Free stuff!

It’s that time of year again!

A Principle-based Approach To The Resistance will be free for 5 days starting tomorrow. Time zones have proved troublesome on this front, so please be patient and try again if you can’t get the free deal. The longest you could possibly have to wait is 24 hours.

Also, yours truly is being featured in a promo in Queer Sci Fi. If you sign up to the mailing list, you’ll get a free copy of Heinlein’s Finches, a not-so-splendid tale of PTSD, the lingering effects of childhood trauma, betrayal, and pig smuggling. In space.

Please feel free to share this post high & wide, because Facebook is essentially strangling pages who don’t pay for advertising, and I can’t afford to advertise so I can give free stuff away.

Why the double standards?

I’ve recently noticed something interesting. It’s been going on forever, but I hadn’t picked up on it.

There are ways in which my brain consistently lets me down. Sometimes it’s due to faulty programming, because my birth family wasn’t fantastic and I was brought up weird. Sometimes it’s due to past experiences that left me with habits that made perfectly good sense in that moment, but are anti-useful in almost any other settings. Sometimes it’s because my wiring is non-standards. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above, or I can’t tell why exactly the thing is happening. But what I know for sure is that it is a thing, and it is happening.

I don’t have data to support my assertions, but I do have anecdotes. Experience has taught me that, when faced with X challenge, I reliably make the wrong decisions. Hence, I do not trust my decision-making process when faced with X challenge.

In my head, that makes sense. I have observed a pattern. I have watched it unfold numerous times. I am thereby aware of how very badly it can fuck me over. When I try to have this conversation with people, though, 99.99% of the times I get told that I’m wrong.

I am underestimating myself. I have impostor syndrome. I need to work at my self -confidence. I am just saying that for attention (my personal favourite, because I obviously crave a public image as a fuck-up). It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched myself fall in and through a certain pattern, or how superficially those people know me: they know me better than I know myself, apparently. It’s all in my head, and perhaps not even there.

I find it super-duper interesting because I have zero tolerance for most types of jackasses. I don’t people good and I don’t particularly enjoy random social interactions, so I only tend to hang out with the people I actually want in my life. None of them are the sort of person who, if I were to say that I have a trick knee or a bad back, would discount that piece of information or try to talk me out of it. People who pull that shit on me don’t get a chance to do it twice. Yet the same people who readily accept whatever I have to say about my body, however negative, are perfectly willing to argue with me when I say anything remotely disparaging about my brain.

The easiest way to reduce the impact of this issue on my life would be to class the people who behave like this as a new, hitherto unidentified breed of jackass, and treat them accordingly. I do wonder, though, at how prevalent this behavior seems to be, and why. Why is it that so many people seem to consider themselves experts on other people’s mental processes? How do they support that level of hubris – or, if that’s not what powers them, what does?


But why?

I’ve blogged recently about my name change and unfriending people who were, for various reasons, consistently detracting from my life. I’ve just realised that the two experiences have something in common: both involved me dealing with a lot of “why” questions. Why am I changing my name? Why am I not available? Why am I not accepting of X behavior? Why do I not want to do Y thing? Why am I shouting?

My epiphanot is that “why” questions are far from homogeneous, because the motivations behind them can vary hugely. There are people who ask you “why” because they want to understand you better. They are interested in (or at least curious about) the motivations behind a choice or preference, so they ask. The answer you give them will undoubtedly affect their opinion of you, but it has no bearings on their acceptance of your choice.

For instance, someone may ask me why I changed my name because they actually give a fuck about me or because it’s an unusual thing to do. When I give them my answer (“because I’ve fucking hated it since forever” being my stock response), they may think me petty or whimsical, a trail-blazing self-expressing individual, or anything in between. My answer, however, will not dent the validity of my choice. For them, even if I changed my name “for the wrong reasons,” I’ve still changed my name.

Many people don’t operate like that. They are not asking me to explain myself. They elect themselves as judge and jury and they demand that I present enough evidence to validate my decision. If the answers I provide don’t meet their standards, my case will be struck out and my choice will be ignored.

In the context of a name change, it’s not really a big deal. A third party cannot decide what I am called, because they do not have that power. The courts did, alas, but they ruled in my favour: alea iacta est, y’all. Someone may elect to call me whatever they wish; I reserve my right not to answer. In other contexts, however, that same attitude can be a serious problem.

