Offensive Friends

I don’t consider myself a very sociable person, and this thought once again popped into my head last Saturday, as I was sitting on the pavement outside the train station with a few friends from class and hoping that the world would suddenly freeze and I could get up and go back home before I had to spend four more hours with them. Things eventually got better once we visited the comic shop and played a Japanese role-playing board game, but before then my friends had already said a great number of things that made me cringe.

I won’t get into everything they said or this would turn into a very long ranting post (ableist language, rape jokes, using the N word everywhere, insulting my lunch, etc.), so instead I just chose five things to talk about. I think I should tell you that all of these friends love manga and we went to the area in Barcelona which specializes in comics and Japan related merchandise, so be prepared for the amount of references to otaku lifestyle. Enjoy five of these stories!

1. Soon a drawing competition is coming up, and the winning picture will be the poster announcing an anime convention near Barcelona. Which means the picture will be printed many times, hung up around the streets and be in the background of every event related to the convention. They might even make clothing pins if it’s popular. Having this in mind, I wanted to draw something that would show awareness of some kind of minority or un-privileged group. Pear and I sat down on a bench and discussed what we’d be drawing, and when I said that I was thinking of having a main character with a disability, she said that it wasn’t very nice of me for drawing something like that because, if it won, kids would see it. She thought that having a disability was something that children shouldn’t see, that it would destroy their innocence. As I said the other day in a different post, there is nothing wrong with having a disability, and I don’t see why kids shouldn’t know that it’s ok and nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing bad, mean or shameful in drawing somebody with a disability. There’s nothing to hide. Because of this I am definitely going to be drawing somebody with a disability for the poster.

2. At the comic shop they told me that the euro note I used to pay wasn’t real, and therefore they wouldn’t accept it. Don’t fear though, I had another one which I paid with. I put the fake one back into my pocket and intended to bring it home and show it to my mother (she loves looking at fake money ever since she came back from China). Later on I went with Pear to buy a drink in a small nearby dairy, and as we left the dairy with our drinks she told me off for not paying with the fake euro note. The dairy belonged to a Moroccan guy and therefore, according to Pear, “he probably had lots of fake money”. Apart from the amount of racism in this stereotype and in what Pear wanted to do, I would never use false money. I was devastated when I found out that my money wasn’t useful and that somebody had tricked me when giving it to me, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do the same thing to somebody else. Also, if the police happened to find a Moroccan with fake money, they would probably make a big deal out of it, search his contacts, question him or something, but if I had a fake euro note, they would do nothing at all. White privilege. And I wouldn’t want to be the one who put him through all of that.

3. A friend of mine stole a 75 euro Link figurine from a shop. I was not there to stop him, by the way. When I was nine I used to go to what would be a Catalan version of the boy scouts or the patch girl scouts (with no distinctions between genders). One time we went out camping next to some gorges and there happened to be three boxes of costumes and old clothes for us to dress up in. I became very fond of a pair of pants that were there and wore them during the whole week we were out. The last day I secretly put them in my bag and took them home with me. If I had asked to keep the pants they would’ve probably said yes. But I didn’t ask for them. Nobody had ever cared about those pants and they wouldn’t even notice that they were missing. I hardly realised that I was doing anything bad, let alone that I was stealing something, but the point is that I did steal them. When I was thirteen I understood that what I had done was theft and from that point on every time I looked at those pants I was consumed by guilt. I still have them and still feel ashamed of what I did.

The difference between my friend and me was that I was nine and he’s twenty-two. I didn’t know I was doing something bad and he had planned to steal the figurine before he got to the shop. I felt guilty and he probably doesn’t. What I stole was free and useless and what he took was expensive and needed. He was caught and I wasn’t. I’m not trying to justify what I did; there is no way to justify it, but I don’t think it can be compared to what he did. I hope he feels sorry for what he did and never does anything like that again.

4. Pear thought it would be appropriate to say that she had never ever seen or met a good-looking boy who liked manga (what about me?), which means she was pretty much saying every boy in our drawing class and every male at the anime conventions we go to every year aren’t worthy of anyone’s aesthetic attraction. Which I think is slightly exaggerated, needless to say a bit rude. Throughout the day I could hear her counting the boys she remembered looked good.

