Narnia: Names and Reader Research

[Narnia Content Note: Racism]

The Horse and His Boy

Remember when we had book deconstructions around here and not just Ana scrambling to save old Twitter threads in the wake of Storify shutting down? I do! (The storifys will continue through June, sorry, there were a lot of them.)

I thought we were done with The Horse and His Boy but I remembered I wanted to do a post gathering together all the amazing work Gehayi has done researching the probable roots of the names within this book. I don't have anything to add except a grateful thank-you for doing this work and giving me permission to gather it all up into a big post. Thank you!

I've probably missed a few name comments, so feel free to drop links in the comments if you locate the older ones. Thank you!

Protagonist Names

Shasta by Gehayi:
I decided to look up the origins of the names in this section...and wow, was I surprised.

Let's start with Shasta. I went to a site about Mount Shasta, figuring that they might have some folklore about the origin of the mountain's name. Apparently there are four common reasons given for the name:

1) Our mountain is named after a very famous local Indian.

2) It's named after a local Indian tribe.

3) It comes from the Indian word Tsasdi, meaning `three' and refers to our triple-peaked mountain.

4) The Russians who settled at Bodega could see it from the Coast Range. They called it Tchastal or "the white and pure mountain."

But that has to be a coincidence, right? Well, then I found an article written in 1954 that scorned that theory--but that said this: According to Stephen Powers the tribal name of the Indians living in the Mt. Shasta region was Shasts-ti-ka, and their name for snowy mountains, and for Shasta in particular, was Wai-ri-ka, or, more correctly, Wai-i-ka. I kept looking, and most places kept saying that "Shasta" was the Native American word for "snowy" or "white mountain." In fact, that seems to be the translation of the the Karuk word Úytaahkoo, which is what the mountain used to be called.

Over and over, the same meanings in association with Shasta: "white," "snowy mountain," and--most damning--the Russian word carries a connotation of "pure or clean." Yeaaaah.

Aravis by Gehayi:
In the meantime, though, since Aravis introduced herself and her lineage in this chapter, I want to mention that I found the source of Aravis's name, or at least a word that looks an awful lot like it: arabisti.

Lewis didn't invent a name for his female protagonist, though most sites will tell you that he did. He didn't give her an Arabian or Farsi name, or even a name based on an Arabian or Farsi word. He mangled a Greek word about her quasi-nationality and quasi-language and called it good.

You see, "arabisti" is Classical Greek for "of Arabic." That is, of the Arabic language, not a person from Arabia.

Basically, Lewis took a Greek word, chopped off the suffix "-ti" and changed "b" to "v" so that it would be less obvious that he named his heroine "of Arabic." One of those who speaks the Arabic language. One of the Arabs.

So we have Shasta, whose name tracks back to several words for whiteness, cleanness and purity, and Aravis, who's fundamentally named "of Arabic." I like the way her name sounds, but the meaning behind it makes me flinch. Bein' real subtle there with your racism, Lewis.

P.S. There are a couple of similar words for "(male) Arab"--arabikos and arabios--but arabisti seems closer to "Aravis" to me.

Aravis (update) by Steve Morrison:
[quoting Gehayi] Lewis took a Greek word, chopped off the suffix "-ti" and changed "b" to "v"[/quote]

Not only that; the Greek language itself changed b to v. The letter beta was pronounced like our b in Classical Greek, but is pronounced like v in Modern Greek.

Aravis' Ancestry by Gehayi:
Ilsombreh Tisroc

If you remove the "h", you can see that this is really two French words--"il sombre." "Sombre" is an adjective meaning "dark," whether literally or figuratively. So the name literally means "the dark." And of course "sombre" is also the British spelling of "somber." Ilsombreh Tisroc is the dark, somber Tisroc--the one dark of skin, or the one dark of thought, or perhaps the one who kept his people unenlightened...metaphorically in the dark.

Ardeeb Tisroc

"Ardib" is part of a New Persian word--Ardibehesht or, alternately, Ordibehesht. It's the name of the Zoroastrian divinity Asha, which is the embodiment of truth and righteousness--a statement/concept/being so true and so real as to embrace all of existence. Ardibehesht means "truth of paradise" or "blessed truth." "Behesht" means "paradise".

Lewis just chopped off most of "behesht" and spelled the word the way it probably would have been spelled in Victorian times. Mideastern words that had an I pronounced as EE were often rendered phonetically. So "Ardib" is "truth"--but it's an imperfect truth, because the blessedness, the touch of paradise has been removed.

Rishti Tarkaan

Rishti Vaiga is the Persian name of the king Westerners call Cyrus the Great.. It translates to "spear swinger." Lewis just used the first word, Rishti, "spear."

Kidrash Tarkaan

I can't really be sure about this one, but I have found a couple of words that echo it in structure: "kadosh" and "midrash." "Kadosh" is a Hebrew word meaning "holy"; it shows up later in the prayer Shema Yisroel in the word "kid'shanu"--which some take to mean "sanctified" and some interpret as "separated," as in separated from sinners. Midrash is a means of interpreting deeper meanings in the Torah and the Talmud.

I am not sure if Lewis would have known about the differing interpretations of "kid'shanu"--but he was a theologian. I'm pretty sure he was familiar with midrash. In either case, Kidrash seems to be a portmanteau word--not holy, not sanctified, not scholarly commentary, just a broken mixture of both.

Supporting Cast & Narnian / Archenland Names

Lune by Gehayi:
Regarding King Lune--most locations define "lune" as "the moon" or "a month." But Norwegian Bokmål and Norwegian Nynorsk define it thus:

1) cosy, snug, sh eltered (house, room, valley etc.)
2) comfortable, genial, warm (person, room, weather)
3) good-natured, pleasant, quiet (person)

All of which strike me as how we're supposed to see King Lune.

Ram the Great by Gehayi:
I think that Lewis picked some etymology up from Tolkien. Tolkien created the RAMdal Hills ("ramdal" meaning "Wall's End"), which lay at the eastern end of the Long Wall or "AndRAM." Wiktionary lists Romansch, Norwegian Bokmål and Swedish as defining "ram" as "a frame ." The Swedish definition explains it best:

1) frame (e.g. around a painting)
2) frame, boundaries (the set of options for actions given)
3) frame (a context for understanding)
4) paw (of a bear)

So I think Lewis was picturing Ram the Great as someone who was a wall against outside threats; the one who knew what boundaries, physical and spiritual, to set and not go past; the one who, through setting those boundaries, led his people to a greater understanding of Aslan. He just didn't include any context for this, so all we have is guesswork.

Thornbut by Gehayi:
I would just like to note that "thornbut" is an actual word; it dates back at least as far as 1879, and it means "turbot." Basically, the Dwarf's name is "Flounder."

Antagonist & Calormen Names

Ahoshta by Gehayi:
I was curious about Ahoshta's name. It's not Arabic. In fact, it bears a strong resemblance to the Persian word "ahesta" and the Urdu "ahista," both of which mean the same thing: "slowly," or in a figurative sense, "graciously" or "gently." In fact, "Ahesta Boro" ("Walk Slowly" or "Walk Graciously") is a wedding song in Afghanistan and numerous other "-stan" countries.

I think that this, combined with his other alleged flaws, tells us what the problem with Ahoshta is supposed to be. He is described as greedy, flattering, servile. His name proclaims him to be slow, gracious, gentle, and associated with weddings. He is, fundamentally, one of Lewis's female characters; he has every quality Lewis most despises in women. (Even gentleness is not treated well elsewhere in the text; Susan is deemed an ordinary grown woman who is of little use in war, while Lucy is praised for her military valor and skills.)

I strongly suspect that we're supposed to see Ahoshta as weak and unmanly, a male quasi-Arab version of the allegedly shallow woman from "The Shoddy Lands"--the very opposite of the belligerent Narnians and Archenlanders, some of whom are more than willing to fight a war against an empire. In fact, he doesn't embody Lewis's masculine ideal at all; Ahoshta is intent on getting along with both the Tisroc and Rabadash, and on retaining his position with both. He loves his own country and has no desire for it to imitate Narnia. He likes wealth and stability. He doesn't want to change. Contrast him with Shasta, who is reckless and chaotic,who rides into battle despite not knowing anything about how to fight with swords on horseback, who basically tells a lion to scat, and who ends up being the crown prince of Narnia Lite. Clearly we're supposed to see Shasta as the nobler of the two, while Ahoshta is everything Shasta is not. (This becomes difficult when you realize that the only thing Shasta is is bland.)

