Slightly belated WisCon wrapup

It’s a little late but I still want to share my thoughts about the con. Madison treated me well this year! Setting the con aside, the food was delightful as always: I had some good Wisconsin beer, bought garlic-dill cheese curds at the farmers’ market just outside the hotel on Saturday, and was able to eat the sweet potato and oatmeal pancakes I have been thinking of wistfully since last year.

As with last year, people were pretty excited about the nail polish swap! I feel like maybe there was a bit less participation this time, but I have no way to know for sure and certainly plenty of folks came by to chat and pick up some nail polish. I’m not sure what else I could do to publicize it, to be honest; I certainly don’t have much of a social media reach, but the lovely folks working the WisCon twitter graciously spread the word when I posted about it. There was more polish left over than I could bring home, but a wonderful local congoer offered to store it until next year. The only downside to tabling during the Gathering is that I can’t do anything else. The nail polish table was right by the knitting circle area and the coloring table, and I cast a few wistful glances in that direction every time I saw people I knew hanging out in either place.

Because the goal is to get rid of as much nail polish as possible I haven’t set a limit of how many bottles people can take, but I think I might set a soft limit (maybe three?) next year, just so the most interesting options don’t get cleared out so quickly. We had some donations trickle in throughout the Gathering, but there was a stretch of time in the middle where there just wasn’t much to catch anyone’s fancy. I’m happy to tell people to swing by later and pick up more, but yeah…I think setting a limit is something to try for next time. Most people don’t take more than two or three bottles but even a few people who want to load up will make a big difference in terms of how much is available.

Since both of my panels were on Sunday, I had most of the weekend to be convinced I would somehow fail horribly as a moderator, and that bled into my thoughts about the other panel too, even though I knew I didn’t need to worry about that one at all. The moderator for the Sunday morning trans body positivity panel hadn’t contacted any of us beforehand (which is encouraged but not at all required), and seemed to have only the loosest plan for running the panel, but once conversation got started I think we all had rapport with each other and did a good job bouncing ideas around and building off one another’s comments.

Interestingly, there was a lot of talk among the panelists of having body parts that are hard to see properly or accurately. One co-panelist talked about not being able to see his face clearly even when looking in the mirror, and I talked about my own experience feeling like my body is a bit of a blur, and hard to focus on accurately to the extent that I often can’t tell if clothes I’m wearing even fit me properly or not. Detaching from areas that caused pain or dysphoria was a pretty common experience. I talked a bit about how I am not really thrilled with the “love your body!!!” narrative because of how hard that can be; to me it feels like someone saying “just think positive!!!” when my depression is bad. Thanks asshole, if it was that easy I’d just decide to love my body and everything would be better. To me, reframing this as being friends/entering peace talks/declaring a truce with your body makes the sentiment a bit easier to accept.

Ultimately I feel like the nonbinary body positivity panel went well too! I was glad that the three of us on the panel met up a bit beforehand to compare notes and talk a bit about what we wanted to cover; I knew I’d feel better going in with a list of points to address and not just winging it from memory. Despite the fact that this panel started while the Guest of Honor speeches were still ongoing (the ceremony ran long since there were three, not two, Guests of Honor this year), the room was not empty! We started with nine folks in the audience but several more people had shown up by the time we were 15-20 minutes in.

It seemed like the discussion was interesting and helpful to the audience. There were some good questions and comments, and people certainly seemed interested in what we were saying, even when I maybe talked a bit too much or too quickly due to nervousness or excitement. Honestly, it just felt good to be in a space where I felt like everyone was on the same gender-page, to some extent; our identities weren’t all the same but just knowing that the people around you get it and won’t raise an eyebrow at my presentation or my I’ve-mostly-given-up-trying-to-explain-it-even-to-myself gender identity is a really wonderful thing. As I’ve mentioned before, and have been thinking about a lot lately, I don’t really have a local queer/trans community and some moments at WisCon feel like the closest thing I have to that in-person community space.

SO: nothing caught on fire and no one left the room in disgust during my first moderation attempt! I’ll take it! Honestly I think I’d rather be a regular panelist in most situations but it’s good to know I can manage to moderate if the need arises.

Lots of other great stuff happened too, of course. I was thrilled to see Mark Oshiro at WisCon for the first time, and to hear that he had an overall good experience. (I know there have been a lot of conversations about who feels welcome and whose comfort should be prioritized at the con and honestly I am happy to nod and let other folks lead the discussion there, especially as a lot of it has to do with people or events I am not at all familiar with, but there’s a reason this is the only convention I regularly attend so I appreciate where WisCon is even though there’s always room for improvement.) I got some hugs from friends I didn’t realize were at a hugging place with me, and that was exciting; I am pretty much always down to hug but don’t want to push for them since I know not everyone is. I had some good conversations with friends, one of which led to a little smooching and a promise of future smooching. Some panels I was particularly pleased with as an audience member covered topics such as: femme invisibility in queer spaces, sex and sexuality in fanfic, accessibility in game creation, and queer (or queer-coded, or had-a-queer-crush-on-them) characters in scifi media. I still want to buckle down and plan out a Twine game that deals with sexuality and consent, and that panel was a good reminder that I could definitely make that happen.

