You Will Never Speak For Me

Okay, I’ve been inactive, I’m not even going to explain myself on that one this time because it’s a common occurrence, it’s what being a man with limited resources and unlimited depression does when he has a blog. I’m back, with a vengeance I might add, to put in my two cents on Autism Awareness Month, particularly, how many of you might be approaching this the wrong way. My first point, is your profile picture covered with a blue filter? Well then, read on, you might reconsider that filter by the end of this article.

Autism Awareness Month, largely paraded by the charity Autism Speaks, is about raising awareness of the trials and tribulations that come with autism, both for those who are on the spectrum and those who have loved ones that are. Speaking as a man both on the spectrum and related to another who is, I won’t deny, there are trying moments in life that were daunting to us but perfectly normal events to the other kids in classes or colleagues at work places. Social etiquette, for example, eluded me for so long that I got angry at other people for having it when I did not, I came to think of myself as living in a world of imbeciles, not realising that not only did the world struggle to understand me, I too struggled to understand the world. However, my biggest qualms with Autism Awareness can be summarised thusly:

  1. People are AWARE, what they lack is UNDERSTANDING
  2. Autism Speaks

I shall challenge these points in reverse order to how they are listed, because Autism Speaks is to autism what Donald Trump is to Mexico – hilariously misinformed and full of hatred towards their people.

Autism Speaks is not a happy jolly charity as they might have you believe, their solution to the struggles of the autistic community would be akin to Oxfam forming a militia and marching on Syria, Autism Speaks seeks a ‘cure’ to autism, a ‘prevention’ of it. Don’t believe me? Check their ‘About Us’ section on their site:

“Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism”

Direct quote. Causes, prevention, treatments and cure. You know, like it were a disease. Autism Speaks has been called out in the past on recommending things such as bleach enemas and allowing parents to express their desire to ‘fix’ their child, sometimes with said child in the room. Now this, this is personal, this isn’t just social justice speaking, this is “You do not tell me that I, my brother and thousands of others are broken human beings you need to fix, we are fucking beautiful”.

You know what you’re saying when you want to cure someone of autism? You’re saying you want to kill them and replace them with someone similar but normal. Autism affects how someone sees the world, how they think, what they like, what they don’t like, what knowledge they have, what things they will remember, their hopes, dreams and fears are all dictated by autism, it is not a disease or curse but a whole other way of existing as a human being. I have tried to explain this to people as being left-handed in a right-handed world. You may have challenges trying to be like the others but in the end, you find a way and your way is different but it works just the same in the end and there’s no reason a left-handed person is less valid than a right-handed one. You could try to make that person right-handed but it would change how they do everything, it would mean they had to relearn everything they ever knew about how to interact with the world and your friend or family member would be someone entirely different for it. In a sense, you would replace them with someone you perceive to be more normal, or rather, more like what you think should be normal. If you want to screen for autistic children or find a way to fix them, you want them dead. This isn’t a disability, this is a way of being human that you cannot understand and that is why you want us dead.

So you might understand why I say we don’t need your awareness campaigns, much less do we need a charity that thinks of us as a blight to be remedied. Autism and aspergers aren’t things you need to raise awareness for, they are things you need to raise understanding of. I generally scoff at awareness campaigns, who at this point is still clueless what breast cancer is? We KNOW what cancer is, we KNOW what diabetes is, we KNOW what Parkinson’s is, teach people what it means to live with these things and how to help those who have to, make people understand why diabetes isn’t just “Ate too much sugary food” or why cancer isn’t just “Thing that can kill you but if you take pills and go bald, you might not die”. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge was the last awareness campaign I agreed with. Why? I HAD NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT IT WAS. Awareness is Stage One, Stage Two is education. Imagine if your teacher taught you to read by pointing at a book repeatedly and went
“That’s a book. People read those”
Ok great, how? Why? Where do I get a book? What is a book for?
“That’s a book. People read those”
I am aware that is a book, tell me more.
“That’s a…”
YOU SEE THE PROBLEM?

Also, putting autism in a class with cancer and motor-neurone disease in that it is something you raise awareness for, you class it as a problem. If a charity is ‘raising awareness’, it is telling you there is a problem to be fixed. If there is a disease we cannot cure, we need to be aware of it. If there is a country ravaged by war, we need to be aware of it. If there are people dying in ways we didn’t realise, we need to be aware of it. What the fuck do we need Autism Awareness for? I’m aware it exists, what else will you do Autism Speaks? Nothing, except witter on about how hard it is to deal with your kids because they’re noisy or won’t keep their jumper on or don’t like other children.

I’m sorry to get so angry, except I’m not. Autism Speaks does not, has never and probably never will speak for the autistic community, it speaks for those who wish there wasn’t an autistic community, and I personally am glad there is an autistic community. I tried talking this over with my brother, who also has autism, and he thought perhaps he wouldn’t miss it if he didn’t have it and I had to try to explain to him he couldn’t perceive not having it because having it has shaped his entire being. The idea of being neurotypical is just inconceivable to me, it would not be me, he could have my face and voice but he would have different friends, feelings and interests. Please, for goodness sake, do not partake in lighting it up blue, “Go Red Instead” is a counter-campaign about raising awareness of Autism Speaks, who, if they want centre-stage this month, let’s make you aware that they’re not just about helping families live with autism, they’re about helping families NOT have to live with autism, helping families abandon autistic children, helping families mutilate autistic children and poison them. Check it out at the link below and please, remember that autism doesn’t need a cure, it needs people to realise that we are just like you, seek to understand us like you seek to understand your fellow men, for we are they.