Ahoshta (update) by Gehayi:
"Ahoshta" seems to have a name made up of two Persian words--"hosh", meaning "understanding," and "ta" appears to be a conjunction along the lines of "in order to" or "so that." I suspect that the A in this case is the Greek prefix "a-", meaning "not." So his whole name would mean "in order to not understand" or "not having understanding."

Anradin by Gehayi:
ANRADIN: Probably from the Persian "aŋra", meaning "destruction" or "destructive," and the Arabic "-adin", meaning "of faith" or "of religion."

Destruction of religion. Destructive of faith. I'm sorry, but I can't believe that Lewis came up with this name by accident.

Arsheesh and Tarkaan by Gehayi:
Most sites said that Arsheesh was a name made up by Lewis, and that seems to be true. Tarshish, on the other hand--which I can easily see being pronounced "Tarsheesh"--is a name of a Biblical city associated with boats and wealth. Gee, what a strange coincidence that this name should be given to a fisherman so obsessed with wealth that he's eager to sell the child he's raised.

And then we've got the Tarkaan. Or, to use our world's version, the Tarkhan. Lewis didn't make up the Tarkaan class or title. They existed for several centuries.

From Gog and Magog in Early Eastern Christian and Islamic Sources: Sallam's Quest:

The tarkhan, probably of pre-Turkic Altaic origin, was a title rather than a proper name, used for subaltern and local emirs in the Khazar administration.

The Khazars were a Turkic people, originally semi-nomadic, who dominated an area that we would now think of as Russia and who pretty much owned the Western Silk Road for a time.

So we have a white protagonist who is effectively named Snow White, a greedy fisherman who spouts proverbs named after a place of ships and wealth that shows up in ancient proverbs, and a man with a fantasy title that turns out to be a real title. Lewis is looking less original all the time.

Azrooh by Gehayi:
AZROOH: "Az" seems to be from the Old Turkic prefix "az," meaning "little, few," or "a bit," while "rooh" appears to come from the Turkish (and Old Arabic) "rūḥ," or "soul." A man who only has a bit of soul. Lovely.

Chlamash by Gehayi:
CHLAMASH: He seems to have gotten his name from a Greek word, "khlanis", which refers to a cloak or mantle, especially one of royal or military use. This word came into English as "chlamys," meaning "a short cloak caught up on the shoulder, worn by hunters, soldiers, and horsemen in Ancient Greece."

Chlamash by John D.:
The first thing I thought of was "Chumash!" Who I thought was a Canaanite (anti-Israelite) god. Turns out that name really was Chemosh; I'd misremembered. But it does seem that Lewis gave the Calormene names not just an Arabic flavor (medieval "baddies"), but also some non-Israelite Canaanite flavor (Old Testament "baddies").

Corradin of Castle Tormunt by Gehayi:
CORRADIN: "Coradyn" or "Coradin" shows up in The Chronicle of Pierre de Langtoft: In French Verse, from the Earliest Period to the Death of Edward II, Volume 2. Thomas Wright's 2012 translation describes Coradin as a member of Saladin's second squadron, "Lord of Damascus and son of Saffadin; a more courteous soldan never tasted wine."

The "adin" ending of Corradin comes from "ad-Dīn" in Arabic, which means "of faith" or "of religion." No clue what "Corr" or "Cor" meant to Langtoft--possibly he was taking the Latin or the French for "heart" and pasting an Arabic ending on the word. So "heart of faith" or "heart of religion."

This wouldn't sound bad, but Lewis decided that a man named for the heart of the Calormene faith had to come from "Castle Tormunt." Which is how John Milton and Robert Burns spelled the word "torment." Great.

Ilgamuth of the twisted lip by Gehayi:
ILGAMUTH: The last syllable of his name appears to have come fromMot or Muth, an ancient Canaanite god of death. I am not certain where the "ga" comes from; it might come from an Arabicverb meaning "to drop dung" (applying to animals) or from another such verb meaning "to make, place or lay". I have no idea what "il" is supposed to mean--"he/it", maybe?

"He/it shits the god of death. He/it creates the god of death." I have no way of knowing if this is what Lewis had in mind, but if it was, he was being exceedingly rude.

Ilgamuth of the twisted lip by Ymfon:
In Ilgamuth's case, I wonder if there's an even simpler explanation, given that he's the only one of that list to get a physical description. I wouldn't put it past Lewis to include a villain with a twisted lip and literally name him Ill-mouth.

Lasaraleen by Gehayi:
As for Lasaraleen...from what I can tell, her name isn't even vaguely Arabic or Persian (or, like Aravis', modified Greek). Her name seems to be Scottish Gaelic--"lasair"--which literally means "flame" or "flash" but figuratively refers to "a flashy person or thing." The "een/leen" ending (as in Kathleen, Maureen, Colleen, etc.) is a diminuitive and means "little."

So Lasaraleen is "a flashy little person" ...someone who shines brightly but doesn't have much substance. I suspect that's what Lewis was going for. However, there's another word in Scottish Gaelic that strongly resembles "Lasaraleen".


Which means "spearwort", a pretty yellow flower in the buttercup family. And it's poisonous.

I don't know if Lewis knew the word "lasair-lèana" or if he knew that spearworts were poisonous. It's entirely possible that he didn't know either. But if he did (and "Lasaraleen" does look like an Anglicized version of "Lasair-lèana"), he might have been commenting on Lasaraleen's interest in looks, fancy clothing, and the attractiveness of her lifestyle as seemingly pretty and innocent, but fundamentally toxic--something that Aravis would be well away from. This also fits with Lewis' perception of feminine qualities as evil.

Either way, Lasaraleen's name is very definitely not a compliment.

Rabadash and Tash by Gehayi:
I think that I've found where Rabadash's name comes from. I found two words in a Spanish dictionary, rabada and rabadán. The first refers to the rump of a slaughtered animal. The second means "chief shepherd," and is derived from the Arabic rabb addan, "owner of sheep."

The name of the god Tash (which almost certainly forms the "-dash" part of Rabadash's name) is Turkish for "stone", but in compounds, "-tāsh" or "-dāsh" means "companion."

So the prince is literally an arse (of a slaughtered animal that belongs to Tash or stone) and, if we use the definition of the Arabic origin of the second word (because "shepherd" generally has positive connotations in the West), Rabadash is not an owner of sheep but an owner of his companions. Whom, presumably, he herds as if they were sheep.

Rabadash (update) by Gehayi:
I'm late to the party, but I think I've got something for Rabadash's name. And it says something about how Lewis wants us to see him--with utter and unmitigated contempt.

There are two Arabic words that look very similar in transliteration--"rahba" and "rahhaba." The first means "marketplace of grain"; the second means "to frighten." A third word, adaş, is Turkish and means "a person with the same name as another; namesake." If you were writing the words out, they would be Rahba-adaş or Rahhaba-adaş.

But, I hear someone asking, why would Lewis be remotely interested in naming his villain after a market? That has to be wrong, doesn't it?

You know, the scene that's coming is one time when Lewis unashamedly pulls out all the stops and lets Aslan be openly harsh to someone. But Aslan is Lion Jesus...and even Jesus had his moments. Like when he became outraged at the merchants and moneychangers in the temple. He resented the fact that they had turned a house of worship into a marketplace. In fact, this arose in response to the many kinds of sacrifice demanded by the Jewish God and the need to have such sacrifices readily available to any Jewish person from anywhere in the known world...but most people don't think about that part. They just associate the merchants and moneychangers with greed.

And I think that's what Lewis is going for. Rabadash IS the marketplace's namesake--that is, he is the embodiment of worldly greed and blasphemy. (I know, I know, that's NOT what was going on, but I believe that's how Lewis would have seen it.) As such, he doesn't deserve mercy from Lion Jesus, only punishment. And because of this divine punishment, Rabadash is only able to "frighten his namesakes"...that is, to inspire fear from people spiritually like himself.

Lewis is telling us with Rabadash's very name that we are not to respect or identify with him.

Tisroc by Gehayi:
"Tisroc", it seems, was almost certainly stolen from E. Nesbit, who referred to a god known as "Nisroch" in her Psammead series. Nisroch was an Assyrian god of agriculture; Nesbit, however, made him Babylonian. So Lewis took the historical name of a god and turned it into the title of a man.


Calormen Landmarks by Gehayi:
Azim Balda: As Aravis mentioned, it's four days ride' northeast in (or from) the province of Calavar, stands at the intersection of multiple crossroads, and it's a base for royal (and noble) postal messengers. Four days' ride--assuming that Hwin is pushing herself to her utmost and is in perfect shape--would be, at most, about thirty miles per day. So it's no more than 120 miles northeast of Aravis's home in Calavar.

