buzzzzzz (changes in the scenery)

My home environment, though right now haunted by the final paper, due as late as May 16th, I have not yet turned in, is overwhelmingly more conducive to all forms of critical and creative thought than MHC was, if only because it acts as a change of scenery. I sit right now at my desk, a lemon mint leaf candle burning, the embroidery my partner made me at eye level, the Shabbos candles on my sill and waiting to be lit at nightfall. I have been reading and writing at an incredibly high rate lately, somewhat in quantity but really, mostly, in quality. I’m finally giving myself a more-extended break on thesis writing and focusing again on reading and note-taking, allowing myself the space to percolate instead of rushing everything immediately to the page. Some of my current reads for thesis-ing are Love Poem to Androgyny and Unbound. I’m re-reading Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

Embroidery of a peaceful, resting sheep. Its body is made of tightly-crocheted white yarn, left an outline around its head and feet and filled in on its midsection. Its outlined ears are pink inside and its eyes, nose, mouth, and hooves are filled in with black yarn, which stands out against the brown background stretched across its hoop.
The sheep in question.

The first title, in particular, is really challenging the way I’ve been unthinking the continuity among transbutch narratives: I almost feel a twinge of fear when I relate too hard to a particular narrative, poem or set of poems, or even academic study, because my thesis argument rests on the idea that much narrative and experiential continuity has been manufactured, rather than having always existed inherently (and diagnosably) in transbutch bodyminds. At the same time, the challenge is joyful and the narrative, while tenderizing my heart like a steak*, is necessary to look at in relation to the transbutch “canon”, so to speak, with Stone Butch Blues being the quintessential referent and carrier of transbutch experience.

So, I’ll continue to let that thought buzz around my head, as the bugs buzz outside my window, whose blinds can now be widened to let in the light. Yet it would seem (I attempt to smoothly change subjects) like the buzzing within my head and around the house has replaced the buzzing of my hair, which has not happened since spring break. I am conflicted about my hair at the moment. I have had it short for most of my life –– shoulder-length or above from ages zero to seven and then ten until now. Since age thirteen my hair has not reached the nape of my neck. Although “then-closeted transbutch cuts off hair as a rejection of femininity” is a convenient narrative, it’s not mine. It wasn’t femininity I didn’t want (although many elements of it I could have and still could (have) do(ne) without) but a rejection of the hair itself.

My hair in its natural state is thick, frizzy, and grows outward rather than downward; has broken combs and elastics and hearts. I had no use for a hair routine that, if done correctly, could easily take up two or more hours of my day on its own. This may not seem like much to those whose passion is haircare or even personal/beauty care, but for reference, I opened my eyes at 6:45 this morning for my doctor’s appointment and was on the road at 7:06. My preferred “useless” activities are writing blog posts and bad poetry and snippets of long and short stories I’ll someday have the time to write, not makeup, skincare, or hair, and thus I am both ignorant to and slightly in awe of the complexity of each.

Back to the hair: my clearest memories of the hair are 1) being a young child and crying in the tub after interminable periods of shampooing and deep conditioning performed by my mother 2) getting both “natural” keratin and later chemical treatments to artificially straighten it 3) being that I lacked the time and money for constant treatments, pulling the mess into a ratty ponytail that looked as if it was pulled from the Halloween store on November 1st and 4) a highly unfortunate period in early middle school in which I coated in product and then sprayed-til-solid, treating every strand as a state in one nation (that is, helmet), under gel, indivisible, etc. etc.

By this time I’ve improved my humor significantly about the hair fiasco that was my childhood, and it is for that reason that I fear I’m staving off my (“inevitable”) next buzz in the misplaced hopes of regrowing my hair, just long enough to make a nice man-bun, which I envision with hearts in my eyes as a tight knot of hair, held high or low depending on my preference, about the size of a cotton ball.

My partner has had their hair much like this before and I find it charming! But, it might not even be physically impossible for my hair to do. I was about to qualify that statement by saying “my hair has become straighter over the years”** but I have no recent memories of having enough hair to cast a judgement on, and the few times my hair has begun to grow, it has grown (as always) curlily, puffily, upward, outward. My hair at the moment sticks up like a reddish-blonde field of grass. How do you capture that in a bun?

Who knows. And who knows, even, if I’ll end up more dysphoric if and when the hair does get longer? I can’t not concede that part of what is fueling this experiment is a phrase I heard somewhere, that “masculine” (am I?) and “androgynous” TGNC people can sometimes “pass” (as what?) better with a mix of such things as a flat chest, low(er than what?) voice, and some element like long hair to confuse or counterbalance it. Given my present dissatisfaction with going unseen, and when seen, mis(s)interpellated, I’m more than willing to experiment with the assumptions people do and do not make about me as my hair lengthens. Then again, next time I write this, I might have been buzz-cut once more. Maybe the ideas in my head will have gotten onto paper. Maybe things will have happened despite present-me’s best efforts.

When I come back for my next post, I think I’ll talk about marking two years on (and off and on and off) testosterone, as in about two weeks, it’ll be the anniversary, and I’m making some changes and generally thinking more deeply about my relationship with testosterone, what I desire in/of it, and what it’s doing not specifically to my body but to my “individual” intra-actions (is it really individual when you amount to a “real”-“synthetic” hormone cyborg thing?).

* ~vegan attempts a meat metaphor, hopes it works out~

** insert tired, overused “but i’m not straight” joke here

diagnostic self-determination (#redinstead)

Less than three weeks remain until I’m off returning to Connecticut, back to my own bed; for the first time, I have no true exams, only papers and projects, and I am beyond thrilled. For now, though, I am stuck in the midst of projects for each of my classes, but working particularly (and, some would argue, unnecessarily) hard at my independent study, which you can get a sense of here. (When not writing furiously, I can be found vigorously discussing its contents with my friends, such as Madeline, who wanted a shout-out in this post).

I’m debating as to where I might like to publish it, when, and how –– it’s quite long and still growing, and I would love to publish it as a standalone work, but see immense value, too, in sharing parts of it on a variety of platforms. I will need to do more looking, but seriously, this is a pretty exciting problem to have –– I never thought I would have written so many words on such a subject, but then I remember I’ve written a life on it, and continue to, so feel a little less surprised. As always, if you have any tips, let me know! I recently received a message from a total stranger and writer who happened to read one of my personal essays and, at the risk of sounding intolerably corny, it meant the world to me.

On the subject of stories and lives, given that it’s autism acceptance month, I wanted to talk a bit about being autistic, and the immense feelings of pain and hesitancy, interspersed among great waves of joy and relief, that I experience/d upon receiving my adult autism diagnosis in 2017, when I had been an adult for all of a month. I had, at the time, just taken on a battalion of new medico-psychiatric professionals, primarily in pursuit of a mastectomy, which I received about year of bureaucratic whiplash later.

