Oryx and Crake: Jimmy’s Mom

CN: Spoilers for Oryx and Crake, Mentions of abuse and infertility,

Sometimes when I’ve read a book multiple times, enough to know it really well, and I need something to read for a short period of time, I will pick up a book and read it at random spots. For a while now, Oryx and Crake has been in the bathroom, and every once in a while, I’ve picked it up and read certain parts.

While doing so lately, something has been jumping out at me and I have a new suspicion about something that I think is going on in the background of the story.

I believe that Jimmy’s mom suffered some sort of illness that resulted in her becoming infertile after she gave birth to Jimmy.

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Oryx and Crake: Jimmy’s Mom
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Flamboyán Al Fin

He hoarded his Christmas gifts. We would get him cologne, ties, shirts, tchotchkes from our travels, treatments to soften his overworked hands, and they would all find their ways into drawers and cabinets, untouched for years. His clothing had to wear to nothing before he would discard it and start the next one’s slow disintegration. New, untouched things are a treasure to save for when they are needed, not an indulgence for in between. Scarcity is behind every shadow and over every hill, and a good hoard is insurance against doing without. It’s a habit my father, my grandfather, and I all share, to each other’s bemused frustration. They tangled with Communists, I grew up autistic, and we all hoard.

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Flamboyán Al Fin

Being Trans and Autistic Is Weird and Common

Almost every trans woman I know is either autistic or makes me wonder if they are. My AutDar is well-tuned enough that I trust it over most other criteria available to me, and it pings almost all of them. Some evidence suggests that gender dysphoria is much more common among autistic people than in the general population, so this is likely not merely anecdote. Those studies need a lot of cleanup to actually mean something (not least to get asshole charlatan Simon Baron-Cohen’s name off of them). Either way, whether we’re more abundant than expected or not, this combination makes our experiences rather…unusual.

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Being Trans and Autistic Is Weird and Common

Learn Your Birthfish

Western culture is full of quirky superstitions and traditions. Many of them are leftover bits of former religious practice, retained long after the traditions and beliefs that gave them meaning fell away, while others are more recent inventions designed to convince people to spend money or part of quasi-religious traditions still gaining ground. I have one (las doce uvas de la suerte) I maintain for cultural reasons, and Ania buys unconsecrated Communion host around Christmastime for the same reason. Humans are peculiar creatures, and derive much benefit from activities whose instrumental utility is opaque or absent.

Perhaps the best-known such traditions are horoscopes and birthstones. Both of these connect the date of one’s birth to something in nature (a constellation and a gemstone, respectively), and have been used to generate loads of money for people who convince others that the association has magical or predictive significance. Horoscopes in particular get treated with bizarrely outsized seriousness in some circles, but for many of us, they’re a cute little game.

And why should folks interested in gems and stars have all the cute little games?

So here’s a new one: Your Birthfish. You’re now symbolically linked to this kind of fish, and obligated by the same rules that make people obsess over Gemini and Taurus to tell everyone that you’re now a Chinese high-fin banded loach or pumpkinseed sunfish. May this amusing bit of fake superstition entertain and confuse your friends and family, and lead to some seafood-themed birthday dinners and greater appreciation for the beauty of fish.

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Learn Your Birthfish

Wherein I Catfish an Irish Chaser Named Niall Corbally

I don’t often check my “filtered messages” on Facebook. I don’t get many, and by the time I get around to remembering the secret extra inboxes Facebook helpfully uses as a preemptive trash bin, many of the people messaging me there have already had their accounts disabled on account of being spambots. It’s a short queue of “Facebook User” interspersed with men from overseas asking outrageous things of me.

Which brings me to Niall Corbally, the drift-race enthusiast and proud Tweeter who decided that messaging overseas trans lesbians to get them to perform sexual violence upon his gonads was a good use of his time. This is the message he sent me at the beginning of the month, that I found earlier today:

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Wherein I Catfish an Irish Chaser Named Niall Corbally

The Unfunny Incompetence of Social Services in New York

TW: Domestic Violence, Systemic Violence, Bigotry

As some of you may remember, I talked about the possibility of going to New York, to help a single mom friend who had hurt herself. I was doing a fundraiser to be able to afford to go (I could still use some donations to help recover from the financial strain. And also to cover unexpected expenses).

