pandora_parrot: (me)
Ouch. That subject is going to earn me some negative attention.

And for that, I'm sorry.

Wow, let me do my best to do damage control on that before I even launch into my essay.

I respect everyone's choices to believe what they want to believe. And I also will not get on anyone's case about what they believe. I also acknowledge that I don't know everything, and there are things I might not know or understand. I also think there's a lot of value in many religious activities, behaviors, social steps, and I don't oppose all aspects of religion.

*breathes* Okay. Let's try to dig into this.

Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (contemplative)
I was reading about a recent controversy involving Richard Dawkins saying describing a point about logic and comparing things. As I read about the conflict, the amount of inability of Dawkins and his detractors to understand one another across the barrier of communication was staggering. Many people completely missed what he was trying to say, and misunderstood him to a considerable degree. Meanwhile, he completely missed why everyone was upset. He condescendingly described it as an "emotional no-go areas where logic dare not show its face."

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pandora_parrot: (me)
What is "right?" What is "wrong?" These are questions that have plagued a lot of people, and are often used as a strong justification for the existence of absolute morality, and as a consequence, absolute knowledge. After a long time of work and study, I've settled on an epistemological system for evaluating truth and morality that works pretty well for me, for now. I'm going to talk about some of my ideas related to this. This may be a bit stream-of-consciousness-y and not necessarily the best organized thoughts. But I wanted to write it down anyways. Usually in preparation for a subsequent essay that is more focused, coherent, and correct.

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pandora_parrot: (Default)
Fascinating article on science denial. It brings up the fact that much of what we do is rationalization. If you want to convince someone of something, lead with your values, not your facts. Leading with your facts can even be counter-productive.

The article seems to hold true to me. A great example is that the people I know that brag about how logical and rational they are tend to be amongst the most irrational and least self-aware folks that I meet. Reason being, I see these people spending more time justifying their beliefs and rationalizing their feelings than they do actually considering information and changing.

I would normally take this moment to acknowledge that I do this myself, but for once, I'm not going to. I'm actually going to go against modesty and claim that I'm actually better than this. How? Why?

I present to you something I wrote a scant 12 years ago about a book I was reading in my freshman year of college for a class.
"I feel weird being the first one to post on this subject, but did anyone else notice the heavy amount of bias in this book? While I don't have the text with me at this moment, there were derogatory remarks made about conservatives, pro-life people, and creationists. While the author may disagree with these groups, isn't it improper to make such off-hand derogatory remarks?"

"I agree that the author is biased toward this belief, but I think that the belief of evolution as a product of God's creation is expressed as it should be: as an intelligent respectful belief. The things I mentioned were treated without respect."


Yes... I used to be a conservative, pro-life, creationist. I actually protested in front of abortion clinics, worked with right-to-life to promote pro-life propaganda. I actually started debates arguing that being gay wasn't right. That sex outside of marriage was wrong, and a whole bunch of other stuff like that. I went to Christian conferences where we all talked about how to convert the entire world and show them the love of Jesus.

I'm now a fairly liberal, near-communist, extremely pro-choice, agnostic/pagan.

I changed.

I submit this merely as evidence for my claim.

Now let me make another claim...

I'm extremely irrational and I rationalize my feelings all the time. I'm constantly drawn into exactly the sorts of behaviors the author describes, judging things based on how I have pre-judged them, rather than evaluating them more objectively.

So what makes me better than this?

Let me come clean. I'm not actually "better" than anyone in this. Rather, I consider it a good about me that I hold as a value being aware of the ways in which I rationalize my feelings. I am constantly spending incredible amounts of time doing self-analysis. Attempting to work through my thoughts and feelings to grow in self-awareness and self-knowledge.

I believe that it is only through measures such as these that we can even marginally overcome our human tendency to irrationality. People that boast about how they are logical and rational? Bullshit. The best and only way to be a person of reason is to admit that you *aren't.* To admit that you're an irrational fuck driven predominantly by emotions. If you want to be a rational and logical person, you have to first acknowledge the things that prevent you from being such. By recognizing and working through those things that stand in the way of rationality. Not things outside yourself, but *inside* yourself.

In my mind... this is all about being on the path to self-awareness. It is a path of humility and pain. It involves being capable of acknowledging that you're wrong. Spending time seriously questioning your own actions and beliefs. It involves being willing to change if deeply held beliefs about your self or your world are proved to be wrong, invalid, or incorrect. It involves the sacrifices and hardships associated with such change.

