acceptance

Did we think or just do pink?

The week of talking about bullying has now passed. Pink shirts have been hauled out of wardrobes and hung up again for another year and I am concerned about what comes next. I do wonder what sort of talking was actually done, if it was just talking, and just who was listening or was heard. I reckon there were probably more conversations about ‘yanny and laurel’ to be honest. So this coming week is youth week, with the theme of ‘be who you want to be’. I think we needed to talk about why we don’t let people be who they are last week.

For the sake of simplicity, bullying cannot be eradicated like some disease. There is no ‘social vaccination’ for bullying and it thrives in conditions where difference is feared. While we live in a world that is determined to make difference a problem, being who you want to be is not always going to be straight forward. I think it’s naïve to tell young people to simple ‘be yourself’ when then are very real risks for coming out as gay if you are from a culture or religious background that overtly hates, persecutes and punishes people for being gay. Or how about allowing young people to feel confident in their bodies, not shaming them for their size, shape, style. Maybe parents not freaking out when their 16 year old says ‘I don’t want to be a _______ (insert highly valued job/profession here) I want to _________(insert parents ultimate fear of failure or assumptions about less valued professions or careers).

Let’s actually have conversations about the ways we make it hard for people to feel included, valued, respected and cared for in this world rather than placing the onus on young people to ‘be’ something they might not be ready or willing to be.

And for the record it is ‘Laurel’ and if you think otherwise I can’t be your friend (please read as sarcasm).

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Lightening up the dark side

I was there at midnight to see The Force Awakens with all the other generations of Star Wars fans. I remember 1977 (just) – Paeroa, 5 years old and being awestruck with the story jolting some philosophical curiosity lose. Returning in my 40’s with my storm trooper t-shirt I felt right at home, like my tribe had converged from all walks of life. The approving nods, one liners that offer a secret hand shake of sorts. My expectations were muted and whilst I enjoyed the sense of nostalgia my heart wasn’t moved, it was a little too deja vu. No spoilers here but perhaps what I do feel sad about is the mystery of The Force. I’m also a bit perplexed about this galaxy far far away and it’s parenting practices. If there were social services of any kind they should have targeted that skywalker line and done some serious family therapy. Perhaps a family group conference for the Solo/Skywalker clan is needed with a few ghostly ring ins – Qui Gon, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and maybe Anakin – if he is over his whining. Hollywood could do with ending its dependence on Freudian psychoanalysis to develop its plots and character development. Actually there was a character played by Max von Sydow who looked remarkably like Freud…but he was shafted by a blade of light.

It’s a bit of a romp down memory lane, like a high school reunion of sorts. Where memories of the past are jumbled with the present but the familiarity is comforting to a degree. But here are a couple of strengths of star wars that are worth mentioning:

  • Diversity is the norm – people don’t question each other if they seem to be able to understand another species or even a droid/robot.
  • Age is a relative thing – some live thousands of years others much shorter and there aren’t long winded lectures to young’uns about it.
  • Difference is expected but if you are at the pub – respect the rules and the patrons or you will be out on your ass – or asses.
  • Technology hand-me-downs are ok – light sabres for example seem to be fine – no-one says ‘are you kidding? I’m not taking that old thing’.

 

My new hope is to recapture that mysterious wonder for The Force but maybe it will be about awakening my own senses and perhaps returning to my inner Jedi.

Leaky Bits

Maybe don’t read this if you are eating something:

The human body has some interesting features. But it is our reactions to parts that leak fluids that create some curious social and cultural rules based on the level of perceived appropriateness and acceptability of expulsion. We’re funny about tears and sweat, both completely natural and harmless. There are other bits with some peculiar contradictions and I think it has something to do with the velocity of the fluids leaving the body. Things that drip or ooze take on a passive act but if it shoots out it is active and purposeful. For example a runny nose is a slow drip and generally frowned upon, but a vigorous nasal clear on a football pitch or bike is completely fine. Saliva is a bit the same, a slow drool is not so cool but spitting can be an art form. Some leaks depend a bit on specific plumbing of a particular set of organs. The menstrual cycle for one gives those with that set of plumbing a complicated set of leaks. Bleeding monthly is quite frankly a very poor design. Bladder leakage definitely not as acceptable as a long strong stream and obligatory ‘ahhhhhhh’ if busting. But I am sure I am missing some other form of leak or complementary explosion….ohhh…this is so hard…it’ll come to me.

