Something We Can Both Agree On

A friend asked me recently, "Is it weird that when two queer people start really talking for the first time, the subject almost always turns to how lousy the cishets are?"

No. My firm answer is that it isn't strange in the slightest.

This is common among a lot of marginalized people; I know I've experienced it with many different groups I fit into. I suspect the main reason is that it's an easy shared experience to bond over. It's a pretty universal truth that a marginalized person has experienced prejudice at the hands of the people who hold social power over them, and so it means that's a natural common ground you have with others in that group. It's something you can talk about that you're virtually guaranteed to share.

So many things are divisive, down to the simplest of subjects. Let's talk about movies! No, not that genre, that one puts me to sleep. Music! Oh but that artist is so overrated. Okay, let's try books instead! What do you mean you "don't read"?

But bring up something a person can talk passionately about without much chance of judgment, and it allows for easy bonding. All the reward, none of the risk. And what's wrong with starting somewhere safe?

I've definitely had privileged people who've overheard these conversations complain that we're just an echo chamber. But isn't that really their fault? Maybe they should stop giving us those experiences to echo to one another.

And eventually, our conversations expand. We don't build entire relationships, real relationships, on shared complaints and venting. We talk about those difficult subjects: Cats or dogs. Coffee or tea. DC or Marvel. We move on.

But why should we feel guilty for finding commonality where we can? God knows privileged people have bonded over their mockery of us for millennia. We're taking back our power, just a little bit, while also managing to find camaraderie. We're building community connections, and assuring each other, "You are not alone." We are making friends, friends who understand some of the most difficult things we experience on a daily basis.

I'm glad to hear my voice echoed a little bit. I'm glad to be able to echo someone else's. I'm glad to be able to strengthen the bonds of those minority communities I'm a part of. And yes, I'm glad when I can eventually move on and say, without fear of judgment:

"Cats or dogs, it doesn't matter; all other animals are inferior to rabbits."


Collecting diagnoses

I've spent most of the last decade getting sicker and sicker. I seem to get at least one new diagnosis a year, which I would have thought impossible before my body started falling apart. I suppose I thought disabled people had a disability. Maybe two? Three would be ridiculous. But here I am, well into double-digit diagnoses, and apparently I'm just collecting more.

This time, it's something to do with my ability to eat. I'm just not hungry anymore, so I simply don't eat until dinner, when the peer pressure of being surrounded by family convinces me to choke down a small plate. But it's a struggle that often results in me taking five modest bites, then turning my plate over to someone else.

I've got a diagnostic study scheduled for March. Until then, I'll just watch my metabolism crash, I suppose. I'll just spend every evening wondering if I'll be able to keep down even those five bites. I'll just stay perpetually exhausted and lethargic.

But it's more than the physical exhaustion that's getting to me; it's the emotional exhaustion of never being able to plateau. I'm done with always getting worse. I'm frustrated that I keep getting hit with new problems. I'm tired of this constant descent into a poorer quality of life.

All I want is to stay the same level of fucked.

I worry I'll reach a point when it won't even matter anymore. All anyone wants to do is throw pills at me, and I'm already on some that aren't meant to be taken together. Won't I reach the point where it's a choice between pill combos that will kill me and remaining sick as hell? They can't just medicate away everything that's wrong with me.

Then there's the other side of it, the little birdie that whispers in my ear, "Maybe it's the pills that are making you sick." That's when I go down spirals of wondering what would happen if I went off all my meds, psych included, and just tried to self-medicate with fresh air and yoga like people keep telling me. You know, because


I've had so many strangers tell me I just need to go gluten-free. That I don't eat enough kale. Or that my only hope is prayer. Well Jesus Christ if going the doctor route is just seeing me with more and more problems, maybe I can't argue... Right?

Except, well, fuck that. So my flesh-prison is determined to rot a little faster than most, that is not reason to turn my back on science, to give up on the quality of life that medication has given me. No, how I'm living is not perfect, and I'm not even arguing against the possibility that a med here or there could be doing more harm than good. But I've lived off the medical grid, and it is pure, unadulterated hell. And I think about all the people who'd kill to have my insurance, and I wonder how I could flip them all off by turning my back on all the expertise and scientific aid available to me.

