Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Archive Diving: Logic can be fun!

(Author's note: I have been digging through my archives and have been reading some of my better old posts. I've found that some could use a bit of updating. So for the sake of transparency, I'm republishing them with the new additions.)

This post was originally published 11/12/08. Republished with more gender neutral language and with a fuller expansion of pro choice positioning.

Dear people who cant seem to string together a basic logic chain with a map and a flashlight,

We have had our disagreements, me with the thinking, you with the lack thereof and the taking offense that I would DARE to think for myself and not bow to your inferior non-logic, but I have recently encountered something from you that I feel needs immediate direct attention.

I will never tell you that you are not allowed to have an opinion on an issue that you are not directly involved in or have experience with. You can have any opinion you want, no matter how infantile or stupid it may be. It is your opinion and you are entitled to it.

HOWEVER, your opinion is NOT fact, and because it is your opinion does not mean that it is factually true, or accurate. While I will not tell you that you cannot have your opinion based on lack of experience, exposure or understanding, I WILL tell you when your opinion is uniformed due to the previously stated conditions. Reading newspapers about an issue does not count, knowing someone involved in said issues does not count, caring about it with not practical experience DOES NOT COUNT.


1) If you are not a pregnant or potentially pregnant person, you may have an opinion on abortion, but otherwise it is none of your business, yes, even if it is your significant other seeking said abortion. If you have a healthy relationship, then you should trust hir to consider your feelings in the decision. If you can't then you probably should not have been sleeping with hir to begin with. If hir getting one is so abhorrent to you, then dump hir and sleep with someone that will give birth to your spawn. If dumping hir is not an option, then tough. The same can be said if you impregnate your significant (or not so significant) other and zie chooses to keep the pregnancy.

2) If you have no functioning knowledge of a specific culture and their language other than a few news sources and the internet, then you may have an opinion about events within that culture, but your opinion will not come from a place of actual understanding of the mentality of the people involved and the structure of the society that shaped it. Your opinion is therefore, UNINFORMED and most likely based in faulty information.

These things also apply to me, and to anyone who wishes to engage in debate or discussion, so please don't try to turn this around on me. I can tell you that you don't know everything, while still not knowing everything myself.

Have a lovely day,

Friday, October 28, 2011


So SO SO glad to be past the digestive system part of my bio class. Half the chapter was about nutrition, meaning that there was a ton of “OBESITY CRISIS OMGZDEATHFATZ!” There was the obligatory “studies have found a ::coughmumble::correlation::coughmumble:: between obesity and DEATHLY DYINGS OF DEATH!” the so strident point of the initial two chapters about correlation=/=causation got tossed out the window as the chapter then launches into the evils of being fat.

I kinda saw this coming. In an earlier chapter it talks about adipose cells and how they are finding that fat people simply have more of them. Those cells don’t come out of nowhere, we are born, live and die with them. And instead of just leaving it at that, the book’s authors jump to the conclusion that the solution to the “obesity crisis” is to figure out how people with more adipose cells can have those “excess” cells removed. You know, instead of FUCKING ACCEPTING THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST FAT AND THAT THE FAT IS NOT THE PROBLEM.

Sure, there are health problems that can be attributed to food quality and activity level, as well as environmental and economic factors. The ACTUAL evidence (as opposed to a correlation) suggests that these problems occur just as readily in “normal” and “underweight” people exposed to those same factors and that their health outcomes are actually worse because its assumed that they are healthy because they aren’t fat. I really have to find the links to those studies. Especially because my text book steam rolls right the fuck over the fact that while there are fewer of those studies than there are of the FAT IS GOING TO MURDER YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN IN YOUR SLEEP THEN CACKLE EVILLY AS IT PISSES ON YOUR CARPET correlational studies, the quality of the evidence is considerably different and by the books own standards, considerably more valid.

My spouse is a perfect example. Zie has always been bean-pole skinny and unable to gain significant weight no matter WHAT diet zie had. Hir doctors always ignored this, and gave hir a clean bill of health every time. Turns out zie had ciliac and was dealing with a massive nutritional deficit because of the damage to hir intestines.