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Where to find me at Wiscon

WisCon year four! It’s happening very soon!

Here’s my schedule:

Friday: NAIL POLISH SWAP at the Gathering, 1:00-3:45 pm

Sunday: Trans Body Positivity, 10:00-11:15 am

Sunday: Navigating Body Positivity While Non-Binary/Genderfluid/Genderqueer (moderator), 10:00-11:15 pm

First off, I am thrilled to be running the nail polish swap again this year. It seemed to go over really well last time and I’ve already heard from a few folks that they’re excited for it to happen again. This is pretty much the ideal situation, and as long as they want me to do it I’ll be happy to make it happen every year I’m there. If nothing else, it’s really fun to have the chance to nerd out about nail polish with a bunch of people who are as excited about it as I am. I’ve been Birchboxing for a few months and I’m also going to bring a few samples of things I’ve gotten through there and can’t use.

You may notice some…similarities between the two panels I’m on. When I was entering my interest in being on panels, I honestly didn’t expect that both of these would happen, so I put my name down for both. Not that there aren’t different angles to discuss in relation to binary vs. nonbinary trans experiences and how they related to feelings about one’s body! I just figured that these two ideas would be fairly easy to smoosh together into one topic, so it was a bit of a surprise to find out that I’m on these two very similarly-themed panels.

It may be that what we focus on at the later panel depends on a) what’s discussed in the morning panel and b) how many people in the audience chose to attend both. I guess we’ll see what happens! It will be my first moderating experience and to be honest, I’m pretty nervous about that, but I figure it’s a good idea to just jump in the deep end and moderate something so I can get the first time over with and feel less worried about it if I’m asked to moderate in the future.

The one great tragedy, scheduling-wise, is that there’s a panel ALL ABOUT HOW GREAT SELFIES ARE and I will not be able to be on or attend it, as it’s at the same time as the trans body positivity panel. Alas! However: I pledge to talk about and take selfies all weekend, and will be happy to talk about how great they are when given half an excuse, so I will be doing my best to uphold selfies in my heart even though I can’t take part myself.


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101 Questions in 301 Spaces

I spent the first few days of this week at YTH Live; it’s a conference I’ve been aware of in the past but hadn’t learned much about or had the chance to attend before now. It’s a nice little conference and while there were perhaps a few more presentations about youth than by youth, the young people I did see presenting were all amazing. I was particularly impressed by the three teenagers from redefy who presented on Monday; they were passionate about their work and were clearly giving a lot of thought to some pretty big questions about how to achieve their goals and structure the organization. I don’t spend a lot of time around teenagers in my daily life; there’s Scarleteen, but that’s not in person and I usually only get a picture of very limited parts of the users’ lives there. It’s pretty great to be in a space where ambitious young folks are kicking ass and upstaging the (very competent in their own right) adults around them.

What I’ve been thinking about the most since the conference isn’t directly related to amazing youth activists, though. On Monday there was a panel called “Gender Health Access and Data” with the following program description:

Approaches and attitudes toward healthcare for Transgender and Nonbinary youth have changed radically in the past few years, and will be continuing to evolve rapidly in the near future. Come learn more about how you can help this community thrive.

I figured that while I’d probably know a lot of the information in the panel, it would be a good one to attend anyway; I’m not as up on current healthcare-access information as I should be since I’m just doing ongoing hormonal maintenance and have no gatekeeper bullshit in my immediate future, barring a move to a town where trans-friendly medical care is harder to come by. Plus, based on their bios I really wanted to hear what these particular presenters (Gwen Smith and Steph Nagoski) had to say.

Overall it was a helpful panel; a lot of it was a basic overview of the history of trans healthcare and how things like the DSM and WPATH Standards of Care have changed over time but there were some helpful recent statistics and details about changes in diagnosis language that I wasn’t aware of. Most of the panels at YTH were set up so that two or three groups gave a talk of 15-20 minutes about their particular projects, with a joint q&a session at the end, but since this was just one set of presenters they decided to take questions as they went along, making it a bit more of a discussion. And I think that was a good call, given the panel topic, but it was easier to get off-track a bit. It seemed like a lot of time was taken up explaining (and sometimes re-explaining) some fairly basic concepts in response to audience questions, mostly from one person. The presenters thought so too, I’m pretty sure; I remember Steph saying “we’re 30 minutes in and I’m still on the first slide, so let’s move along” to cut off questions at one point.