I'm just not willing to do it.

So I guess there are more diagnostics in my future. Probably more adjustments to my diet. Almost definitely more pills. And yeah, hopefully another diagnosis. Because while it's exhausting to think about all the shit that's wrong with me, you know what's more exhausting? Trying to pretend it'll all go away if I visualize enough rainbows.

Can I say that I like this journal entry?

Sometimes, I'm afraid to say I like something. Not all somethings, mind you; I'm comfortable saying that dahlias are lovely flowers and that I get a visceral thrill from thunderstorms. I know people look at me strangely for it, but I'm not afraid to say I enjoy chewing on lemons and I find peace in the sensation of getting tattooed. I don't even mind making weirdly politicized statements such as "I love my wheelchair" and "I like wearing leggings as pants." Folks can disagree with these opinions, they may even attempt to suggest reasons why my opinions are "wrong." But I know they're mine to have, and they hurt no one, so I continue to have them, unburdened by any sense of guilt.</p>

But it's different when I say things like, "I like Disney movies." Because I can't help but feel like I'm passively tacking on, "I like queerbaiting. I like fatphobia. I like racism. I like all the horrible things this media behemoth presents in its films, all the awful ways it portrays the most vulnerable in society, how it plays to the lowest common denominator to make a buck, not giving a single damn about how it contributes to the self-hatred of minorities worldwide, to continued stereotyping and prejudice."

But... I do like Disney movies. I cringe at so much, but I still watch the movies. I still sing along to the songs. And I'd be a goddamn liar if I said I didn't subscribe to Disney+. It's... surprising? conflicting? disappointing?

It's problematic.
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Life is overwhelming sometimes

Truthfully, I don't even remember what aspects of life hit me hard enough to make me bye out of LJ Idol in the first place. It's been a rough... while. Let's just go with "while."

But I feel like I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe? Maybe. Or maybe things will overwhelm me again in few hours and I'll go back to curling up and ignoring everything outside my living room. Who knows.

Not knowing how this will turn out, I'm going to say, "Sure, why not," at giving LJ Idol another chance. Writing is good for me, when I can inspire myself to do it. So I'm at least going to try.

Consider me a contestant again.

TOPIC 4: Like it's on rails

I stood up.

I stood up, and all three people in my view stared at me, mouths agape. I wondered for a brief moment if I was about to attract a crowd.

But I just needed croutons. That was the day for a fancy salad, you see, and the croutons were on the top shelf. Fancy salads need croutons, right? It's just that I couldn't reach the top shelf from my wheelchair, and my shopping buddy was in a different aisle hunting down Italian dressing. And fancy salads call for that Olive Garden stuff, so it was taking him a while to find it.

So I stood up and snatched a bag of croutons. By everyone's reactions, you'd think Jesus himself had lifted me out of my chair and blessed me. "You are healed, my child." Blessed me so I could reach the croutons. Because Jesus has priorities.

It was pretty clear these folks thought it was impossible for a wheelchair user to stand. It's a pretty common assumption, but it confused me a lot in the beginning. Wheelchairs are for people who have trouble walking, right? We see frail elderly people step from them into their caregiver's cars all the time and never question it. Was that the problem? I wasn't frail? I feel pretty frail. My joints get injured so easily, and my bruises are horrifyingly large rainbows of pain. Maybe it's the fat. Too fat to look frail. Would standing seem more normal if I were skinny? Or is it the age thing? I can't rush wrinkles. Though they do make gray hair dye.

I had a lot of strange thoughts about how others perceived me back in the beginning. A lot of strange thoughts about how I could tweak those perceptions so the shock didn't always melt into that look of disgust. That look that screamed, "Fucking faker, you don't need that chair, look at you standing." I always wanted to respond to the look. I don't even know if I wanted to respond to the person wearing it, but I wanted to respond to the look.

I wasn't faking. Why would I fake this? What benefit could I possibly gain? What is it about wheelchairs that make people think this is about fun and games?