http://profile.actionsprout.com/o/18D37E

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My 2015

Happy New Year! I had hoped to be posting today’s post yesterday and tomorrow’s post today but it seemed all out of nowhere I had a life again, with places to be and people to see and that was exciting so it took precedent over writing blog posts for basically those same people to read. I’m going to look back on my year today and tomorrow, look forward to the new and this post is for those of you who take some interest in the man behind the rant and how his head works (Spoiler Alert: Not very well)

2014, as it drew to a close, had been an odd year but it ended on a high note because whilst I had recently become unemployed and was still in the same old situation of single and sponging off my family whilst earning just enough to pay for my own things (Social life, phone bills, contributions to the home), I was happy enough and I figured with such valuable experience and good friends, life would work out. 2015 then, said “Ehh…” and whilst I had been employed for a good chunk of the year, working in care, come the end of the summer I was now back on benefits, the margins for which had tightened and the people giving the handouts had gotten meaner than I ever remembered them being. Alas, getting ahead of myself so I’ll try to follow the course of the year and explain myself, omitting names of course for the sake of those involved.

Looking back at what scraps of a journal I had maintained in the start of the year, the year started on a bum note, social events being scrapped last minute and my general tone in the book is grim but with a sort of underlying hope, something I can admit is the same now. The ambitious plan to go jogging out in the wild fell into obscurity around February but then things got better around March because although I had been going through one heck of an odd journey with a friend of mine, I then found myself employed and in a job that didn’t make me want to throttle people, which is hard to come by. All seemed well, perhaps the key word being seemed.

Through no fault of their own but rather their circumstances and general isolation, I was employed as the sole carer of someone, and though we were told there would be more hours and pay coming my way someday, tomorrow never came and I found myself worked to the bone as the carer, cleaner, personal shopper, psychiatrist and advocate of someone who really just needed the various officials in her life to shut up and listen to her. Things reached a peak and the pressure of it all caused her to breakdown, followed shortly after by me and so she found an alternate living arrangement and I found myself unemployed. No malice held for them for what they chose to do, they did what was best for them and for me – after all, I could get work again and whilst I am currently unemployed, at the time of writing three different employers are all very interested in me.

So, with the autumn and winter ahead, my 21st looming and Christmas after that, I was back on the hunt for work, honing my skills in retail by making my semi-triumphant return to Oxfam, having become something of an urban legend in the place judging by the number of “(VOLUNTEER NAME) told me about you, I’m (NAME)”, perhaps the most realistic substitute for actual fame is that sort of remark – though 2015 was the year that saw my blog reach new heights of over 1000 views in a week, video posts on my Facebook page and even some recognition on the street as “That wanker who writes about feminism”.

2015 wasn’t all doom and gloom, there are some friends I found myself closer to than I had been previously and whilst some saw fit to kick me whilst down, I at least weeded out bad eggs in the process – namely people harboring hilariously outdated views and people willing to abandon my friendship for £20, go figure. I also made a new friend in someone whom previously I had not exactly been pally with, they were friends with people who belittled me in my youth and they then contacted me, having remembered me from encountering my blog, they then apologised for following the crowd and explained themselves to the point where we mutually agreed that school isn’t about an education, it’s some sort of psychologically traumatising rites of passage in which you are just doing whatever it takes to get through it and we just happened to have different means of doing that. I also changed medical practice and got my formal diagnosis at long last, considering my former GP was determined my social anxiety was nothing more than “stress” and the need for “a good holiday somewhere nice”, as if I had that as an option.

So 2015 ended with me now unemployed, still single and my depression has only gotten worse but on the upside, perhaps those things won’t last. 2014 ended with me single and unemployed but also lost, which I tried to pass off as looking for opportunities but with no idea where to look where as now, I have jobs lined up, fewer but better friends and I signed up to an actual gym so if nothing else, I can at least be attractive whilst wallowing in self-pity!

Happy New Year and shit.

Christmas Is Always Coming

So, let’s talk about Christmas, it’s obligatory with it being less than ten days away at this point and I do plan to discuss my actual day of Christmas with you on Christmas as it happens, a sort of sum up like last year followed by a retrospective of my year as a whole. However, for now, let’s discuss Christmas, in particular why some may view me as something of a Scrooge on the topic. I never really partake in festivities to the same degree as my friends – no antlers on my head, no Christmas jumper waiting to be sprung out come December and you’ll never get me singing along to Jingle Bells. A variety of reasons surround this, first and foremost is my social anxiety which insists that although everyone else in the room looks like a colossal dickhead wearing red noses and tinsel scarves, I will be the most dickheadiest of dickheads if I join in, that somehow my foolishness isn’t just fun, it’s utterly disgusting and degrading to watch and people will remember the display as a reason to hold me in slightly less high regard. On the other hand, there are some other reasons I’m not huge on Christmas as a whole, which I’ll cover over the course of this post.

Now, don’t be mistaken in thinking I want December 25th to be just another day on the calendar and we don’t bother at all, that’s not it, I think it’s nice that we all agree to dedicate some time of the year to togetherness and family time and so on – though it sucks to the nth degree not all of us get that. Christmas, forced onto the mainstream by a previously Christian dominated society and now kept around for people of all walks of life due to a combination of tradition and marketing, is fun when you’re in the right setting for it with the right people and resources and so on – hard to be miserable at Christmas when you have all you want. The problem is just that though, Christmas is such a beacon of light and joy that some of us expect it to cast out the negativity simply the grace of existing and we can overlook the pains, struggles and loneliness of our fellow men because we think “It’s Christmas, someone will do something for them and they’ll probably feel better with a belly full of turkey and some nice new trinkets to unwrap”. Here then. we have that phrase, that phrase that is the bane of my life every single year between the end of October and December 26th.

“BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

You know what? So fucking what if it is? We’re aware what time of year it is, which by the way, I resent for creeping earlier and earlier into the year, partly because I’m a November baby and partly because it applies the pressure to be cheerful and excited on depressed folk like me before they’re even in the right frame of mind to adopt false happiness. Christmas isn’t some be all, end all cure to the woes of the world, whatever Bob Geldof insists on telling you. The reality is Santa doesn’t deliver world peace, bosses don’t always let things slide because the big day is coming and not every broken heart finds someone willing to bring them out of the cold, let’s not delude ourselves. If we perpetuate Christmas as being the best thing to happen in a year, it loses that status because we don’t need to do anything, it becomes that for the consumerist masses just by being Christmas – people already have their Christmas spirit pumping without the need for volunteering in a soup kitchen or checking in on their lonesome neighbour who doesn’t have kids to come visit or whatever. By doing that, Christmas becomes less and less like the fairy tales and slips more and more into what cynics like me have been calling it for years – a mass of over-excited meatheads stuffing their faces and buying shit.

So, Christmas lovers, maybe you’re think I’m being a Grinch hmm? I just don’t understand because I’m a misery right? Maybe you’re right, this year is seeing me be the most depressed I’ve been at Christmas time since my schoolboy days, for reasons too personal to disclose here. However, last Christmas (Don’t), I wasn’t as bad, I had money, friends and even though Christmas didn’t happen at my home, I did my fair share of philanthropic gestures and gift giving and even then I STILL wrote an article about how overhyped Christmas is and how unfair it is on children in particular. I love Christmas and that’s speaking as a staunch Atheist to whom Christmas has no religious meaning to give remembrance for, it’s literally just “Winter is shit but hey presents and food happen!”. but I still love this idea of a time in which we stop to think about people and how we can express our love for them, my only concern is that perhaps we lost sight of that.

You know the shpiel here, that Christmas has become about buying affection rather than earning it, in showing love through consoles and laptops rather than actual words of kindness or shows of support and many of you will roll your eyes at the goody two-shoe deal here but it is so important we remember that and we must remember that Christmas isn’t a time of joy for us all, no matter how much you wish it to be. Tragic story time, my Dad when I was young, despised Christmas, so much that seeing decorations filled him with dread and sorrow because to him, it didn’t mean joy and laughter, it meant a time of spending money and fulfilling other people’s dreams because if he didn’t, he had to disappoint them. We had no decorations in our house until Christmas Day itself and they’d come down again afterwards as soon as Dad could manage it, just so he didn’t have to see that tree for one second longer than he had to. I didn’t understand as a child, I don’t think my Dad ever realised that as a kid, I was always happy at Christmas with anything he got me – probably because kids are so shit at being grateful for stuff. We’ve always lived on the breadline in this home and to then have December 25th pop up “JUST A HEADS UP, YOU BETTER SPEND AT LEAST LIKE… £500 ON GIFTS OR PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU DON’T LOVE THEM” when you can barely afford £5, it’s terrifying and makes you resent Christmas as being a toll, a challenge to PROVE your love and selflessness, as if everything else you did all year didn’t count.

Christmas is getting a little too big for its own boots here and stomping on the poor and the heartbroken, it brings joy not only because we are all given what we want and are giving those we love what they want but because everyone looks happy when you push the unhappy ones out of the photo frame. I’m not even going to try and count the number of times my depression has been muddled up with a lack of Christmas spirit, that somehow all this obnoxious corporate money-grabbing and ugly jumper parties should be the strongest mood medication I could ever want. Somehow though, it is not but I still partake in Christmas – gifts have been bought, nice gestures done without the hope of them being returned have been performed and on Christmas Day, as is my tradition, I contact everyone I consider a friend to at least give season’s greetings.

So, what am I saying here, you ask? The article has sort of read as a general guilt-tripping Santa-bashing bitterness sandwich but I guess ultimately, I want you to read this and remember that Christmas in and of itself is not special, Christmas is as special as we make it for ourselves and others. If you think buying lots of stuff is all it takes, well done, you’re nothing more than a patsy Amazon and Wal-Mart will bleed dry year upon year, but Christmas is about charity and charity isn’t just giving to the homeless, it’s showing love. PLEASE take this time to check on people and that they’re ok, if that’s the only genuinely good thing you do that isn’t all about presents, please make sure that miserable fuckers like me are at least safe and comfortable this Christmas. I guarantee you that everyone who hates Christmas has a reason for it and it’s no good telling them to just cheer up; do something that makes this time of year a little easier for them.

Merry Christmas.

Sickening

Would you like to believe we live in a fairly advanced age? We have wireless internet, wheelchairs that can now climb stairs, printers that can produce 3D products, things seem fairly advanced right? Well, here we are in 2015 and in Britain, there’s now a growing debate as to whether or not M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or CFS as some know it, is actually a real thing. No joke, we’re in a world full of fast cars, smart phones and replacement limbs but we can’t decide whether or not a chronic condition thousands upon thousands of people have had is real, or a bullshit story that’s been peddled by lazy workshirkers for generations.