At the beginning of the panel, the presenters were asking if anyone in the audience was a professional who came into contact with trans youth, and the particular person who was asking a lot of basic questions raised her hand. Obviously I want someone in that position to have a solid grasp on basic concepts! But it was also really frustrating to take time out of a panel on a pretty involved subject to go over why “they” is an acceptable pronoun set to use, or to listen to a meandering statement about how maybe having so many labels these days is really just confusing things more than it’s helping anyone. Oof.

At one point, someone else in the audience told her “it sounds like you have a lot to learn and I encourage you to take time to educate yourself” in a very sweet but direct way and I really appreciated that. I realize that cis folks will probably be looking for and expecting something a bit different from trans panels than I am, and I want to respect that and not get cranky at people for seeking some explanation when it’s needed. I do think, though, that it’s not unreasonable to expect people to take some time to do some self-education if there are some points that still aren’t clicking. It was a bit frustrating to feel like the entire audience was being pulled back to that initial 101-level infodump when there was a lot of ground to cover and it seemed like pretty much everyone else in the room was ready to move on. And even if one person, or a few people, are a little lost, it’s important for a presenter or panelist to cover the information they set out to discuss.

I’m left wondering what the best solution is. I’m aware that I might be grumpier than I need to be about some of these 101-level questions, especially in the context of a conference that is not specifically trans-focused*.  I do want folks who genuinely want to learn and understand new concepts to get the information they need in a way that makes sense to them, and I know it’s not helpful to eyeroll at ignorant questions as long as they’re asked respectfully. But at the same time, I’m tired of the same well-worn ground being tread every time someone tries to lay down some basic information as a foundation for actual new content. I respect those who are willing to answer those sorts of questions, because for the most part I’ve sworn off of it. Do I need to be more patient? Maybe. Do cis folks need to listen a bit more and hold their questions until an appropriate time? Yep. Am I very very glad I am no longer tasking myself with answering basic 101 questions that strangers have for me? Hell yeah.


*I didn’t write about it here, but I went to Gender Odyssey in Seattle last fall, mostly for Scarleteeny purposes. Sadly, even in this explicitly trans-friendly and trans-centering space, cis folks who were attending felt the need to take up a lot of time during panels with personal stories of how hard [loved one]’s transition was for them, inappropriate questions, digressions, etc. Only one moderator did much to shut these down (she was one of the youngest moderators there; once again the young participants at conferences are impressing me the most), and honestly in these instances I think my grumpiness was 100% justified. It was not appropriate in that space at all, especially since there was even a track of family-member-specific programming.

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Thoughts on Visibility

It’s Trans Day of Visibility today! I have to admit that I’m not sure what the origin of this day is. Was I aware of it before last year? I couldn’t say for certain. The concept of “visibility” in the trans community is honestly SO complicated that it’s hard to even know how I feel about it.

Of course it can be extremely valuable for folks who might not otherwise know many trans people to just see us and know we exist. I’m thinking here mostly about those people who are or might be trans themselves and would be helped by knowing more about the extent and diversity of the trans community. I literally had no idea that trans men were a thing at all until the summer before I entered college, and after that it was still a few years until I was aware of trans men who were queer, or not particularly masculine. The first trans and genderqueer folks I met who were anything like me were fascinating and amazing and I was just so thankful to know they existed.

I had a few people ask if I was copying or being influenced by some of these people, since to an outside observer I guess it looked like a) I got to know a bunch of trans people and b) came out as trans without much of an established history of genderfeelings, but there was something about seeing other people shaping their own identities and saying “what I was given doesn’t work for me, I need to craft something else” that made me realize I was allowed to do that too. I didn’t need anyone’s permission. I wasn’t trans because I was trying to copy anyone’s choices or identity. But I didn’t really understand that I had the option to do whatever the hell I wanted with my gender until I saw that others had made that choice for themselves.

Even now I have to say that seeing trans/gq/nb people who are anywhere in the “male-presenting with femme attributes” neighborhood (especially if they are also fat) is incredibly validating to me. I’m still navigating changes in my identity, I’m still playing with makeup and femmeness more, and it feels more new and tenuous than anything gender-related has in a long time. Sometimes it’s scary! Sometimes I feel really self-conscious leaving the house! I do find that this particular flavor of visibility really counts for me and helps me feel a connection to the greater trans community that I honestly struggle to feel a lot of the time. I’ve had a few friends say that seeing me be open about femme stuff is helpful for them and while part of me wants to say “nope, don’t pay attention to me, I am not inspiring” I am trying to chill out. If I can be helpful to someone else, then that’s great. My endless selfies can serve a purpose other than making me feel good about myself.