I feel that I do well about being rational because I know that I am prone to irrationality. I know that I'm on a never ending journey of self-betterment and improved self-awareness, but I will never be wholly rational or self-aware. I'm okay accepting that I don't know everything about the world or myself, and I'm willing to explore all of the questions about this. I am willing to question myself and change. It's obvious from the way I've lived my life.

This is a good thing about me. I'm good at this. My life, behavior, and mind are still flawed and always will be. But when I look at who I am. The person I am... I like this aspect of myself and am pleased that I am capable of doing things like admitting when I am wrong. Especially after I've had some sort of really bad fight with someone and was being really emotional and irrational. Being honestly able to come back to them and say, "I was wrong," and mean it feels really good. It makes me feel good about myself. :)

Incidentally.. it is more and more becoming a measure by which I judge who I want to be associated with. People that seem to be on a path of self-awareness somehow are people I want to spend time around. People that are convinced they already know themselves are a turn off. There's a reason why a lot of the people I associate with have a tendency towards self-analysis of various sorts. (examples include people that attend therapy, support groups, do lots of journaling, etc.)

We are all on this journey called life. We're all trying to figure it out.

I'd rather journey with folks that recognize our mutual idiocy as we stumble along this path. Not those that claim to be superior in their logic, reason, and such while they stumble right along with the rest of us.
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I did a meditation on self-improvement and self-awareness this weekend.

I have this desire to always ask the meta question of... "Why?" Whatever I'm doing, whatever I'm thinking, I want to step outside of it and ask why I'm doing it.

The goal, of course is to understand why I'm doing what I'm doing in any given moment. Seek to understand the reasons for my actions, the influences internal and external that affect my behavior. I seek freedom from undue outside influence, a true sense of freedom to be who I really am. In some way, you could say that I want to *see* the "self." See the thing that is me watching itself and creating itself.

In asking the meta question like this... rising above this moment to see into it... I hope to become *more* than I was in that moment... Become more self-aware and perhaps become a better person.

But there is a negative aspect to this. To constantly seek to rise above is a never ending exploration of the self. It's like a video game with an amazing and beautiful world that you can explore forever in every direction because the environment is infinitely generated around you. If you keep trying to rise above the current moment to see inside it... To understand how it works... You're really going to be doing nothing more than constantly walking an endless cycle of rising above each thought. You're trying to climb to the top of a staircase that you're creating every second.

It's pointless....

It reminds me of that whole notion of "Be Here Now." The idea of letting go of this desire to walk the spiral staircase of constant self-awareness and becoming content in this moment... Becoming happy with all that I have right now... All that I am right now. It makes me consider the idea of, rather than trying to constantly step above a moment to gain a better perspective on it, sometimes, just exist inside that moment and experience it. Be part of it. Be here... now.
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I cried out my fears to [livejournal.com profile] viesti last night, and it seemed to help.

Thinking more about it today, I think that a lot of my anguish and fear about this whole thing actually comes from the circumstances and experiences around my recent broken ankle.

Two interesting facts about this: Breaking my ankle was the first time in my life that I totally lost consciousness. I've had faint-like things before, but I've never completely lost consciousness that way before. The other interesting fact? This is the first time in my life I've had a major debilitating injury.

Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (Default)
2 months ago, when I fell and broke my ankle, I lost consciousness. It was probably the second most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. I fell to the ground and felt my ability to think fading away. I couldn't control myself, and my thoughts were becoming sluggish and incoherent. I was fighting it, trying to stay conscious, trying to stay awake, but I was unable to do it. Terrified of this loss of ability to use my own mind, I fell out of the world. I started to dream of a perfect wonderful place filled with light and happiness where I was surrounded by everyone I love. Everything was perfect and wonderful. Then I slipped back into this world. Once again, I struggled to make sense of what was going on around me. I tried looking around, but my vision was blurry and fuzzy, as if I couldn't properly focus. My thoughts continued to be in a jumble. I couldn't remember where I was or what was going on or even properly contemplate my situation. A single thought escaped my terrified mind and I whispered it to whoever was around me, if anyone was around me, "Help me." Then, I fell out of the world again into that happy place.