A study by Oxford University followed 481 people’s lives for two years, all of those people having ME/CFS and watched them go through years of medication and consultation and then decided the best thing to do was encourage them to adopt better outlooks on life and exercise more. According to the study results, three quarters of the group improved after going through therapy and nobody, if the study is to be believed, got worse after being put through this programme. Dubious, as ME/CFS severely limit mobility and stamina so forcing exercise on them seems like it could have negative repercussions. The PACE trial (Pacing, graded Activity, Cognitive Therapy and random Evaluation) therapy revolves around the idea of gradual exercise and CBT therapy, along with random visits from an assessor to see how you get on, which seems fair but this test leaves a lot to be desired and even more to be criticised:

1. Benefits of a positive attitude

Ok, first qualm is this whole brave face and positive thinking will fix your problems ideology. Firstly, if you think positively, you’re going to gloss over the reality of your struggle, participants might have reported an improvement to their assessor simply because they felt happier instead of actually physically healthier and researcher bias might lead the assessors to see what they want to see (They’re smiling more than I remember them doing last month, they must have improved etc.). Whilst therapy is beneficial to those with ME/CFS, need I state the obvious that therapy is beneficial to just about EVERYONE. Depression, amputation, gender-reassignment, a diagnosis of cancer – things all made easier to cope with by speaking to professionals but you wouldn’t make those patients’ lives better by telling them to just suck it up and go for a jog would you? Claiming a healthy attitude is a cure is some wishy-washy idealistic nonsense up there with curing anxiety by taking bold leaps or curing addiction by just saying no more often.

2. Paced graded exercise

This idea is nothing new, as a previous carer for someone with ME, I can recall numerous physiotherapists and so on manipulating the weakened limbs of my dear friend into weird positions and telling her to do this on a daily basis to build her strength up or whatever. Problem here is that said exercise can take a lot out of people with ME and CFS, sometimes it is a struggle for them to even sit up in bed or brush their teeth, let alone lift weights or cycle or whatever the trials suggest. The energy levels of a sufferer are inconsistent, in the space of a week I have seen my friend go from smiling and laughing and jumping to being a disheveled mess groaning through paralysis. Videos can be found and audio logs recorded of ME patients being FORCED into exercise, being told off like petulant children for being ill and there are countless stories of children being taken away or people institutionalised for having ME. I am not joking, imagine if someone got locked up for saying they had a brain tumour or cystic fibrosis! This is a condition that is too complex for our current science to fully understand and in our frustration, we want to refuse to believe it exists. ME is the global warming of the disease world – it’s too hard to think of an answer so pretend it’s not a thing and let everyone die.

3. Misleading information (Lancet 2011 Editorial and Oxford Study)

The Lancet published a paper in 2011 that said 30% of their patients with ME/CFs improved after CBT and graded exercise yet this is based on misleading trials. Patients were asked to rate their fatigue on a scale of 0 to 11, any lower than 4 and they weren’t included in the study and they had to rate it as 6 and above to be considered for further trials. Fair enough? On a scale of 0 to 11, they called a level 6 fatigue “normal levels”. WHAT? How is that normal? Are they suggesting everyone, by default, should feel relatively shit all the time? Beyond that, patients weren’t asked throughout “How do you feel now? Still 6 or worse?”. Nope, just took their initial answer and ran with that. The Lancet made a publication based on a stupid definition of normal fatigue and thus padded out their study with people who felt ‘relatively’ better. Add to this the Oxford study that even admitted it wouldn’t work for everybody and needs further research done and there you have it – FURTHER RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE CARRIED OUT. Accurately I might add and it’s fucking embarrassing I have to.

4. More Misleading Information (Psychological Medicine)

Of course, there are numerous culprits here, Psychological Medicine conducted their own tests. Using the scale again, from 0 to 100, 100 being fit as a fiddle, you had to score below 65 to enter the trial and above 60 was considered healthy. See a problem immediately? If you scored 62 coming in and left scoring 63, you showed up on the statistics as ‘healthy’, therefore cured! With such ridiculous standards, patients could be counted as cured with minimal effort on the part of the doctors involved, any improvement amplified by this scale. The journal even published criticisms of this scale but made no effort to retract their claims that “22% of the study group recovered through therapy”, which as we can see, recovery is bloody easy if you need a score below 65 to enter but a score above 60 to be called cured. Furthermore, there were four criteria used, one a total dud criterium of ‘meeting no clinical definition’ and you only had to meet one of these criteria to count as improved. Ergo, a study that was hard to qualify for but easy to count as improved as a result of taking part. Lies then, carefully manipulated data and misleading weakened standards to present statistics the researchers wanted, instead of the actual truth.

I’m angry. I’m fucking livid. This is nothing more than the neglect and abuse of no fewer than 250,000 people in Britain alone and calling their disability a simple case of the blues that can be wished away with a big enough smile. If these misleading studies gain ground in the public eye as fact, how long until ME/CFS no longer count as grounds to claim disability relevant benefits? Are we going to force people with chronic pain, hypersensitivity, restrained mobility and poor cognitive function into work despite the obvious effects it will have on them? I wouldn’t put such cruelty past the same government seeking to scrap the Human Rights act.