At the time I received a formal diagnosis, I had been toying with autism, in regard to myself, for almost a decade. I was actually just speaking to my mother about this today: as was the case for a reasonable number of autistics, one of my first special interests –– which I view as interchangeable with and analogous to those “hyperfixations” identified in people with ADHD, as I also view ADHD and autism as cousins (few “non-academic” disability resources better than Mel Baggs’s blog exist, please take a look) if not as dual reflective surfaces of the same non-normative mirror, whose differentiation says more about the diagnoser than the diagnosee –– was autism itself.

I took quizzes religiously: “empathy tests,” “Asperger’s” tests (this was the DSM-IV era) and more. I read symptom lists on my bukly Toshiba, the first laptop I ever owned. I scored high on the online tests, which admittedly tells me little when it comes to whether autism is relevant to my life. What did tell me a great deal, however, was my immediate and intense attachment to and identification with online autistic communities and the niche experiences described therein. I have known, formally, that I am (marked as)  neurodivergent since before I knew there existed such a term. Diagnoses have always been a part of my life, as have therapy in varying forms and for varying reasons. But throughout all of this I felt such an immense blockage between myself and autism.

Soon it would become very clear to me that this blockage was by design, not my own but of the diagnostic culture surrounding all disability but especially “childhood” neurodivergences like autism and ADHD. From medico-psychiatry, there is the impulse to retain control over who is and is not marked as afflicted by these so-called epidemics; by extension, this allows them and other bureaucratic structures to maintain control over legal, educational, etc. accessibility concerns: only “real autistics,” for example, would need to be granted appropriate accommodations within this system. From the perspective of those autistic people who themselves reify professional diagnosis as the only path to self-knowledge, there exists the ridiculous belief that, somehow, diagnosis was invented and bequeathed upon them for their benefit, rather than for the convenience and edification of medico-psychiatry and other institutions.

And let’s not forget the discourses of epidemic themselves, which foreclose the possibility of self-diagnosis, too. How could one choose to self-diagnose –– that is, decide that this or that form of neurodivergence, as an identity, community, and experience, is one worthy of choosing to affiliate with –– if that thing they are self-diagnosing with is also framed as an evil disease, even an outside entity that is framed by eugenic [current link, does not explicitly list cure as goal] (alt) [alt. from late 2017, lists cure as goal] organizations like Autism Speaks to “possess” formerly-neurotypical children?

Autism Speaks –– A$ –– understands autism as a target to be seen, as in, captured. It is not an identity or affiliation, but a problem to be solved. By this logic, if autism remains unseen (and A$ regards autism as a single, immutable, biological reality that leads to an inherently-worse-off life, although it is unclear whether the notion that the child’s life will be “worse” with it was considered, as A$ directs the overwhelming majority of its concern to the neurotypical parents of autistic children) it must not be autism, because all autism will inevitably, and early-in-life, reveal itself within the “afflicted” child (this, we see, is analogous to what I’ll call “trans-inevitability discourse”* .

If “the professionals” can no longer be trusted to identify each and every autistic child in their early youth, intervene early so as to stem the epidemic, and ultimately mold the autistic child (via abusive therapies which can, in hours per week, occupy as much time as a full-time job) into a quasinormative adult, this would render autism and other neurodivergencies “unfixable” and even –– gasp! –– made up. If there are autisms that go undetected, autisms that can be tools of affiliation rather than diagnoses for treatment, this fundamentally undermines the use of autism as a medico-psychiatric tool.

[Autism] gave me the heuristic to use to sum up my identity, limitations, and possibilities in one word, without containing its spilling edges. This is the power of language, and is the power of diagnostic self-determination. It is needed in the way all other forms of self-determination and self-naming are, if not more so.

Formal diagnosis granted me long-longed-for permission to move through autistic spaces and interact with autism-geared content without fear or shame, even if it’s hard to call myself autistic, point blank. It gave me the heuristic to use to sum up my identity, limitations, and possibilities in one word, without containing its spilling edges. This is the power of language, and is the power of diagnostic self-determination. It is needed in the way all other forms of self-determination and self-naming are, if not more so.

Still, the effects of wider attitudes toward self-diagnosis are felt by everyone. Today I still feel inadequate as an autistic person, and am sometimes still told by outsiders that I am not one. This is what happens when, among other things, you have been coercively girled from childhood onward, when your specific traits go less recognized than those of people who are coercively boyed. This is what happens when you are marked, if anything, as “high-functioning,” meaning “possessing the capacity for individual, capitalistic productivity as evidenced by academic performance and later career performance”. It’s hard for me to say, without qualifiers, that I’m autistic, even though I know the label itself, like all others, was an invention whose recipients make and unmake its multiple meanings every day. If I am autistic, this is what autism is.

*The belief that trans people are born, remain, and will fulfill a certain sort of normative-transness that generally looks like sexgender normativity and heterosexuality. This also involves a specific array of raced and classed attributes, including the money to purchase normatively-gendered clothing, shoes and makeup, if applicable, and access surgeries and hormone treatments that are viewed as necessary and constituent of correctly-trans bodies)

In transit

As I write this, I sit in the Philadelphia airport, one that’s become very familiar to me over the last couple years –– I fly through here almost every time I go to Virginia to visit my partner, Ell. Despite initially having ––

–– I just saw a guy drop his whole container of noodles all over this gate’s carpet. We briefly exchanged a heartbroken look. Now I’m back. ––

–– bad associations with this airport (as a child I got stuck here with my grandparents for something like 8 or 9 hours on our way back from Disney World, due to a storm; we almost had to sleep here that night; I feel I can now, finally, appreciate it. The airport, that is, not the 9 hour layover.

The only upside to that layover was the fact that it was at that airport’s bookstore that I first got Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which I read faithfully for several volumes and which certainly helped keep me busy at the time. I must have been about eight and the first book was new and being advertised everywhere. I had never read a “graphic novel” before and didn’t end up reading any others for a long time after. I got back into them after being required to read Persepolis as a sophomore in high school, which I think is a fairly common experience*. On this flight from Norfolk to Philadelphia, I also read a graphic novel, called Kiss Number 8. I won it as an ARC from Goodreads (I know, people actually win those giveaways! I was shocked too). It was good; from a publisher whose works I generally like, and –– though it had problems –– was a really honest exploration of intergenerational grappling with LGBTQ identity. Some elements of the family-drama aspect were resolved in frustrating ways, or left unresolved and unaddressed by the end of the story, but it was a fast and enjoyable read.

A midafternoon image of the sea. Trees are on the horizon, white clouds are in the sky. The sunlight reflects off of the water, before which is a walked-on beach.
Warmth! It exists!

As for the trip itself: I had a wonderful time, as always, in Virginia. We visited Ell’s friends, spent some time in the mountains, went to the shore and to a gorgeous park whose center was a lake. The lake, Ell said, reminded them of a “New England summer camp,” and they were right, even though they’d only ever been to New England twice before (both times to visit me, and not to camp!). The weather was outstanding. Yesterday as we walked on the trail, I felt my back getting sweaty! I wore shorts and a t-shirt. It was about 75º at the hottest part of the day. It was a shock to my body after such a bitter winter, but much appreciated. I’m not looking forward to putting my winter coat back on once I’m back in CT/MA.

