meditation on my own … theoretically … but experience tells me I won’t. I need – and crave – structure and social support. I need to get outside my own head and receive feedback from someone other than my inner persecutor.

Just last night I had a great experience in my group music therapy class. I’d decided to show up, take notes, and role play for my group mates to the extent that I felt comfortable, but refuse to take a turn as therapist. Everyone else had taken their turn and I felt very shaken up, on the verge of tears. I felt raw, exposed; the muscles in my body tensed to the point where it felt like I couldn’t move. I sat very still for as long as I was able.

But the co-instructor came in and my group-mates told him I was the only one left who still needed to go. I couldn’t bring myself to come out as having a mood disorder, but I was as honest and vulnerable as possible: I said I’d been having a rough time and was feeling very raw and didn’t think I could lead a group in that emotional state. He asked if there was an experience I thought I could lead the group in, that might also help me to feel better.

I was going to do the intervention I’d come up with for my piano class, but sitting at the piano I had my back to the group and couldn’t find a practical way to remedy that. We were role-playing children, so my group-mates suggested I try a simple children’s song with two chords and play on guitar. I agreed to a song someone suggested, and the next thing I knew I was playing guitar fairly fluently, singing, using the song structure to maintain order while allowing the “kids” to be spontaneous and creative and interact with each other, and having fun. I was even able to take constructive criticism and try some of the suggestions that were offered.

I learned so much from that experience and felt so much better afterward … because I was present and vulnerable with others; I allowed them to support me. And they did. They were awesome! They gave me the push I needed to succeed.

I was hoping to have a similar experience with the counseling services group. We’d all be there to learn to overcome certain insecurities and practice new ways of being with ourselves and others. If I didn’t feel like it’s helping me, I could always drop out. Short of dropping out, I could decide the degree to which I want to participate (including whether to do the homework). It’s only five weeks. I might have made new friends, or at least learned something useful…

… But then I talked to my contact at counseling services, and she suggested I “put it on hold” so I can “focus on stabilizing my depression.” She seems to think it’s not really the kind of group I need right now. Perhaps I can try it in the fall.

I feel empty, deflated, tired, and maybe just a little bit relieved. and thirsty. Maybe I’ll just sit here. Indefinitely.

Transgender Tuesday: Closets

content note: brief description of thoughts about self-harm

I’ve been very depressed lately. I was woken up on Wednesday by the phone call informing me that my request for periodontal treatment had been denied. When I called to make my appeal, the person neutralized my language so “I’m in a lot of pain” became “I’m experiencing discomfort.” I felt powerless to advocate for myself because no matter what I said, she could submit whatever she wanted on my behalf and I wouldn’t even know. (I hadn’t yet received the letter with information on submitting a written appeal.)

I walked into Wakana’s office later that day, outwardly very calm and personable – but inwardly ready to explode! I told her I was scared of how calm I was and urged her to insert earplugs before allowing me to play on the drums and cymbal. We were all set up to make music when I told her I felt like cutting myself because I didn’t know how else to express the anger: I couldn’t kill people, I’d regret breaking things, but my skin would eventually heal. I said I wanted to get a tattoo in the spot I always think about cutting on; then I’d be less tempted to cut because I wouldn’t want to risk messing up the tattoo.

She said she thought I needed to make a statement… and that my feelings had little to do with my tooth. We talked for a while before I expressed my (ongoing) frustration with Mom: “I’m trying to have a healthy relationship with her, but she keeps hurting me! Even when I think things are going well between us, she always says or does something to hurt me. I can’t take it anymore!”

She told me, “Saying ‘can’t’ makes you a victim. Try saying ‘I won’t take it anymore.'” I tried it and felt a lot more powerful. Whether I allow my mother to continue abusing me is a choice; I can continue to take it – but I am unwilling to accept the consequences of that choice. I don’t want to take it anymore, so I won’t.

The consequences of that choice are terrifying. I was finally straightforward and honest with her on Sunday; I told her how I feel when she goes on and on talking about trivial matters, doesn’t listen to me, asks me to do random things for her she could do on her own, dumps all her emotional garbage on me, doesn’t respect my boundaries when I try to end a conversation. (Well, maybe I didn’t talk about all those things. I wanted to list my major complaints here.) She actually said, “So I’m a horrible person!” and hung up on me! Then she called me back. I told her she’s a wonderful person, and I want her to stop doing all this other crap so I can spend time with who she is beneath it all. She said I was wrong for telling her she could use the computer at the library (hers had just died), she didn’t raise me to be like that, if it were anybody else I’d be falling over myself to help them, etc. She said she thinks the problem is she’s doing too much for me and she’s going to cut me off and I have to pay rent and…

I realized why I let her do all this shit to me. If I don’t, I’m a horrible person and I might end up homeless, without a car, unable to afford therapy, etc. The next thing I knew, Fox had found a new computer for her online and I had agreed to accompany her when she went to the store to buy it. I spent the whole day with her yesterday, first getting the computer, then running a couple errands she hadn’t told me about before I was trapped in her car, then helping her set up the new computer. I was tired, cranky, and starving, but I remained pleasant and even got Fox to help after a long day at work. When it was time to go our separate ways, I said “I love you. Good night” and gave her a hug. She said “Good nigh… we need to…” I repeated “I love you, good night.” and left. Boundaries.

Today I woke up hating the world. I always wake up hating the world. I’m tired of waking up hating the world. I couldn’t get myself to go to the LGBTQIA+ groups on campus. I was too focused on my fight for something remotely resembling adequate healthcare. I’m too busy training to be my own lawyer to get dressed, drive places, talk to other human beings, eat, or do schoolwork.

I hate it. All of it. I want to see it burn.

The above has nothing to do with being transgender, except that I was misgendered in every single interaction that involved another person. (Except Fox and Banji.) At my piano midterm on Thursday I had 3 people using the wrong pronouns to talk what a pleasure I am to work with. (if only that had helped my grade!) Even in interactions that didn’t involve another person, I was asking an imaginary witness questions that required me to describe myself as the gender I was assigned at birth. It’s inescapable!

People don’t seem to see or hear me, they see and hear whatever fits with their expectations (or what’s convenient for them).

The Whole Truth of Coming Out of the Closet – In Comic Form explains the concept of closets quite well: “Closets are created by social and structural expectations about who we are supposed to be, and the consequences of defying that.” It shows how coming out is not a straightforward process, nor is it the same for everyone. There are some links after the comic that are great further reading.

It inspired me to draw this:

putting someone in the gender closet based on secondary sex characteristics - original artwork by Ziya

putting someone in the gender closet based on their appearance

The most important point – from my perspective at least – is that people don’t go into the closet. We don’t start out with everyone seeing and accepting us as we are, then decide (for whatever reason) that we’re going to hide some aspect(s) of our identity/identities. Other people build closets around us.

Sometimes even after we’ve come out to them.