An organized postal system implies shipping packages (by land and, possibly, river), which brings in trade. Azim Balda is probably a large trading center and a stop for merchant caravans heading west, south, and northeast to Tashbaan. This is supported by the name: "Azim" is Arabic for "great" and "baldah" means "town." (Both New York and London are both sometimes referred to as "the Big City," so I don't think that a city being called "Great Town" reflects badly on the Calormenes.)

Calavar: The province of which Aravis's father Kidrash is lord. It seems to be derived from "calavera," the Spanish word for "skull." Apparently "calavera" and "calaveras" are most commonly associated with the Day of the Dead (which I thought was Mexican, but I'm guessing that Lewis didn't make any distinction between Mexican and Spanish). I'm interpreting this as a possibility that maybe some of the people who founded Calormen came through a portal in Mexico, while others came from countries where Arabic was spoken.

Desert Oasis: About one day's march (or thirty miles) north of Tashbaan in the center of the Great Desert. Since there is nothing north of the oasis save impassable mountains, presumably caravans head east to sell their goods or ship them to the Seven Isles, Doorn, Felinth, Terabintha, Galma, the Lone Islands, and points south. (There may be other oases, but this one is called "the great oasis," at least by one Talking Animal from Narnia.

Flaming Mountain of Lagour: A gour is a fire worshipper--it's another word for a Gabar, Gheber or Gueber, one of an Iranian sect practicing Zoroastrianism. I'm going to conclude, therefore, that the Flaming Mountain is considered holy by the descendents of Farsis. Also, apparently, you can follow faiths other than the worship of Tash, Azaroth and Zardeenah. Who knew?

I would guess that the Flaming Mountain is far to the northwest of Calormen, since the one Calormene who mentions it comes from the far west and the only place known to have mountains is the north, beyond the Great Desert.

Great Desert: Basically, a huge swath of desert extending north-south from the border of Archenland to Tashbaan, and east-west...well pretty much as far as the eye can see. It can be crossed in a night and a day, according to one Narnian Animal, and Hwin and Bree certainly manage to do so, but that suggests that Narnian Talking Horses are sturdier than regular ones, since a normal horse would probably drop dead before it could ride sixty miles without a night's rest.

Ilkeen: The location of one of Ahoshta Tarkaan's three palaces. The palace at Ilkeen is particularly beautiful and is located on a lake. "Ilkeen" is probably derived from the Persian "il-khan" or "subordinate khan," which did not exist as a title until after 1260.

Mezreel: A lake in Calormen, as well as a town of the same name. Noted locations nearby are gardens and the Valley of a Thousand Perfumes, which may be a valley used to grow flowers to create scents such as attar of roses. Lasaraleen Tarkheena lived in Mezreel for at least some of her growing-up years. The name is probably a garbled version of "Jezreel," a large fertile plain in a valley in Israel. "Jezreel" means "God sows" in Hebrew. Should we conclude that some of the people in Calormen are also Jewish?

The closest I can come to making sense of "Mezreel" is to mash together "mazer" and "el," which would basically mean "the drinking bowl of God."

Pugrahan Salt-Pits: No idea what the name means, but "grahan" is Hindi for "eclipse" or "shadowing." The miners seem to be slaves and prisoners. Many salt mines are in large mountain basins or are underground; I'm tending toward far to the south, even beyond where Shasta and Arsheesh lived, because we don't know much about what's there.

Tashbaan; "City of Tash"; capital of Calormen; a port city on an island, surrounded by numerous rivers.

Teebeth: A city taken by the Calormene army, probably after a rebellion. Bree says that he fought there, as did Aravis's cousin Alimash, who was the captain of the chariots. "Teebeth" is probably derived from "tebeth", the tenth month of the Jewish calendar, usually spanning the end of December and most of January in the Gregorian calendar. (The hints that there are Jews in Calormen are growing.)

Tehishbaan: City in the far west of Calormen, after the Great Desert ends. No idea what it means, but "hisham" is Arabic for "the generous." So it's possible that it means something along the lines of "city of the generous one/ones."

Tombs of the Ancient Kings: Bree describes them as looking like stone beehives, which would have made them tholos tombs in the Mediterranean and in West Asia. In the Mideast, similar structures were used as houses and as storage facilities. I can see the "tombs" being an emergency storage facility for caravans, and the legends about ghouls being put about to discourage potential thieves. (This in no way means that ghouls don't exist in this world.)

Winding Arrow: A swift river filled with rapids that forms the border between Archenland and Calormen. It's shallow enough to ford at one point.

Zulindreh/Zalindreh: Aravis pronounces it Zulindreh while Bree pronounces it Zalindreh. I'd like to think that it's this world's version of "shibboleth"--a word that foreigners just can't seem to pronounce. Zulindreh was the site of a battle which, presumably, the Calormene army won. Like the Battle of Teebeth, it may have been part of the Calormene military's attempt to quash a rebellion. Bree and Aravis's cousin Alimash fought here.

The closest I can come to a translation for it is "zahlen dreh," "zahlen" being German for "figures" or "numbers" and "dreh" the German for "twist" or "trick." Maybe Zulindreh is a center of science, mathematics and education. Maybe there's a university or two there.

Storify: Subtweeting People Who Aren't Doing Enough

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Hot Take: I no longer see value in subtweeting People Who Aren't Doing Enough, in part because you are also that person.

Oh, you are probably Doing Enough on the subject you're subtweeting on, but You Weren't There for Fight #24,765. I looked. You weren't. If you weren't there for the 24,764 fights BEFORE that, maybe you're a bad ally, maybe your plate is forever Too Full. Iunno. If it bothers me that much, I'll unfollow you. Subtweeting at you and hoping you'll notice seems like an effort in unsatisfying rancor.

Not everyone can come in for every fight. Feminism stuff, trans stuff, disability stuff, fat acceptance stuff, mental illness stuff, rape stuff. Sometimes people gotta walk away for a month or a year or longer. And they shouldn't have to leave twitter to do that. They can fluff, imo. Twitter is a social networking tool. Sometimes people activist Over There and just need to Fluff Social here. That's okay.

Storify: Marginalized Groups Do Not Agree On Everything

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Daily reminder that marginalized groups will never agree on broader terms FOR said group, and we try to navigate respectfully around that.

Some people in fat activism are truly, legitimately, validly triggered by being called "fat". I've heard from physically challenged people who are deeply, fairly, validly triggered by "disability" hashtags. There are valid in-group fights about the reclamation of slurs. People who can't visit sites with b*tch, c*nt, or tr***y in the name. I've known LBGT+ people who were truly, deeply, fairly upset at having the umbrella term "queer" applied to people in those groups.

In an individual case, always-always-always ask first. ("What words would you like me to use?") In group cases... I honestly don't know if there's a way around this problem. It's a bigger problem than just me. Because literally every word in every language hurts SOMEONE. Validly, legitimately, fairly. I don't know, you guys. It's a problem.

And here's where people are gonna get mad at me, but *deep breath* If you don't like a term being accepted widely, by all means talk about that. Change minds on your timeline. If you don't like a term being used on/about you, by all means speak up. People better respect that, or they're being jerks. But coming into my mentions to argue widely-accepted in-group terminology that I haven't applied to you? High spoons, low reward.

I am not on the in-group terminology board for any of this. Not for fat, nor queer, nor gay, nor trans, nor disabled, nor crip, none of it. Movements change over time. People speak out. Language evolves. Words come in and out of vogue. Participate in that, yes. Absolutely. BUT.

Example: I'll add something with regard to how I use Assigned Gender At Birth, with the caveat that not everyone does (or should!) agree with me. To me, Assigned Gender At Birth is a historical statement abt what people did. It has no bearing on my body. It does not reference genitals. While I was a baby and unable to express my preferences, certain people assigned a gender to me. They were wrong.

But "AFAB" doesn't read to me as "born with a vagina". I don't know (or care) what criteria people used to assign a gender. A gender was assigned. They could have drawn lots for all I care. They made a pick, and that pick was either right or wrong. Now, other people may validly find that term harmful, which is why you should ask before you use it. Always ask!

That's about it. EVERY group has disagreements on terminology. It is literally impossible for everyone to agree, ever. All we can do is our best to listen and help each other. But sometimes you still disagree and that's just how it is. *sad shrug* But if you're coming at me over a term and you don't have an alternative term to suggest I use, I don't know what to tell you. My activism for trans rights -- which includes self-activism! -- requires that I be able to communicate. Words are necessary for communication.