The next time I came back to this world, I was still frightened and anxious, but I was able to hold onto consciousness. Slowly, my thoughts came back to me, and I could start thinking again. At first, I couldn't figure out where I was or why I was there, but slowly, it came to me. I realized that [livejournal.com profile] viesti and [livejournal.com profile] dana_grrl were sitting next to me, holding me and keeping me safe. I remember that I was out on a hike. I remembered that I had just fallen and lost consciousness.

Ever since that happened, I've been contemplating it a lot. Again, it was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life, slowly losing my ability to think. Feeling my own mind malfunctioning. Losing control of my own thought processes to the point where I was non-functional. In many ways, the experience resembled some version of what many people describe death like. The entity known as Joyce stopped and I was filled with a sense of well being.

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pandora_parrot: (Default)
In my last big posting, I discuss how saving the world is a bad idea. I stand by that, but after the discussions I had with folks, it seemed to me that a bit of refinement is in order.

We all have beliefs and values, and we would all be remiss in not trying to encourage others to follow some portion of these values. I believe it is wrong to cause long-term suffering on any being capable of experiencing it. Thus, I advocate for animal rights, vegetarianism, and similar things. I also think working to support local farming is a great idea as a way to help impoverished/migrant farmers. I applaud any effort to improve conditions for the impoverished and hungry of the world. I am an LGBT activist, giving talks and attending marches to further LGBT rights.

Some might describe what I want to do as "saving the world."

So how does that jive with my last post?

Simply put, it's humility.

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pandora_parrot: (Default)
I have a problem with self-help "cults" that seek to describe themselves as trying to "fix the world" or something like that. Inevitably, their plan towards personal empowerment followed by the vague notion of making the world a better place involves giving the leaders of the cult lots of money for books and workshops on how to do it. Generally these organizations target vulnerable demographics. People that feel lost or outcast. People that are shit on by society. People coming out of a bad relationship. Etc.

Hey, it's a great gig, and if you can pull it off, more power to you. You make people feel better about themselves, make them feel like they're part of something and "doing something IMPORTANT," and you get to make money off of it. It's fantastic.

But I think the basic notion of this sort of thing has some significant problems.Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (contemplative)
I've been thinking a lot about the meaning of life lately. Why am I alive? What is the purpose of my life? What is my ultimate goal? What am I trying to accomplish?

In my level-1 ("scientific rationalism") layer of thought, I don't believe in any external purpose or function to my life. There is no fate, gods, or anything that created me, made me, or did anything with me to put me into the world. Everything simply exists, without purpose or function.

This is not to say that there is no function to, say, the symbiotic relationship between the fungus and plant-life that makes up algae, or the symbiotic relationship between flowers and bees, or anything like that. Sure, things evolve to take advantage of one another and form mutual systems of interdependence. But not for any reason. It's just what things do.

No... Concepts like meaning and purpose are the byproducts of the human brain. They're patterns that we try to find for everything that occurs. This is what we do: We are pattern-finding and meaning-making machines. We seek to organize the world around us into meaningful bits of data that we can internalize and manipulate. And so we seek to take the whole of life, or of ourselves, and find the meaning in the patterns that we find there. But any meaning we find there is wholly our own creation. It does not exist outside of our own minds. The universe is apathetic to our existence, neither loving nor hating us.

The cool thing about this is that this doesn't mean that our lives are without meaning, but rather that we get to choose our own meaning. What a wonderful freedom this is. Instead of living to a fixed purpose that has been ordained from above, we get to create our own purpose. Define the meaning of our own lives. Define our own goals.

In this sense, *we* are our own gods. Able to create the story of our lives with as much care and love as any mythological deity. Ours is not a fixed novel sitting on the dusty shelf of some long forgotten deity, but rather an exciting adventure that we are writing every moment of every day. The pen is in our hands as we fill in each page with whatever plot we desire to craft.

We are free to be whomever we wish to be. All we need to do is have the courage to lay pen to paper and write.

I have decided, for now, that the purpose of my life shall be to experience as many varied things as I possibly can, to have the richest and fullest life that I am able to attain, and to bring those experiences to other people so that I can share it with them.
pandora_parrot: (Default)
What do I believe?

I've done some processing again on my beliefs and what it is that I actually believe. I'd like to take some time to do a bit more journaling on the subject.

Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (contemplative)
I had an interesting experience today.

I went out to lunch with [livejournal.com profile] chirik, [livejournal.com profile] tarathene, and [livejournal.com profile] kitlet at Joey Basil's. They were seriously understaffed, and we were there for a long time, but the waitress really seemed to be trying to do her best to get things out and handled. And in the end, even though it took forever, the food was great.