5. “Emo’s aren’t cool and they all cut themselves” said Pear. First of all, the coolness factor usually has more to do with popularity and the type of hobbies one has, and less to do with their style. Though a dark attitude is usually considered cool, so that would invalidate the first half of the sentence. Second, an emo is somebody who is emotional (hence the word), usually on the depressed side of emotional, but the word also comes from a genre of music called emo –similar to screamo and heavy metal if I remember correctly- which many emos listen to. The way they dress is also important (type “emo boy” or “emo girl” on Google if you’re not familiar with their style). That is basically all the word emo claims, and it states nothing in relation to self harm. So no, not all emos cut themselves, and even if they did, it’s not something to look down upon or laugh at. Instead we should be helping them.

I found this statement offensive because I had an emo faze when I was more or less thirteen or fourteen. I would’ve actually been considered scene instead of emo, because even though I took example of the way of dressing, I didn’t listen to emo music or feel too emotional. But a couple of years after my scene/emo faze, I had the depressed feelings, contemplated suicide and felt like destroying the whole world. Nowadays I have a way of dressing which has many influences from that faze of my life, a slightly critical and negative view towards the world, and friends that helped me during the harder times. It was the emo community that helped me get over my depressed days, and not the supposedly happy and positive people. People who have/had bad experiences but still manage to help others, people who are unsatisfied with the world and who do things to change it, people who are strong enough to stick around even though they are miserable; that is someone I would consider to be coolest of them all.

I sometimes wonder whether I’m just too sensitive or if I’m doing right in getting angry about these things. Nobody else seemed to be bothered at all.

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Blogging Against Disablism (Four Months Late)

(I accidently ruined the layout of my blog, and can’t seem to find the theme I used to use, so I’m afraid it’ll have to stay like this.)

I once read a book about a girl in a wheelchair. A different Life by Lois Keith, if you’re interested. After finishing the book I felt like I knew everything there possibly is to know about people with disabilities, as if the character of that book acted as a spokesperson of her whole community, and every other person in a wheelchair felt exactly like she did.

But really the only thing I learnt was to not stare if somebody who has a disability passed by. I learnt to treat them as people, and not as people in wheelchairs. I learnt to not think of them as incapable human beings who can do nothing but rely constantly on others as they go through life (though there are some people who have disabilities that leave them no other option than to rely on others, I learnt that not *every* person with disabilities has to live with somebody who will look after them). I learnt to talk to them just like I’d talk to anybody else. I learnt to not be afraid of them.

But I shouldn’t have needed to learn any of that. I should’ve already known it; I should’ve taken for granted that a person would want to be treated just like I treat any other person, and not have me looking at them nervously before walking off and looking for something else to do that would make me less stressed. I thought that this way of acting was valid because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable around them. And I was sure that they wouldn’t mind too much since everyone else pretty much did the same.

Why is it that I’m so blinded by my able-bodied privilege that I couldn’t even see that my behaviour could hurt other people? Why is it that I had to wait until I read a book written from the perspective of a person with a disability to be able to realise and change this behaviour? What if I hadn’t read that book? Would I still walk around keeping a distance from blind people, people in wheelchairs or people without arms? Would I still be scared to talk to them in case I offended them, not realising that I’d be offending them more by avoiding them? What about everyone else who hasn’t read a book?

We are taught that bodies with any kind of disability are inferior to bodies that don’t have any, instead of acknowledging simply that they are different kinds of bodies; neither inferior nor superior. And this is a big problem. Actually, thinking that any kind of body is inferior to another is what causes many of the problems nowadays in (first-world) society. People need to fight to make sure everybody knows that women aren’t inferior to men, that black people aren’t inferior to white people, that trans people aren’t inferior to cisgender people, that people who are skinnier or fatter than society’s image of an ideal body are not ugly (always keeping in mind that anorexia/bulimia and overweight are problems that should be addressed).

I want to see all of this represented everywhere. I don’t want people running away from these problems, saying that they aren’t important enough or ignoring them completely. I don’t want to have to wait until people read a book about a girl in a wheelchair to start treating people with disabilities properly.

I haven’t ever talked about this kind of topic before, but yesterday I found out that every May bloggers unite to talk against disablism, ableism and disability discrimination. I’ll be looking forward to May!

Being made a victim

binI haven’t been around much these past weeks, since I started a web design course. You’d think summer is a good time to do everything you don’t have time to do during the year, so I’m up and down all day long. Anyway, the classes are just about finished, so I’ll be back soon enough. To make it up for you I’ve written a long post today.

A few weeks ago my class was asked whether bullying in our school is a thing. Everyone immediately shook their heads; bullying? What were they talking about? Bullying doesn’t take place here! The worst part is that they actually believed these statements.

I’ve never talked about my bullying experiences before but, the truth is, I have been bullied my whole life. Well, compared to what you see in movies and the mental image I have of American schools, I can assure you nothing that bad has ever happened. I’m not sure how the education system works where you live, so I’ll assign age groups to what I’ll call school (until 12), high school (12-16), college (16-18) and University (18+).