Another day, another reminder: Regular reminder that members of oppressed in-groups do not agree on everything. A privileged person's job is to listen to those multiple voices and learn. Their job is NOT to pick a side and start clobbering.

Example 1: there are a LOT of rape survivors in the world, and we have many varied opinions on "rape fantasies" in erotica, porn, etc.

Example 2: there are a LOT of trans folk who were appalled by the sharing of that recent medium post re: transitioning as Our Narrative.

Example 3: disability activists are going to disagree on a LOT of stuff, like assisted suicide and language and everything else, tbh.

So try not to get so excited at learning a thing that you share it as the ONLY way. I know it's easy to do!!

Another day, more reminders: I am not going to give up nouns as a concept.

I was just informed that we shouldn't use the noun "ally" because "it makes things about you". That is how nouns work, yes. I have to put a NAME to a GROUP of people with SHARED CHARACTERISTICS in order to tell them NOT to do a harmful thing. Making something "about you" is integral to telling you to stop causing harm. Centering is not, in itself, a harmful thing to avoid.

For the record, I tend to use ally as a verb because I view it as a process and not a state of being that you achieve, but nouns have value. Learn why parts of speech exist. I am a professional writer with an actual shiny university degree in this subject. Taking activism thoughtlessly up to eleven like this ("don't use nouns! they're centering!") is rampant foolishness posing as expertise.

Storify: On Childhood as a Privilege

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[TW: Child Abuse]

In the gentlest possible way, I want to talk a little about childhood and abuse here.

Childhood as a concept is not some absolute that spans all cultures and times. Many societies have treated children differently. But it is important to understand that treating a child IDENTICALLY to an adult can be itself a form of child abuse.

That does not mean that you can't treat a child with respect, etc. I use the word "IDENTICALLY" up there for a reason. There are extremely valuable conversations to be had about children and rights and responsibilities in our society.

But it's important to understand that WITH rights come accompanying responsibilities in many cases. And there are valid, non-stigmatizing reasons to not want to load children up with the same responsibilities as adults in all cases. "Identical treatment" is not somehow fair or desirable in all cases for all situations for all groups. Nor is it stigma or prejudice to note that some groups need accommodations or have different challenges than others.

We talk about "centering" a lot in social justice, and privilege, and invisible defaults. It is important, when we talk about oppression, not to center against an invisible default as though that's the Only Way. Very young children can make profoundly unsafe decisions. Adults have a responsibility to prevent permanent harm or death. An adult who allows a child to make deadly decisions without intervention is neglectful.

So again there are valid conversations to be had about oppression and children, but I want to avoid centering adultness as the One Way. There is also a race intersection that white activists need to be aware of: children of color are often unfairly perceived as adults. Children of color are legally tried as adults, shot by police as adults, and sexualized as adults as a form of racist oppression. Please be aware of these intersectional concerns as you pursue activism!

It is not okay to hurt other marginalized groups in an enthusiastic rush to help the one you're advocating for. Coming back to this, that is also why I'm a little uncomfortable with the term "adultism". Reminder that *isms require system-wide oppression. So while I am very much onboard with discussing the real marginalization of children in our society, please let's be intersectional.

I also-also want to note that nothing of what I am saying above is new or novel. There have LONG been ethical concerns with how to market to children, for example, and over education vs. propaganda. Not to mention MAJOR concerns over how our legal system should intersect with children, and guardianship, and criminal records. I don't like to see those snarls swept simplistically aside, which I realize is easy to do in a 140-character medium. :)

So I urge people to be careful with terms like "adultism" when childhood itself is a privilege denied to many. And when "adulthood" is sill wielded as a weapon against children from marginalized groups. Be aware of that, please. Thank you!

@alketrolyat: [re: voting] it's not FAIR to make young kids make decisions that might affect them for yrs when they don't understand them. And then there are votes for more complex issues, like bonds and funding, at local levels.

YES, I think possibly some people forget that "voting" isn't just a once-every-4-years presidential thing. And those things (growth, learning, play) are a privilege denied to SO MANY. The presence of a childhood has historically been a GOOD INDICATOR of oppressed class status. School. Television. Marketing. Commercial. Candy cigarettes. These are COMPLEX issues!

PS, this was not a thread specifically about suffrage for children, but since people are talking about it, I have this to add: Please spend at least 10 minutes on voting disenfranchisement of disabled and POC adult voters for every 1 minute you spend on white children. We're disenfranchising people of color in Texas right now and I see very little talk about that, either in news articles or on the twitters.

I expect a lot of white activists feel like the situation is obvious and feel helpless to help, but we still need to make noise about it! And coming up to November, we need to organize to make sure that people have options to get to the polls and won't be turned away. That's hard work and it's not sexy, but it's GOT to be done. Please help do it, if you can.

Storify: Apologies (Giving and Getting)

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Sometimes I wonder if we need lessons on how to apologize. EVERYTHING is easier with practice, and apologies doubly so I think. Sometimes people mess up in public on twitter and ask me what they should do. Here's my advice.

A good apology, imo, is short and direct. Not a long rambling explanation, just a clean break so the other person can escape if wanted. If you apologize right, most people will ASSUME you meant well / had good reasons, so belaboring that actually hurts your case, ime.

Some 1-tweet examples of apologies that I think are good.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know that. Thank you for explaining to me; I will do better in the future. I apologize for hurting you."

"You know what? You're right. I screwed up, I wasn't thinking right. I'm really sorry and I apologize for hurting you."

"I still feel like maybe there was a misunderstanding, but I'm very sorry for my part in it. I can see I hurt you and I apologize."

"I don't know that I agree, but I will take what you said on-board and try to do better. I apologize for hurting you and I am so sorry."

@lainasparetime: I like the format that goes around - here's what I did wrong, here's why it was wrong, and here's what I'll do in the future

I've seen this one before, but I don't personally care for it. Ymmv, but in a 140-character tweet, to someone who is hurting and angry, "here's what I did wrong" will often lack nuance and make things worse.

I also really reject the idea that an apology MUST be a learning experience for someone. Sometimes we need time to process! Sometimes we'll process and we won't agree! It's okay to be sorry for harm caused but still decide you don't agree with the other person. I've been yelled at in the past by friends who felt like my apologies didn't illustrate that I'd "learned my lesson". I won't do that, tbh.

I come back to the fact that in-groups won't always agree on everything. And sometimes that causes harm. Something I've had to say "I'm sorry that I hurt you, but I'm still going to use that term. My feed is probably unsafe for you."

Sometimes SJ groups are sensitive to the concept of "non-pologies" but (imo) can start wielding that as a weapon. A failure to agree with your point is NOT a non-pology. You can be apologetic for harm caused but still not agree. And sometimes the disagreement is fundamental enough that the relationship has to end. That's sad, but it doesn't mean they were insincere.

It's important to understand that Being Hurt doesn't equal Being Right. We sometimes forget that in social justice aware groups. And it's even MORE important to remember that apologizing for the harm you caused doesn't equal Being Wrong on the topic in question. There are people who are genuinely, legitimately harmed when I talk about assigned gender at birth in the context of bathroom access. Their hurt is real and valid, but that doesn't mean the topic and verbiage is a simplistic Right/Wrong binary. Triggers can be anything.

When we teach that Being Hurt = Being Right, then people apologize LESS because they don't want to be (and perhaps aren't!) Wrong. And we create a situation where Harm is questioned with hostility because the presence of Harm includes a moral victory. Harm is real and shouldn't be questioned and sleuthed. If someone says you harmed them, take that as real and apologize. That apology means you validate their harm and you're sorry for causing it. It doesn't mean you have to readjust all your beliefs to theirs.

So maybe I should have said: We need lessons in giving *and* getting apologies.

You don't have to accept an apology, btw! You can decide "no, I'm done" and not interact with that person again (or for a time). But--and here's the sticky part where some people may get mad at me--you are STILL responsible for your own actions. Just as Being Hurt doesn't equal Being Right, it's also not a free pass to respond however you want.

I've asked people to leave my mentions before but because they had been hurt, they felt justified in hurting me. That's not okay. Barring very rare situations, you are always responsible for your own actions. Being harmed isn't a free card to commit more harm, imo.

So here is my wrap-up advice.

1. If someone says you've hurt them, believe them. Don't tell them they shouldn't be hurt. Hurt doesn't have to be logical. Hurt is hurt.

2. Understand that you can apologize for the hurt without ceding the argument or having to chuck your worldview in favor of theirs.