Anyways, our waitress seemed really stressed when she was trying to handle our payment for the bill, and I went up to the front counter to save her a trip back to the table to get my signature. She couldn't get the machine to work because she needed a manager override, and the manager was nowhere to be found. While I stood there, one customer, unhappy with the service, told the waitress that the service was so bad that they've lost a customer. A few moments later, another person walked past behind me and told the waitress to cancel their order as they had been waiting too long and were now going to leave.

She was really upset and stressed and near tears. She couldn't get the computer to work. She had terribly irate customers. And frankly, her service for us had been a bit poor. She just kept apologizing and apologizing, despite me telling her that everything was fine. I gave her a 40% tip to try to cheer her up, and as we walked out, she yelped when she saw the tip and said, "Really?! Thank you!"

It made me think about doing things like this: Helping people out and doing good things for other people.

Frankly, I gave her that tip because I wanted to see her smile. Because when I make people smile, that makes me really happy. I don't know that I cared about her or her situation one bit. But I do like that rush I get when I do something that makes someone else smile or laugh or something like that. When I can brighten someone's day.

I was thinking about this. Doing this sort of thing might make some people think that I'm some sort of altruisitic good person or something. But honestly, I feel completely selfish in these sorts of actions. I'm not doing it for them. I'm doing it for that rush I get, which is entirely for me.

I think it's a fascinating concept. Is it really good of me to do things for other people that I am completely selfishly motivated to do? Is this simply how all people are? Is true altruism merely an illusion?
pandora_parrot: (contemplative)
Everyone is always convinced that some major massive change is going to take place in humanity in just a few short years. This has been the case throughout all of history, as far as I can tell. It's always something.

Maybe it's the coming rapture when the faithful will be brought back to heaven.

Maybes it's a giant meteor come to smash the earth at the turn of the century.

Maybe it's the singularity, when machine intelligence will transform all of humanity in a completely new and sudden way.

Maybe it's like this 2012 stuff, where suddenly it's going to be the Age of Aquarius and everyone's going to get simultaneously enlightened or something.

I was listening to a talk by Terrence McKenna back in the 60s, and he was all over this stuff, talking about how by the year 2001, people would be these super-groovy enlightened zen masters and shit.

I hear my friends talking about it. I see it in the media, in movies and newspapers and TV shows.

It's all over the place. EVERYONE's feeling it, man... Can't you feel it? The change is GOING TO COME!

Of course, this is how people have been talking for fuck ever. EVERYONE's been feeling it since humanity crawled down from the trees and learned to beat each other with clubs.

It's not that things aren't changing, oh no. Things totally are. But there's rarely, if ever, these "end of the world" moments where everything transforms all in a hurry. It's more like the whole boiled frog thing. People don't even notice that the world's changed, and yet here it is happening.

I mean, look around, there are definitely some really cool changes happening! The internet and computer technology are doing some AMAZING things to change society and the way that we all interact with one another. The impact of these technologies aren't going to be fully understood for decades, they are so earth-shattering. But even this is going to happen over many many decades as the relationship between human and computer changes and evolves. There's never going to be this magical technical moment where everything just becomes different all of the sudden.

Whenever I get wind of some day being the end of the world for some group or other, I make a point of going out and celebrating it and then mock-complaining about the lack of the end the next day. I really need to get a sign at some point and wander around a mall telling people that TODAY is the end of the world, FOR REALZ THIS TIME, the next time an end-of-the-world comes around.

I just find it interesting, odd, and curious that every culture and society I know about has a significant number that believe that the end of the world is at hand. Hell, the early christians thought Christ was going to return in their lifetime to usher in the end of the world. Boy were they wrong! The Seventh Day adventists predicted the EOW in 1844 as a central tenet of their belief. (And they still have believers! Now *THAT* is faith!)

I wonder if its some basic human desire to be part of "the big change." A sort of externally manifested need to connect to the "grander purpose" of things...

*shrugs*

Whatever it is, I totally need to throw an EOW party on the next big date. Lessee... What have we got?

We've got the big 12-21-2012 that everyone's talking about.
The rapture is scheduled to occur on May 21, 2011, followed by the world being destroyed in fire on October 21st.
2009 looks pretty quiet, actually, as most folks are focused on 2012, but I can find two dates out there: October 11 and October 25. Anyone want to throw a party with me? :P
pandora_parrot: (contemplative)
In the shower today, I had this odd thought about the difference between becoming and being. It's come from some consideration of the labels "artist" and "athlete" and thinking about how they apply to me.

