underthewillows: (Default)
2013-11-20 03:22 pm

In which internet anonymity is both a blessing and a curse

Warning: definitely Too Much Information ahead. If you don't want to go "I really didn't need to know that about you", skip this one.

Some stuff in here I've only told my sister. Some stuff I've not told anyone ever, either in Real Life or online, partly because I would have died of embarrassment and partly because I didn't have the vocabulary, knowledge or context with which, and in which, to express it.

I get the greatest links (she said sarcastically) from the various places I hang around on, am active in, or just innocently wander across. Here's one of them.

I know nothing about the FCKH8 campaign, its founder or founders, its purpose, or whoever runs the Facebook page linked above. I do have an opinion on this particular comment, however (I have an opinion on something I know little to nothing about? There's a surprise!)

I asked you to educate us. How are asexual people oppressed under the law? HOW is it an identity. I usually jack off with my right hand and not my left. Does that count as an “identity?” Are asexual people bullied, harassed and rejected by their friends and family because they don’t get hard ons or something? confused. Educate or quit whining. LGBT people had to do it, now it’s time for A people to step up to the plate and explain because it seems like an emo fad and a way to be different without being gay and to have a chip on your shoulder. So put on your activist hat here and teach us all so we get where you are coming from :)

Quite aside from the charming analogy used, I don’t owe these clowns an explanation for anything. But I’ll do this much, and reveal this much of my privacy, in reply to the question posed:

Are asexual people bullied, harassed and rejected by their friends and family because they don’t get hard ons or something?

Short answer? Yes.

Longer answer: Has any LGBT person ever been told “It’s a phase”, “You don’t know your own mind”, “You’re confused”, “You’ll grow out of it”, and the kicker “But I don’t want you to be lonely and alone when you get older”? It’s just as much denial and ignoring our decisions, our choices, our orientation, when it happens to asexuals.

We get the “Oh, you don’t really mean that”, when we’re younger, the “Isn’t it cute - just wait till he/she gets older and discovers boys/girls, then he/she will change his/her mind!” when we say we’re not interested in marriage and kids, then as we get older it develops into the “So, when are you getting a boyfriend/girlfriend?” questions, that keep on for years. ”When are you getting married?” ”You know, you really should be thinking of settling down now”. ”Any news?” (meaning, ‘Have you succeeded in becoming part of a couple?’). ”I’d like grandkids while I’m still able to enjoy them!”

Seeing all your friends, your age cohort, getting married or settling into relationships. Everyone saying “It’s your turn next!”

Then the earnest “Look, if you’re gay/lesbian, I don’t mind, really; you know you can tell me anything?” phase of questions kicks in.

Finally the questions peter out and stop, not because it’s been accepted that no, you’re not interested in being part of a couple, but because it’s too sad and desperate to keep on arguing over it.

If you’re lucky, you don’t get the awkward “Em - this doesn’t mean you like weird stuff like animals or little kids, does it?” attempts to understand why you’re not interested in ‘normal’ love, romance, sex or any combination of them. If you're lucky. If you're not, you may get it said to your face, or it may be whispered behind your back. But the notion that 'there's something wrong with him or her/that one is a weirdo/what a creep/loser' hangs about you.

In the Bad Old Days, not being interested in sex meant that women were labelled as frigid (which was a psychological problem, and probably even meant they were secretly lesbian or suffering from penis envy), and men were labelled as impotent (and therefore less than men, or even effeminate/possibly homosexual). However it was, the aim was to medically treat you so you would be ‘normal’, you would fit in.

Modern society isn’t all that much better. Modern society is saturated in sex, and whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s unavoidable. That means there are no places for those not interested in sex.

Valentine’s Day - a whole official celebration of ‘tonight is the one night you are sure to be gitting sahm!’ and ‘today is the day for love and romance and coupledom!’

If you’re single and want to be part of a couple but haven’t managed it, you’re a failure. If you’re single and not looking to be paired off, this is unthinkable, unimaginable.

Yes, there is bias and prejudice in society against LGBT people. But imagine an official day in the calendar that exists to rub your nose in your pariah status. Imagine all the novels, songs, movies, TV shows, that make the single person the outsider, the weirdo, the failure until he or she achieves success by finally getting that guy or girl.