3. Apologize briefly and sincerely for the hurt and withdraw to give space for healing away from you.

4a. I recommend NOT doing a 10-tweet thread recapping what you did, and why, and why it was wrong, and how to do better.

4b. I've honestly NEVER seen that help de-escalate a situation, and it can come off VERY badly by centering your Learning over their Hurt.

4c. Others' mileage may vary, but when I'm hurt I don't want to hear what YOU learned today. I want you to apologize and leave me alone.

4d. Rarely do I want you to leave me alone FOREVER. Just for, like, a few hours until I've calmed down.

5. Speaking of, remember that an apology doesn't mean your friendship is OVER FOREVER because HARM and WRONGNESS.

5b. You're not perfect and neither am I. We're going to need to apologize to each other from time to time. That's NORMAL.

5c. Which is another reason not to belabor the apology, in my experience.

5d. Since apologies are inevitable, anticipating the next tortured apology can make the relationship so much more strained.

5e. And long tortured apologies can make people hesitant to point out harm because they don't want to suffer the apology.

5f. I feel most relaxed with people to whom I can say "oh, that kinda hurt?" and they'll be like "oh! sorry, I didn't think" and move on.

6. If you're on the receiving end of an apology, you can choose whether to accept it or not, but don't be an abusive asshole.

7. Know that you WILL fuck up in life and that doesn't make you Bad. It makes you an imperfect person just like everyone else.

7b. If you can excise your feelings that Hurt = Bad, then it will be easier for you to apologize without exacerbating harm.

7c. That's a big "if". I know anxiety disorders won't cooperate. Goddess knows @elibyronbaldrsn has suffered through my LONG apologies.

7d. But it might help to practice on your cats. (Oh, I see I hurt you, Fluffykins! I am sorry. *and stops there*) Or journaling.

7e. And remember that the apology isn't about you. It's about the other person. You canNOT undo harm. You can minimize further harm.

@civilwarbore: yep. Your choices in that situation as the hurt party are p much accept the apology or walk (or a combo).

8. This.

Here are some apology RESPONSE examples.

"What you said really hurt me, but I appreciate your apology. I need some time to de-stress but I'll see you around."

"Thank you for the apology. I need some space for awhile on this topic. I encourage you to read up on it, and good luck."

"I see your apology, but I can't accept it at this time. Please don't contact me anymore; I know where to find you if I want to talk again."

"Okay. My request that you not @ me anymore still stands."

And obviously there are warmer ways to accept apologies. :) My point here is there are non-abusive ways to maintain space and boundaries.

Lastly, try to give people time to grow. Social justice is about growth, but it doesn't happen overnight. I've seen "she still doesn't know what she did wrong!" so many times. It may be true! But has she had time to process? If not... let her? If someone has stopped actively causing harm (a big first step!), let them process rather than demanding a perfect recounting RIGHT NOW.

I think it's okay to apologize in stages. The initial "I see I hurt people, I'm sorry, I'm going to stop right here and have a quiet think", and the later follow-up on "here's how I'm not going to cause that harm again." That may take time to process. Growth often does.

You don't owe them a read of their follow-up. You don't owe forgiveness or association or friendship, to be clear. You own them nothing. But I've never seen value in demanding instant on-the-spot learning and growth, because I don't (personally) think that's possible. Ymmv.

@LouisatheLast: It's really hard to reflect and take time and grow when your back is to the wall with a mob howling for an apology

Pretty much this. And that doesn't mean they're insincere. Humans respond badly when confused and alarmed. For me, the goals are:

1. Active harm needs to stop.
2. An immediate apology for harm caused.
3. A thoughtful follow-up as needed.*

#3 being appropriate in the cases of enormous public fuck-ups. Not necessarily for close personal interactions, but maybe sometimes!

Extra-lastly (ha, I'm sorry for the length of this thread), it's important for me to focus on MY own actions in the face of an apology. If I feel like an apology is insincere, I can just walk away. "Okay." and mute/block the person. That's empowering to me.

Anyway, that's the end of the thread. I hope this was helpful to folks.

Storify: Jughead, Aro and Ace and Queer

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[Content Note: Bigotry against ace and aro identities; violence; rape.]

Jughead's ace and aro identities shouldn't be erased in the Riverdale show

If you care about queerbaiting and straightwashing, it's important to understand the Riverdale show is doing so, by erasing ace/aro identities

Jughead is an established ace and aro character, but the show has refused to write him as such because of stigma against asexuality. This is as important as any other time television or movies turn a queer character unqueer. Even if you're not into the show, this matters. The hashtag for this is #AceAroJugheadOrBust and I'd appreciate if people would read through and RT voices there.

Again: This is important. Just like when trans characters are made cis or gay characters are made straight. Erasure kills. A lot of trans kids are ace and/or aro. #ProtectTransKids doesn't stop with the allosexual/romantic ones. Please elevate their voices.

Open Thread: Water Light on Lined Paper

In the past we've looked at the shapes made by light passing through wavy or rippling water, and discussed the different but similar looking phenomenon of light reflecting off of such water to shine on, say, a ceiling.

Obviously that's only a tiny amount of what water and light can do together.

Here I give you what happens when you take the sun, a bottle of water, and a notebook, and then position them (quite accidentally in this case) in the correct places relative to one another.

The picture was taken on a moving bus, so it is not the sharpest image in the history of ever.

(Sorry the open thread is a day late.)


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Avengers: Infinity War
   ● A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
   ● Black Panther


Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Storify: What's the Difference Between Bisexuality and Pansexuality?

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

My previous storify on being a bisexual nonbinary transgender person resulted in a lot of people asking for a summary explanation on what, precisely is the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality. The answer is complicated, but I've tried to be concise.

I'm going to do a fresh thread on Bisexuality, Pansexuality, and Transgender for us to all link to next week when this happens again. In general*,

Bisexuality: sexual attraction to more than one gender.
Pansexuality: sexual attraction to all or most genders.

Storify: Bisexuality and Transgender

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Okay, I am bisexual and nonbinary transgender and here is a thread about bisexuality.

Terms are defined by in-groups, not by outsiders, and words change meaning over time. "Lesbian" does not mean "from the isle of Lesbos" in current parlance. "Gay" does not mean "happy". "Queer" does not mean "odd". This is also true for prefixes like "bi". When we say a bill has "bipartisan" support, we usually mean -multiple- political parties, not just two.

We also need to establish that dictionaries do not capture modern use and often not even connotation. Some examples: Most dictionaries have insufficient, incomplete, incorrect, or no entry at all for asexual and aromantic identities. And there is social prejudice against "homosexual" that isn't attached to "gay", but few dictionaries capture this connotation.

We like to say that "words mean things". This is true! Broadly speaking: Words mean what the people who use them mean them to mean. In-group identities are defined BY THE GROUPS USING THEM, not by people outside the group. This is fundamental.

So how do most bisexual organizations define bisexuality?

Storify: Bisexual Visibility Week

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[Content Note: Graphic Sexual Descriptions, Abuse, Cheating]

Thread: On Gay For You (GFY) narratives in Romance / Erotica fiction and bisexuality.

So I keep seeing more tweets about "Gay For You" (GFY) narratives and here's my take which some of you have seen before. I am bisexual. At the same time, "Gay For You" is a thing I have said and felt and written about myself at points in my journey.

It is VERY TROUBLING for me to hear that my narrative, my life, my story is a trope that doesn't exist and was made up by biphobic people. Does that mean that GFY can't be written in harmful biphobic ways? No, it can be. Does that mean straight writers can't harm us? Many do. Does it mean that we need more bisexual representation? Yes, we do. Does it mean that we need less biphobia in general? YES, WE DO.

Every time there's a harmful stereotype about bisexual people, there's this movement to erase/correct it in ways that erase many of us. So you can't write greedy bisexuals, because biphobia. And you can't write poly bisexuals, because biphobia. Don't write cheating bisexu--

Biphobia has erased me all my life, and now I have to submit to further erasure because biphobia exists? How does that help bisexual people? "Ana, we need to erase the inconvenient parts of your bisexuality otherwise it gives the biphobes ammunition to talk smack about you." No???

Storify: Harry Potter and Hogwarts

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Iron Spike set off the inspirational question:

@Iron_Spike: What the fuck would a Texan magic academy even LOOK like.

@AnaMardoll: No sex ed but everyone has a wand on campus-- oh wait. @andreagrimes @Iron_Spike

Which then led to this:

Why DOESN'T Hogwarts have sex ed? Beyond anything else, the students are BREWING LUST POTIONS. It's like Dumbledore WANTS everyone pregnant by 16, I swear to god.