Additionally, while in the mountains, I finally broke through something of a creative (poetic?) block. It’s something about sitting on the mossy rocks in the middle of a foaming river that really lets my mind stop clenching around every word I think, trying to force something pretty out. I’ve been sitting and ruminating and forcing myself to write too much, but I feel terrible when I don’t –– there’s really no good way to resolve this. Of course, I’ve been opening my poems, tweaking them, and closing them all along; I’ve been writing at least a tiny bit of my longer project every day. I’ve been giving myself the opportunity to add something important to my creative body. But it really took a period of time away from school, away from the same old seat in the same old dining hall, for something I was at least semi-satisfied with to come out of my head. I can’t promise myself I’ll actually put this reflection to use in my life moving forward, but I’m glad I’m recording it here.

IMG_4886Speaking of projects, this past week has had me feeling weird about not writing much for my independent study on transbutchness. But just today, I had an interesting experience; airports are a really fascinating (and terrifying!) study in interpellation; for me, relating to gender specifically.

I had just said goodbye to Ell and was about to walk through the body scanner at security, when the agent operating the machine asked me “what [I] wanted to be scanned as.” I had to ask for clarification. She cleared her throat and said, somewhat uncomfortably, “there’s a pink option and a blue option.” Fascinating that, throughout that entire interaction, no one even said the words, “gender”, “sex”, “male”, “female”, “man”, “woman”, etc! Sexgender, when ambiguous, is something too taboo to name but too ubiquitous not to reference endlessly in institutional spaces. All that time, what they really wanted to know was whether I had a penis or a vagina. Which they would have then needed to emphasize as the question, “male or female?” and then further with “man or woman?” and then, because they took it a step further, “the pink option or the blue option?”

Because I happen to prefer the color blue and because I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of girling me against my will, I said, “Um…I’ll go blue.” She had not expected that answer. I had not expected it from my mouth. She signaled to the male agent to pat my arms down after my body was scanned initially. He put up a polite fight, looking at me anxiously, trying to flag down the female agent, the machine’s operator, who was now onto the next person in line. She said, of me, “she said blue.” The man said to me, “Ma’am???” as if he was hoping for me to deny it. I just stood there, waiting for him to pat my arms and let me put my shoes back on. Finally, with a look of resignation, he beckoned me to him and said, “I’m going to pat down your arms, alright?” I said, “Sure.” He did, and after less than ten seconds, I was out. But *writer voice* I had been out long before then, hadn’t I?

With that, I’m going to wrap up this post and get it on the blog before my laptop’s battery gets too low. Thanks for reading even after my (somewhat, I guess?) prolonged absence. 44 minutes until boarding begins!

*Either with that or with Maus, the latter of which I did not have to read for school but have still read and much appreciate.


Anyone I’ve spoken to for an extended period of time this semester probably knows that this semester, I’m engaged in an independent study. Too complicated (or perhaps I’m just too long-winded!) for a quick and comprehensive elevator pitch, I usually say that I’m thinking about “butch (and/or) trans (and/or) masculine relationality, historically and today.” But that doesn’t quite describe the truth of what I’ve been thinking about since just before break, and what I’m spending so many hours on today. Truthfully, I’m trying to figure out (and live inside the discomfort of) the politics of cross-genre personhood, specifically in regard to transbutchness.

Because this project includes a strong autobio/ethnographic component, I will be focusing on those assigned (“diagnosed”, really) female at birth who cross sexgendered expectations at some point in their respective lives. Some of these people are marked as / self-define as butches, butch women, dykes, bulldykes, stone butches, passing women, passing butches, genderqueer people, nonbinary women, studs, nonbinary studs, nonbinary people, bois, nonbinary lesbians, nonbinary butches, genderqueer butches, nonbinary transmasculine people, genderfluid lesbians, genderless lesbians, transmasculine people, trans men, third gender people, genderqueer trans men….and I could go on! The rub is that words are inherently incapable of capturing the true complexity of our respective experiences, and also attempt (in vain!) to tie our respective experiences to static definitions. The same logics that declare “they” not a singular pronoun are weaponized here: namely, in the advancement of the myth that language (and identity) is inflexibly static, that the dictionary is some sort of divine ordinance instead of an object created and re-created by humans.

Within this independent study, I feel I must also address the thorny, often-abused topics of detransition, or the “cessation” of transition (which are difficult to quantify, too). With the rise in accessibility of medical transition for many people, including children, I would expect no less than a fetishisitic gravitation toward the idea of transition regret on the part of transphobes, particularly transmisogynists. After all, what better way to argue against the bodily autonomy of a marginalized group than to weaponize the existence of those who used their autonomy to make a choice they don’t like?

I am not going to bother linking all the fearmongering articles here, they’re not worth the extra clicks. What I am going to mention here (and in whatever comes out of this study) are the curious ways in which most people do and do not analyze (de)/transition. Instead of understanding detransition as further evidence of the mutability of gender and its dependence on social and sexual relationships, they instead use detransition as an excuse to double down on their essentialist project: to reinscribe the assumption that being “truly trans” is rare and must be gatekept for fear of enabling a supposedly-irresponsible choice. If “true transness” is as rare as these people want it to be, then violent systems of gender normativity can remain in place, and those few exceptions to it may be confined to reproducing gender stereotypes even as they transition. Those whose genders are liminal are painted as indecisive, juvenile, and fundamentally incomplete.*

Butches are then wholesale grouped into the “woman” category, and transness and butchness/womanhood are understood as mutually exclusive. Thus, butch transition is often blocked, and when allowed, the potential womanhood of butches is erased. Transmasculine people are expected to completely defect from womanhood without regard to what could be years or decades of involvement with communities of LGBTQ+ women; if they do not defect to the proper degree, they will risk not receiving a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, thus blocking insurance coverage for transition as well as social approval of their identity. This is what it means to be medically illegible.

“I don’t feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body, I just feel trapped.”

– Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues.**

If we open up the space between cis and trans –– if such a space exists outside the eyes of the medico-legal systems that govern the true-trans person –– what possibilities can we find? And, can we find a way to steal gender non-conformity back from this current push to medicalization?

Right now, a large swath of the people against the medicalization of TGNC life are simply transphobes who believe that the medicalization of transness is part of some massive plot to “take away the butches” from lesbian communities. They demand to know where all the “masculine women” are going, with the proliferation of identities outside womanhood. Some even see dysphoria as an experience so tied up in what it means to live as a woman under patriarchy, that the question of transition would seem to be moot: if women live in bodies that are constantly under attack, how is one to suggest medical alteration as a solution?