So yeah, visibility can be fantastic, but I feel like its usefulness is maybe more of an in-community thing. In the US at least, “trans visibility” is indeed on the rise, but it doesn’t always (or maybe even often) feel like a great thing. When visibility = more transphobic jokes, murders, cis dudes playing trans women roles, and disgusting legislation proposed and passed in states all over the country I just can’t feel that excited about it. There’s a difference between visibility on a cultural level and a personal level, but my own experiences with this were mixed. I’ve talked about this a bit before, but when I first started medical and social transition, I was six months into a customer-facing job I would hold for the next five years. I transitioned in public at a job where people saw me weekly for years – it was impossible to hide that any changes were happening, but I couldn’t exactly have meaningful conversations about gender with most of my customers.

What I did do was decide to be as open as possible whenever I could, with the wildly over-optimistic thought “I might be the only trans person someone knows, so I can educate them!” I discovered that “educating” clueless cis folks who don’t stop and think about how rude their questions are becomes a demoralizing and dehumanizing task that hollows out your soul over time. I wanted to be open with my co-workers, so I made sure to explain things and leave room for questions when I started taking testosterone, and that wound up translating to “mo’s entire personal life and history are appropriate to ask about at any time and disclose to new employees.” I still look back fondly on many aspects of that job, but I didn’t understand how demoralizing that aspect of the work environment was until I was away from it. I had this open-book policy for a lot of the rest of my social life, too, and some friends and acquaintances also took advantage of it. At the time I just didn’t have the assertiveness or confidence to set boundaries and shut down the worst conversations.

The sort of visibility I presented in cis spaces didn’t put me in physical danger but it had a large, and largely hidden, impact on my mental health. There really wasn’t a way for me not to be visible as weirdly-gendered in some way, as I struggled with presentation for years, so my strategy was to try and deflect negative attention by answering intrusive questions and being a Good Trans Ambassador. There are a lot of times I’d love to go back to in a time machine to suggest that past-mo handle things differently, and while this is one of them I understand why I made that choice.

So I don’t know. I think that within trans spaces it can be incredibly affirming and invigorating just to see people, whether they look like us or not. Being visible to other trans folks is a way to say “I am here, I exist, I have survived this far.” It can be inspiration, or encouragement, or a way to feel less alone. I want to celebrate that, and I think we can celebrate it without diminishing the abuses and the sorrows that also make up the trans experience for so many of us. But there’s something about a universal Day of Visibility that makes me think back to the idea of visibility-as-spectacle, where I felt more on display as a novelty than respected as an individual. When you can’t choose whether to be visible or not, and can’t control how you’ll be perceived or treated by others when you are, it doesn’t feel like a celebration. Maybe the moral here is: Shit Is Complicated, which sums up pretty much all of my current genderfeelings quite nicely.

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Gettin’ self-reflective

2015: it Certainly Was a Year, wasn’t it?

I know a lot of folks had a hard time this past year and are glad to see it go. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, looking back. (I’m just focusing on the personal, here: I’m disheartened and outraged about politics and current events and that’s all I have the energy to say.) To be honest, I struggled with my mental health a lot this year. I hate admitting when it’s a problem, or really talking about it at all, and I think I was able to hide it from most folks for a good bit of the time, but the problem was still there. After a marked improvement I’ve been in a pretty bad downswing lately; I’m really hoping it was a mix of holiday stress and limited daylight and that things will start to get better, but I suppose I’ll find out soon enough.

Despite the shadow of my asshole brain looming over much of the year, there was a lot that was wonderful, too; I want to take some time to dive into all the good shit that happened while I’m still trying to claw my way out of the hole I’m in.

Personal achievements:

I am still so pleased that I made the nail polish swap at Wiscon happen. It’s a little thing but I had a lot of fun with it! I still feel like a Wiscon Newbie in many ways and this was a nice little baby-step towards feeling like more of a part of things than just an observer (and being on more panels this time helped with that as well).

I WROTE A STORY. FINALLY. I have a folder full of abandoned drafts for SSBB stories, and to be honest I’d mostly given up on ever completing one. I’ve always been someone who writes stories in their mind but doesn’t write them down; before this my one finished story was a fic I wrote for a fqf (ha! remember those?) back in 2005. But an idea jumped out at me and I wrote a story in ~48 hours that I’m still really happy with. I do think this has helped cement my reputation as “that guy who thinks about sex with aliens, like, all the time” and that’s not entirely inaccurate, so. I’ll take it.

Honestly I wish I felt like I’d done more for Scarleteen this year, but that might just be me being hard on myself. I didn’t write as much for the site, but I’ve been keeping at it and only really taken time off when I’m traveling (and a couple mental health days where I had to cut things short). Mostly I count this as an achievement because the times where I felt like I did something to help someone I really felt it. It’s been about three years that I’ve been volunteering and I’m committed to continuing and improving.