If you’re angry too, click the link below to visit ME Action, a website set up by those dedicated by fighting for our loved ones who groan in agony from the shadows. We must not stand by and let these people become abused as lazy mopes needing a boost of life and a hug, they need medical consideration and each of them needs a care plan tailored to them – some can manage to walk, some can barely move their head – it’s not a quick fix. Keep researching better solutions, medications and coping mechanisms and don’t just dole out this flimsy “Smile and get over it” horseshit. There are petitions, sign them!

http://www.meaction.net/

On Coming Out

Two days on from the National Coming Out Day you might argue I have missed the boat on this subject but you know, it’s a relevant topic every day of the year and even so, the event is also regarded as Coming Out Week in some circles so the nature of these things are fluid… as is gender. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Now you might think I’m here to announce my previously unannounced secret sexual tastes but I’m afraid you’re mistaken, I’m comfortable where I stand. Straight, for those who are uncertain, I’m pretty certain I’ve mentioned it before but elucidating it in case, not out of a “Ugh don’t mistake me for being gay!” knee-jerk reaction but literally just so the topic of my sexual orientation is settled right from the start. I never had to come out in my life, I know in certain parts of the world you have to come out as an Atheist and though I was raised a Christian by my mother, once my Dad took charge in her passing he supported my brothers and I in supporting any belief system, seeing as he’d been biting his tongue on how he’s a Buddhist for her sake. For me though, on a serious note, I never had to have the courage to admit to being who I am, I never faced those pressures or inner conflicts outside of the usual straying of the imagination we all experience. So, you might now argue I am not the person to talk to about coming out and you’d be right really, I don’t have that history to recall but I know about so many different people who went through it and I want to say my piece. You don’t have to be directly affected by an issue to see how it affects others so with that said, here I am.

In a broad sense, we as a society have come a long way with regards to sexuality and gender identity, though obviously there is further to go with China still ‘treating’ homosexuality through shock therapy and trans violence being shrugged off as “The assailant panicked because they were confused, of course you’re going to beat some stone dead with your bare hands when you’re confused!”. Whilst once upon a time it was largely an underground society, the LGBTQIA community now holds pride marches and legal victories have been won left, right and centre against the bigoted traditions of old. The community isn’t perfect, things like asexuality and pansexuality get sidelined as weird or made-up, bisexuality is still largely seen as a phase more than the other two like it’s the part of the game of life where you’re still deciding between Charmander or Squirtle, terms like genderfluid are largely seen as wanting to be ‘special’ rather than someone finding a true identity, these are acts of ignorance and discrimination that occur within that same community of those once oppressed (or in some cases, still are). I’m not here to poo-poo the progress thus far by pointing out the road is still a long one, not at all, great job to us for all that, but I am merely providing context because whilst there are so many of us comfortable to proudly announce who we are, there are still so many who aren’t.

National Coming Out Day or Week then, is the chance for people to stand together and encourage their closeted colleagues to embrace who they truly are and let the world love them for it. A noble cause and if you’re taking this opportunity to share the truth, good for you, seriously, you deserve credit for that. On the other hand, the reverse side of this coin is an implied pressure to make the big announcement, to come out and shout from the rooftops that you are in fact not what assumptions make you out to be. At a time like this, we can perhaps be a little expectant of people to tell the naked truth, for better or for worse. Individual circumstance can make these things so much more complicated for so many reasons but I’ll try to explain as best I can.

A friend of mine said that you don’t come out once, it’s nonsense to think that there is one pivotal moment in your life where you gather every single person you know in one room and make the truth known to all. I can understand that, I know people who are out to some groups and not to other, my own youngest brother came out to the immediate family first and then slowly let it slip in school once he felt comfortable people wouldn’t react by beating the snot out of him. Coming out is something people go through time and time again – to the family, to friends, to schoolmates, to work colleagues and so on and so on, each experience is difficult and there’s no guarantee how people will react. We tend to see cisgender heterosexuals as the default sexuality setting, straight until proven otherwise as it were, so we don’t always look at our peers with a neutral judgment of them. Admit it, you’ve seen people in the street and sorted them into straight, gay and lesbian in your head right? You don’t usually look at someone and think “I bet they’re a genderfluid aromantic… they just look like they are” but we still seem to associate certain visual traits with being gay or hetero. As a result of this, most people who came out the closet even as young as say, fifteen, still find themselves ‘revealing’ they are a homosexual at thirty and that’s going to be a thing until society as a whole stops making assumptions that everyone is straight and cisgender before changing their mind somewhere along the line.

So coming out, as we all know it with the family in the living room and teen angst kid Johnny having to reveal his secret desire to sleep with men to startled parents is perhaps untrue. However, just because it isn’t a big “all will be revealed” affair like we imagine it, it doesn’t make it less daunting for those involved, nor does it guarantee it will be safe. Sexuality and gender identity are topics that can polarise people to one camp or the other and even within the same family, it can be hard to deal with. A friend who shall remain nameless is out to their close family and pretty much everyone they know but still has a grandparent in the dark, said grandparent not having social media to see the truth. Why? Well, they’re of the belief it’s unnatural to feel same sex attraction or to want to be a different gender to the one you were assigned at birth and this friend of mine doesn’t want to compromise their relationship with their grandparent by saying “Guess what? I’m one of those unholy abominations you mouth off about!”, so they endure the flak and pretend to be ‘normal’. Sounds unfair but this isn’t even the worst, that’s someone doing something by choice, not to protect themselves, some people keep their sexuality or gender identity under wraps for fear of their life. Who can blame them? Many US states still stand by the panic defense that attacking someone who is trans or homosexual is forgivable if you claim you were scared they were going to make a pass at you. Like, homophobia being an actual fear of homosexuals in such an instance, which is ludicrous and credit to California for calling that legal defence bullcrap. In a world where people are disowned, beaten, electrocuted, sexually assaulted and just plain humiliated for being outside of the expected norm, can we really shame them for hiding in safety? Let me tell you, if being straight got me forced into having sex with men against my will or locked away in a correctional camp to brainwash me into suppressing who I am, I’d need some serious chutzpah to say I am straight.