Vanity (un)Fair

With Caitlyn Jenner splashed all over the news tonight and awkward references to ‘not having had surgery yet’ there seemed to be an unnecessary personalised moment of attachment to the idea of no longer having a particular attachment from one male news reader. I’m not sure what his intentions were. I don’t think he would have even registered that drawing attention to the implications of ‘having surgery’ rendered transgendered identity in that moment to losing or gaining a piece of anatomy. Even mentioning this has yet to happen somehow suggests Caitlin is not a ‘real’ woman yet.

My conversations with trans people over the last few years and especially young people beginning their own questioning and working through making sense of not fitting the pre-set mould they have been assigned, have helped me to see that focusing on the physical changes limits and diminishes the complexity and adds to the invisibility.
There are so many excuses made for not including diverse representations in collecting socially significant data such as a census. When you are not given a box to tick, or have to tick a box you do not fit that is a moment of disavowal that does as much harm as bullying, harassment or hate speech. We can expect extreme religious views to take a particular stance – that shouldn’t shock anyone really. But to be quietly denied your existence or forced to pretend that you are something you are not that is a form of identity cleansing or gendercide.

It might not seem like a big deal changing pro-nouns for those of us trucking along with the same old same old, but for the young trans people I know – asking and then using their preferred name and pronoun is like being re-cognised and real-ised. They become, they matter and when someone matters they can find a foothold on the precarious landscape of validation.

Caitlyn Jenner has done more than gain a foothold, she has thrown pointed passion and bounded with track spikes of truth over many hurdles. Well she did have a bit of a head start, who is going to ‘keep up with’ her now?

Plane and not so simple

I proclaim that the word ‘plane’ is actually a secret acronym standing for People-Loaded-and-Nefariously-Egoised. You see I wasn’t sure what to make of the pilot that grounded a flight after a 15 year old autistic girls behaviour was deemed at threat to the comfort and safety of passengers. I think when you buy a plane ticket, you sign away any entitlement to guaranteed comfort. Maybe 30 or 40 years ago it might have been a reasonable expectation but maintaining profit means cramming as many bodies as you can into a metal container with limited bathroom facilities and charging the crew with managing the inevitable eruption of agitation.

Boarding a flight is like walking down the aisle, with the vows being something like ‘doing my best within my capacity to tolerate others and do what is reasonable within my power to respect the personal space of others’ till touch down do you part. But the threshold for accommodating emotional distress seems to getting lower and narrower. Children and others who make noise as part of their usual functioning are not afforded understanding or respect. To be clear, I don’t think other forms of intentional disrespect or violations of personal space should be tolerated. But if someone has tourette’s or experiences vocal impulses beyond there conscious control that is who they are, and travelling together requires an awareness and understanding that diversity exists – and is expressed even on a plane. If people cannot accept this when they buy a ticket then perhaps consider alternative transportation, ground themselves rather than forcing people to adhere to some policing of normal functioning that extends beyond common expressions and representations.

If you want to be safe and comfortable, do not get on a plane. It’s not exactly a marketable slogan but ‘fly the unfriendly, cramped, smelly, noisy, sky’ might be more accurate and realistic. Put your ego in the overhead locker or even better, check it in and pick it up at the other end and save some space for duty free.

Flying is not plain sailing.

Cramping my style

There is nothing quite like the vice like grip and pain of muscle cramp. The gradual and relentless contracting of fibres and a desperate knowing there is not much you can do once full tetanus has set in. I’ve had some fairly intense take overs by cramp, usually during endurance events and there is just no way to ignore it. You know it is inevitable and the warning twitches are setting in. I once had cramp from me feet up to my chest. At the 41.2 km mark in the marathon in my first Ironman I literally stood frozen to the spot hoping it wouldn’t or couldn’t creep any higher. People were cheering me on but it was like a bad dream where I had lost more than my pants but the bottom half of me. A guy shuffled past like he had no knees or ankles literally running from his armpits. He could see I was in the same state and encouraged me to just ‘do what he was doing’. No thanks, I didn’t come this far to cross the line looking like that. So I waited and eventually my body caught up and I was able to shuffle gingerly down the carpet and across the line, twitching all the way.