I finished school as an innocent little kid. Too innocent, really. I still had swordfights with the other kids during playtime, ran around and climbed… whatever I could climb, which wasn’t much. Playgrounds in Catalonia could be better. I had screaming competitions with my friends and made chewing gum balls which I later froze. All of this was taken away from me when I came face to face with the high school kids.

I was very nervous during my first day of high school. I could nearly call it a success if only I hadn’t had a boy tell me I was very ugly when I was about to go home with an air of relief. The second day I was introduced to a new set of words I must use in order to be “cool”, all of which were swearwords and ruder versions of saying vagina. I had been educated to not swear, so you could say I earned my first badge from the victim team fairly soon. I didn’t realize then, but the first week of high school is when everyone is sorted out into those who laugh and those who will be laughed at. The teens from second year walked around making this classification. They did so with a great number of methods; judging your reaction when they told you to high-five them, when they called your name from the other side of the school, when they bumped into you, how you presented yourself, what your name was… I think I failed all these tests. But what wiped out my competition to the title of Loser was defending those who were being laughed at.

I remember my friends and I were talking to a girl who suddenly found herself up against a wall, surrounded by mean people insulting her, about to cry. I thought she was nice, so I stood next to her with my head high during the fifteen minutes their laughs lasted, only to realise that my friends had quietly left and were making signals to me, telling me to get out of there before they turned on me. They couldn’t possibly think I was just going to leave her there could they?

The first two years were hell. I was called any name you could think of: lesbian, ugly, marimacho (Spanish version of tomboy, but with negative connotations), giraffe (I’m tall), fake goth (I was trying to be emo, actually), ugly, bulimic/anorexic, pimple-face…

People came up to me and asked whether I wanted a sex change, if I could understand Spanish or if I was scared that I wouldn’t ever find somebody who loved me. They told me that I had to look prettier. I had people pour water onto my food. More than once they wrote my name on the blackboard and changed a few letters to make a rude word joke out of it. They threw basketballs and pinecones to my head if it occurred to me to go outside during lunchtime. Scratched on a table in any classroom you could find my name alongside another girl’s name with a heart around them. I couldn’t walk down the hall without being laughed at. I was locked in the bathroom by a boy who broke off the handle. They threw eggs to me from a window when I thought I was finally out of the danger zone. I am thankful I wasn’t assigned male at birth or they would’ve beaten me up.

The third year was ok enough if you don’t count the kid that pretended to fall in love with me and then humiliated me in front of everyone. It was my femme year after all. I had adopted the girliest position I have ever had and tied my hair back in a ponytail, drawing the attention of many boys (and girl(s), actually). I even dressed in female assigned clothes. They decided to leave me alone for a while.

The fourth and last year of high school started out rough and then progressed smoothly until I discovered the difference between sex and gender. Then I started fighting my inner battles.

After that I can’t really say much bullying happened to me. Apart from a bunch of fourteen year olds that thought it would be fun to criticise my gender expression but, you know, they were fourteen. I was over that.

My older sister was studying mediation as an extracurricular, so she helped me through the toughest situations. My father and younger sister were oblivious so, unfortunately, I can’t really say I could depend much on them during those times. They thought it would pass soon enough and that it wasn’t too serious (of course they didn’t know the details).

My mother told me a few things every now and then to try and keep me strong, mostly that they were jealous of me. The thing is they weren’t laughing at me because they were jealous. They were laughing at me because I was uncool, because they hated me, because making fun of me would increase their position on the social ladder. I was everything somebody wasn’t supposed to be, not at that age at least.

I thought once or twice about suicide, but I mostly just wished the bus would explode or something so that it would look like an accident. Sorry to the bus driver. You might be wondering what got me through all of this then. It was manga. Mostly Naruto. I’m not embarrassed to say that comics made me stronger, despite the laughs that that might provoke. I sometimes still picture one of my favourite ninjas standing back up after being defeated in a battle and telling the opposition that he will never give up, that this is the path he has to follow. For good and for bad, I’ve learnt a great amount of morals and attitudes from comics, which have shaped me into the person I am today.

Next year I’ll be starting University. I hope it’s not high school all over again.

I guess the moral of the story is “stay strong, ignore people and they’ll probably get over it”. Sometimes. At least I got something out of all of it; insults bounce right off me and I know a lot about manga.

 

To Use or Not To Use

A while back I said that I wouldn’t be using the word trans with an asterisk because some people consider it offensive, but I’ve recently been looking into it some more and wanted to make a short post about it.

