Taking Offense, and Being in Pain

It seems my article (Hey go look at it, it’s right here: http://www.cracked.com/article_20997_5-shocking-realities-being-transgender-media-ignores_p2.html ) is getting a reaction (And yes, I am listening to The Heavy’s “Love Like That” right now) and the issue that always fascinates me the most is when arguments rest on how everyone is angry, offended, scared, and confused by whatever it is being talked about.

And I see the same refrain of people being offended by other people’s offense.  Even the term ‘offensive’ is offensive these days to a lot of people, but rage makes it hard to see that irony.  Which I get – rage makes it hard to see anything except potential targets, because I imagine that anger really is about our brains and bodies trying to solve a problem by fixation that is sometimes quite helpful, and sometimes entirely unhelpful.  (I’ve read a lot on the subject in Psychology, Cognitive Science and Physical Anthropology articles I can’t recall the titles of at this time, but Harriet Lerner and Mona Lisa Schulz come to mind for the former groups)

But my personal refrain on the subject is that I see a distinction between intellectual offense, and emotional pain (Both of which are valid, but I have more connection to the latter).  When slurs get involved, when someone’s feelings are torn into, the rational mind is the last thing anyone wants to listen to, and vice versa, because it’s easier to deal with issues when we can isolate them one by one.  But I know very few people who can naturally ‘divide and conquer’ all of the issues they face – things are stuck together, (Song change!) and we have to sort out the differences.

The mathematical formulae for why insulting people in deeply personal ways always fall short, because two very different issues are at stake.  I don’t feel like I can successfully debate a slur which affects me because when I hear it, I’m already in pain.  I’ve already been hurt.  And the rational argument I construct won’t make me feel better, nor will anyone else’s.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, and I don’t feel it invalidates any of the perspectives in question.

I see this all the time in every controversial topic – I’ve been part of conversations about sex, race, and identities of all sorts with this same refrain, where people are very clearly arguing from such different places they can only end up furious on all sides, for the simple matter of no one being listening at all.

But it does mean we need to be nicer to have productive discussions, so maybe we should take turns.  And I’ll take the time to respect the logic, for anyone who can take the time to respect how I’m feeling.  No judgments.  I’m listening.  (Just listen to me when you finish your spiel, please.)

Also, seriously, “Hate Crimes and Fashion Crimes so Rarely Intersect” should be the title of a show.


Media, Sexism, and being Trans Female

As a transgender woman, who was apparently a very convincing cis male impersonator for a while (Some people seemed to have thought so, but others have asked me why I took so long to drop the act.  My best friend thought it was so obvious I was pleasantly reassured, but I digress), I have seen a lot of the world’s weirdness from multiple angles.  Right now I’m going to focus on something that likely seems chosen at random, but here goes:

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, explained in thorough depth on tvtropes.org (But don’t look unless you have 3 hours of free time at hand), is essentially the quirky excited hyper-femme young lady who mostly seems to be in the movie to help the guy get over his problems, chief of which is stuffyness.  The first actress to have her character labeled as such was an annoyed by the term, and I find the reason obvious:

It sounds entirely derogatory, and it is indeed a bitter term.  To me, it feels like MPDG is a sexist disparagement of sexism – the female character feels hollow or artificial to someone, but their ire is directed to mocking the character rather than just discussing the issue.  It’s a blatant and immediate impression.

I think it has something to do with a discrepancy of perspective, not only between male and female viewpoints, but between analytics and emotional vibes.  Analytical thought describes all the details of something that feels wrong… in a way that also feels wrong.  Maybe that’s part of the reason I tend to supernova in arguments.  It’s almost certainly why I’ve overcompensated so much in an effort to figure out how the quantitative thinkers of the world use this language of ours, one everyone supposedly shares, and I have no idea what they are saying.  Or maybe I just miss the big picture because I see and here a thousand thoughts and squirm to sort out how anything adds up.

But insulting these characters feels wrong, even if the character in question also feels wrong; I could equate it with responding to ignorance with savagery.  I feel wary of it all and get lost in loops between where I feel comfortable, and where the education system wants everyone to be.

For instance, I did very well in some parts of school and terribly in others without even realizing at the time that I can only really understand something by communicating with someone – reading a text in detail or never even buying it had far less correlation with my grades than how often I could find someone who wanted to talk about it.  I had full conversations with TAs while the introverts in the room kept passing up on the opportunity to speak, no matter how much I really wanted to speak with them.  

Which isn’t to say I can’t read – I love reading, or I’d never have gotten as far as I did.  But reading a book and never talking about it feels wrong.  And I’m sure there’s an analytical argument against everything I just said that I can commit to memory from the page, but won’t actually get until I discuss it.

And that does confirm a few stereotypes in my particular case – and that feels wrong.  I’ve seen the damage stereotypes have wrought, and they bother me.  But emoting at the world around me, and discussing all the world’s happenings, can work for me, can make me feel good.  Cold hard facts and logic I can see the value in, but only because someone talked to me about it.

Here I am… and thinking about “Organization”

So I’ve been thinking about doing this for a very, very, very, verrrrryyyyyy long time.  But that’s the sort of thing that implies organization – I am the antithesis of organization.

It’s probably horribly ironic to people that I, who was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at age 12 or so, am entirely disorganized, but I’ve been thinking about the issue a lot lately (because I love factoids and day dreaming more than life itself), and I’ve settled on the idea that I just don’t think well in broad strokes.  My mind is a thousand random details in no particular shape.  Clearly the fact that I’m distracting myself from other tasks pondering about the exact nuances of my thinking process underscores this.

When I read, or draw, or simply look around, I fixate on details.  I live next to a lot of trees at the moment – but I had to check with people on whether their collective sum was, indeed, a forest.  It’s so blatantly cliché I’m ashamed to admit that I literally just see a bunch of different trees, each with their leaves and limbs of various sizes and shapes and conditions, but the big picture eludes me.

So I’m just going to share some of those oddly specific observations here and see what happens.  Because honestly I have no idea what might.