Labels are funny things. They are these identities that define a particular set of characteristics and enable us to relate to other people on the same level. Sometimes people give you labels and sometimes you give yourself a label. In many cases, there is this process of claiming the label. Before this process, the label is not applicable, but afterwards, with enough luck/effort/time/whatever, the label is applicable.

Of course, this isn't just about labels. Identities, skills, etc. They all are linked to this notion. Maybe you don't know how to play an instrument. So you learn how to play an instrument. You are going through the process of becoming a musician. And at some point in your path, people start to describe you as a musician, even if you are not keen on labels yourself.

There's many things like this: The transgender journey from one gender presentation to another. The development of skills in art and athletics. The process of feeling identification with a new employer. The transition between social classes. Your first steps into paganism, buddhism, Christianity, or any other religion. Your first steps to join a club.

So there is this "clear" process in many of these things of going from not being something, to becoming something, to being something. But when does this transition take place?

It seems to me that it is a personal decision on everyone's part. I would not define myself as an athlete because I'm focused on only a few select physical skills. Yet others might see my interest in rock climbing as enough for their criteria for athlete and define me as such. Perhaps someone might feel like an artist if they like to draw a lot. Perhaps they need to feel some level of accomplishment in their work before they would label themselves an artist. Perhaps a person would not define themself as something until someone else did first, letting the rest of the world decide.

I wonder if there is a meta-criteria for assigning these transition points to various labels. If there is a general system that a person uses to distinguish between a person that is becoming something and a person that already *is* something, for arbitrary values of "something."

How do you decide this generally?
pandora_parrot: (Default)
There have been some great articles up lately on the connection of Burning Man and white privilege.

This article is the first one I found on the topic, discussing a "Go Native!" rave party thing that was appropriating native american culture and imagery. Some local native american activists found out about it and apparently spent four hours lecturing the burners at their party.

Feministing put up an article also discussing the topic, with a link to one feminist's experience at Burning Man the year before.

Some really powerful stuff there. I worry sometimes about how much white privilege seeps into burner and hippie culture. Like, I've purchased some really pretty outfits from a store that sells Himalayan clothing to local new agers and stuff. Are we blending cultural expressions or just fetishizing that "eastern" look and displaying it because that's the trendy thing for new-agers, ravers, hippies, and burners?

Reading these articles, I'm struck with a sense that there has been little thought given to these issues in many of the circles that I run in. People randomly adopt religious iconography, language, and philosophy from various cultures without stopping to think about what that means... I do it too, really.

I have always felt that building my own spiritual practice by hodge-podging a bunch of practices together is the right thing to do for me. Similarly, I feel that I like the idea of borrowing from various cultures to create my own image and iconography. But I need to stop and think about the implications of this and the way that my white privilege plays into my actions.

What are the subconscious influences that result from my white privilege and how does that play into my use of the imagery and philosophies of other cultures? How can I avoid disrespecting, fetishizing, or further marginalizing non-white people in my personal actions, especially as they connect to being a new-age hippie burner type? Ultimately, I think more dialog is necessary. I personally know that *I* have a lot to learn about this, as I don't really understand much about the greater power struggles going on, my own personal contributions to these particular systems of oppression, etc. I'm ignorant on these topics and need to learn.
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I've noticed that some people can't seem to comprehend the idea of things "outside logic" or "outside reality." I personally don't believe in things like objective reality, objective facts, moral or ethical absolutes, none of that. I think that everything is about relationships and patterns.

Take logic for example. What is logic? On a simple level, logic is a collection of productions that one can apply to statements to create other statements. If one does this with statements that are declared "valid," then the result of a series of logical products is also "valid." However, what proof do we have that this set of productions is an accurate representation of all conceptual relationships between everything that exists? How do you prove that there is nothing outside of that which is logical? How do you step outside logic?

I personally like logic because it has worked for me every time I've used it. I find it a helpful tool that seems to predict future experiences very well. I'll continue using it because it seems to work. But can I prove it always works? I don't think so.

So let's consider something a bit more mundane. Objective facts. Surely, "A=A" is an objective fact that cannot be disputed. Well, within the framework of logic, sure! This, in fact, IS an objective fact! But what about outside logic? Then I could say that it is not factual and that things are able to not be themselves.