In summary, if you can come out and you feel safe to do so, go for it, I hope we will one day live in a world where everyone can feel okay to be who they are and ‘coming out’ becomes a thing of the past. However, if you’re choosing not to open that door, be it for self-preservation, uncertainty or just not feeling up to it, I say go for that too, what matters most is your well-being, if that’s better preserved by not saying anything, so be it, though obviously I wish that wasn’t the case. Don’t pressure people to come out if you know they’re still in their closet, it’s not encouraging or inspiring, it’s terrifying, it’s telling them to strip off and jump in the shark pool because hey, if they survive it, won’t it be cool to say they did that? Most importantly, DO NOT OUT SOMEONE ELSE! I can’t stress that enough, only thing worse than trying to make someone step out, is to shove them out. You aren’t risking anything yourself in doing that, that is pushing someone else in the pool and saying “Aren’t I brave? Am I not a great friend? Isn’t this so much better than just watching the sharks?”. So to everyone, take your time, come to terms with who you are and let the world know when you feel ready, there is absolutely no rush.

The Fragile Man (Part Two – Masculinity and Men)

Part One first, please read for context

(https://oldmanwolferants.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/the-fragile-man-part-one/)

Following on from yesterday, let us now divulge into the topic of masculinity and its effects on men, is it truly a fragile thing? Or are these men harder than we give credit for? #masculinitysofragile argues that they are not. The said hashtag is a social media campaign to point out how men who pride themselves on being bastions of blokedom, the toughest in their circles such as it were, react far too extremely to accusations of being anything less than a god in the flesh. Men who can perhaps take a blow to the gut can’t take a blow to the ego, angrily snapping at people who reject their advances, buy them a misgendered product (This is women’s soap! Where’s my Ultra Max Men’s Only Caffeine Body Wash?!) or have to justify wearing satchels and hair buns by calling them more macho names like Man Bag and Man Bun. Of course, it lead to an escalating inferno of internet flame wars, evidence of the frailty of the male culture being posted left, right and centre and MRA sorts responding with their own campaign #nohymennodiamond, to shame women who aren’t virgins… because that helped prove their dominance apparently…

So is masculinity fragile? Seems like the first question to address. Well, the answer there isn’t as simple as either side of this argument makes out, obviously once you trend something on Twitter, the original point is diluted and worn thin by people who grasp a concept but not the core ideals. You see, this could just be my opinion here but there is a difference between internal masculinity and societal masculinity, the difference between a culture of ‘REAL MEN’ and the expectations set upon those who are born into the rat-race of achieving arbitrary standards of manliness. Have I lost some of you? Let me go over my point in more length and detail to help everyone understand where I’m coming from.

Man-bags, coffee scented shampoo, man-sized tissues, these are prime examples of businesses exploiting a weakness in the market, hitting a demographic that steers clear of their product because of an image reason. Men, in the sense of the masculine conformist, don’t want to use tissues or scented candles or mascara because of a fear of being seen as ‘weak’ or outside the gender norm. If you run a business and you sell something, you find a way to sell it to every group possible? You make biscuits? Gluten-free, low-fat, biscuits with nuts, biscuits guaranteed nut-free, chocolate, dark chocolate, ginger – you try enough things out, soon enough there’s a biscuit for everyone. Men aren’t buying perfume? That’s half the population you’re missing there, better invent some manly fucking perfume, cue your Old Spice and Hugo Boss scents. More than anything else, these ‘Man’ products are revamped normal products made to appeal to a different audience. Of course, I’m not calling you all stupid, you have realised this, the frailty of masculinity is in needing these differences to feel secure in purchasing the product, even though the change is minor. Blue bag, pink bag, same function. My point here is that this side of masculinity is stupidly laughable yes but no true harms come of it, unless the customer is so insecure in themselves they can’t buy anything that is not branded as manly.

I remember the first time I encountered a man comfortable doing something ‘unmanly’, in that a friend of mine at the time turned up wearing a pink shirt. I was confused, give me a break I was ten at the time, all my shirts were either Adidas/Puma stuff or had pictures of Pokemon on. Anyway, my friend said it was a white shirt but red sock in the wash deal, now it was a pink one but it was still has favourite shirt so he wore it. Granted, he got a few laughs but he didn’t let it get under his skin, he felt fine, he knew the joke would wear off the more often he was seen wearing this shirt without looking disgraced or downtrodden for doing so. Sure enough, that happened, heck I saw more pink shirts after a while. Thinking further back, I can think of times a younger me tried to step outside masculine norms – I watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch, my favourite anime was Cardcaptors, I played the part of female characters in my imaginary games sometimes and not as damsels, though sometimes as that, no, heck I played characters that were just me if I was a girl, drawings of which I continued to produce up until age 16. Jenny Wolfe, no joke, a female identity I conjured for myself. Of course, I kept it on the downlow, I doubt many could say they ever heard the name Jenny Wolfe, even fewer have seen pictures. Gender identity and finding security in the spectrum is a process of experimentation and discovery that can last a lifetime, it takes a lot to know where you fit and be comfortable there, it also takes courage to keep searching when the world makes a freak show out of you for trying.