At worst, being fat can be a symptom of a larger, systemic issue. Its not even a necessary one. But mostly? Fat is just a part of your body, doing what it has evolved to do. The fear mongering about fat? Is having a real, measurable impact on public health.
This is one place with the scientific community where I really sorta lose my shit. THIS IS BAD SCIENCE! I am almost as upset at the bastardization of a system that is supposed to be constructed to avoid shit like this than I am at the actual harm these assumptions are doing to me, mine and the larger human community. YOU ARE DOING SCIENCE WRONG AND GODAMMIT THAT PISSES ME OFF.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

of nipple shields and ceiling wax, cabbages and kings

(Image description: an indented circle of silicone that peaks in a cone in the middle)

I have been using a nipple shield as a breast feeding aid since coming home from the hospital. Above is a picture of the type pf shield the lactation consultant gave me. My baby was 4 weeks early and apparently with babies born that early there is usually issues with initial breast feeding. Their jaws are not developed enough to latch on without help.

Anyway, the shield was a godsend at first, since I was having the hardest time figuring out how the fuck this breast feeding thing was supposed to work with a child that was smaller than one of my boobs, while my boobs were leaking everywhere and almost drowning hir, AND we were on an aggressive feeding schedule to help hir get hir bilirubin count down to a normallish level and avoid re-hospitalization for jaundice. I couldn't for the life of me get hir to latch without it, and my nipples had this awful habit of almost retracting into my breast when I tried.

The only problem was that the shield was a bit too small for one of my nipples and caused me quite a bit of pain. there was blood, and scabbing and throbbing, yelpy pain. I'd cry while feeding on that side, or kick the floor really hard. Made life miserable for the entire house, let me tell you. It got so bad that I spent two days nursing exclusively on the undamaged side and only pumping the side that hurt. Which meant staying in the same spot all freaking day, and essentially doing nothing but pumping and nursing.

One night I lost the fucking thing and almost had a total meltdown because the baby was hungry and crying and I couldn't feed hir and I was broken because I couldn't feed my child without help and Oh My God I was a miserable fucking failure failure FAILURE! (I felt like a right dickhead when I discovered I'd thrown this awful fit thinking it was lost and the damn thing was just shut in my computer.)

After quite a few frustrating attempts, I had almost quit trying to move to feeding without it, and had resigned myself to pain and the stress of keeping track of this little piece of silicone for the duration of our breast feeding relationship. Then about a week ago, my aunt that was visiting to meet the baby was watching me breast feed with the shield, and she suggested, gently, that I was ready to try and get hir to latch without it.

This aunt and I have always been close, to the point that I see her as almost a mother/sister in my life. While she subscribes to some spiritual ideas that can be obnoxious in some ways, she has also given me some great insights through the years. So I gave it a shot. And holy shit, first try and zie latched on like we had never done anything else! Today was the first day we went for all of our feeds without it, and the only things that have changed is how I feel about feeding my baby.

I'm so proud of hir...and of me. We are fucking awesome :D

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Objectivity Farce

(Editors Note: this post was originally published 6/26/2011)

Eventually, one has to take sides if one is to remain human.

-Mr. Hinh, The Quiet American

I got involved in facebook drama today. It revolved around my roommate and the end of her previous relationship. The relationship was abusive on many levels and her ex continues to find ways to continue abusing her even though they live in different states.

He has engaged in an ongoing attempt to isolate her by constructing a narrative that paints her as the stereotype in separations. He claims, always via facebook and never to her face where she can defend herself, that she cheated on him and is trying to keep him from his children. None of this is true. Unfortunately, because it neatly fits the stereotype, quite a few people believe it. The people believing it aren’t my issue. My issue are the few people in our friend group that are claiming that they are “neutral” and “not taking sides.” I finally snapped today and made it very clear that I saw no neutral ground here.