Truthfully, I don’t think this “debate” is all that worth having, because all arguments rely on the assumption that there is some “deep-down” truth of our identities that existed prior to social relations. Unlike many of the poststructuralists, I’m not saying there must be no essence, or that our selves must be solely the result of discourses. I’m saying that either way, we’re never going to know the difference, and that efforts to find a deep-down biological reason for identity and behavior is virtually always in service of those in power. 

Arguing for a relational understanding of (trans)gender, one that is not fixed and inborn, is something trans people aren’t always safe enough to do. I recognize that. In her groundbreaking 2007 book Whipping Girl, Julia Serrano made arguments for “subconscious sex” that may or may not be in line with one’s body as a reason for transness. Needless to say, I was repelled by this argument upon reading it today, but not only was it written over a decade ago (a thousand “trans studies years”) but it was also written subsequent to Serrano’s agonizing journey through the medical industrial complex. If arguments for the existence of “brain sex” are what some trans people need to tell their families in order to ensure their own safety, the choice to do so seems clear. Similarly, if Serrano needed to publish this idea in 2007, prior to the wholesale entrance of trans discourse (or even gay discourse!) into the mainstream, in the hopes of cis readers treating her with some semblance of respect, I understand.

All this said, it is now 2019, and because of the way I live my life, my own existence relies on a more complex view of gender/sexuality. For me, they are inherently connected. I have asked myself many times, “why am I not a man?” after all, one of the most vile arguments that transphobic women make is that trans men are transitioning as some bid for “male privilege,” as though they are “selling out.” Wouldn’t it be easier for me to “just be a man”? I mean, I’ve transitioned medically in multiple ways, and am interested in women. If the idea of butch flight is real, if people exposed to gender-multiplicity today are going to abandon butchness and quite literally sell out “to the man,” shouldn’t I?

To be perfectly honest, I’m repelled at the idea of myself being a man. It’s not so much a repulsion at being called “he,” although that is certainly not the correct pronoun for me at the moment. It’s not even a repulsion at being “read” as a man, because, though uncomfortable, it is psychologically preferable than being read as a woman. It is that the idea of being (acting as?) a man is completely incongruous with the way I live my life. It simply isn’t the way I want to enter any of my relationships, especially romantic ones. Had I had different life experiences, perhaps I would feel differently –– I don’t feel like there is something inherent in my subconscious that gives me the particular gender feelings I have. I just have a litany of gender options in front of me and have the experience and information to make the decision(s) that is/are best for me, and right now, being genderless and a butch lesbian is right for me: I am not interested in loving women as a man and womanhood is incompatible with my psychosocial reality. Maybe this will change. Maybe it will never change.

Overall, I want to fight the notion that, when identities mutate, replace each other, are taken on and rejected by different people, this renders some “right” and “progressive” or “wrong” and “defunct”. This goes for societal differences (butchness is not somehow less progressive than transness, of course, and it’s not like the two are mutually exclusive anyway). Similarly, butch isn’t “trans man lite” and someone who was once a butch and was later a man, or vice versa, is not necessarily growing closer and closer to their “real” identity but rather making valuable, courageous, informed decisions based on their constantly changing lives and relationships.

So, if you’re wondering what I’m doing in this independent study….hopefully that clarifies things somewhat!

*Bearing obvious, purposeful resemblance to biphobic rhetorics.

**Stone Butch Blues  is free for download at the link.

re-addressing re(-)solutions

I. More meditations on the “abroad” & acclimations to the non-norm.

I had been looking forward to marking this blog’s first birthday, which actually occurred almost a week ago now. I thought I would go back to that first post and find several of the resolutions I thought I remembered posting, and perhaps make this post an update on how well I accomplished, or did not accomplish, the goals I set for myself a year ago. Imagine my surprise as I read that first post and found no talk of resolutions, apart from my vague, fear-filled hopes that my time abroad would not be so painful to me that I would regret it. After searching through several pages of this blog, I found the post I thought I had remembered posting in January. I had posted it in May.

This is telling –– in many ways, if feels as though 2018 was two different years: the “year” I was in Amsterdam and the “year” I was home. It’s hard to believe that a third of my 2018 occurred overseas, that it’s been less than a year since I went abroad. My mind (like many others’) has a habit of making situations temporarily “natural” and “bearable,” even if I look back afterward and think that I could not have conceptualized myself going through it. The situations I’m referring to aren’t even “bad” ones, per se: when I sit at my desk now, I struggle to imagine waking up, walking through a city whose signs were all in Dutch to the office where I had classes, making coffee for our student cohort, etc.

While I was there, this process became so natural that half the time, I would wake up, dress, walk to the building, and be mid-way through the coffee ritual before my mind awoke to what I was doing. I grew accustomed to listening to morning news podcasts (such as The Daily, which releases at 6:00am EST) at lunchtime. I got used to my professors’ accents, their speaking to each other in a language of which I only understood snippets. This became normal. In many ways, I could not imagine being home. Then, within a day of being back home, I could not imagine being “there”. As it turned out, my doing well (however that’s measured!) abroad didn’t have as much to do with some verbal commitment to it, it had more to do with my ability to homeify / normalize a once-different environment.

With that in mind, I understand my unconscious reasoning for saying little about resolutions in the traditional sense. My time abroad necessarily took place “outside” normal life, not only in a physical way (being outside the borders of the territory that calls me its citizen) but also in a temporal and emotional way: my communication with loved ones back home lessened, I was literally “in a different time” than the life I had had; and, at least at first, it was necessary to abandon some things I took for granted (staying up late, more than a few pages of pleasure-reading per night) because I was using every spoon and more to lull my brain into the homeifying process. I needed to maintain a perfect sense of control, as if I were lowering myself into a hot pool, refusing the pull of gravity into its steaming waters, instead letting myself inch-by-inch. Acclimation. That’s the word.

II. (Get[ting] through this year) if it kills me.

This year is different from the last, as I first suggested in that post from May. I made it just five days before returning home, with the understanding that now I was moving back into a body of water whose temperature precisely matched my body’s; water I could not feel. Here I laid out my “resolutions”, not just for the year but for the next several years, or even for my whole life. I will list them now:

  • publish or be in the process of publishing a small, complete “something” (chapbook, short novel, etc.) by the time I graduate from Mount Holyoke.
  • not speak erroneously, for the sake of speaking, in class
    • & acclimate to the “waters” of silence.
  • resist the forces that compel me to try to commodify everything I wrote.

How did I do?