A reboot in which Hermione successfully lobbies to put love spells on the Unforgivable Curse list. "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND CONSENT, RON" she screams when he defends his brothers' business. She dates Ginny instead.

Hermione runs a cis-centering "if men could get pregnant" campaign but Luna corrects her and they fix the verbiage. "Actually, Hermione, I'm a man today and I can get pregnant. At least I think I can. I've not tried yet, but I feel very strongly I can." OF COURSE Luna is genderfluid, I will die on this hill.

Ginny, of course, is staunchly pro-choice after that time she had her life force leached by a parasitic creature inhabiting her body. "What if mom hadn't had YOU," Ron demands like a trump card. "Every child a WANTED CHILD," Ginny retorts, going back to making posters.

Storify: Boring Stories

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

On seeing yourself for the first time in the fiction you grew up with.

So, we need to talk about a trans + story thing. Sorry. Gotta get this off my chest. I saw a review this week of a story with a trans protagonist. And the review said, basically, "if the protagonist wasn't trans there would be nothing revolutionary here" like that was a bad thing.

Which right now is like saying "if you take the engine off this dirigible, it's not steampunk anymore" like yes your tautology is correct. Because, YEAH, it is revolutionary to be able to have "regular" stories with trans people in them.

I want a trans Harry Potter. I want a trans Lord of the Rings. I want a trans Hunger Games. I want trans REGULAR BORING THINGS. It is really unfair to act like trans stories only really get to exist if they're also ~innovative~ in ways that cis people approve of. "If you want stories with yourself in, you have to do 'em yourself, but also do them FIRST and BETTER or it shouldn't exist at all."

And I don't like how the review acted like writing a trans character was some kind of "cheat code" for praise and innovation. Like the (cis) reviewer was upset that the author had done something underhanded by glossing up an older tale with a trans character. (I actually do NOT think the tale was non-innovative but that's neither here or there for this rant.)

I'm currently working on a collection of stories that is EXPLICITLY "non-innovative" but with trans characters. Because, for fuck's sake, I really do WANT "regular" tales with me in them. I've been around long enough to earn that, gosh darn it.

Every reader is unique but for me there is a difference between Finely Crafted Gourmet reading and Comfort Food reading. What's my favorite book? That's... a hard one. I can't really answer it! Margaret Atwood's writing brought me to life when I was dead inside, but she's not who I reach for when I want a cozy snuggle read. Patricia C. Wrede often fills that role for me. Her books aren't High Literature and won't be taught in classes, but she warms my soul.

I don't want to write High Literature. I'm glad there are people who do! But it's not my thing. There are people who make AMAZING gourmet meals that take hours and thousands of ingredients and gold leaf and expensive spices. I make comfort meals for my family and me. Six ingredients and a casserole dish, but it fills you up and reminds you of good things.

Those are the sorts of stories I want to write. Comforting and familiar and warm and welcoming to the reader. And I hate to see that trashed and pooh-poohed for the same reason I'd hate seeing someone trashed for making cozy cooking. It's not wrong to only want to eat things wrapped in gold leaf, you do you!, but it's also NOT WRONG to like mac-and-cheese-with-hot-dogs.

Storify: Magical Body Modifications and Transgender Characters

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

I've been thinking a lot this weekend about trans characters in magical / sciency settings where body modifications are available: A Thread. Nota bene: I am not the trans pope. But I am trans and here are some things to be aware of and/or avoid.

Let's talk about what transness is, really briefly. Bear with me, those of you who know this already. Gender is a social construct that has to do with how you view yourself, how you interact with the world, and how you interact with others. Other social constructs include things like "Texan", "Democrat", "Hufflepuff", "Spouse". Try telling a Texan they're not really Texan!

Social constructs are important even if there's not a physical component that doctors could point to and say, "there's the Democrat spleen." Now, our society likes to have genders for EVERYONE, including babies. And babies are notoriously bad communicators. So what we do is, we hold up a baby and say, "well, we don't KNOW your gender, so we're going to use [gender] until you say otherwise." Later, Baby can tell us what their gender is. If it matches what their assigned gender was, they're cis. If it doesn't match, they're trans.

Just so we're clear: Gender isn't determined by genitals. Gender doesn't change with genitals. So with that foundation laid, let's talk about writing trans people in settings where magical body modification is freely available.

Storify: Poor Relations and Transness

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

This thread is being kept for posterity.

@D_Libris: It is the year 2017. A luminary of SF is writing a new book. What does the plot turn on? FORCED GENDER REASSIGNMENT

I'm.......not okay with this.

[I posted three screengrabs from the piece.

Image #1:

Award-winning speculative fiction writer Jo Walton explores futuristic science fiction in Poor Relations, a tale of relentless social climbing throughout the solar system.

Described by Walton as “Mansfield Park on Mars,” Poor Relations is an eye-opening exploration of social and financial precarity, deeply pertinent to today.

“When it came down to it, you couldn’t legislate against the economics of sex and gender any more than you could legislate against people being poor.”

Image #2:

It’s the twenty-fourth century. Humanity has spread throughout the solar system—but for most of us, life is as precarious as it was in Dickensian England. Brothers Achille, Marcantonio, and Nore have been raised rich, but after their father spends the family fortune and puts a laser to his head, they’re forced to face facts. The wealthy Luke Bailey is willing to pay top dollar for what’s left of their estate, enough to buy Achille a commission in the space Navy. But only if Marcantonio and Nore will both become female—Marcantonio to marry Luke, and Nore to be their spinster housekeeper, for as long as Luke lives.

Image #3:

Poor Relations tackles familiar themes of hierarchy and oppression in a science fiction setting, depicting a world in which one’s gender can be easily reversed, but in which that flexibility has come to be used as a tool to make people more unequal rather than less.]

I'm not okay with this at all.

Storify: Queer Books for Queer Kids

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Okay, we gotta talk about queer children so pull up a chair, I guess.

Every time we acknowledge that some kids are queer (bi, gay, lesbian, ace, aro, trans), people say we're "sexualizing" kids. Nope.

The stigmatization of queer people means we're seen as hyper-sexual, while a "hetero" boy/girl pair of toddlers is just sweet and normal. The stigmatization of trans bodies means we're seen as hyper-genital focused, while it's normal to tell strangers your baby boy has a penis. The stigmatization of asexuality means that the statement that a kid could be ace brings bizarre accusations of "sexualizing" other kids, yet playful parental fantasies like "wouldn't it be sweet if mine and yours grew up to be married" isn't sexualizing at all, just normal.

LOTS of queer adults have stories about how, as children, we knew we were queer, trans, ace, aro, bi, gay, lesbian, etc. What many of us DIDN'T have was books explaining that we were normal. Books explaining that adults like us were normal.

And when a book comes out with a trans teddy bear or an ace shark or a lesbian giraffe, the howls go up to "let kids be kids!" But no one objects to stories in which a puppy falls in hetero crush, or in which het parents are married and have a baby. Because childish hetero romance is seen as sweet and innocent, but childish queer romance is seen as sexual and not-age-appropriate. And adult heterosexual relationships and reproduction are seen as necessary age-appropriate education, but adult queer relationships are not.

This is a way of continuing to invisible and shame and stigmatize us queer adults: the insistence that our EXISTENCE isn't age-appropriate.

One reason I write NA (new adult) rather than YA (young adult) is because I've been repeatedly told my themes aren't Appropriate. Bisexual characters, polyamorous characters, and transgender characters are all "inappropriate". Despite the fact that bi-attraction, polyam-feels, and transgender do not inherently have anything to do with sex. Despite the fact that hetero vanilla monoamory cigender sex in YA is considered a brave cutting edge new frontier by many.

I am tired, damn tired, of queer people being shouted down when we talk about what we needed, representation-wise, as kids. Queer kids exist. Many of us queer adults WERE queer kids. Stop telling us our own existence wasn't age-appropriate. Stop telling us that "kids should be kids" when you're lobbying for queer kids to be confused and alone and silenced and scared.

Open Thread: Six Pointed Star

When flowers come out I find myself continually stoping to snap photos.


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are they:
   ● Avengers: Infinity War
   ● A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
   ● Black Panther


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Storify: TERF Warning Flags and Rhetoric

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[Content Note: Transphobia, Racism, Ableism, Eugenics]

After writing my Storify on an NYT Opinion article ("My Daughter Isn't Transgender"), I was subjected to an online dogpile by TERFs. This is a pretty typical response from the harassers: misgendering and accusations of mental illness.