In programming languages, an asterisk is usually added at the end of words when using search engines in order to find other words that have something in common. So if you were to search for trans* and add an asterisk, the results would include other terms like transportation, transmisogynist, transform or transplant. It was therefore created to be inclusive. This is the only argument I found in favour to using the asterisk, really.

Some consider it offensive because it’s as if those who aren’t “trans enough” can’t be included under the umbrella term unless the asterisk is used, meaning non-binary genders wouldn’t officially be trans (I don’t recognize this as a valid reason since some people who are genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, cross-dressers, etc., don’t identify as trans, even though others with the same identities do. Those who don’t wouldn’t be included under the word trans but would under the word trans*). Another reason for not using it is because some say it is more often used by those who were FAAB, therefore excludes trans women, which I can’t really agree with either.

However, Natalie Reed makes some different good points against the asterisk over at this place and Jack is also against it for other reasons.

Now you can decide yourselves whether to use or not. I won’t.

Pride alongside fear of judgement

Spain is much more accepting of homosexuality if we compare it to North America. I have never, I repeat, never, physically come across anybody who had a problem with my lesbianism. And I am open about it, it’s not a secret. Of course you have the teenagers saying “that’s so gay” as a synonym to boring, ninnyhammer or uncool, as well as “accidental” homophobic comments, but us gays don’t usually have to hide much or fear we will be attacked because of our sexuality. It is a good idea to stay away from the older people who go to church though, just in case. This is Catalonia; I’m guessing the situation in Madrid and other places in Spain are different, by what I hear.

The thing is, in a few days a childhood friend of my sisters and me is coming over to visit us as he passes through a city nearby. We grew up in the same town in New Zealand, where everybody knew each other and talked happily. My parents sent us to Sunday school so we would learn a bit about religion, but I soon started questioning the existence of God when I realised I wasn’t forced to believe in one. This friend’s parents, however, were (are) very religious and I fear that I mustn’t say anything queer-related just in case the beliefs have passed onto his generation. Christians aren’t exactly known for their tolerance towards people like me.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem; I keep my mouth shut and have him leave with the opinion that I am nothing but a funny intelligent beautiful nice girl –though I could improve on my modesty, it seems-. However, next week is Pride Barcelona and I intend to be on my best queer behaviour as it comes. Talking about Pride, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, since it will be my first time assisting. I don’t even have a flag or a banner, for that matter. I hope they sell them around there somewhere.

I’ll have to test the waters before saying anything. Maybe his brother is also queer; us middle kids seem to be the ones who always bend societies norms (don’t trust me on this, it has not yet been proven that the second borns are the most likely “gay of the family”).

But there is another problem; I am not ashamed of who I am or who I’ve become. But I also love the past me that my friend knew. If he knows what I am now, if he finds out that I am ace, that I like girls and that I am genderqueer, the image of what I was before will be erased from his memory. And I don’t want that. I guess I have some serious issues when it comes down to letting go of the past, mainly because my life when I was seven is so radically different as it is now. I love both and want both, but now I have to choose one. Strangely enough, I have the same hairstyle as back then. Maybe that can help a bit.

So we go back down to the “not trans enough”

I haven’t mentioned this before, but ever since I have began to interact with “real life queer people”, I have become friends with people like P, who I have already talked about, P’s girlfriend and L. L and I have become good friends because we are the same age and we are going through the same circumstances and situations at school and in life in general. The other day, though, L told me that P isn’t trans because he doesn’t want to be a boy, referring to the fact that he is non-binary, has no preference for pronouns and hasn’t undergone surgery.

P was telling me a while ago how he had bought a binder and how he was planning to have top surgery as soon as he could pay for it and convince his parents. I also know that he has been through a lot of difficult experiences because of his identity, so I didn’t really like L’s comment. But it isn’t the first time I hear people saying that non-binary people aren’t really trans, or completely ignoring or invalidating their existence.

I am also non-binary, but I can tell you that I very well am trans. I have somewhat found a way to feel comfortable with my body and have accepted the way society may perceive me and my gender instead of letting myself succumb to dysphoria. Who says I am not trans because I sometimes use the girls’ toilets? Shall I tell them about how hard it is to not be able to listen to Korean music regardless of how much I love it because of the amount of jealousy I feel towards the singers? Do I have to mention that just the other day I was insulted while walking down my very own school because of my gender expression? Do I have to give explanations as to why I like wearing pink, why I giggle sometimes or how I cry when watching “Bridge to Terabithia” for the fifth time even though I identify as a boy? Do they not understand that I don’t want to undergo surgery, that I love my body, that my fear of injections is much bigger than my fear of being misgendered by a stranger? Did they know that I say I’m comfortable with my body but still spend half an hour in front of the mirror deciding which clothes to wear because I don’t want my breasts to show or my hips to be noticed?