This was the Year of Friends, for me. Sadly one thing I’ve realized is that I’m not always great at keeping up with people, even those I care deeply about and think about often. I’m trying to get better at this and I apologize to folks I’m not in touch with as much as I was or want to be.

But! That said, I was able to connect with a lot of new people this year and strengthen existing friendships. My friends are so fantastic and I just want to travel the world hugging them (or nodding affectionately if they’re not into hugs) and cooking together and talking all night. I met SO MANY people in person and it was fantastic every time (although I intensified some crushes as a side effect of in-person interaction, OOPS). I feel like I connect so much better in person and it’s always wonderful to have that experience with someone I’ve only interacted with via text. Life would be easier if people weren’t so far away, but it does make those in-person moments all the more special. I traveled a good bit to visit friends and while a lot of travel can be exhausting, I want to try and make that happen some more this year. I’m hesitant to invite myself to visit people I haven’t visited before (especially if there isn’t another obvious reason to go to their town) but maybe I can get more courage on that front?

I want to do better at maintaining friendships with local folks, too. One of my mental health problems this year has been that I’ve had a hard time initiating plans and that’s meant I haven’t seen some people as often as I’d like, and I want put more effort into this even though it’s tough for me. I did learn that setting up regular get-togethers on a set schedule is a great way for me to socialize in a lower-stress way, so I should apply that lesson elsewhere.

I’m still figuring out how to do long-distance romantic relationships in a way that works for me. I know what doesn’t work, and I feel like I’m doing pretty well right now. I do wish coast-to-coast travel were easier; it would be nice to see far-away partners more than a couple times per year for sure. But I think I’m managing ok, and right now it’s worth it. All partners I am currently involved with are wonderful people, A+, would smooch again.

I would LOVE to have a local dating partner but haven’t quite worked up the energy to throw myself into online dating or getting involved in other activities to widen my pool of acquaintances in town. Maybe this year I’ll get on that. Honestly, lately I find that I’m nursing a lot of crushes on friends (all non-local, of course), which is typical for me.


As someone whose sexual partners have been mostly long-distance and only rarely-seen for a while now, my sexual feels very private and internal. Lately I’ve been trying to be more open with myself about my desires and it’s been an interesting journey. It’s not always easy to know what sounds good for partnered sex and what’s best mulled over on my own (especially when time for experimentation is very limited) but it’s been on my mind. I’m hoping for more chances to do some exploration with partners in the future. I’ve started a private twitter as a way to give myself more space for talking about sexual things but while I’ve used it some I’m still shy enough to be pretty self-censoring; only a tiny bit of what I’m thinking gets shared there.

BUT I will say that in-person I’ve gotten better at asking for what I want and enjoying myself without much self-consciousness. I love laughing during sex and it’s something that doesn’t happen unless I’m relaxed and happy – and that definitely happened this year. 

WTF even is my gender, y’all:

I know I’ve talked about my discomfort with being overtly male-identified, and my struggles to tease out whether that’s due to the nature of toxic masculinity and my desire to distance myself from it, or if it’s just because…I’m just not a guy at all. I like the pronouns people use for me! I like the beard! But even the tenuous connection I had with masculinity and maleness seems to be pretty thin now, if it exists at all. The ? has been replaced by ???!? and it is simultaneously weird/confusing and just not a big deal. I don’t know, and that’s fine. Maybe it’ll stop being fine at some point, but for now it doesn’t seem to be an issue. No one’s interrogating me for my gender and if I have to say something, so far being vaguely hand-wavy hasn’t been a problem.

Relatedly, my “femme-curious” self-descriptor continues to be accurate. Maybe I’m more than curious now? I’m still not sure (but again, that’s fine). I am still baffled by this development: mid-year I nervously started experimenting with makeup and I am loving it. It’s weird and confusing and a lot of fun. I do sometimes feel anxious going out in the world as “obviously dude-presenting person with dark blue shimmery eyeshadow” but overall that anxiety is cooling off as time goes on. And the chance to play around with color and just enjoy myself  has been really great for me. As always I’m walking a long road towards feeling better about my body and continuing to find ways to enjoy how I look (see also: my occasional vanity shots of my legs in thigh-high socks) helps! I’m still taking/sharing a lot of selfies and I still feel like that’s a big positive force in my life.


I don’t know, y’all. I’m not a very ambitious person and I don’t make a lot of Big Plans for the future. I’m not sure if that’s a personal flaw or not.