In situations where abuse is present, in personal matters or in larger global matters, there is no neutral. There is no “uninvolved.” If you know about it, you’re involved. If you choose the illusion of inaction, you are not just involved, you are implicated.

And I don’t want to police people by demanding they act as I see fit. I do realize that everyone has a limit of what they can do and what they can handle. I am just sick of this idea that we should remain above the bad things that people we thought we could trust do to those we claim to care about.

And I am still a bit pissed off at being accused of “starting drama for drama sake” because I was willing to make a goddamn decision and because I was willing to be involved.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Contrasts and confessions

Editor's note: this piece was originally posted on June 5, 2011

I have a roommate. My roommate is a dear friend of mine, and she lives with me because she needed a place to get away from a shitty relationship.

She and I are close because we diverge radically on certain ideas but still manage to respect each other. The big diverge is on reproductive choices. When we met she was ardently pro-life, to the point that she openly advocated for the striking down of Roe v. Wade. From her, I learned how to respectfully debate and explain my stance to people that held opinions I found to be dangerous and oppressive. From me, she came to the realization that if she did not want people to control her choices, maybe she shouldn’t advocate for controlling theirs. She still is absolutely against having an abortion when she gets pregnant regardless of whether she is in a position where another child is something she can handle. Because of this perspective, she has three children aged 18 months to 5 years and is expecting another in January.

She has admitted to me that while she loves her kids, none of them were planned and that she really isn’t very happy that she has so many kids. She told me that she feels obligated to bring her pregnancies to term, and that she only has kids because she honestly felt she had no other choice. She has repeatedly told me that she wished she could have a life of her own. I have been watching her struggle between the idea that she deserves to choose when/how many kids she has and the idea that she only deserves to gestate every fertilized egg that implants regardless of her ability to provide for them.

Now that I have a child of my own, and have gone through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, her position and the upset I see from her every day makes me so incredibly sad. I have been there for all four of her pregnancies and after the first one, well…lets just say that I have never seen someone so resigned to a fate that they found unpleasant before.

I try really hard not to judge the reproductive choices of others. I feel that to do so I am betraying my own ethical code. Its a strain with my friend. Because while my ethical code is built around “live and let live” its also built around the idea that we all deserve to be free to make the choices that nourish us, that leave us content with our lives. Anything that prevents us from doing so is unjust and must be stopped. This is applied through a lens that understands and accepts that certain groups in my country and culture have been systematically forced into situations that strip them of those options. It is leavened with the assertion that any choice we make that oppresses others is also unjust no matter how content it makes us. That is the source of everything I do to strive for a more just world.

When I watch how miserable she is and how that misery escapes her in little ways like assuming that my child has the capacity to manipulate me consciously at the age of 5 weeks, or throwaway statements describing her children as sociopaths, I find my ability to not judge someone’s choices strained in the extreme. It takes a great deal of self control not to sit down and tell her that how much she hates her life is the reason why people like almost all the uterus bearing members of my immediate family have had abortions. To tell her that she is allowed to strive for her own happiness even if it means not bringing a pregnancy to term. To tell her that this is the problem with a pro-life ideology, that it leaves people like her spending their lives in obligation to people they love but don’t like very much, and never having the chance to be simply content with their situation.

I mean, I don’t think that parenthood is this joyful dance through a field of daisies while the sky rains kittens pooping rainbow marshmallows. I realize that parenthood is great sometimes, and shit sometimes. It can make you incandescently joyous, and utterly miserable, and oftentimes manage both at once. Mostly its just another part of life, and like many things that are a part of life, I believe very strongly that one should be able to choose to engage in it as freely as possible.

Its tearing me apart, feeling awful for her because I haven’t seen her truly content with her life since the birth of her first child, and at the same time feeling like I’m fucking up big time for even daring to think that she made bad choices. I realize that these choices are not made in a vacuum, so I don’t blame her for her misery. I do wonder what it would take for her to value her own happiness to the same degree that she feels obligated to give up her life for her children. I can’t resolve this conflict of my ethics, that seems to tell me that since she chose this, I have to stand by and just watch her be miserable.

