A brief update and links to book reviews

I don’t have the necessary time and peace to write a longer post today, so have another short one for a change!

Writing yesterday’s post made me think about what influenced my childhood views on abortion, in particular, books I’ve read that were connected to the topic in some way. One of them was Francine Rivers’  “The Atonement Child”, a work of fiction in which a young woman is raped, becomes pregnant, must decide whether to have an abortion, and ultimately (“correctly”, that is, in accordance with God’s will) decides against it.

We had a few more books of hers lying around at home (most in English, although “The Atonement Child” was available in German too). The one I remember best is “Redeeming Love” – I think it was actually one of the very first “real” books I’ve read in English, that is, books not specifically written or edited for people still learning English (and/or children).

I wondered what it would be like to re-read some of them now, and as fortune has it, I can read “Redeeming Love” vicariously through a review by blogger Samantha Field (which I found out today through Libby Anne, who just started reviewing “A Voice in the Wind”, a Rivers book I haven’t read personally).

So, as soon as my real life is a bit quieter again, I’ll have a bunch of blog posts to read and a few past memories to relive. (I might comment on some of them here, I might not.)

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The Abortion Binary (and me)

Regarding abortion, there are exactly three terms to describe two different views: pro-choice and pro-life/anti-choice (pro-life being the term chosen by people holding said view, and anti-choice the one used by people holding the opposite view).

And, as with any social binary I’ve ever known, a lot of the area is blurry and grey. (Regarding how to categorize/name it, that is. Not necessarily regarding whether it’s a good area to be in.)

When I was a child, I believed that abortion was wrong. I thought it was against God’s will, I thought it was killing someone, I thought it was bad for people (well, women; trans people were not exactly on my radar at the time) who had abortions, and I thought that alternative decisions – primarily, adoption – was always better, unless there was a medical emergency that required abortion to save the pregnant person’s life. (I don’t think I was aware of other medical issues with pregnancy at the time and am not sure where I would have drawn the line.)

But I never (as far as I can remember) wanted abortions to be illegal*. I had watched Dirty Dancing with my mother once, in which a woman has an unsafe abortion prior to its legalization and suffers complications, and I was aware that people attempting DIY abortions or going to hacks with a knife were an issue, and that sometimes pregnant people even attempted or committed suicide because they saw no other way out.

What I wanted, even back then, was support for pregnant people in difficult situations, good counselling to help them make the “right” choice, destigmatization of unplanned pregnancies in unmarried people (because I fully understood that fear of negative social consequences would cause them to want to hide the evidence of sex out of wedlock), and better access to birth control. (Or at least some forms of birth control – I did believe that life started with zygotes back then, and that birth control pills and IUDs caused early abortions.)

Does that mean I was pro-choice? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But wanting safe abortions to be available to everyone is quite far from what’s typically considered pro-life as well.

The pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy doesn’t seem to hinge on any single factor.

Consider some dimensions of people’s views on abortion:

  • The origin of the pregnancy
    Many people considered to be pro-life do support exceptions in the case of pregnancies caused by rape, while most don’t support pregnancies caused by contraceptive failure, let alone failure to use contraception. (Which begs the question of how exactly to determine which pregnancies have been caused by rape, but that’s a whole different matter.)
  • Gestational age
    Some people oppose even forms of contraception they believe to prevent the implantation of a zygote (fertilized egg), such as IUDs and birth control pills, while others draw lines at fetal heartbeat, fetal pain perception, or possibly other developmental criteria.
  • The reason for the abortion
    This one is a big one – from medical risks for the pregnant person to disability to the embryo’s sex, there are many different factors to consider and weigh.
  • Abortion regulations
    Mandatory counselling, waiting times, who may offer and perform which types of abortion to whom – the possible regulations are numerous, and so are the possible motivations behind them (preventing regret, minimizing health risks, ensuring informed consent, and sadly less noble ones such as lowering the number of abortions without addressing any underlying problems or having to fight against too powerful laws and past court decisions).
  • Legality vs. morality
    Whether someone considers abortion morally wrong or thinks it should be illegal are two different questions, and the answers to both can be split again by the factors already mentioned. In the case of legality, outlawing abortions also leads to questions about who should be punished how, what exactly counts as abortion, and how to prevent the persecution of people having miscarriages (and to get an idea of what is already happening out there, I highly recommend Libby Anne’s post on women persecuted under restrictive abortion laws).
  • Financial considerations
    Who should pay for abortions, and how much? How much should society support childrearing (through financial aid, subsidized childcare, paid parental leave, subsidized housing, subsidized nutrition, and other social safety measures)?

It’s hard to decide which exact views on all these dimensions count as pro-choice and which count as pro-life, and there certainly doesn’t seem to be a a consensus. The labels are part of a mental map describing clusters of answers to the many questions surrounding abortion, and while many people will fall down pretty clearly on one or the other side of the dichotomy, many will not.