But wait! That's nonsense!

Maybe so, but how do you arrive at the conclusion that it is nonsense? That's right, you're using logic and reason. The whole premise of this is that every statement you make, every fact you present, only has truth value relative to a given framework. Change the framework, and you change everything. Operate in the world of the irrational and the absurd, and anything is possible.

Alright alright alright. So there are other systems that one can use, but they don't make sense.

Right. They don't make "sense," which is one particular framework in which you can operate.

*sigh* Okay. Well, what about with belief systems? If I believe that murder is wrong and you believe that murder is right, only one of us can be right, right?

Wrong. What you're asking is nonsensical. The statement "Murder is wrong" is neither true nor false until it is part of a system of other statements. It draws a connection between the concepts of murder and that of wrongness. But in a vacuum, we have no definitions for those things. What is murder? What is wrongness? How do we distinguish wrongness from rightness? All of these questions must be answered before we can even begin to answer the question or whether or not the statement is true. By answering these questions and defining the terms we are using, we create the framework we need to answer the question of the statements truth value.

But how do you prove that a given framework is "more right" than another framework? You can do all that work to create that framework, but that framework is completely arbitrary. Someone else could easily create another framework that results in a completely different answer to the question of whether or not murder is wrong.

Clearly, we need to construct a framework within which to evaluate the rightness and wrongness of those two frameworks!

And now we've run into the infinite recursion problem.

The fact is, any attempt to declare a statement absolutely right or wrong necessarily is based in some particular context or framework of beliefs, values, etc. There is no way to define "right" or "wrong" without such an appeal.

In the end, there is no absolute frame of reference. Most statements appear to be completely void of value in a context-less environment.

This does, of course, nothing to tell us how to deal with people that disagree with us. We still have the base ethical problem of how to deal with those that do not agree with us. And universal tolerance is not going to work when one person believes they can murder you and you think otherwise. It's a dance of ideas and tolerances. How much you're willing to tolerate in others, and how much you think they should tolerate of you.

Fascinating stuff.
pandora_parrot: (aspie)
My last meaningful post had to do with labels, and [livejournal.com profile] ophidios brought up some interesting points that lead me to do a bit of thinking.

Labels can be really awesome and helpful, or they can be really fucked up.

One thing I love about a label is that it gives me a name for something I'm working on or struggling with. It's like... before I can truly fight my opponent, I must first name my opponent. Where, in this case, the opponent is the shame and issues associated with whatever it is that I'm naming. For bisexuality, it involved feelings of sexual orientation and shame about being attracted to both genders. Feeling broken and wrong for wanting both genders. For transsexuality, it involved feelings of shame and fear surrounding being open in expression and presentation.

A label provides a lot of useful traits: It gives me a keyword to find resources using Google or the library. It gives me a name to search for support groups under. It gives me a banner to fly in pride parades and marches and activist work. It gives me a category under which to label a wide variety of experiences that I have, that might previously have been thought of as separate. It takes individual memories and moments out of time and puts them together so that patterns can be detected and solutions to problems found.

But there are issues with labels, right? Specifically regarding the definition of the label. Sometimes, a label is very clear cut. A woman that has only dated and slept with women and has no interest in men could easily be labeled as a lesbian. She could easily apply this label to herself and go in search of others with that label. But what about the woman that only *mostly* likes women, or prefers both, or is in a relationship with a woman now, but might date a man in the future, or what of women that were assigned male at birth. Suddenly, the simple label becomes muddy, and people start arguing about who fits and and who doesn't.

I've recently been spending a lot of effort exploring labels for some of my mental conditions. I have a whole host of anxiety inducing issues that cause me great suffering, pain, frustration, etc. They are obstacles that I have struggled to overcome all my life. Individually, they are just individual situations and concerns and are hard to work with. But if I find a label that seems to fit a bunch of these characteristics, it gives me a category to identify all the issues, and all the other benefits of having a label on things. It gives me something to talk about. It gives me a little mnemonic to remember helpful tips for handling situations.

The Manic/Depressive thing is a great example of this. By looking at the label and starting to apply it to myself, I have managed to calm myself down a LOT. I've managed to reduce my anxiety levels down by leaps and bounds. I've managed to get control of myself when I'm doing things that are wild and out of control.