  • I have made immense progress on my primary, large writing project. I have done this by employing a technique that never seems to fail me when it comes to writing, studying, reading something long or dense, etc: doing a little bit every day. Even a sentence, even a page; sometimes far more. The complete book (or completed reading challenge, or whatever else) will become in time if one works every day. There is a sense of comfort in this.
    • Will it be “out” by the time I graduate? I hope so, but I think a more important goal here is that I remain relentless and do my best writing and revising work every single day, no matter what.
  • This resolution was a curious one, because I’ve simultaneously fulfilled it and not fulfilled it. I have trained myself to sit in silence when I have nothing valuable to say; to attempt to read the room and figure out when I have spoken too much and to give seconds of pause for others to gather their own thoughts.* But in no small part due to a class I took last semester, on writing & re-remembering (re-visioning**) painful memories as a mode of confrontation and reclamation, I’ve revealed more of myself to people on a personal level. I can’t say I’m happy with how the latter turned out, although this process of revealing-self was helpful in the quality of work I produced in the class. All that said, I strongly prefer being private and self-contained with the most personal element of my life.
  • If anything, this last one has gotten worse, and will likely continue to get worse as I publish more things. However, I’ve also begun saving the poems, stories, etc. that will likely never see the light of day, and accept that as a way in which I process the things I experience, and not just a means to getting more recognition as a “writer.” This is the “resolution” I fulfilled the least in the last several months, and the one that most needs to roll over into this year.

This May, after it’s truly been a whole year since I made my last resolutions post, I may (ha) post a similar one in which I outline my 2019 resolutions. It’s a bit of a strange time to post them, but given that the yoga equipment Target sets out for the first two weeks of the year promptly returns to its back-of-store shelves after two weeks, I take comfort in the fact that no one, not even our corporate overlords, take January resolutions seriously.

*and many arguments (including those made by Margaret Price in her book Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life) suggest that the classroom structure of rapid question-and-answer produces a participatory environment wherein students of very specific abilities thrive, while creating a positive feedback loop in which disabled students cannot participate, therefore cannot ask questions when needed, therefore fall behind on material, therefore cannot participate…etc. I tend to agree)

** I owe this idea to Adrienne Rich, as she discusses in When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision (1972) [x] in particular here:

“Re-vision –– the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old
text from a new critical direction-is for us more than a chapter in cultural history:
it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are
drenched we cannot know ourselves.”

on the idea of a “good christmas”

Every “holiday” season (that is, Christmas season) I feel overloaded by anxious posts from other psychosocially disabled — neurodivergent — etc. people. These posts all attend to a deep fear of “ruining Christmas.” I’ve felt for years now that the (I consciously avoid using the word “pathological” here) fixation on Christmas as a moment of terror and misery both for disabled people and for our family members is a subject worthy of investigation.

The “Christmas” holiday has, over the course of the twentieth and now twenty-first century, been transformed from a mere religious holiday to an ideological orientation, an artists’ statement one might stamp on their own lifestyle. On a surface level, one might see this in the idea of a “war on Christmas” and particularly in those Starbucks cups. But the most dangerous expressions of this Christmas-ideology appear benign. I’m drawn to using the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story” as an example. The useful thing about analyzing this movie is that its plot and imagery are completely divorced from any pretense of Christian religion. It presents a wholly-commodified Christmas that does not match “american christian” culture but rather, specifically, the culturally christian middle-class whiteness which worshipped the buying and selling of commodities first and foremost. The life glorified in the film is socially and culturally contained, only addressing the existence of a world outside the town in which it’s set once. These two moments are reflective of a contradiction of u.s. capitalism: an inexhaustible desire to consume the other, while at the same time having to shun the other in order to maintain its fragile myth of exceptionalism. Ralphie and his family meet the outside through trips to the mall and mail-order prizes, as well as via “Santa” in the Christmas climax of the film. Conversely, Ralphie and his family also encounter the “other” in the infamously racist last scene of the film, in which they dine at a Chinese restaurant and are serenaded by a group of cringily caricatured, heavily-accented Chinese waitstaff. The presumable punchline of the scene is that the food Ralphie and his family are served and the way the waitstaff speak are both unpalatable in that they disrupt the white, midwest-american christmas narrative. The juxtaposition between the “all-american Christmas” and the “(perpetually-) foreign” waitstaff is meant to be the film’s closing gag (and reader, I did gag).

Now that I’ve established the role Christmas has in stabilizing normative american selfhood, let’s consider disability, and specifically, for this blog post, psychosocial disability / neurodivergence. Any narratives of non-normativity ruining Christmas must begin by presupposing a perfect Christmas. Presumably, this perfection can be found in the advertisements (on T.V., online, even still in catalogs –– consider the ubiquitous well-stocking’d, lit hearth which can be found in advertisements from L.L. Bean*, Land’s End, and other stores). Popular perfect-Christmas images circulate, at this point, from October through the beginning of January. Whether we truly believe that Christmas perfection can be achieved, we are still inculcated by a series of images that reify the idea of what Christmas should be. Again, Christmas turns from a holiday to an ideology –– if we merely purchase the correct products, engage in the correct “pro-social” and expected behaviors, listen to the correct songs, and engage in the discourses of “the holiday season,” we may too partake in the cult, as it were, of Christmas.

This can explain both why the anxiety of fellow psychosocially disabled / neurodivergent people reaches its peak at Christmastime, and why the impossible standards set by ableism reach their most bizarre at the same time. It’s not as though those two can be separated from each other –– to paraphrase Sartre, it is the abled bodymind that creates the disabled bodymind. Of course disability would be magnified at Christmas: this is a time in which norms of behavior and relation have been so heavily culturally codified that any “transgression” becomes more glaring than it would be otherwise. Psychosocial disability / neurodivergence can be understood as a failure or refusal to comply with the societal norms that keep the world predictable, safe, and “ordered.” One might also call this timeless sense of order “tradition,” and in doing so we can see its connections to Christmas as a social practice. Disability is suddenly thrown into stark relief against the thick outline of Christmas expectation.

I found an example of such a phenomenon in this 2015 blog post, titled “Don’t Let ADHD (or Autism)** Ruin Your Holiday.” The author, Penny Williams, recounts what could have been a disastrous Christmas, in which her son, who has ADHD, gets up early and begins to open his Christmas presents before his parents are there to watch. No explanation is given as to why, but she concludes that this early-gift-opening “would surely ruin Christmas.” She responds to her son’s enthusiasm with anger and disappointment. It appears that she’s personally offended that her son did not wait to open the gifts in front of she and her husband.

Curiously, her son’s forthcoming response to his mother’s misery is cited as a possible pull-quote. When Williams exclaims: “‘What are you doing!? You know you were not supposed to open anything without getting mommy and daddy! I am so very disappointed in you! What did we say would happen if you opened presents without us?”” her son responds, as would be expected, in shame. He responds by acknowledging what I assume was a pre-stated threat that she would take away his gifts if he opened them early, and then shouts “‘I am so stupid.’” The text of the suggested pull-quote is placed in brackets below. It suggests what one should tweet if linking the post:

[Tweet: "I am so stupid!"he shouted. A cautionary tale of letting #ADHD ruin Christmas."]