I’m in favor of legal and accessible abortions for everyone, and within that frame, I want there to be as few abortions as possible. I don’t think that anyone should be forced or pressured into giving birth to a child they cannot care for, even if their inability to do so is due to their child needing accommodations for a disability, but I do think that legal exceptions for such abortions are troubling, especially in light of often subpar legal support for actual people with disabilities/disabled people. I think that the decision not to give birth to a child with a vulva in a misogynist society which will treat it like shit is probably a good decision, but that certainly doesn’t prevent me from thinking it’s an outrageous fucking tragedy that this is even a consideration, let alone that it actually might be better for a child with a vulva not to be born.

Social issues don’t ever seem to be simple or binary.


* Abortions are actually illegal in Austria, but not subject to prosecution if:

  • done within the first three months of pregnancy after medical counselling (not further specified), or
  • necessary to avert serious danger to the life, physical or mental health of the pregnant person (not further specified), or
  • there is serious danger of the child being mentally or physically disabled, or
  • the pregnant person was a minor at the time of conception.

Weekend preparations

This weekend, D is coming to visit, and I’m nervous about it.

I’ll have to share my tiny room with another person, to deal with someone else’s stuff cluttering the floor, someone else’s smell permeating the air (okay, this is not an issue with most people, this is just an issue with D), someone leaving bread crumbs and footprints and other dirt on my floor, someone breaking unwritten and unspoken rules I keep to about where to put and keep things and how to handle them. I’ll have to diverge from my usual routines and mold my life around him in some ways, to consider someone else’s needs, to deal with the uncertainty and spontaneity that automatically comes with being around another person (with some exceptions – I never feel that way around my father, curiously). I’ll have to cope with being observed almost constantly, and with the inhibitions that inevitably brings: about food, movements, how aware I am of myself and how much I keep in control of my face and gestures and actions. I’ll have to cope with the increased amount of noise – breathing and chewing and moving and burping.

And there will be touching. Given our less-than-stellar record at good consent practice, I’m also nervous about that. There will be situations I won’t be able to escape – a narrow mattress to share, mostly (put on the floor where it doesn’t belong, because my bunk bed doesn’t handle our combined weight too well, getting dirty and being in the way), and there will be many situations in which I’ll technically be able to escape but might not be able to in practice.

It seems so easy in my imagination – just say “stop”, or “not right now”, or “no hugging please”, or “I need a bit of breathing space”. But in reality, so much happens so fast and so often, and before I even find my voice my head is already filling up with fuzzy white cotton and pushing through all of it to get the words out seems like so much work and isn’t it much easier to just wait until it passes on its own?

It may be easier, but it’s not right. I am an important person in this world, too. My desire not to be hugged is no less important than his desire to hug me, and standing up for myself is no less important and valuable than standing up for someone else. I need to have my own back, here – I need to be the voice speaking out for the voiceless part of me.

And I know that this will benefit me, benefit him, benefit our relationship, make this weekend a vastly more enjoyable experience, pave the way for future equally nice or even better visits, build my interpersonal skills, develop my character in the way I want it to develop, and improve my mental health.

There are good things I want to happen this weekend. I want us to go swimming. I want us to have food and fun with friends. I want to practice driving (and drive without another person sitting at another brake for the first time, which is scary but exciting). And I want to relax during all those things, to breathe easy and speak freely and have a clear head devoid of any cotton clouds, to feel safe in the knowledge that if anything I don’t want happens, I will speak up for myself as clearly and as often as needed, and it will stop happening.

And dammit, I will make this happen.

Technology solutions

I’m very, very glad that I wrote yesterday’s post (well, the post I wrote yesterday and posted today shortly before this one), because today I finally got the call from the repair shop guy: the problem with the cooling fan could indeed be solved with a good cleaning, but the hard drive was defective. They could replace it with a new one, and possibly turn it into an external hard drive (saving still works fine, but booting does not) with all my data saved, for about € 130-170 depending on what size I wanted the new hard drive to be.

If I hadn’t spent as much time navel-gazing about my feelings regarding my laptop and their causes as I did while writing the blog post, I would have said yes. As it was, I told them I wasn’t sure it was worth it, and that I’d think about it and either call them back or come get my laptop as it was.

I texted my father asking for his opinion, and my girlfriend M to give her the update. My father wrote back that my laptop might have reached the end of its natural life span and offered to pay for a replacement, and M offered me to simply keep hers, since she didn’t need it and I obviously needed a laptop.

So I ended up spending most of my day getting my old laptop back from the repair shop and customizing the new one, or rather watching M do it – she came by after work (with vegetable sushi!) specifically to see me and help my wobbly first steps into the Linux world.

Oh yeah, that is also a thing that happened. I’m on Linux now. It’s a weird feeling – on the one hand, I feel pretty helpless, because all of the settings and tools and possible tweaks are foreign territory, on the other it doesn’t feel all that much different: I still use many of the same programs, and the replacements for the Windows-specific ones don’t seem all that different.