I’d love to write more this year, whether that’s writing more ST columns or another SSBB story. I’d love to keep up with my friends and loved ones better. I’d love to be more honest about my mental health when it’s getting bad, instead of retreating into myself and hoping no one notices.. I’d love to go hiking more. I’d love to travel to see friends and partners but also visit places I’ve never been before.

The people in my life were wonderful this year and I want to focus on strengthening those connections, getting to know people better and sharing myself with them. If you’ve made it this far MOST LIKELY we’re friends already, so hey: I appreciate you! Thanks.

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helpful little bean

The Scarleteen chat service has been a bit slow lately, at least when I’ve been on shift, so I was happy to talk with someone on there yesterday. I’m particularly glad when I have the chance to talk to trans or otherwise gender-questioning folks, because while all the ST volunteers are great with trans users, I do think there’s a usefulness in being able to say “I am a Real Trans Person who has dealt with this, I got through it ok, and I think you will too.” I don’t generally talk about myself in ST chat, because my job is to center the user, not myself, in the discussion, but there are times when sharing even a little bit about myself can make what I have to say have a greater impact.

This particular user mentioned not taking their gender-questioning feelings seriously because they were pretty sure that “Real” trans people have known they were trans their entire lives, and that’s something I feel particularly well-equipped to handle. I can say: hey, this is a common assumption, but it’s not universally true! Trans folks like me who haven’t Known Forever aren’t less valid for it! It’s ok that you haven’t figured things out yet, because big questions about identity can take lots of thought, so please be patient with yourself!

mameshiba: most helpful bean of all?

Apparently this was helpful, because while our conversation was brief, as we wrapped up the user said “thank you for being such a helpful little bean!”

And I have to say, y’all, that’s probably the best (and certainly the cutest) user feedback I’ve gotten at Scarleteen. I cried a little at that; it was such a sweet and heartfelt thing to say. Sometimes I feel a little burned out on constant pregnancy scares, or I have so much going on in my own mind that it’s hard to feel as connected to my volunteer work as I want to be. Small moments like this one help me remember: this is why I’m doing it.

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Find me at Wiscon!

This week I’m excited to be heading to my third Wiscon. Here’s my panel schedule:

Nail Polish Swap: Friday at the Gathering, 1:00-3:45 pm, Capitol/Wisconsin

Death to Love Triangles: Friday 10:30-11:45 pm, Assembly

Elim Garak’s Weird Cardassian Penis (aka the alien genitals panel): Sunday, 2:30-3:45 pm, Conference 5

I’m really excited that the polish swap is going to be an official event; my initial idea was to put up signs and have something informal in the lobby, but the Gathering coordinators thought it would be a good fit so it’s become a Real Thing. I hope it’s successful!

The love triangle panel sure is late in the day, so I’m not sure what turnout will look like, but it should be fun. We can just write our own smutty fanfiction about all the triangles that would be best resolved with “everyone kiss!” if attendance is low.

And OF COURSE I love talking about smooching weird aliens and their weird genitals, so that should be a fun and bizarre experience.

So for any of y’all that will be there, feel free to say hello, either at one of the above events or elsewhere during the weekend. I’m friendly and like meeting people! I can be a little shy about initiating conversations, or overwhelmed by large/loud groups, but I do enjoy chatting with folks. Every year I’ve come home having made some new connections and that’s one of the best things about the con.

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Fighting evil by moonlight, crushing on girls by daylight

When Hulu started showing subtitled episodes of the early 90s Sailor Moon anime about a year ago, I was pretty excited; I wanted something I could watch while knitting that would be entertaining but forgiving if I had to look away from the screen for a moment, and Sailor Moon seemed like a good choice. Despite my deep love of Sailor Moon I had actually only seen most of one season (Sailor Moon S) in the past, back in my senior year of high school, and aside from a couple episodes shown by my college anime club I hadn’t seen any of it since then. I was looking forward to starting from the beginning and working my way up to the part of the show I dimly remembered.

And yep, from day one Sailor Moon has been a lot of fun. It can be formulaic and predictable at times, but even when it’s mired in monster-of-the-week-land you’re still looking at monsters like a possessed tennis racquet monster or a priest who turns into a boxing bird-man, and if you can’t find the fun in that I just don’t know what to say. As much as I enjoyed the earlier seasons, I’ve been excitedly waiting until the episodes from S became available. Would I enjoy it as much as I remembered? Would it be yet another thing I retroactively remember as a big flashing Queer Signifier that has gained more significance in hindsight than it ever had in the moment?

In hindsight, it’s easy for me to see that Sailor Uranus/Haruka was my first memorable crush on a female character. At the time I don’t know that I would have described my interest that way, despite how clear it is to me now. But in the same way I had called my dear friend Tiffany my “forbidden love” in a way that was NOT GAY ok, we just REALLY LOVED each other PLATONICALLY, I was suuuuuper into Haruka and her relationship with Michiru/Sailor Neptune.