So that’s my confession, I guess. That I still make this about me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bump in the Road

Editor's note: this piece was originally posted 6/1/2011

(Content notice: discussion of gender dysphoria and thoughts of self harm) Okay.

So. One thing I didn’t prepare myself for. Issues with breast feeding triggering dysphoria.

Since I’m still working it all out, I rarely discuss the issues that come with my gender identity. Hell, until recently, I assumed that my gender issues were just deeply internalized fat hatred. Mainly because I experience little to no dysphoria regarding my genitals, I mostly don’t regard them unless I’m having sex. Pretty much all of my dysphoria centers around my breasts, which were H cups prior to pregnancy.

When I was a teenager, my boobs exploded over night. Flat chest to C cups and a year later C cups to Gs. I hated them. They never felt right or comfortable. I didn’t know what dysphoria was or that the nights I spent in tears, barely preventing myself from going to the kitchen and trying to cut them off with my father’s knives were part of anything more than normal fat teen self hatred. The fact that this coincided with getting passively kicked out of the dance company I was in just made me hate them more. It felt like my body betrayed me.

As I got older, I decided to keep my breasts purely for breast feeding purposes. They are not particularly sensitive and I derive little to no sexual pleasure from them, so beyond the function of feeding a baby, I saw no point in keeping them. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that breast feeding is something much more complex than it seems and that doesn’t always work right away. Imagine my dismay when I found breast feeding rather difficult.

My child was just early enough to have difficulty coordinating hir suck-swallow-breathe reflex. When babies are born as early as zie was, they also have trouble latching on to the nipple. That plus my nipples being flat (they don’t get or stay perky) makes breast feeding a stressful, pain inducing task. Add a dose of dysphoria into the mix and you pretty much have a typical night at my house since the baby came home. I haven’t had such a painful relationship with my boobs since they first grew.

I mean, I kept these fucking things for this? and then the guilt sets in, because I want to feed my child, and I enjoy seeing hir fed and growing and comfortable with a full belly, but at the same time its all I can do not to give up and hack these fuckers off for good.

Pregnancy helped me do a 180 on my body image, but my breasts were excluded from that. And with the lack of visibility of genderqueer/fluid folks like myself, there really isn't a manual for this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Birthday: a fat queer birth story

Editor's Note: this piece was originally posted May 20th 2011)

(content notice for discussions of pain and medical interventions)

My dad is a labor and delivery nurse, and he likes to say that the more strict someone's birth plan is, the more likely it is that their plan is going to go horribly awry. For my child's birth, nothing went to plan. Well, that's not entirely true. My only set plan was to have a baby, and that zie would be able to survive outside of me. And I had very little confidence in that plan, to be honest.

I spent most of my pregnancy being fairly hermit-like, both on and off-line, because I was waiting for something to go wrong. After the struggle to conceive and carry a pregnancy, I was fairly well convinced that my body was little more than a death trap for any new life. I spent years being checked for conditions like poly cystic ovaries that can cause infertility, and being told that obesity caused them. I really internalized the idea that being fat meant I had destroyed my chances of reproducing. So when I finally did manage a pregnancy, I was absolutely convinced that my body would kill it somewhere along the way. I was so scared of this that I couldn't discuss anything about it with anyone. I felt like I was getting everyone's hopes up for no reason, since clearly there was no way that a fatty like me would be able to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth to a live child.

I had also spent a good deal of my pregnancy delving into my gender identity. Trying to find that space between queer identity, internalized fat hatred and how quickly my body was changing in ways that are coded very femininely and as "good" fatness.

So when my water broke 4 weeks early, while I was preparing for a maternity photo shoot, I was a little surprised. Partially because it was early and partially because a substantial part of me was convinced that I would not get that far. Then again, I had been having a constant back ache for the last two days, and added pressure on my cervix so it wasn't a complete shock.