Though I’m not going to address it deeply here, we can see in the way Williams parceled out her pain in an easily-tweetable way an observance of a time-honored Christmas tradition: the commodification of family life. What I would like to point out is the way in which she frames her son’s outburst, and the way she “unframes” her own, so as to encourage the reader not to understand her’s as an “outburst” at all. From the start, Williams gives the audience the required cues to frame all of her son’s behavior in a pathologizable manner. “Namely,” she does this with the nickname she gives him for anonymity: “Ricochet.” Presumably, this is meant to convey the way in which he, imbued with an “excess” (compared to what?) of energy, appears to ricochet off the walls. Although it’s certainly proper form for her to anonymize the child whose disability she is exploiting for followers and possibly money (although I’d rather her not exploit him at all) this anonymization could just as easily have been done with a simple pseudonym or initial, or with the initialism I see used often among mothers who write about their families: “DS” (for “dear son,” the use of “D” is typically mirrored in regard to all other family members). And yet she chooses Ricochet. Why? I argue that this word and its chaotic connotation primes the reader to view her son in the way she wants him to be seen: a disruptive force in her family’s life***.

This brings us to the second curious aspect of the quotation. She describes her son’s (to keep with the clinicalizing theme) negative self-talk as a result of “#ADHD ruin[ing] Christmas”. Yet, it was not “the ADHD” (as though ADHD is an isolable entity that can be simply exorcised via “good parenting”!) that caused her son shame. It was her. The diagnosis becomes an easy label on which society -– in this case, parents –– can project their own faults; by ignoring the ultimately social nature of disability, they believe they can turn to biology to explain their child’s negative responses to their parenting decisions. So it was not her outburst (which would not be called an outburst, but rather a reprimand) that ruined Christmas, it was “the ADHD” she believes is located in some cubby inside her son, waiting to be removed in order to save the holiday.

Christmas is never what we want it to be, not precisely. If we are raised to believe the advertisement-Christmas and the Hallmark-Christmas are ideal, then naturally, our imperfect reality will never live up to it. Because of the prevalence of these idealized images, though, our “real” Christmas becomes “less real” than the idealized images we’re fed. What we categorize as disability, or Otherhood writ large, does not expose some fault within the person marked as such, but instead exposes the wide, gaping cracks in normative society that we refuse to see. In “A Christmas Story,” the snow-white Midwestern Christmas, in which not one person of color is shown, is diverted from its course in the Chinese restaurant. To compensate for the simmering fear of “invasion” white people experience at the sight of Asian people in america, this disruption of the idealized Christmas is played for laughs, and the fear is neutralized by cheap, racist attempts at humor.

In Williams’s post, on the other hand, the disruption is injected with decidedly negative emotion: Christmas has been “ruined” by a metaphorical “invader,”  the ADHD. Again, we have an invader –– that is, the real world –– disrupting an imaginary normscape****. The disabled bodymind is, to the (temporarily-) abled bodymind, a constant reminder that the seemingly-untainted lifestyle of the normal subject exists only in the shadow of disabling rupture. Normal life is the unsuspecting beach town which has yet to realize a cartoon-tsunami wave hovers above it, waiting to drop.

*Note the use of “heirloom” as a product-descriptor, too.

**Ironically, although this calls attention to the many similarities between autism and AD(H)D, its conclusion is not to question the validity of such discrete and charged diagnostic terms for what amounts to similar lived experiences, but instead to expand the number of “disability parents” that this article is meant to inform.

***Alternatively, some “disability parents” see “the autism” or “the AD(H)D” as an independent force that infects the brain of their child, that ideally should be exorcised for the good of the family.

**** Full disclosure: I just made this word up.

pushcart nominations and more!

With only two weeks left of the semester, it feels like the perfect time to write an update.

Within the last couple weeks, I received news that I had been nominated two different times for the Pushcart Prize, once by Gimmick Press and once by Sweet Tree Review. I’m so excited to represent small literary magazines/presses in particular. I’m aware, of course, that it’s not a particularly high honor unless one actually makes the shortlist or wins. I’m currently thinking about how to balance feeling good about my nominations with the knowledge that they don’t mean much by themselves in the long run. I’m not yet sure how this balance is to be achieved; despite my nonbinary gender and nonbinary philosophical bent, I’m very much a black-and-white person.

Speaking of growth, I want to briefly sing the praises of another class I’m taking, called Narrative Medicine: How Writing Can Heal. Not only has my writing –– especially my ‘personal essay’ writing –– improved technically since I started the class, but that class also gave me a more concrete toolkit for addressing life experiences I have yet to narrativize for myself. All history is narrative, and, in a sense, fiction; what is “legitimate history” is more a question of whose narrative gains dominance, rather than adherence to an arbitrary standard of objectivity. Objectivity is used all too often to mask what’s really a white supremacist, patriarchal, abled, etc. point of view. It’s used as the only way to advance a highly specific way of perceiving reality as the singular truth. More people are realizing the dangers of such hegemonic perspectives that are wildly discordant with the material lives of subjugated groups of people –– for example, the dismissal of sexual assault survivors’ stories in favor of the perpetrators’.

Narrative Medicine has given me the opportunity to write a final paper on Virginia Woolf’s essay On Being Ill, which I’ve talked incessantly about to many people close to me (because that’s what happens when I discover something I’m into). For anyone who, like me, was taken by Woolf’s biting critique of the medico-psychiatric system and its abuse and neglect toward patients in Mrs. DallowayOn Being Ill is a must-read. My edition has an introduction from Hermione Lee, who shares that Woolf was actually sick in bed while writing the essay. This in and of itself helps prove one of her main theses: that conceiving of The Writer as rational, cerebral, and divorced from the messiness of the body is limiting and inaccurate. I weave my own personal experience into my analysis of the text, which is reflective of the feminist turn in literary analysis which began decades ago. I argue that Woolf did it too –– albeit in the 1920s and 30s –– and her bold discussion of trauma, disability, patriarchy, and hegemonic “rationalism” paved the way for more identifiable feminist criticism.

In other word-news, last week, I also got the opportunity to read a short story aloud at a small open mic at MHC. It was a lot scarier than I thought it would be, as I’m not usually so afraid of speaking in front of people. I had a small identity crisis following that experience: who am I if I can’t even get up and speak confidently in front of an audience the way that I used to? I’m still not sure where the sudden barrage of anxiety that day came from, all I know is that I was shaking so hard as I read that I thought I was going to fall over. I’m still thinking hard about why the sudden change in my public speaking self-confidence occurred. Let me know if you have any insight. Regardless, I’m really glad I did it, as many of my friends and classmates, as well as professors, were there, and they all gave me positive feedback. That always feels good. I’m thankful for having chosen to take creative writing as a class this semester, as that class was the reason I learned about the open mic, and the reason for much of my recent growth as a writer in general.

In the last week-and-a-half before break, it feels like everyone is trying to squeeze in as many events as possible. This is partially also because Hanukkah is happening this week and I’ve been trying to go to the various celebrations our Jewish Student Union has been hosting. Several days ago, on the first night of Hanukkah, I learned to play dreidel, which was great fun! Tonight I hope to listen to some Klezmer music; I’ve loved it since an online friend of mine introduced me to The Klezmatics. I’m looking forward to hopefully listening to some Klezmer live!