I don’t want to reveal my age, so I’m not going to tell it here. But I’m considerably over the age of twenty, let’s put it at that. Here’s more fun experiences from the life of an asexual: going for the first appointment with a new gynaecologist. Doctor takes medical history (so far, so normal). Asks about any kids, ever been pregnant, what birth control used, etc.

Gets a “no” to all of the above. Repeatedly, because doctor keeps trying to get sexual history that does not exist, because doctor does not accept that adult female has no sexual history to recount.

(1) Doctor asks if I have ever had penetrative sex, with helpful accompanying hand gestures* because it seems I must, even at my advanced age, not know what that means. Obviously, it’s perfectly possible I have had sex and not known I was having sex, even though I am of average intelligence and not suffering any developmental or cognitive impairment so that I would not know what ‘sex’ means.
(2) Doctor then tries to find tactful way to ask if I am lesbian.

Because an adult female, in this society, cannot possibly not be having sex with someone. Cannot possibly never have had a sexual partner. What are we, Victorians?

So for you to say that asexuality is not a real thing, that it’s no more of a distinction than which hand you use to masturbate with (and how would you like someone telling a young guy first identifying as gay that being sexually attracted to men rather than women is no more a ‘real’ distinction than “jack(ing) off with my right hand and not my left”?), that asexuals do not get bullied, harassed and rejected -

- you and your campaign are full of shit.

Note: yes, there isn’t ‘one size fits all’ for asexuals: some of us are sexual but not romantic, some are romantic but not sexual, some are neither, others are in varying proportions of both at varying times. Being asexual doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual feelings (we have ordinary physical bodies, of course biological influences affect us), it doesn’t mean we don’t like people, it doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual fantasies, it doesn’t mean we don’t masturbate, it doesn't mean we don't have a sexual or romantic orientation: for instance, I've known I'm heterosexual, ever since the age of twelve when I started making lists of cute boys I saw on the telly/in magazines/in movies. But I've known since the age of nine that I wasn't interested in marriage and a family, and no, that didn't mean I wanted a partner but no kids, it meant I didn't want a spouse or a lover. I may not have had the words to express what I meant, but I knew it.

But primarily it does not mean we’re only going through an emo, attention-seeking phase trying to be as cool as the gay kids without incurring the stigma of being gay or lesbian. It is genuinely only in the last couple of years that I have become aware of asexuality as a "thing", that I received enough information to go "Yeah, you know what? I think that's me." It explained so much to me: why I had the feelings I had, more importantly why I didn't have the feelings I didn't have, why I could experience sexual arousal, have sexual fantasies, find men sexually attractive and yet still not want a relationship, either physical or emotional.

Saying "You lot are just emo kids wanting to be cool without paying the price" is peddling the old Freudian pop-psychology line from the early 20th century of "You're just a frigid woman or impotent man who needs therapy". It's telling me "No, it's religious guilt about sex that indoctrinated you that it's dirty is what's the matter!" Ironically, religion rather than Modern Sexual Liberation has been the most helpful to me in this; Matthew 19:11-12 where Jesus is giving the teaching on divorce:

11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

That let me feel "So, I'm one of the 'eunuchs who have been so from birth', and this is also is part of the natural order. I'm not a problem, I'm as valid as the rest of it."

It's telling me "You're repressed" and nowadays, to be sexually repressed is the worst sin possible. A little pink pill for the girls, like the little blue pill for the boys, will fix me right up.

It's telling me that I need to be 'normal', that what I am now is not 'normal'. It's telling me I don't know my own feelings, that I can't trust my own reasoning.

It's telling me all the things that a campaign about homophobic bullying should know better than to say, because they've heard it in their context, but seem perfectly happy to repeat it in another's context.

*Yes, a gesture along these lines. I had a moment of staring in disbelief and mentally going "This is my life now?"
underthewillows: (Default)
2013-10-24 01:03 pm

Everybody gets insulted. Every goddamn one of you.

So you can have your children taken away from you in Ireland if, on the judgement of a neighbour or random passer-by, they don't look sufficiently like you?

Of course not! What kind of banana republic do you think we're running here? That only happens if you are dark and the kid is fair!

There are to my certain knowledge at least three families in my town and surrounding areas where one child looks nothing like the rest of the family. This is because the child is Chinese and the parents are native Irish (foreign adoptions).

Do you think the child protection services were called in on them? Do you think it was even dreamed of happening in such cases?

Tell me again about how modern Ireland is so progressive. Here is where I start insulting everyone.