Maybe it's rooted in the mentality of those jokes they always make. If I turn a corner sharply: "Wow, look at the handling on that thing!" If I move at the pace of a brisk walk: "Whoa, slow down or you're going to get a speeding ticket!" If I am buying a bottle of wine: "Don't drink and drive that thing!"

They talk about my wheelchair like it's a zippy little convertible breezing through stop signs. No one sees it like I do: As a part of my body. An extension of myself as much as my arms or legs. No, to them, it's just an object, an extra in Fast and Furious. Maybe that's why they all feel they have the right to touch it, move it, steer it around without ever asking my permission.

Though at least if they did that with my car, I could call the police. Grand theft cripple autonomy? No one cares about that.

I don't worry so much about those looks now. I still get them, but what do they matter? Some people will always find a reason to condemn. I know my abilities, I know my needs. I might be able to reach some croutons, but I need that chair to get around the store. Someone shooting daggers out of their eyes at me doesn't change any of it. All it does is prove their need to work on kindness and compassion rather than judgement and scorn.

By the way, that salad was fantastic.

TOPIC 3: "Have you tried losing weight?"

I'm fat. I'm aware that I'm fat, and I don't try to hide it. I don't see it as anything shameful, it's just a fact of my existence.

I'm also disabled, and boy do doctors like to make a backwards association there. You see, I'm fat because I'm disabled. I was actually once so skinny that my doctor pulled my then-spouse aside to discuss whether or not I ate, at all. But then in my mid-twenties, my knees went. The rest of my joints quickly followed suit, and I was a wheelchair-user before I was 30. Suddenly all the activity that had kept me thin just wasn't possible anymore. I still ate well, but the sudden absolute inability to exercise created...well, a fat person.

But doctors ignore that narrative. Even the doctors who watched me first become disabled, then get fat, somehow forgot how things went, and assumed it was the other way around. Now every doctor I see assumes I'm crippled because I'm fat.

It's an interesting assumption, given the disabilities I've been officially diagnosed with. Among other things, I have a genetic disease that affects connective tissue, often resulting in an inability to put any kind of stress on one's joints. Well gee...I guess obesity changes your genes. That's how this works, right?

But I want help, so I try anyway. I go to all the doctors I'm told to go to:

I talk to my PCP about everything that I suffer from. "Have you tried losing weight?"

I talk to the orthopedist about my joint degeneration. "Have you tried losing weight?"

I talk to the rheumatologist about my nerve pain. "Have you tried losing weight?"

I talk to the cardiologist about my heart condition. "Have you tried losing weight?"

I talk to the pain specialist about my arthritis. "Have you tried losing weight?"

Finally I talk to the physical therapist about exercising to lose weight. "Um...you can't do that. Please don't try to do that. Your body cannot handle the exertion necessary to do that."

I eat small meals. Those meals are healthy. I'm a vegetarian. I never drink a drop of alcohol. I don't drink sugary drinks. I don't really snack, except sometimes on nuts. Even my PCP agrees that my diet is ideal. So exactly how am I supposed to lose weight? All those fat-shaming doctors haven't been able to provide me with an answer. And it's not that I don't ask, oh I ask. But they usually just shrug and tell me to find a way.

Cause permanent physical damage by exercising beyond my ability? Sounds fine. Risk weakness and more syncope by starving myself? Yeah that's okay. But just stay fat and still expect decent medical care? That's ridiculous.

Because doctors have exactly one solution to throw at people like me, and they don't seem to particularly care if it's a dangerous one. Every fat person has the same problem: Fatness. And we'd better fix it, or die trying.

TOPIC 2: My mind is expensive to maintain.

Twice a month I go to the neuropsychiatrist, and it doesn't feel like too much changes. Maybe one adjustment a visit, that's not much, is it? Mainly a lot of questions get asked, a lot of notes get taken. It feels more like a check-in to make sure I'm not nearing a total breakdown than it is any kind of desperate attempt to normalize things. I think we've both given up on "normal."

So maybe I'm not sleeping--time to up to sedatives. Or I'm not focused enough--time to change the stimulants. The shadows are moving or talking more than they should--time to adjust those antipsychotics. Mania again--those dang mood stabilizers just aren't perfect yet. Uh-oh, I'm sad...really sad--antidepressants just never work like you think they should. The PTSD's been spiking--gotta try to get that daily anti-anxiety Rx at the right levels. Or wait, no, it's the panic attacks--maybe we should focus on the onset meds.