Lastly, I’d like to update you regarding the progress I’ve made on my “project” which I’m refusing to call a “novel” (even saying the word “novel” makes me cringe). I’m at a little over 30,000 words / 100-ish pages. I’ve implemented a writing strategy that’s been effective for me before, namely to write at least a little of that project every day, even if it’s only one line. I wrote a novella when I was fifteen and used this strategy to keep up with it, and happily, I think I’m soon going to surpass the length of that work in writing this new, more sophisticated project. Every day, I fear that yesterday’s idea was my last good one, and this whole project is going to go down the drain, but so far, I’ve been able to continue. Scary as it is, I think this constant state of insecurity is also important in that it’s humbling.

I’ll try to post again around my birthday, which is in exactly two weeks. I’ll be 20! If all goes according to plan, I’ll be able to go to Barnes and Noble that day, my favorite activity. Talk to you soon!


ETA: I didn’t have the spoons to attend the Klezmer concert, but did spend some quality time supervising the menorahs until they burnt out and then having dinner with friends.


I awoke this morning to a Facebook notification: a friend had mentioned me in the comments of an article about Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut midterms. It was, as the pros say, “a close one,” and by no means the only such election last night. I almost feel that the anxiety I felt last night was greater than the anxiety I felt in 2016, although I believe this is mostly due to my shock and horror at the presidential election results stopping me from truly feeling anything at all. This time I didn’t feel as though my self had left my body; I was firmly planted in my skin and thus able to feel all the terror that had two years ago been more closed off to me.

Another difference between this election and the last was that I was able to vote in this one. In 2016, despite being functionally no different from my eighteen-year-old peers, I was not permitted to vote due to my age. It’s horrifying to think about how many young people –– not just sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, but true children –– have been and will be impacted by the Trump administration and have no “democratic” way to express their grievances. Voting is by absolutely no means the pinnacle of political action (if anything, it’s a starting point, and even then its ultimate effectiveness is questionable at best) but the fact that the very same kids at risk of immediate death by school shooting, or prolonged death by starvation or lack of health care, have no official voice against such mortal threats is despicable. Not to mention the countless immigrants and refugees barred from having a say in things like, you know, whether or not they’re separated from the infants they’re still breastfeeding.

I’m no believer in the democratic process; u.s. elections are farcical given that neither major party will allow a candidate to enter the political arena to challenge the wider social order; no system that seeks self preservation will enable the population to dismantle it via “playing by the rules.” In fact, we’ve seen that the ruling class actively prefers clearly-illegal actions that preserve white supremacist, imperialist capitalism to legitimate democratic principles.

For a class, I’m examining fascism, and in particular the ways in which capitalist liberal democracy can so easily birth fascism once in crisis. Given that, I feel the need to point out that fascist governments have been and will continue to be democratically elected. I will note that a population subjugated under capitalism and deprived from the fruits of their labor has and will continue to unite based on false ideas of [racial; national] “unity” in order to recover the selfhood they have been forced to sell to their bosses. I will remind you that the “other” is a far more convenient figure to fear than the rich person who looks just like you. I’ll remind you that the violent divisions by race, gender, and nation that underpin the fascist state, whose goal is the eradication of “the other” by total war, were specifically created to delineate types of labor to different groups of people and to stymie groups’ effort to unify against the capitalist class.

Of course, none of this goes away when elections “go our way,” either. We should have been having this conversation if the democrats had won the senate, too; we should have been having this conversation if Hillary or even Bernie had won. With a more friendly-faced administration in power, less people would probably have read that paragraph with seriousness. It appears that the unignorable-even-by-wealthy-whites Trump administration has opened the privilege to more “radical” possibilities, even if those possibilities are permitted to applying for a protest permit, walking around with a sign, and thanking the cops for supervising your ‘protest’ once it’s over. I don’t think this administration was “worth” the pain it causes so many, but if nothing else, I’m glad people are actually responding with some teeth.

At the end of the day, I’ve seen a lot of hot air blown from different news sources I follow. Some of those further to the left, usually more ideologically in line with me, seemed to tend toward the “I’m not voting because democracy is a sham” camp. Some people with similar political views with the former group, such as myself, continue to vote while simultaneously expressing our rage and disillusionment with a system designed to keep the ruling class in power. Others, unfortunately, go in the other direction, and valorize voting in a way entirely disproportionate to its real effects. As usual, I see a great grey in-between. I’m certainly not a “patriot”, nor am I a nihilist.

Now that I’ve voted in a primary and a major election, I feel I can say that I consider voting in elections to be a form of harm-reduction. I consider voting to be a responsibility for those who can, not because we’re going to vote ourselves into some imaginary “perfect america” but rather because what little we can control with the vote, we should, since those who are most impacted are also barred from voting. In the weeks leading up to the elections, I saw a bit of buzz among leftists online about the idea of donating one’s vote to an incarcerated or otherwise disenfranchised person if uncomfortable personally participating in the process. That would mean speaking to a prisoner and asking them how they would vote, and then voting in their stead at the polls. I would really recommend this method in the future to those who “didn’t want to get involved with” voting this time around.

We’ve seen some token improvements, some close saves, and we have breathed signs of relief at a re-won House even while disappointed by other races both local and national. I think I speak for many of us when I say we also breathe a sigh of relief that this election season is over, at least until the (oh, god) presidential election activities start up for 2020, which looms uncomfortably close.

critical disability spongebob (really)

This post was inspired by a riveting conversation I had with Claire Houston about a week ago. I first brought up a “critical disability analysis of Spongebob Squarepants” as a joke, but then quickly realized that one of the wildly popular show’s best episodes –– Tea at the Treedome (S1) –– is perhaps the best conveyance of the social model of disability and solutions to access barriers other than “cure” I have ever seen on childrens’ television.

If you’ve forgotten the plot to this iconic episode, I’d like to direct you to Spongepedia for a full description. The part of this episode I am going to focus on is that which occurs while and after Spongebob meets Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel and proud Texan who is fairly new to Bikini Bottom.

Sandy’s air helmet is a conspicuous reminder of the fact that Bikini Bottom exists under water –– something the show as a whole allows us to forget, as all of its characters can live safely below. Sandy, a native to land, not sea, throws into focus the basic condition of Bikini Bottom life, a condition that other characters have no need to acknowledge. To them, living surrounded by water is as normal as breathing air is to mammals. It is only the existence of people who are unable to breathe underwater without assistive tech (like a helmet) that reminds us that our everyday conditions are based on a limited, exclusionary definition of normalcy.