Ana is insane...not capable of reading, listening or understanding...leave him alone

So I decided to write a thread for followers watching all this happen in my mentions.

People who've been watching the mess in my mentions have been asking me about TERF ideology so here's a mega thread. Some of this is guesswork based on my experiences and possibly wrong, but eh, everything they say about ME is wrong so I'm not worried.

Oh, before we get started: "TERF" means Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminist. It's not a slur; it's a description of behavior. For the most part, I now use "REG" (reactionary exclusionary gatekeeper) because it includes TERFs, SWERFs, and AERFs. "SWERFs" are exclusionary of sex workers; "AERFs" are exclusionary of ace and aro and aspec people. So "REGs" covers a spectrum. But THIS week has been TERFs and there are warning signs when someone pops into your mentions.

Storify: Transgender Terminology in 2017

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

A very brief thread on transgender terminology for 2017:

"Trans" is short for transgender, which is an adjective when used with words like "woman", "man", and "people".

It is currently the fashion to place a space between adjective and modified noun. Trans woman, not transwoman. Blond man, not blondman. Similarly, 'transgender woman' not "transgenderwoman" and 'cis woman', not "ciswoman" or "cisgenderwoman".

Not everyone terminologies this way, but it's important to note that some REGs (reactionary exclusionary gatekeepers) use terms as flags. REGs tend to use "transwoman" so they can parse a TERFy difference between "transwomen" and "women".

So if you are cis, it is probably good practice to mind your spaces, lest you accidentally look like you're speaking the TERFy lingo. A good rule of thumb with "trans" is "would I have a space here if I spelled out 'transgender' in full?" Usually the answer is 'yes'.

Trans man, i.e., transgender man.
Trans woman, i.e., transgender woman.
Trans person, i.e., transgender person.

And this will save you from writing "trans gender" because that would mean "transgender gender" which would be rather silly looking. So remember: Trans woman. Trans man. Trans person. Transgender. (No space.) Because "trans" is short for transgender.

PLEASE note the "if you are cis" qualifier here. Some trans people DO refer to themselves without the space. Nothing more teeth-grinding than seeing cis people yell at a trans man for calling himself a "transman". He's allowed. Leave him alone. If you are ever in doubt about how to refer to a SPECIFIC person (like if you're writing about them), ask, ask, ask them directly.

When someone talks about being an Adjective Noun, please do NOT pop in to drop the Adjective off and insist they're just Noun. "You're not a disabled/trans/fat/brunette/mentally ill person, you're a person!" No, bad, stop. When you do that, you are suggesting that their Adjective is shameful or irrelevant, when it is neither. There ARE times when someone might refuse an Adjective for themselves. But when someone takes your Adjective away to be "nice", that's bad.

When I talk about being a trans person, some nice someone often pops up to say "you're not a trans person, you're a person!" and... no. That's not actually inclusive. I know people THINK it's inclusive, but it's not. It's annoying and even harmful. It telegraphs that my transness makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed or ashamed, like how we don't talk about farts in public.

I'm trans. I'm not ashamed of it and it profoundly affects my life. I'm a trans person. I fought hard for that label. Don't take it away.

Storify: Some Gender Identities

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

I feel I should just do a thread on gender terms? Would that help people at all? Maybe? A lot of them are going to be copy-pasta from this excellent round-up, but with some added commentary. Understand that there is not One True Definition for a lot of these. The words mean what the users mean them to mean.

Agender, defined by one link as "the feeling of no gender/absence of gender or neutral gender".

Agenderflux, sometimes defined as "being mostly agender except having small shifts towards other genders".

Anogender, defined above as "a gender that fades in and out but always comes back to the same feeling".

Anxiegender, which lemme tell you gives me FEELS: "a gender that is affected by anxiety".

Apagender: "a feeling of apathy towards ones gender which leads to them not looking any further into it".

Bigender, sometimes defined as having "two genders", but not necessarily always or at the same time.

Blurgender (sometimes Genderfuzz), "more than one gender but they blur together and are difficult to individually distinguish."

Boyflux, above defined as "when one feels mostly or all male most of the time but experience fluctuating intensity of male identity."

Demifluid, is another multi-gender one for demigender people. Some are static and some are fluid.

Demiflux is similar to Demifluid. Fluctuating demigenders. But what's "demigender", I hear you ask? Demigender: "a gender that is partially one gender and partially another". I'm a demigirl, btw. Some of my best friends are demigirls and I know a couple of great demiboys. We're girls/boys but we're also something else, gender-wise.

Exgender, defined above as "the outright refusal to accept or identify in, on, or around the gender spectrum".

Femgender ("a nonbinary gender which is feminine in nature") and Femflux and Femfluid are also genders I'm familiar with. (I tend to lump feminine nonbinary folks into a term I coined which is "femby". I'm fond of it for myself and friends.)

Genderflux, which is when your gender fluctuates in intensity. In general, "fluid" is about an identity that shifts sideways and "flux" is about an identity that shifts in intensity. You can be both!

Girlflux, defined above "when one feels mostly or all female most of the time but experiences fluctuating intensities of female identity".

Greygender, here defined as "having a gender that is mostly outside of the binary but is weak and can barely be felt".

Mascgender ("a non-binary gender which is masculine in nature") and Mascfluid and Mascflux all exist. (We saw the Fem versions earlier.)

Maverique is a specific gender that is "separate from masculinity, femininity, and neutrality". Some people call Maverique a "third gender", but there are a million "third" genders so I shy away from the numbering attempts.

Multigender and Polygender exist in addition to Bigender: "having more than one simultaneous or fluctuating gender". Omnigender exists too.

Oneirogender is mentioned here as "being agender, but having recurring fantasies or daydreams of being a certain gender".

Pangender is complicated because it's being all the genders, but this is tricky because SOME of the genders are not available to everyone. There are some genders that are only available to people of a certain race, or intersex people, or people with specific mental conditions. So Pangender has been retained with the understanding that it's all the genders available to that person, not All Genders Ever.

Quoigender, which I like the definition of here: feeling as if the concept of gender is inapplicable or nonsensical to one’s self".

Trigender, which you could probably extrapolate from bigender: "having three simultaneous or fluctuating genders".

Note that the bi, tri, poly, and multi genders don't require you to hold all your genders at the same time. They can fluid and flux.

So okay that's a bunch of words, Ana, help. Deep breath. Let me back up.

(1) We were most all of us assigned a gender at birth. If that gender still feels like a fit for you, that's "cisgender".

(2) If that assigned birth gender is NOT a fit for you, you're probably "transgender" (but note that not everyone embraces that word). (For example, there are some agender people who do not like being called transgender. We respect this choice!)

(3) If you're transgender (i.e., don't fit the assigned gender from birth), you get to work out what ACTUAL gender you are.

(4) If it's one of the Big Two in our society (Man and Woman), then you're a binary transgender person. Yay! That's awesome!

(5) If your gender is NOT one of the Big Two in our society, then you're a nonbinary (NB or "enby") transgender person. That's awesome too!

(6) If you're a nonbinary transgender person, you get to find words that fit your gender and those words MAY be the words defined above.

(7) NONE of those words are mutually exclusive. It's up to you to decide which and how many fit you. Your choice.

For the record, I'm:

- Genderqueer (umbrella term)
- Genderfluid (gender changes at times)
- Demigirl (predominantly girl+)

I hope this has been helpful? The point is there are a LOT of words out there to describe gender and you're allowed to look into them! And it doesn't make you a special snowflake or whatever and even if it did: You're Allowed!! Goddamnit, why shouldn't you be special? I don't die my gray hairs any old brunette color they have on hand, I'm Dark Caramel Blonde # FA1245 or whatever matches my roots best. Just saying!

Very occasionally when I talk about gender terms like these, someone will be like "well in that case, EVERYONE is nonbinary!!" I consider that a silly statement; we very clearly have binary men and women in our midst. But I will say if these terms resonate with YOU as something you feel you obviously are? like... it's okay... to just be nonbinary? You totally can!

You don't need a permission slip to be nonbinary. You don't even have to decide you're trans first! That can come later. I knew I was a demigirl but it took awhile for "trans" to fit. And I think that's very normal, to be honest. Not because trans is a bad thing but because our popular idea of it is very binary, plus I didn't want to take a term I hadn't earned.

But the more I embraced my nonbinary gender the more I realized just how much I was NOT cis. The concept didn't fit me at all. I was trans. So if you're exploring through your identity, just remember you're allowed to be gentle with yourself and you can take it slow if you need.