We have a coalition government at the moment. It consists of a centrist-right party (not as right-wing as a former, now defunct party but slightly more right-wing than the other main opposition party) and an allegedly left-wing party (insert for yourself the eyerolling, gagging noises, and casting hands up to Heaven regarding the modern Irish Labour party).

Two of the minority party ministers are out and admitted atheists. One of them holds the position analogous to Deputy Prime Minister, the other is our Minister for Education. They have been tripping over themselves rushing to fearlessly take on the power of the Catholic Church in Irish public life.

Our Minister for Justice (the boss of the police and the one setting the tone for policing strategy and policy) is Jewish.

Our Prime Minister (to use an analogous term) is Catholic, but he's been proudly and bravely standing up to reactionary Catholic fanaticism (even allegedly going so far as condemnations that he will burn in Hell!) over the recent Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (which everyone calls the abortion act, because it permits a limited form of legal abortion in Ireland for the first time).

Why do I mention this? Because this can't be pinned on the Bad Old Days or the Bad Old Church. The same newspapers and TV stations that were plastering 'shock, horror' stories about the Magdalen Laundries and how in the dark days of the 50s children could be taken away from their families at the whim of the nuns and priests with the State as a complacent lapdog, are the ones who whipped up the hysteria about "welfare scroungers" and "Gypsies stealing white babies".

The same government, that is committed to a secular, progressive, inclusive social agenda, the same government that campaigned for a "Yes" vote (to a referendum on children's rights which would amend our Constitution) in such a fashion that the Supreme Court judged the information campaign had not been "fair, impartial or unbiased"; the same government which assured us that the extended powers of social services to take children into care would not be abused - this is the same government presiding over these two scandalous cases.

They're going to try to push the blame off on the cops and the social workers, and there is certainly a case to answer there, but our Minister for Justice and our Minister for Children (a spiffy new post only created in the wake of the 2012 amendment) should be out there making statements explaining the whys and the wherefores.

And not them alone. The great and the good of charitable causes were all pushing for the amendment, all claiming that it would finally give children a voice and recognise their rights.

One of the rights is this:

The views of the child mean that the voice of the child must be heard and respected in all matters concerning his or her rights. For example, those in power should consult with children before making decisions that will affect them.

How much consulting went on with the girl taken from her family home, I wonder? The various secular saints of good causes, especially children's rights, are very silent on this point. The websites for the Children's Rights Alliance and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have posts up about the defeat in court of the challenge to the referendum. They have nothing about two children from a specific ethnic group being taken out of their homes by the forces of the state on anonymous tips - not about cruelty or abuse or neglect, but nebulous fears based on phenotypic appearance.

The chief executive of Barnados, whose face I got heartily sick of seeing placarded on billboards and in the papers and on the telly when he was looking for a nomination to run for the Presidency of Ireland back in 2011, and who trumpeted his involvement in children's affairs as a reason why he'd be a good servant of the public interest, hasn't uttered a word on the topic that I'm aware of.

These are not the rosary-rattling, puritanical, repressive, priest-ridden Catholic hypocrite politicians of the Bad Old Days. These are the Good Guys, as they're never tired of reminding us.

And yet, in modern Ireland of 2013, a tabloid hack ginning up publicity for his TV show can set in motion the police force and health authority to stage a raid based on a naked appeal to public prejudice and fear, on the part of the authorities, of bad publicity.

We're left with a couple of conclusions that are depressing, to say the least. First, either there were no complaints of abuse or neglect prior to these raids (I can't think of a better way to describe them) and they were carried out purely, as I have said, as a prophylactic against bad PR. Or there were abuse concerns, but nobody was bothered to get involved (or the usual inefficiency and muddle that I observed was the rule) until the journalist sniffed out a juicy story - that's not much better, since in both cases, the other children of the families were left in the homes. No fears for their safety?

Secondly, my late father had brown eyes. I have blue eyes. Should I have been removed by the health board on the grounds that I didn't look like my parent? My younger brother was blond as a child, while all the rest of us had mid to dark brown hair. Should he have been taken away because he didn't resemble the rest of his family? My brown-haired sister is married to a brown-haired man. Their younger son is blond. Does that mean she should have to produce evidence at the drop of a hat that he really is their son? How about the local families with obviously foreign children - are they exploiting them by sending them out to beg and steal?

You can all guess why I'm not seriously worried about these instances. Because all of us in the above examples are WHITE.