Masculinity is the possession of qualities typically associated with being a man – handsomeness, resourcefulness, ambition, bravado, charisma – ideals men are told to strive for, both explicitly and implicitly. The gender binary standards are horseshit of course, there is a pressure to pursue a certain lifestyle pinned on us from as soon as we are born. Men that vary from these traits are laughed, be it for effeminacy, subservience (especially to a woman, i.e ‘being whipped’) or lacking in strength or knowledge. However, there is a certain sort of poison that comes with striving for masculinity, a deep self-loathing that drives feelings of inadequacy and insecurity into the hearts of those made to chase down that path. I’m the eldest son of a very ‘manly’ man – genius level IQ, can fix your motorbike as easily as he can tie his laces, former bodybuilder, martial arts master – every macho standard going, he hit the passing grade and then one-upped it, because he damn well could. I had the brains, I had my own pure raw strength, never lost a fist fight growing up and with role models like my father and the warriors in my books and games and films, all I wanted to be was the absolute best. The smartest, the strongest, the fastest, the meanest, standards I had to achieve to be liked by people, to be worth something? My Dad would tell me it was okay if I needed to cry or ask for help or talk to someone about my problems but that wasn’t what I saw, that wasn’t what life taught me growing up. My Dad was invincible, so were the warriors, I never saw my peers cry and get respect for it, nobody ever admitted they saw counsellors to me – as far as I was concerned, the world was a stage for a perpetual contest of power.

So what happened from there? Rage. Lots of it. People didn’t like the know-it-all punch-happy callous prick I was in school, I was the best by the technical definition, sure, I could beat my classmates in exams, in battles of wit, in physical contest, but I wasn’t respected, I was hated. I was devastated, here I was, masculinity incarnate but I was not the most popular guy in school, no girls dated me, no guys invited me to hang out, everyone avoided me. Masculinity is a weapon of the patriarchy that teaches boys a damaging philosophy that the world is out to get them, any tears are a weakness to be exploited so be the top dog or die trying. I had my interests, my nerdy hobbies, my insecurities – that’s what was exploited by those I beat. I proved I was ‘macho’ but it didn’t fix the fact I was a complete social dork, that I talked to myself, that I cried when people rejected my affections – that could be exploited and it is world-changing to men in that position. Masculinity is so fragile because when there is a hole in that stone shield, it can all fall down and the man inside feels naked and exposed. The bar is always set higher and we’re all scared we aren’t reaching it, not just men but women too, there’s a bar set for them by the patriarchy, standards of beauty and behaviour.

Men are hurt when they are told their masculinity is fragile and shown that they justify their behaviours by adding manly buzzwords to girly things because they pride themselves on it so much, it is what they were told they had to build for themselves as soon as they could talk. Be good at sports, be into action films, know lots about cars, don’t get beat up, don’t admit to having feelings, basically be an ironclad titan in all walks of life, be the man other men want to be, be the alpha male. If you’re made aware you’re not that alpha male, or further still, nobody is and nobody should be, it’s an entire philosophy challenged. Insecurities are exposed and they respond the only way they know how, the ‘manly’ way – fierce ‘banter’ or savage violence. Of course, the truth is masculinity, as a set code boys must live by, is a terrible thing we need to move past, men need to know it’s okay to like wearing make-up, using cinnamon scent candles as air-fresheners, being the weakest player on the team, nobody has a ‘worth’ to prove and the world is not a competition. I really hope we as a society can realise this, that being you is okay because for many of us, myself included, we spent so long thinking it wasn’t that we lash out at people who offend even an aspect of who we are, whatever that might entail.

The Shout

Heads up, sensitive topic/moral grey area being covered here on the topic of abortion, not a subject I’ve given much coverage before but with the rise of the #shoutyourabortion hashtag, it’s hard to bury my head in the sand on this one. Needless to say, this isn’t going to be pleasantries over tea and crumpets so if this is a subject that makes you uneasy then this is your opportunity to go read one of my articles about comic books or science fiction shows or for you to say sod it altogether and carry on scrolling through your News Feed on Facebook to find a cute picture to comment on. Ok, weeded out all the sensitive sorts then? No easy way of doing this, let’s just go for it.

So last Saturday, whilst I was busy watching Doctor Who, Lindy West was busy starting a Twitter trend to stand in solidarity with the Planned Parenthood clinics of the US, who are apparently due some budget cuts courtesy of the House of Representatives. “Shout Your Abortion” works on the premise that these changes are approved because we as a society still cling to this notion that abortions are sinful deeds we must commit in secrecy if at all and a potential mother giving up a potential child is somehow morally defunct. Therefore, to fight back against this oppression, women are being encouraged to divulge in the details of their abortion and come to terms with what they did, not so they can repent but so they can realise they shouldn’t have to, it was their choice to make and they chose what was right for them. Obviously, you can tell from my wording where I stand, I’m with the shouters here – there shouldn’t be laws on what you can and can’t do to your own body, it’s perfectly legal to pierce every inch of yourself and tattoo swastikas all over what remains, why should it be illegal to carry out a medical procedure to terminate a ball of cells in your womb?