Then there's therapy, where I dole out a copay to draw stick-figure renditions of childhood trauma and narrate weird little comics with them. But hey, at least I get to nom on fun-size candies for "grounding" purposes while I work my way through repressed memories I'd rather keep buried. Though sometimes I wonder if it'd be smarter to spend the cash on my own Airheads and just start repressing stuff again. It seems less taxing.

And of course, after all of this, there's always even more talking. "How did your appointment go? What did you talk about? Did the doctor make any changes?" My brain is already vibrating from dealing with all the questions in-session, can we maybe tone it down for a little while?

But no. Now they just want another one, a neuropsychologist on top of things. Apparently it's the iatrist for the schizo, the ologist for the autism. Except the ologist doesn't take insurance, and won't see me without an entirely new evaluation to start. No big deal, eval only costs two grand. Let me just dig that out from under my mattress, or maybe select the requisite gold coins during my morning swim through the vault. And not to worry! The ologist won't do anything silly like start taking my insurance thereafter, no, they'll be sure to continue bleeding me dry for life. Or, I suppose, for as long as autism lasts. It's a couple week thing, like the flu, right?

At least my pills are covered! Well, you know, some of them. In certain doses. Usually in the manners of release my doctors don't want but we're all forced to settle for. And with those never-ending copays. But I remember when I first lost my insurance. I remember when the pharmacy first told me it would cost several thousand dollars per month to stay on my medications. And I most certainly remember going cold-turkey off all of them and spiraling wildly out of control. So hey, things could be worse, right?

Gosh I'm lucky to live in the Land of the Free where capitalism controls everyone's medical care! It's not like I'm both cursing my inability to afford my own proper care while also being stricken with survivor's guilt for receiving what treatment I am. No no. This is America.

Everything is perfect.


TOPIC 1: Family dynamics in the Twilight Zone [TW: Domestic violence & non-graphic mention of r*pe]

I'd had a bad pain day, so I was in my bed, medicated on prescription painkillers and resting, when the knock on the door came. I heard the person repeatedly insisting they speak with me, and my spouse retort each time that I wasn't home. (I suppose this was easier for him than saying I didn't want to be disturbed. I can't say I disagree with his approach.) They argued in a fashion, and I became nervous. Why would some stranger be so desperate to talk to me? In my medicated haze I began to panic, but I knew I was too foggy-brained and too likely to fall to consider going to the door. I waited the argument out, and it felt like a lifetime between hearing the front door shut and seeing my spouse appear in the bedroom door.

Apparently I'd been served. My ex-husband was suing me for custody of our child. The child he'd chosen not to see or speak to for two years after we split. The child he'd never paid child support for. The child he refused to refer to by their proper pronouns. The child who needed extensive therapy thanks to witnessing his abuse of me. That child? Suddenly he wanted full custody of that child? Somewhere in the depths of my panic, a seed of suspicion was planted.

I went through all the proper steps. I went into significant debt hiring an attorney. And that's when my suspicion reached full-bloom: How in the world was a deadbeat dad would couldn't hold down a steady job affording his attorney?

Speaking with my own, finding out about a meeting, I got the answer: He was being financed by our child's grandmother. Except, not my ex's mother. Mine.

You see, he lived with my mother, moved in a couple of years after we split. I never knew the details of their arrangement, and I never wanted to. The entire concept repulsed me on the basest of levels, especially considering that my mother had come to pick me up the day I left him. She saw the chef's knife stabbed into my vanity, she saw my blood on the walls. Worse, I'd confided in her about all the countless times he had raped me.

But she'd always been abusive in her own right. It was no surprise when her response to me sharing my story was, "Well maybe if you were a better spouse, he wouldn't have done that."

Just a short time before being served those papers, I'd told her she would no longer have unlimited contact with my child, because I was cutting off contact with her entirely. I'd finally recognized her toxicity and realized that it was not my responsibility to try and "fix" her abusive behavior. Blood family was meaningless; I owed her nothing.