How? By grouping some of my behaviors under that category of Manic/Depressive-ness. I figured out some patterns in some of the things that happened within that category, and I applied solutions to it. I stopped drinking coffee for example. I decided to start "closing off my mind" whenever I saw the anxiety hitting me in these situations. To remind myself to do so, I would sort of "memorize" a list of situations that I experience anxiety in, and use the label of "manic/depressive" as a mnemonic to remember it. I slowly have been noticing and discovering more situations in which I exhibit what I call "manic/depressive" qualities and slowly removing the issues of anxiety from them.

I'm doing this also with the Asperger's thing. I've always had a lot of difficulty understanding communication of various sorts. A lot of it matches the symptoms of someone with Asperger's. It is becoming a mnemonic for me to remember that I'm not a bad person when these things happen. I remember that it is okay to not understand and that I've had other situations like this in my life and it wasn't the end of the world. I can think of other "Aspie" moments where some bit of social interaction didn't work and calm myself down in the present.

And both of them give me access to wealths of information throughout the internet and psychological field. It gives me a way to group things together to talk to my therapist. Some of it applies to me, some of it doesn't. I don't perfectly match any of these labels.

So we get back to the problem. I don't perfectly match ANY label that I've applied to myself, really. People question my gender because I don't perfectly match female, nor do I match male. People question my sexuality because most of the folks I date are women. Because I don't perfectly match the Manic/Depressive label, folks get upset that I'm using it. Because I don't perfectly match the Aspie label, some folks seem upset that I'm using it. I find this particularly odd in these cases, since I try to be very careful to always say "Aspie-like qualitites" and "Manic/Depressive-ish tendencies" and things like that. I try to avoid saying that I have Asperger's, or am Manic/Depressive because I see those as a medical diagnosis that I have not, at this time, received. Maybe I'll get it one day, or maybe I won't. Who cares? That's not the point.

The point is that I've found other folks that have similar struggles to mine. Similar issues and experiences. And through that we can share our experiences. I've found ways of grouping my behaviors to look for patterns that I want to modify and hopefully improve. I've found a way of noting events and situations as being related so that I can more easily recall them in the future.

And fuck it. I think everything exists on a spectrum anyways. Lots of people have tendencies towards lots of different conditions, labels, etc. We're a continuous system, not a discrete system. To hold to a hard definition of a label and defend it at all costs seems to me to be a very very very foolish and deluded thing to do.

EDIT: Ooh! And some labels can combine other labels to form mega labels. When I found the transgender label, I had a new label with a larger scope to cover my smaller "gender-related frustration" label! I'm considering the extent to which the "Aspie" label covers my "social interaction issues" label. It's really awesome when this happens intelligently, because finding patterns between things can really help with diagnostics and algorithm updates. :)

Opposite

Mar. 14th, 2008 03:14 pm
pandora_parrot: (curious)
I found another example today of how setting up artificial binaries doesn't quite make sense...

In the office today, the following question came up: What's the opposite of a Catholic?

If we go by Catholic mythology, then the opposite of a Catholic is a Satanist.

However, I can easily construct contexts within which any of these things are opposite of Catholicism: Protestants, atheists, agnostics, and many others.

What is opposite to Catholicism (or anything for that matter) is wholly an effect of the criteria that you're judging on.
pandora_parrot: (trans activism)
I wrote an essay on a disturbing trend I've been seeing online lately in trans-related forums and support groups. Feel free to read on if you like.

x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] transgender, [livejournal.com profile] tranny_rage, and [livejournal.com profile] transfeminism.

Read the tl;dr! )
pandora_parrot: (Default)
If you're interested in this sort of thing, I'm currently involved in a debate with some "HBS" trans-folk over on Transadvocate. It was regarding an issue discussed over on bilerico. I'm having a good time on both and am really hammering out some of what I believe with regards to this stuff. It's a very interesting discussion.

How should a society handle those individuals that do not fit its definitions of "men" and "women?"

Should it...
Expand those definitions to include more people?
Ignore the issue and let such people figure it out on their own?
Offer them explicit protections against discrimination?

The issue has been largely ignored in America for a long time, it seems. Currently, trans people are pushing to get it recognized as a real issue. But how do we avoid unintended consequences of this recognition? How does this apply to things like monogender schools, binary gendered bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms, and more?

The question is serious, but very interesting.

I'd love to read your thoughts on it. :)

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Pandora Parrot

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