I’m going to jump straight to sex, because a lot of people are aware that agency and consent are key aspects of a healthy sexual relationship. Say that someone asks you if you want to have sex with them, and your answer is “nope.” They may respond to your answer by asking you why because they genuinely want to know. Whatever you answer, whether it’s “because I have a headache” or “because I don’t like your face,” it will not alter the fact that you have stated a clear “no.” You do not want to have sex with them: that is a fact. The reasons for that may alter the course of your relationship – are they going to get you a painkiller and a glass of water, or tell you to fuck off? – but they will not diminish the significance of your “no.”

Then there’s the other kind of folk, those for whom a “why” question is a request for you to defend the validity of your decision. For them, if your reasons are not valid or not valid enough, the “no” will not be valid either. Those are the folk who will require you to prove that your headache is really bad enough to prevent coitus. Those are the folk that will try to argue you into finding them attractive. Those behavior are, on their own, excruciatingly annoying, but the underlying mentality is straight-up malignant: for them, until you provide enough proof, as per their standards, your “no” is pending.

This kind of thing is more than an attempt at changing your answer from a “no” to a “yes.” People may attempt to do that without any intention to bypass your consent or deny your agency. This is the greyest of all grey areas, and, whatever I say, someone is going to take it the wrong way, but it is in fact possible for people to willingly and honestly negotiate their way into fucking, same as it is possible to negotiate pretty much anything else. That kind of exchange would go something like:

“Yo, you wanna bang?”
“Because I’m only attracted to My Little Ponies.”
“What if I wore my horse mask?”
“Alright, then.”


That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the people for whom your “nos” have no inherent value. Those people will not accept that your agency and consent are sacrosanct, because, to them, they are not. They won’t automatically respect your choices or your boundaries. The lengths to which they go in order to get what they want will depend more on their social conditioning than anything else, and may range from being a petty whiner to straightforward consent violations. In their own heads, though, the narrative will be completely different: they won’t be doing anything wrong because, to them, your decision didn’t stand in the first place.


I don’t know anything about being a trans woman of colour. Those labels don’t apply to me, so all I know about that experience comes from listening to people talk about it. That, and obituaries.

Trans women of colour get murdered. They get murdered often enough that it is A Thing that people (or, at least, people in the LGBTQIA+ community) are aware of. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips and the statistics aren’t always terribly reliable, because some trans people are not out so their murders aren’t listed as such. Anecdotally, though, It Is Known that being a trans woman of colour makes you more likely to get killed than, for instance, being my pasty-white cis-presenting ass.

Plenty of discussions go on as to why that is A Thing, many of which center around “lifestyle choices.” Did those trans women of colour make choices that put them in danger, such as living in dangerous areas or engaging in dangerous or even illegal occupations? Where those choices really choices, or the inevitable result of marginalisation? We could spend some time on that, I’m sure, but I’d rather not. I hate the way so many of those discussions handle the issue: those individual trans woman of colour shoulda coulda done this. Other individual trans women of colour shoulda coulda do that. Being a trans woman of colour is treated as an individual challenge an individual has to face, individually. Yeah, I know I’m repeating myself, but that bit is pretty important.

Trans women of colour are individuals, obviously, but if you take an individual trans woman of colour and extract her from our society, the issue becomes very different. Put her in a society free of bigotry and the prurient obsession with people’s crotch giblets, and she will face a different set of challenges. Put her on a desert island, and she will magically morph into a person trying to survive. She will be an individual facing individual problems. How well she copes will depend on a combination of luck and her skills and disposition. Right here and now, that is not the case.

Being a trans woman of colour is A Thing because our society makes it A Thing. Take transphobia away, and you end up with a woman of colour. Take racism away, and you end up with a woman. Take sexism away, and you end up with a person.

I am not saying that someone’s identity as any or all of the above labels isn’t valid; I’m saying that if our society didn’t make that identity an issue because of a whole stack of bigotries, it wouldn’t be A Thing. It definitely wouldn’t be A Thing That Kills People.

The problems some individuals face aren’t individual problems; they are social problems. They created and pushed by society. To expect those individuals to face them alone seems ill-advised. I’d go as far as to describe it as “profoundly clueless.” Yes, each individual will ultimately have to fight their own fight, but they can fight together. That’s one of our superpowers as human beings: we can communicate, co-ordinate, and work together towards a common goal. Anyone who considers that strategy cowardly or worries about it diminishing the power of the individuals who pick it is missing a point: that there is a difference between facing a duel and a lynch mob.