So this was her revenge: financing a rapist's attempt to steal the child conceived in just that fashion. Well alright then. I'd play her game, and go through the courts.

Except, my mother is wealthy, and I...well, I was a teacher, rapidly approaching complete and permanent disability leave. I didn't have the endless resources she did. But at the very least, I had facts on my side. Proof that my ex-husband had ignored our child, refused to pay child support. I didn't dare bring the abuse into the case, though. I was too afraid. So many times he'd continued to threaten me and assault me after the split, I just couldn't trust that he wouldn't do it again in revenge. Fear is a terrible thing.

We eventually reached an agreement, hours before our court date cutoff. He got every other weekend, and Wednesdays after school. We received shared legal custody, with me as the decisive tiebreaker. And he had to pay me child support. A pittance, but something. Maybe it could even cover the costs of therapy for our child.

In my eyes, it was a terrible resolution. The concept of being forced to share my dearest one with such a monster after I'd worked so hard to make us safe from him...it nauseated me. It still does to this day. But at least during his custody times, he's rarely with our child.

No, he drops them off with my mother.

At least someone got exactly what they wanted.

LJ Idol

I've been encouraged by yet another dear friend entering to give LJ Idol a try for real. I'd planned to just play the home game from Week 1, as a combination of voting anxiety and poor time management make this difficult for me, but apparently this is my lemming moment. I may fail out Week 1 because deadlines are hard for me these days, but I'm going to give it a shot.

TOPIC 0: Personality slices

I'm secretly a lagomorph disguised as a boring 30-something humanoid. I've got two kids (almost-3 and almost-13) and two spouses (whose ages seem irrelevant). We live in a standard suburban starter home with a giant black walnut tree in the back, and enough room that we were able to plant our own fig tree before it and apple tree out front.

That might seem a strange thing to focus in on, but not for me. Trees are important. Were I a D&D character, I would unquestionably be a forest gnome druid. Literally everyone I've spoken to about it agrees, and they also place my alignment at neutral good. So I've got that going for me I suppose.

My time is usually spent:

+ taking care of my tiny one (and my no-longer-so-tiny one)
+ cooking and baking (feeding people is my primary love language)
+ playing board games (Bunny Kingdom is my favorite)
+ trying to get back into reading-for-pleasure (currently tackling some Mira Grant)
+ playing video games (usually old incarnations of Pokemon)
+ crafting to the best of my abilities (I primarily make earrings)
+ doing schoolwork (I'm a perpetual student)
+ brainstorming fantastic book ideas (that I'll never have the guts to write)
+ playing Dungeons & Dragons (I'm currently active in 4 weekly campaigns)
+ snuggling various furry darlings (I have 3 dogs and 2 cats)
+ watching comedy news shows (fun) or the actual news (less fun, but a necessary evil)
+ drinking any of the 100+ varieties of teas I have collected (because apparently I've got a problem)
+ trying to include my partners in most of these activities (so I can count them as quality time)

As you might have noticed, these endeavors are all of the staying-in variety. That's because, due to disability, I'm usually a homebody. But I do try to go out occasionally; for example, I enjoy hitting yard sales on weekends, and going to the movies on Discount Tuesdays. If I go out shopping it's usually to the craft store, and I generally can't abide by the cost of eating out now that I've finally become a well-rounded cook. (I'm also a vegetarian, and have found that I can create far more interesting meals at home than the bland one or two options provided for me at most restaurants.)

I'm a far-leftist with no tolerance for conservatism. I'm an atheistic pagan who utilizes the goddesses of the Greek pantheon as metaphors for earthly concepts. I'm a queer enby who despises gatekeepers. I'm a high-masking autistic who's working to embrace their stims. I'm a tattoo enthusiast who dislikes the question, "How many tattoos do you have?" because at this point I can only respond in a vague guess at percentage of body covered.

I wonder if this reads like the world's most unintriguing dating profile. I don't suppose there's much I can do about that, as I'm not getting more interesting any time soon. I'm satisfied with my life though. It's simple but it's calm and it's generally happy and that's all I need.