I went right to the bathroom, and called my birth coach upstairs just to be sure. At that moment, my spouse and my photographer got to the house. They found me standing pantsless and cursing a blue streak in the bathtub as amniotic fluid gushed down my legs. I called my midwives, and because I was early they told me to go to the Perinatal Evaluation and Treatment Unit (PETU) at their associated hospital as soon as possible.

My original plan was to try and labor with as little intervention as possible. I was flexible, however. Having a family member that does nothing but help birth babies gave me a unique perspective on the reality of giving birth. For the most part, intervention is unneeded, but when it is, accepting small interventions can prevent larger ones. There were only a few interventions that I wanted to avoid at all costs, namely episiotomy (cutting into the flesh from the vaginal opening towards the anus to widen the vaginal opening) and a c-section. Episiotomies generally lead to worse tearing than just pushing, and the outcomes for c-sections tend to be not so hot.

Being 4 weeks before my due date made avoiding all intervention impossible. I ended up in the PETU on external fetal monitors for an hour. The midwife on call was concerned about the possible reasons why I had ruptured so early. Most reasons were not too big of a deal but the possibility of infection was a concern. So we discussed artificially ripening my cervix, and I was left in the PETU to labor so we could see if that would be necessary.

I went into labor on a ridiculously busy night, so it took 6 hours before they could move me to a delivery room. I basically spent all of early labor and part of active labor in a tiny space designed for triage. Not fun. I consented to a heparin lock, so I would be able to get hooked to an IV relatively quickly if need be.6 hours, pacing a small space, with my spouse applying pressure to my lower back once my contractions got so bad that I couldn't talk through them.

12 hours after I ruptured, the midwife came in with a look on her face that did not inspire confidence. She told me that with the fear of infection and the fact that I had only dilated 3 centimeters, she thought it best to try a bit of enhancement. She suggested what my dad calls "a sniff of Pit." A small dose of Pitocin, with some Benadryl and a pain medication so I could rest before the birthing stage. Her biggest concerns were 1) getting the baby out before we hit the 24 hour mark, and 2) making sure that I had the energy to push once I was ready.

I went for it. Not two minutes after they attached my IV and injected the pain meds, I was passing out. I managed to sleep for about three hours before the contractions woke me up again. I tried to get up and move to deal with the pain, but the external fetal monitor severely limited my movement. Every time I tried to squat to deal with the pain, the monitor slipped and they lost the baby's heartbeat. I moved into the bed, and we tried to manage the contraction pain with massage. My spouse climbed into the bed next to me, and held me until the contractions started. Every time the pain began, zie'd massage my lower back and apply counter pressure until I relaxed.

over the next hour, I dilated from 4 cm to 10 cm. The pain spiked so quickly that I went into a full panic. I couldn't move during the contractions, and all of my coping techniques up to that point simply didn't cut the mustard. I was screaming and punching the bed through each one. If I could have moved, I'd have run away. My spouse was terrified that I was going to hurt myself and kept trying to comfort me in any way zie could. There honestly wasn't much comfort to be had. the pain had me in complete instinct mode. Anything vaguely resembling self-consciousness was gone. My birth coach was livid that I was left to scream that way, and was getting ready to find someone to come and care for me when the nurse and the midwife came in.

They checked me, and got me set up to push with a knotted sheet for me to hold onto. As I pushed, I was to pull myself up using the sheet. I was pushing for less than an hour when I began crowning. I could feel ears and a nose on the sides of the head, and seconds later Shai's head was out. The rest of her body slipped from me in a rush and suddenly I had a tiny, struggling, goo covered baby on my chest. My spouse was beside me, in tears, telling me how much zie loved me and how amazing I was. I was in utter shock. All I could say was "oh baby. Its a baby!" and run my hands over hir. I held hir while I was being stitched up and until zie had to be bathed.

Its funny.

I had so many fears about this whole thing. All of them are gone now. Every time I look at my Shai's little face, smell hir breath, feel hir tiny heartbeat while zie sleeps on my chest.

This is the most mundane and amazing thing I have ever done. and even with all the pain and frustration, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.