What I didn’t expect is how the inner Senshi have the exact same reaction to Haruka and Michiru’s appearance that I did. The show itself seems to crush on them; their entrances and exits are often marked by drifting cherry petals and artful sketchy stills, and their intro music is more mature and dramatic-sounding than what the other Senshi get. Usagi and Minako instantly crush on Haruka the moment they see her, thinking she’s a man, and those crushes seem to only sort of disappear once they realize she isn’t. All the Senshi swoon over how great she and Michiru look together even though they seem to struggle a bit with the idea that they might be in a romantic relationship.

These reactions the girls are having are very much like the ones I had, not just to Haruka herself when I first watched the show, but to other half-realized crushes on women I had before I really understood that what I was feeling was attraction (or, in some cases, aspiration). They get all blushy and sparkle-eyed, but the moment they notice their expressions are visible they have to snap out of it and say “NOPE, I’m not attracted to her she’s just…you know…” and while of course it’s not in the text I imagine they all go home and spend some time wondering “why is it that I can’t stop thinking about her?”

There’s an episode fairly early in the season in which Makoto seems to have a pretty intense crush on Haruka. She tries to downplay her crush to her friends but is clearly in awe of Haruka and Michiru as they take her out for a drive. Is this purely a platonic crush on someone with a cool style she aspires to? Is it the mix of “want to kiss you” and “want to be you” that I think a lot of queer folks wrestle with in their attractions? It’s not clear to the viewer, or probably to Makoto herself, exactly how she feels about Haruka.

What she tells Usagi at the end of the episode is that most of what she’s feeling for Haruka is admiration at how cool she is; she’s mostly focused on her as an aspirational model. Haruka is a woman (she never states she’s a man when Usagi and Minako first meet her; they just make that assumption) but is performing womanhood in a completely different way from what Makoto’s seen before. Earlier in this episode, Makoto tells Usagi she’s worried about ever finding love because she’s large and strong, and tries to play up her feminine pursuits like cooking to compensate. I can see how Haruka would be a reassuring example of a woman who isn’t feminine but is still attractive, competent, and respected – and just plain cool, as everyone’s eager to point out.

And that sort of crush (plus the confusion as to whether the exact feelings are admiration, attraction, or both) is very familiar territory for me. When I started to recognize and be open about my feelings for women, it was right when I was also starting to have a lot of gender-angst and confusion. A lot of those early crushes were on women who were experimenting with gender in ways I found inspiring. And to be honest, a lot of my crushes on women now are aspirational; I’m just focusing on very different things now than I did 10-12 years ago. It’s been interesting to see these feelings reflected back at me from these episodes, and it’s made them even more enjoyable than I’d expected. I’m not even halfway through the season, even, so I’m sure there’s more awkward queer nostalgia to come.

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Some of the best conversations I have with Scarleteen users are through our live chat service. Of course plenty of folks come in with pregnancy worries, just like they do across all direct services, but because it’s more private I’ve found that people are more willing to come in with thornier topics. Sometimes live chat is brutal – there’s still one conversation I can’t bring myself to talk about with anyone because it was so upsetting – but honestly, those harder conversations are usually the ones I like the most because they’re where I feel I can be most helpful.

Days like today, though, I just sign off feeling angry and exhausted. I got a “was this rape” question, which is one of the ones I both love and hate. On the positive side, I have the chance to validate someone’s understanding of their experience, I can use my crisis line training, and sometimes I’m the first person a user has told about an assault, or who’s believed them. The tradeoff is carrying around a lot of traumatic and real rape stories in my head. A much smaller burden, of course, but it adds up over time.

This afternoon was maybe the first time when someone’s question about a friend’s situation really was about a friend, and not a distancing tactic. It was heartbreaking; the scenario was (as always) a very clear-cut case of someone being raped by her partner, but the friend was hesitant to call it that and was placing blame on herself. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as it’s not my story to tell, but it wasn’t ambiguous at all. There was a dude who made a shitty choice to rape his girlfriend, and he probably isn’t having a hard time sleeping at night while she twists herself in knots finding ways to blame herself for his decision to cause harm.

I’m so glad the person who came into chat today felt that something was off and wanted to support her friend by reminding her that she wasn’t at fault. Everyone deserves to have those people around to offer that reassurance and support. Here’s the tricky part, though: in that situation, even if every fiber of your being is screaming “he raped you, you can’t call it anything else” and “this person clearly does not care about your consent or personal safety” and maybe loudest of all “please just get AWAY from him forever,” you can’t necessarily say those things. You have to walk a delicate tightrope of letting someone know that you know their experience wasn’t their fault, that it was wrong, that you see the situation as rape or abuse, without dictating the language they use or demanding they leave their partner.