Well, earlier in July, I finally went. Many of you may be wondering why it was so urgent. While it is true that an injured ankle makes things hard to deal with, especially for a single mom with an active kid, but it doesn’t seem like the type of thing to really justify spending so much money to go help out. Heck, taking a cab around would be cheaper.

The truth is that out of concern for privacy and at the request of my friend, I left out a lot of details. While it is true that she did injure herself, and that a portion of my help was to make things easier on her for a few days, the truth of the matter is that I was going there to stand witness and see what I could do to help her with a much more complicated issue.After my visit, my friend gave me permission to release some of the information on my blog.

You see, my friend was a victim of domestic abuse. Severe domestic abuse. Her partner hit her, sexually assaulted her, the details of which are so unbelievably horrible, that the court had a hard time accepting the truth of it. That was six years ago, and this man will likely never see the inside of a cell for what he did. My friend however, has had her life, and that of her child, completely hijacked.

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The Unfunny Incompetence of Social Services in New York

Rose Quartz Creeps Me Out

It’s not easy for me to feel good about maternal figures in media. (Gee, I wonder why.) This is something I’m aware of and keep in mind when one of them starts to rub me the wrong way, or otherwise shows their flaws. I can acknowledge Dr. Maheswaran’s harshness and overly protective tendencies, I can see and cathartically process Sadie’s mother’s overweening enthusiasm and difficulty seeing the daughter in front of her, but Rose Quartz creeps me out.

Rose Quartz, who resembles a thickset, 8-foot-tall, rosy-skinned human with enormous pink curls and a rose quartz gem set in her midsection, looks down at the viewer and extends a hand.
Means to a end, every one.

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Rose Quartz Creeps Me Out

Quale’s Privilege

Sociological concepts are controversial in the skeptic/atheist community. Many of its members don’t think of sociology as a “real” science, or otherwise dismiss the claims such a peculiar field makes as not holding up to the scrutiny expected in biology, geology, or physics. Criticisms of important sociological concepts like privilege tend to rely either on argument from personal incredulity or on hazy readings of introductory philosophy texts.

The funny thing is, philosobros who think they can undo sociological privilege with binary logic or harsh skepticism about the motives of other humans have only a few pages to flip before their own sources turn against them. Equally basic philosophical concepts and discussions underpin major sociological findings, and remind us to be aware of the limits of our own knowledge in other ways.

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Quale’s Privilege

Some Thoughts for the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology

This year will most likely be the last year that I attend the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology’s yearly symposium. This small-scale conference is advertised internally, and draws its attendees almost exclusively from the two university biology departments that comprise the OCIB. As a graduating Ph.D., I’m unlikely to either get those advertisements or have the open schedule required to be present on subsequent occasions. It has served as a way for biology students at the two departments to meet and get to know one another, for people to become familiar with the research going on elsewhere at the Institute, to practice for higher-stakes presentations at larger conferences, and to attend curated talks from well-credentialed and diverse researchers in various related fields. I have never found attendance at the OCIB Symposium to be wasted, not even the year where they got that weirdo suggesting we start using Aristotelian teleological models to better understand parts of biology.

(For those not in the know, those models also underlie much Christian philosophy and therefore Intelligent Design.)

This year, though, was marred by two instances of tone-deaf, science-illiterate microaggression that only get to keep the “micro-” qualifier because I’m not prepared to accuse these two speakers of deliberately attacking the autistic and transgender communities. Yet.

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Some Thoughts for the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology

The Cruelty of Hope

People say a lot of things about hope.  It’s an endless positive, the core of vital optimism that prevents people from descending into despair.  People claim it’s audacious to be hopeful, a bold statement of the inevitability of future improvement.  Heroes are powered by hope, defined by hope, sustained through their darkest moments by hope.  Hope is what we offer each other when we are wounded or scared: This isn’t forever.  Things will get better.  You can get through.

Hope is dangerous.

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The Cruelty of Hope