And WordPress notifications actually work now! Until now, clicking the bell just ended in an eternal loading wheel, but now I can actually see people’s reactions and respond to them inline. Suddenly this whole platform has become a lot more usable!

Still need to import all my data, though, and make some further tweaks, and import all my data (which might be a good opportunity to sort through at least some of it and throw out some old stuff I really don’t need anymore) so this post is going to stay short.

Technology trouble

You may or may not have noticed that I did not post yesterday. Let it be known that this is not due to laziness on my part – I did in fact write a blog post – but to unfortunate circumstances.

My trusted and beloved laptop warned me two days ago that its cooling fan was not working correctly, and that continued usage could lead to unexpected shutdowns, data loss, and system damage. While it bravely soldiered on when I demanded it (and even switched on the cooling fan, although with more noise than usual), the warning got me worried enough to take it to a repair shop the following day.

Continue reading “Technology trouble”

A Tale of Two Nipples

When I had top surgery, my nipples were left untouched. The plastic surgeon had measured their width during the pre-examination, concluded that they were “perfectly good male nipples” already, and moved on to considering and discussing the rest of the surgery.

I was irrationally proud of my nipples for the rest of the day, and also half-laughing and half-crying about the irony of the whole nipple situation.

If I had posted a topless picture of myself on Facebook prior to my transition, it would have been removed for the “female” nipples. And yet a topless picture of myself after top surgery would contain the very same nipples, unchanged and untouched, and be allowed to stay.
And it’s not like the flesh around them was the true problem – I could have posted a picture of the whole boobs prior to top surgery or even hormones with nothing censored but the nipple and gotten away with it. Hell, in and around June 2015, there was a whole movement of women posting topless pictures with “male” nipples photoshopped over theirs – there’s not much to be found on how that turned out, and it seems like pictures with more subtle photoshops were removed and pictures with more obvious photoshops allowed to stay, but if I photoshopped my post-surgery, officially “male” nipples over my pre-surgery, officially “female” nipples, it would be the exact same nipple. (Hence the quotes. The only gendered thing about them is the gender of the person they belong to, and that is male and has been since before any kind of transition. I was reminded of the whole story today when my girlfriend sent me a link to this article about an Instagram account which posts close-ups of nipples without a gender label attached – so far, a few pictures have been removed by Instagram’s censorship algorithm, and – surprise, surprise – some of the censored nipples were attached to men.)

And the official designation is a whole different, equally ridiculous story: in Austria, legal gender can be changed without any surgeries.
I could have made myself a Facebook account in perfect alignment with my official name and gender before I ever even started HRT, posted a topless picture of myself, and given Facebook official, legal proof of my maleness. And then leaned back and enjoyed the chaos I’d caused.
I even thought about doing it, or posting a progression picture including pre- and post-surgery pictures at least (with the same set of nipples, naturally), but I don’t actually use my legal name on Facebook, really don’t want to (let alone give them official proof of my identity), and also feel quite uncomfortable with the notion of having topless pictures of myself on social media, let alone seeing them spread around.

Fortunately, other trans people are less inhibited: in September 2015, Courtney Demone started posting topless pictures of herself throughout hormone therapy on Facebook and Instagram, challenging them to decide when her chest (with largely unchanged nipples) was sufficiently female to fall prey to censorship.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find out what became of her project (occasionally distracted by pictures and videos of her extremely cute dog, which I had to share with you), but most of the content and sites associated with it have been removed (or repurposed) completely, and while she repeatedly mentions plans to write follow-up posts, it hasn’t happened so far. I did find this lengthy interview on YouTube, though – I’ll probably watch it tomorrow (for lack of time today), but according to the description, Facebook and Instagram started censoring her pictures a couple of months into the process – including her “before” pictures. Apparently, her nipples retroactively became female in their eyes. (Wonder how that would work for mine!)

(Also, did you know trans women can breastfeed? I did not!)

Update: she talks about how pictures of trans men are handled from 30:00 onwards, and also about an initiative by women who have had mastectomies – apparently, topless pictures of people with breasts (regardless of their gender) and women (regardless of whether they have breasts) get censored, although the initiative’s account was reinstated after public outrage.
Guess the next step is to get some non-women with ambiguous chests and possibly some cis men with gynecomastia for further exploration/messing with censors!

On aches and people

About four years ago, I started getting a lot of headaches. The first twinges usually started in the afternoon, every heartbeat pulsing painfully in my temples. By late evening, I’d be slumped over in my desk chair, keeping as still as humanly possible, gingerly holding my head at whatever angle was the least painful, while my eyes felt ready to explode from the pressure in my head.

In early fall, I moved, transporting my stuff piece by piece via backpacks and bags through public transport, and the headaches were daily. By then, I knew they’d only get worse as the day progressed, and even sleep would only bring temporary relief until the whole cycle started over again the next day. Eventually, as I stood on the tramway hanging my head and desperately trying to keep as motionless as possible despite the train’s movement, knowing this was only the beginning, a friend offered me some painkillers.

Continue reading “On aches and people”