Ah, isn't it grand to be alive at this day and hour in (w)holy (liberated from repression), no-longer Catholic, Ireland!
underthewillows: (Default)
2013-10-24 11:42 am

In which I am really angry

Warning: possible swearing ahead. Also, I'll be venting steam and doing a lot of foam-flecked ranting, in which I may or may not say things about individuals and institutions that could be construed as slanderous, libellous, or both. To which I reply: (a) if you don't expect vulgar abuse from the general public as part of the job, you shouldn't be in public life and (b) bite me, you tossers.

Double warning: Ireland is a racist country. I've been more or less denying this all my life, but over the past couple of days I've been smacked in the face with it. Evidence to follow.

Most of you probably aren't aware of the latest news from my green little island. Most of you probably aren't aware of the most recent tabloid hysteria case roiling Europe, for that matter. And there's no reason you should be particularly aware; you all have your own problems and your own countries' scandals, difficulties and 'who's on the front page of the redtops/scandal sheets today?' to occupy you.

But I'm angry, and I don't have a platform to express myself (I've left some angry comments on a newspaper's Facebook page - oh, the social activisim!) so you are going to bear the brunt of it. If you want to stop reading now, I cannot blame you.

We've just had a beautiful case - no, I correct myself, two beautiful cases - of the forces of the State intervening on behalf of the welfare of children. So why the scorn, contumely, and hollow laughter on my part?

Because the Irish childcare system - and I include voluntary organisations, registered charities, and the organs of the State in this opinion, no fear or favour to anyone - is fucking shit. From my very limited exposure to it in a five-year period in local education, I was and remain as unimpressed as I can possibly be. If I had a mangy cat, I would not be confident in relying on the system to take best care of it, let alone vulnerable children.

But underthewillows, just last year we had a brand new shiny Referendum on Children's Rights! We had the Children's Rights Alliance all over it! We had it passed! (We've even had complaints about, and court cases challenging, the unfair representation and lobbying by the government to push a "Yes" vote for the amendment to the Child Care Act, they were so eager to see it passed!) Is not everything now tickety-boo with children's protection in Ireland?

*sound of hollow laughter* *possibly slanderous opinion* I didn't trust any of the feckers involved, not even the secular saints such as Fergus Finlay, chairman of Barnados, or Colm O'Gorman, founder of One in Four.

Let me step back here, and give you some necessary background which may seem tangential, but it's relevant, I promise you.

(1) Currently, there is the gorgeous spectacle of a case in Greece that pushes all the buttons about "Gypsies stealing white children", that perennial favourite of yore going back centuries, combined with modern fears of trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation, forced labour, and selling of children for fake adoptions. You can read the bones of it here.

(2) Also current, but dragging on for years since 2007, is the Madeleine McCann case. It's something along the lines of the Australian Lindy Chamberlain ("Dingoes ate my baby", as the tabloids so sensitively headlined it) case in Australia or the JonBenét Ramsay case in the U.S.A.

Both cases are catnip to the British and Irish media; they love the McCann case because it includes all the tropes: heart-string tugging disappearance of a child (is she alive? is she dead?); British/Irish family (the McCanns come from Northern Ireland so, depending on which side of the Border you come from, you will or won't include them as One Of Ours) dealing with foreigners; alleged incompetence of the foreign police (because they're foreigners, of course, not like our good old British bobbies and courts!); wringing every last drop of tears and blood out of the parents and their desperate campaigns to find their child; then the old tabloid trick of keeping the story fresh by attacking those you previously supported - in this case, going from 'grieving parents mistreated by dastardly foreigners' to 'neglectful parents leave vulnerable child alone while they party' to the guaranteed headline-grabber 'did parents kill child and cook up fake abduction?'; and of course the White Slavery sex and trafficking angle. The case has been re-opened by the British police due to alleged incompetence and errors by the Portuguese police and it's all over the papers once again.

Put these two together and you get a hack's wet dream. And that's what I'm coming to: we've got the hack's wet dream in the two Irish cases.

Gypsies kidnapping our white children! Read all about it! Live at six!

I wish I were joking. I'm not. It's literally "Gypsies kidnapping our white children" because the two children in the cases were blue-eyed, blond/blonde children and they didn't look like their dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-skinned families. That's why the police and social services took them away from their families: someone rang up and said "That kid doesn't look like the rest of them".

You still think I'm pulling your legs, don't you? Part II to follow.