When encountering difference, our beloved sponge behaves better, I would say, than the average able-bodied (so-to-speak) person (also so-to-speak). He immediately understands that the fact that he’s not sure what to make of Sandy’s equipment is on him, not on Sandy. Although it may have been wiser for him to politely ask what “air” was instead of pretending to know what it was in order to impress the squirrel, young viewers of the show receive an important model for interaction with people who are different from oneself. That is, one of polite curiosity and openness to learning as opposed to studied ignorance.

The implicit “temporary” in Spongebob’s able-bodied status reveals itself once he enters the Treedome, Sandy’s air-filled home*. He is only “able” to move through his watery world as a normal, “healthy” individual when surrounded by water –– something he didn’t even notice before realizing Sandy needed to breathe air. As he slowly dries up, he feels an implicit pressure to “suck up” (he’s a sponge, so the pun is a little bit intended) his pain and fake normalcy. In our world and in Spongebob’s capitalism’s insatiable demands for productivity encourage this behavior both inside and outside of the work environment. Spongebob feels he has no other choice than to pretend to be okay –– even if that means suffering irreparable bodily harm, or even risking death –– as he’s never lived under social conditions in which it’s acceptable to admit to being not okay. This is only further suggested by his unflinching devotion to the Krusty Krabs, his place of employment.**

He is only “able” to move through his watery world as a normal, “healthy” individual when surrounded by water –– something he didn’t even notice before realizing Sandy needed to breathe air.

When Spongebob finally decides he can no longer take a moment without water, he drinks the water from a vase of flowers and calls himself a “quitter” for having done so. Like Spongebob, disabled people, especially those who have become disabled, feel compelled to understand themselves as “quitters” or “not trying hard enough.” Spongebob isn’t simply drinking the water because he isn’t trying hard enough to breathe air, though: he physically cannot, and no amount of effort will make him able to breathe oxygen like Sandy, a squirrel, can. Soon after, when Patrick enters the Treedome (thinking that Sandy’s physical differences from himself and Spongebob have scared Spongebob off) he begins to dry up as well: realizing that it was nothing inherent in Sandy that bothered Spongebob, but instead the fact that Spongebob had been rendered disabled by a change in physical environment as well as social environment (insofar as he was too embarrassed to ask Sandy for water and felt like a failure for drinking from her vase).

The resolution of this brief episode is a brilliant message for child and adult viewers alike: instead of Spongebob, Patrick, and Sandy letting their differences stop them from spending time with each other, they work together to develop more assistive devices to accommodate all of them. Sandy brings Spongebob and Patrick water-filled helmets so that they can safely spend time in the Treedome, without judging either of them for not being able to breathe air. Likewise, Sandy’s use of an oxygen helmet outside the Treedome is completely normalized after this episode, to the extent that, as a child and viewer of the show, I was rarely consciously reminded of how “weird” it was for a squirrel to live underwater.

Ultimately, this episode suggests that neither Sandy’s inability to breathe underwater nor Spongebob’s inability to live outside the water without drying up are problems inherent to their respective bodies. They’re simply evidence of the disabling conditions of inaccessible environments. The lesson provided in that short, eleven-minute episode could be applied to understanding dyslexic kids who use audio over the printed word, or hard-of-hearing kids who use transcripts of things other students listen to. By applying the logics of this episode to everyday situations, the opportunity is created to see differences normal, even essential parts of a happy life.

Furthermore, and most importantly, it provides disabled kids a medium through which to understand disability that neither fixates on its negative aspects nor pushes “treatment” as the only solution. If Spongebob and Sandy can solve access barriers without changing their bodies and minds, so too can disabled people as we move through the real world.

*This is a contested term, but useful for my purposes.

**Although outside the scope of this particular post, the way Spongebob’s religious devotion to his job as a fry cook is played for laughs is an example of the subtle and subversive possibilities that exist on children’s TV.

roundup: classes, books, and even an event

Long time no blog. As it’s been longer-than-usual since I’ve written an update, I’m going to go right into a roundup. The fall is here; I’ve actually shivered several times in the last few days; school is finally becoming as rhythmic as sleeping or breathing, and fall break is (I know!) less than two weeks away.

Although I’m excited to return home for a few days (mostly for the easy access to free food and coffee, as well as the opportunity to do several loads of free laundry) I’m also buzzing with excitement at my thesis/CST focus plans. More on that later, I think, once I iron out more details and increase my confidence in the subject; today’s particular bout of excitement stems from my beginning the book “Black on Both Sides” by C. Riley Snorton. A professor whom I hope will help advise me in my thesis process highly recommended it to me, and now that I’ve recently finished an “academic-style” book, space has opened up in my brain and bookshelf to begin this one. I’m particularly taken with the idea of “double-transness,” or the idea of being TGNC while also embodying a critique of the cis vs. trans “binary” (or the hegemonic idea of proper transition/transness). Have you ever met a term that, when you see or hear it, it fills you up like a pot of soup? That’s how it felt for me, sitting in the dining hall last night. Like steam was coming out of my head, in a good way. It could also have been the vegan split pea soup I had, one of my favorite staples of Superblanch cuisine. I think it was the term, though, that really satisfied me that night.

As for other classes: I adore Political Ecology. I do. It’s nice to be in a class where I have the background knowledge; the advantage: it’s nice to see a class of predominantly STEM majors learning that the humanities and social sciences can be challenging and out of one’s depth. Too often I see a dismissal of the complexity of “soft” (read: feminized) disciplines among physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc. students. At a place like Mount Holyoke, which caters specifically to the needs of students of marginalized genders, we should really know better –– but the misogynistic attitudes that privilege STEM over other fields is everywhere. That’s my roundabout way of saying that understanding Marx and Hegel, and seeing that people with other specialties have something to learn feels really damn good. Especially after an entire childhood of feeling stupid and inferior to others because math has been difficult for me.

Onto Chinese: I think this image really sums up my recent experiences with the course!

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 10.16.51 PM.png
“always pourin one out for the int’l students and other english language learners but especially tonight….just finished a dinky little 2-page paper for my chinese 300 class and it was fucking exhausting (and it wasn’t even complex!). but you all are out here writing 20 pg papers in your second, third, fourth, etc. language. that’s fucking brilliant and i see you.”

Truly, I’m so grateful to be taking Chinese as I’m also working and learning as a SAW mentor. I’ll probably never know what it’s like to be so heavily immersed in and required to meet certain expectations of my second language, both because I’ve never done a language immersion study abroad program, and because of u.s. imperialism and the global domination of English.

As I finish up this blog post, I’m sitting in Superblanch after having taken my skip day for a Walking for Fitness session because of the torrential rain. I hope to update this blog after the Northampton Print & Book Fair, happening this Sunday, which I’m extremely excited to attend. Last year was my first time going, and even though I was alone and had no idea what to expect, I had a wonderful time and picked up, among other things, a copy of jubilat, a screen-printed t-shirt, and a patch that now adorns one of my jackets. This year I anticipate to go with friends and now know enough to be more excited for the event –– perhaps even eyeing it as a possible space to distribute zines of my own one day!