“Pro-life” and “Pro-choice” are terms that are thrown around a lot, the former coming across as ironic when they defend a potential life over an existing one, which is akin to pushing people over on the street so they don’t get hit by a car whilst having a blind eye to the kid who isn’t looking before he crosses. Anyway, point here is more about the Planned Parenthood clinic, who have defended themselves by saying that only a small percentage of what they do is actually related to aborting children and that they’re not some murder mill but a place of learning for young potential parents that happen to offer the morally questionable possibility of abortion. I’m not happy that this is how they defend themselves and evidently, I’m not alone in that unease, why they should have to stick up for their line of work by saying “But we don’t even do it that often” is atrocious and I’ll explain why.

Make your clinic a murder mill for unborn children if you must, put big signs up and everything because abortions are important, crucially important. You might say “Oh but they’re knocked up teen sluts who didn’t use protection, serves em right hurhurhur!” but you’d be dead wrong and even if you were, how does that serve them right? They fucked up their life so give them MORE LIFE to be responsible for?! What? You don’t give an arsonist matches! A CHILD is not a punishment for questionable choices in life, a child should be a planned decision and the next step in a relationship, not some sort of karmic rain. Abortions are vital, abortions are what allow a victim to not have to carry the child of their assailant, abortions can save a life that can’t endure the suffering they’d go through in childbirth, abortions are what stops girls from savaging themselves with wire hangers to desperately hide their pregnancy. You need to leave that choice open to people, if it is a choice that will save their goddamn lives, you offer them that choice, to withhold it is to allow them to die!

The shame surrounding abortion is the idea that pregnancy is a woman’s fault, like it were a conscious decision but then America does genuinely have politicians who think the womb has anti-rape hormones, sperm blockers, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, mustard dispenser, Siri voice search etc. A dangerous lack of sufficient sexual education has led to unnecessary finger-pointing, fused with traditions and outdated ideals, this means women who don’t want to go through childbirth are seen as demonic sperm-receptacles. I wonder if the fact we don’t just tell our kids where babies come from means there’s a mysticism and magic surrounding childbirth that is as dangerous as it is lovely. Sure, it’s nice when a child is born and you hold it and d’awwwwwwwwwwww but it also means people put it on a pedestal so when you become pregnant, people expect a child of you and if you willingly terminate that child, they hold you with the same regard as someone who swipes candy on Halloween and burns it or smashes Christmas gifts with a giant hammer, taking that mysticism ans destroying it for them. Heaven forbid your body be about you, the moment a woman is pregnant she suddenly becomes lesser, all attention being on that growing bump in her belly, even to the point of them prioritising it over her. Well on behalf of women, let me get my hammer…

Pregnancy is a process of nature, it is about as magical and awe-inspiring as taking a dump. I mean no harshness, I’m not saying if you’re pregnant and happy about it your child is worthless but stop referring to it as a miracle, a miracle is an act of God and we know that’s not what pregnancy is (Or at least we should know that by now). A sperm fertilises an egg, or two, the egg divides and cells multiply and so on and so on until a baby arrives. Abortion is a means by which to step in before that egg resembles a baby and just stop that process. There is no ‘death’, no ‘soul’ is harmed, no ‘miracle’ undone, you are literally just destroying an egg cell, you destroy cells all the time when you scratch an itch or pull a hair out. Comparing pregnancy to miracles adds a layer of religious fanaticism to it that is dangerous to consider when this should be a process of science by now, one we can track WITH SCIENCE and stop WITH SCIENCE if it is so required. Abortion is the only medical procedure we seem to actually say “No, you know what, this isn’t right, maybe we shouldn’t do this, maybe let those cells live?” about, you wouldn’t spare a second thought for the spread of cancer but pregnancy? We want to protect something that doesn’t even have a face yet over someone who has had dreams, memories, lovers, failures and potential yet untapped. I’ll tell you something, I will save someone who is alive over someone who might be alive one day.

Oh, another thing, this whole “The cure to cancer is in the mind of an aborted baby” argument? Horseshit. You think that’s how progress works? Only one person can have an idea ever and if that person doesn’t invent what they were ‘born’ to invent we just do without? You think we’d never have electricity without Franklin? Never have the Internet without Berners-Lee or computers without Babbage? No, if it is ever going to be invented, it will be invented someday by someone, it’s not like we’re only without holodecks because the prodigal holodeck child isn’t alive yet, someone has had the idea and people are working on it, multiple people. If Benjamin Franklin hadn’t discovered electricity, someone else would have, it might have been a while longer but it’s not like God said “Damnit Ben, you had one job on Earth, what happened?”
“My mother was pro-choice you see..”
“Oh those fucking liberals, ruining my schemes. Ah well, guess humanity will never have electricity. Shame, Netflix was going to be a big deal…”
The ‘babies’ aren’t heaven-sent prodigies, they can’t scream or cry or protest, mainly because they don’t have lungs or brains and also because they wouldn’t know what was going even if they did. How do you think an abortion works? A flamethrower up the foof?

Shout those abortions ladies, shout them without fear or shame because there is nothing wrong in saving your own life or realising that you cannot provide for another. I would rather children not be born than be born into poverty, you want to protest they should let these ‘children’ live? Well you better pay their expenses then! What’s that? Oh you won’t? Didn’t think so. Truth is, if we have the ability to do this for people, let that choice fall to the people who have to live with the consequences and don’t put bills or laws or cuts in place that take that choice away from them because as we’ve seen from third-world countries, the necessity isn’t taken away with the facility, people will attempt to do these things at home and they will do it wrong. Please, please, if you are “Pro-Life”, save the lives that have lives to lose! Women, keep fighting for your right to own your own body, let it be known I’ll fight too!