Does the way how somebody feels uncomfortable about themselves determine their transliness? Of course it doesn’t. Neither does the way they love their bodies or how they act or the way they express their gender. Surgery, hormones, clothes and experiences are completely irrelevant when it comes to determine a person’s identity. P is trans, I am trans and so is L. And so is anyone else who says they are. We are all just different types of trans.

Thank you, beautiful

I usually only post on weekends, but yesterday I didn’t really write much. Plus, today I am very angry. My day was going fine until 1:30, then one thing after another kept coming up as if trying purposely to make me bothered. It started off with a comment from a girl in my class. She was reading the newspaper and then suddenly started laughing. She had found a headline called “Ku Klux Klan paid a black transvestite for sexual service”. Then everyone started laughing. I don’t understand why in the world the newspaper would think it is appropriate or even necessary to say that Ku Klux Klan was having sex when he was arrested, let alone that it was with a transvestite person –though I have my doubts whether or not the person was really transvestite or preferred some other term that better represents their identity and gender. The only reason to say that the person he was having sex with was black is because Ku Klux Klan worked for a racist organization, otherwise that information would also be absolutely irrelevant.
Right after this, somebody shouted “¡Hija de p***!” outside our classroom window (literally means daughter of prostitute in Spanish). It’s actually the most used insult here in Spain, but after having my gender discrimination sensitivity mode turned on, the swearword really got to me. It is incredibly sexist. First of all, the fact that you are calling somebody else’s mother a prostitute is not nice to the mother, but also offensive to the prostitute. Prostitution is not a thing to laugh about. Women who work in this business usually have no other option but to do so and I can bet that they probably do not enjoy selling their bodies to older men who are most likely to have sexual desires that they could not put into action with women who they don’t pay. If one of these women happens to get pregnant, they will have to abort (though they can’t anymore thanks to Gallardón’s new abortion law) or keep the baby and, most likely, bring it up on her own. This means she cannot continue to work in the sex industry while she is pregnant –or after, really- and has to somehow find another job. If there were other jobs available to her she wouldn’t have become a prostitute in the first place. Now, calling somebody a son/daughter of a prostitute is underestimating and ignoring the incredible work that the mother must have gone through to bring up a child in that situation.
Hey, but my class wasn’t over yet. My history of art teacher goes around asking everyone whether they knew the answer to her question, and of course nobody did (how are we supposed to know which artist made a statue she barely mentioned two months ago?). When my turn to say I didn’t know came up, she said “you have no idea, do you, beautiful?”. This comment offended me. Mainly because I am not a girl and I dislike being so noticeably gendered like this, but also because she would have never said “you have no idea, do you, handsome?” if I was male. It’s as if it was ok to state that my looks are acceptable even though I am clueless and ignorant about art history, because it is important for girls to be pretty. It doesn’t matter if a boy isn’t good looking because he is expected to have the brains, while it is preferred that girls have the looks instead of the capability of thinking for themselves. Not only that, but it also seems fine if somebody comments my appearance for no apparent reason whatsoever; I’ve had bus-drivers, cinema ticket sellers, shop keepers, even old men I help up the stairs say something about how nice I look when saying thank you or goodbye. These comments are not welcome and always make me feel insecure and inferior to the other person; clearly my appearance is the most important factor about me. Couldn’t the old man who I helped have said “thank you, you strong girl”?
I finally left the class and thought I could go back home and crawl into a corner of my room and hate the world, but then I saw a shirt in a shop as I was walking down the school slope that had the phrase “Who needs Google? My wife knows everything” on it. This actually links to what I said before; girls have the looks, boys have the brains (non-binary genders are totally ignored, of course). When a girl gets “too smart”, smarter than her male companion, that is, she will be named “know-it-all”, “impertinent” or even “bossy”. You probably wouldn’t find a shirt that said the inverse.
My sister then convinced me to go shopping with her because she needed to buy summer clothes, which was a big mistake, but I might get into the male and female sections in shops another day.
What are your thoughts about these aspects of gender discrimination (or other aspects)? I will say goodbye now because I have an exam tomorrow about a book written by the only Catalan female author you might ever hear of, Mercè Rodoreda.

Look at Mercè's lovely laugh!

Look at Mercè’s lovely laugh!