I like to ‘play’ with cramp, curl my toes until the familiar clench grabs then carefully wait and see if I can stop it just in time. I like the feeling and the sensation if I can control it. That moment when the tension hurts but if you gently move in opposite direction there is relaxation and a return. Although cramp is a generally associated with muscles, I wonder if the idea or concept of paralysis creeping in to draw attention to something, could it apply to other aspects of experience? When we encounter fatigue or a sense of strain of other kinds. Could spiritual cramp for example be possible or described in similar ways – a slow or sudden loss or gain of movement. Or emotionally, when something unfamiliar moves us from comfortably uncomfortable to painfully uncomfortable which can sometimes induce somatic pain. Functioning as usual isn’t possible. So it could be a chance to pause, go slow, get support, adjust an approach. Using energy differently or creating space to massage the tension before it seizes. I suppose writing like this implies there is a separation or distinction between the physical and non-physical aspects of ourselves. The similarities and ways subtle energies work and flow in our bodies, awareness, consciousness, stirring and stimulating impulses that might necessitate a pause or create an opportunity to notice fibres that have remained detached, still free. When we are ‘locked in’ a particular way of thinking, being, the urge could be to push against it and to keep going. This might work if there is enough flexibility but it can also pull things in tighter. Stopping us dead in our tracks or sending us searching for instant relief.

So maybe feeling a bit ‘twitchy’ signals there is something worth paying attention to? Is there some other form of intensity or overly repetitive movement in life creating a form of fatigue? Can experiencing ‘cramp’ enable careful noticing and observation or gaining the ability to move differently through the world. If readying for a major ‘life event’ it might help to develop an ability to recognise the social/psychological/spiritual (for want of some new language) ache. Then simply be kind, gentle and patient. It will pass.

Faking It – Just Tantastic

It is officially summer…apparently. Kiwis everywhere are readying their bodies to embrace the sun, our skin will burn before it actually gets warm here. I Love living in a country where you can be wearing a jacket and beanie and be worried about burn time…if you had skin exposed beyond your face. But I have a confession to make, I get nervous toward the end of October knowing that at some point I will be exposing my legs to the world which have hibernated for some months. The skin on them is a bit like a chameleons – it changes colour depending on the temperature and conditions. It can range from pale blue, pink and sometimes blotchy purple. I believe that riding my bike could pose a hazard to motorists should the sun strike them and reflect off them. But my upper body face and arms are quite different, they just quietly move to a gentle toast tone, you know the one, where your bread just looks golden but not overly brown – perfect for butter and marmite (the toast not the skin). So I feel it is my duty to ensure public safety and succumb to tanning moisturiser, it is a sacrifice I feel passionate about and take very seriously. But I do wrestle with the irony of my own self-consciousness at times while I try and talk about diversity. Then again, I am comfortable being in a contradiction, it’s like a comfy sofa now, well worn.

Body consciousness is usually talked about weight but more than ever skin tone is seen as just as necessary – models typically boast perfect tan. It’s not enough to be buff, you need to be buff and brown. The only exception is if you are a pouty vampire, or from a dystopian future and are clad in some skin hugging item, or a dystopian vampire. Then you can be as pouty, pale and pasty as much as you like. But then it is the opposite for teeth – OMG you have to have the white teeth, to match the tan, or no tan if you are a vampire. Those canines better not have stain on them or be yellow, crikey it’s off to get some whitening for you. There you go, another dose of chemical correction.

Ok, back to tanning. Those of you who use these creams will know the trials and tribulations. It is not as simple as slapping it on, it’s more like painting a house or cleaning windows. Then later you realise you missed a bit or over did it in a certain place and get the streak effect. Then there are the areas of demarcation – those skin surfaces that should never look tanned in the same way your legs do, like below your ankles. Do you rub it in or leave it to soak in? Oh the anguish, the mirror checking. Sometimes it pays to remember your age when factoring in how much to put around your knees because they soak in extra and can end up looking perpetually bruised or dirty. And don’t forget to wash your hands – the orange palms are a dead give away. But once that colour starts building it pays to know when to stop or ease up because there is a fine line between golden brown and oompa loompa orange. That could work for blending into my bike, but beyond that maybe not.

Ironically, I was watching a piece on a guy – Neil Harbisson who only sees the world in black and white and has a chip implanted in his head to hear colour. He is an artist and does sound portraits of people. Curiously when he scans for skin colour everyone comes out as a version of orange. There you have it folks proof deep down we are all working for Willy Wonka.

Sure, it’s probably toxic, with numerous chemicals that could cause all sorts of horribleness but for a few weeks a year I will maintain my regime of faking it. Heck at least I’m being transparent about it.