To do that can push them away, make you no longer a safe person for them to come to in the future if things escalate. To do that will take away the agency of someone whose agency has already been violated.

You can say “I believe you. You weren’t at fault.” Maybe most importantly, you can ask “how can I support you?” Perhaps some day you can provide that support by helping them leave an abusive situation or call a rape crisis line, but you can’t make that call for someone. 

I’m so tired of this, y’all. Rape crisis organizations, campus groups, all sorts of people are speaking out, often at a huge personal cost, and so few people care to listen. Recent news has made it pretty fucking clear why so many people who are raped don’t call the police, or make reports to their college campuses, or come forward in their community spaces, or even tell anyone at all. Support, and even basic belief, are thin on the ground right now. I understand why people blame themselves for being raped, considering how many other people are willing to jump in with that blame. It’s heartbreaking, it’s infuriating, it makes me feel like nothing I can do is going to help change anything on a larger scale, but I understand why it happens. I just wish I didn’t.

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Dick-biting is not a solution

Hi y’all, it’s been quiet around here because the creative section of my brain has been a bit of a wasteland lately. Sometimes I’ll try to draw on news that catches my eye when I’m running low on topics to write about, but the news the past few months has been horrible in a pretty overwhelming way, plus there’s been so much written about GooberGoat etc. that I haven’t felt like I have much to contribute beyond growling and angry handwaving, which doesn’t make for exciting reading.

But! There’s nothing like Dudes Being Terrible About Rape to get the ol’ rage gland working overtime, so here I am.

So it’s been pretty clearly established at this point that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. I haven’t been following this too closely because the moment famous folks get accused of rape then the victim-blaming and smear campaigns start, and I have limited mental resources to deal with that, but I have no problem saying that I 100% believe he has raped many people and is a deeply shitty dude.

This morning I read that some douchebag on CNN named Don Lemon decided to ask Joan Tarshis, one of the women he assaulted, why she didn’t think to chomp down on his dick while he forced her to perform oral sex. First off, can you even believe how fucking terrifying it must be just to come forward about an assault perpetrated by a man beloved by most of America, and answer questions about it on national television? That would be a huge and stressful undertaking even with the sweetest, most supportive interviewer ever, and instead she got this asshole. Can we as a nation send her a fruit basket or something?

But beyond the basic respect and decency that should stop someone from asking an interview subject why she didn’t do something in particular to prevent her own rape, this betrays a complete lack of understanding of rape and how rapists operate.

Rapists can use physical force, sure, but often they will rely more heavily on intimidation, coercion, or their own power and reputation to keep victims from fighting back. What does Lemon think would have happened if Tarshis had bitten Cosby during that incident? That he’d say “oh golly, the pain has made me realize I’m a shithead of a rapist and I’ll let you go now, no hard feelings” and that would be the end of it? Is he that fucking clueless? People love to pull the “why didn’t you fight back” line all the time, but fighting can put someone at even greater risk, especially if they’re physically or mentally impaired or their rapist is much larger or stronger.

Plus, in sexual assault situations it’s very common for folks to freeze up in shock, or confusion, or as a defense mechanism out of hope that things will be over quickly. It’s super easy for me, or Lemon, or anyone else to say “this is how you should have handled it. Here’s what I’d do. Why didn’t you just do this?” when in fact no one can know how they’d react to that sort of situation until they’re in it. Hell, maybe in the moment you’re so surprised that by the time you are able to make a plan, it’s too late to act at all.

When someone discloses their rape to you, you don’t ask why they didn’t react the way you think they should. You say “I’m sorry that happened to you.” You say “it isn’t your fault.” You ask “how can I support you right now?”

Setting all this aside, though, this wasn’t even “just” a case of a famous person coercing someone into sex. This was an instance of a man DRUGGING HIS TARGET. I’m not sure how anyone can make a case that a woozy, disoriented person should have an active hand of fighting off or dissuading someone bent on rape. And in a case like this, there’s no ambiguity about his intentions to rape her. Why the fuck else would he drug her drink?

And folks wring their hands and wonder why people don’t report rapes more. Famous people or not, this is what happens. We worry about “ruining the life” of the guilty party and pick apart the survivor’s story, looking for mistakes.

PS: Lemon made this sorry-ass statement today:

As I am a victim myself I would never want to suggest that any victim could have prevented a rape. If my question to her struck anyone as insensitive, I am sorry as that is certainly, was not, my intention.

It’s the classic “if I did this [not saying I did], I didn’t mean to hurt anyone by it [because I have no duty to consider the impact of my word choice haha]” non-pology! A textbook example showing no understanding of the situation or intent to do better. Well done.

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