Oh, shit, I nearly forgot to talk about pronouns. This is my favorite list of gender-neutral pronouns. But people get confused about pronouns. Sometimes people ask which pronouns go with which gender. They don't! You can be nonbinary and still use he or she because it's what you're used to and it might not bother you. That's okay!

You're not LESS nonbinary for using he or she if you like. Pronouns don't have a gender attached to them. If he and she don't fit you, there are a zillion other pronouns to look into that might--and you can use ANY of them. Neo-pronouns ("new" pronouns) don't specifically map to certain gender identities.

If you'd like to read a book with neo-pronouns in them, just see what they look like, my SURVIVAL ROUT uses xie/xer (my pronouns!), and POISON KISS uses nee/ner pronouns in it. There's also a pronoun "dressing room" you can use for yourself. Here is a piece by a friend, which uses xie/xir and zie/zir!

And hopefully all the above explains why there's a big difference between being attracted to 2+ genders vs. all the genders.

Storify: Genitals Isn't Gender

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

A Thread on Sexual Boundaries

I wish to note certain things first:

1. I am a transgender nonbinary demigirl.

2. I am bisexual.

3. I am a rape survivor.

4. This thread is in response to weeks of multiple incidents wherein OTHER bisexual transgender rape survivors were harassed online for disclosing that past trauma made various genital configurations triggering for them. These facts are pertinent to the tone and angle of discussion.

Now that things have calmed down a little in my mentions, I'm going to talk about the And Operator. The logical And (&&) operator allows you to place two unrelated premises together in combination. The logical operation returns TRUE if both statements (operands) are true and false otherwise.

So for example:
- The sun is out && it will be a warm day is only TRUE if both operands are true.

That statement may be false:
- The sun isn't out, and it's cold.
- The sun is out, but it's cold.
- The sun isn't out, though it's warm.

The important thing to understand is that in a logical And situation, the two operands are NOT related. One doesn't flow from the other. If the existence of Operand 1 implied the existence of Operand 2, you wouldn't need to check for both.

Now. We are going to start with the fact--I will not debate this fact--that Gender is not Genitals. My gender isn't my genitals. Fact. "My sexuality is [gender], therefore I'm not attracted to [genitals]" is a logical fallacy because the two are unrelated.

But "my sexuality is [gender]" && "I'm not attracted to [genitals]" are two separate unrelated statements joined by a logical And Operator. A problem is so many people have been hurt with the fallacious wrong false harmful "Therefore" that now the And Operator is suspect.

So if someone says "I'm bisexual" && "I'm not attracted to vaginas because of sexual assault trauma", they're accused of broad misgendering. Misgendering is denying the gender of a person or people. A stated avoidance of a genital configuration isn't misgendering as long as everyone involved understands that genitals aren't gender.

"You're transphobic because you don't like penises" isn't a gotcha when you're talking to a trans person who knows gender isn't genitals. Triggers are based around memory sensations. No one says I have to date men who wear my abusers' cologne or have his haircut. Saying someone can turn down a new lover based on hairstyle but not a resemblance of genitals is very hostile to this rape survivor.

If I misgender anyone, please tell me and I will correct it. But genitals aren't gender, and not liking [genitals] isn't misgendering. Also, ftr, you are allowed to disagree with me! I may not be safe for you to follow, and I'm sorry if that's the case. But if you come at me with full-aggression klaxons and dog-pile me with your pals, I'm going to have to block you. I'm sorry. The internet loves an excuse to harass a trans person and I have to protect myself by setting boundaries. I wish I didn't have to.

None of this would be controversial if our society weren't so hostile to boundaries when it comes to sexual consent. I can set any boundary I want to sexual access to me and people will argue. No Trump voters. No-one who listens to Mozart. No-one who eats garlic. No-one who has been to Alaska. I can set ridiculous boundaries if I want. My body. There is no boundary I can set for ACCESS TO MY BODY that someone won't argue with. This isn't happening in a vacuum.

If someone said "I can't date blonds because my abuser was a blond" and a million people popped up to make it about them:

"What about platinum blonds?"
"What about frosted tips?"
"What about strawberry blond?"

Demanding they define every nuance of their trigger?

- Would we understand that was hostile? To rape survivors and people with PTSD? This demand that they exhaustively document a trigger?

- Would we understand that people were taking a painful I-statement about an unwanted mental illness and making it about them?

- Would we understand that people were being hostile to the very concept of sexual boundaries by trying to negotiate them down?

- Would we understand the difference between a rando demanding vs. a flirty friend saying "oh hey if we're going further I need to know more?"

- Would we understand the difference between strangers on the internet being hostile to boundaries vs. close friends discussing them privately?

Because the people harassing me and other trans friends for saying boundaries are allowed to exist are hostile strangers. And that context is important.

I think it's important to understand in these discussions that the boundary is already there. All the person has done is state it. So the argument is either "you can't HAVE that boundary" which is not okay at all, or it's "you can't STATE that boundary".

Boundaries being stated are a good thing. You get to learn WITHOUT RISK whether that person is a good romantic partner for you. "I can't sleep with people who eat tomatoes" is a good thing to learn before you date them for six months. "Wait, but how does xie feel about garlic" is a thing you might want to ask me before dating. Otherwise, why do you need to ask for more?

There's a difference between a choice to share information with the public versus a demand for more. If I post a piece of myself online, you can consume or not as you choose, but demanding more than I want to give isn't cool.

Storify: Mis-Identifying People

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Corrections are not hostility. Deliberate mis-identification is.

*raises hand* Hi, can we talk about a thing?

An identity is not a Get-Out-Of-Criticism-Free card. An example of this is an actress pulling out a bi card in response to trans criticism. HOWEVER, if you mis-identify someone mid-criticism and they correct you, that is not the same thing as trying to pull identity rank. I have see THIS happen too many times:

"This het woman thinks--"
"Er, I'm not het."

No, it doesn't necessarily make it okay. But correction when you have mis-identified someone is not Hostile nor Defensive.

In addition: It is not okay to mis-identify people purposefully to make a point. Calling someone white when you know they aren't white, het when you know they aren't het, [gender] when you know they're not = not okay. Identities are complicated and personal. You don't get to strip those away just because you're angry or the other person is wrong.

Identity isn't a courtesy we extend only to people we like.

I have this week seen someone say "feel free to criticize my opinions but don't erase my racial identity" in pretty much those exact words only for a pile-on of "being [racial identity] doesn't mean you're above criticism!!" when... yes... that is exactly what they said. It is not Hostile or Aggressive or Defensive to correct someone when they are wrong about your identity.

I went through this round the mulberry bush recently over pronouns. The mere act of CORRECTING someone re: pronouns isn't aggression. If you don't want to be corrected re: someone's identity mid-criticism, don't use their identity if it's not really relevant. If the identity IS relevant (like whether the book is #ownvoices or not), check before you start saying the person isn't XYZ.

Also: Work on precision. If you mean cishet, use that (not straight). If you mean non-black, use that (not white). If you mean non-woman, use that (not man). Very few identities have clear equal-and-opposite antonyms. "This person is not a gay man" is a fine thing to point out if it's relevant. "This person is a straight woman" may be suuuuper off-base.

Anger is a valid emotion, but doesn't magically excuse bad actions like purposefully mis-identifying people or shaming them for corrections. And as a transgender person who knows how violent identity-erasure can be, I'm not going to budge on the position that this is NOT okay. Like, if someone menstruates and wants to talk about that, their gender identity isn't a reason to shut them down.

Storify: Menstruator and Planned Parenthood

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

A couple people have asked that I break down the "menstruator" thing for those who missed it. Let's do that real fast. On Sept 2, @PPact tweeted out about menstruators affected by tampon taxes.

@PPact: Menstruators in New York started to #TweetTheReceipt celebrating the repealed tampon tax—but some are still charged.

The term was a choice to be inclusive of menstruating people who are not women: many trans men and non-binary transgender people. Many people objected to Planned Parenthood's inclusive language. Some of those people are TERFs: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists.

These are a subculture of feminists who insist on misgendering and/or excluding transgender people from gendered spaces. These women insisted that "mensturator" as a term was reducing women to biology and therefore inherently offensive regardless of inclusion.

In response, @alexandraerin wrote a good thread about nouns like "eaters", "menstruators", etc. and their context. She also wrote an good thread on how alternative suggestions like "SanPro Users" are insufficient. The short version is that we need to be able to talk about menstruation frankly in non-stigmatizing ways.

By Sept 6, four days later, a reactionary hashtag was trending called "If Men Had Periods". The "joke" being that they supposedly don't. Many of us pointed out that many men DO have periods. They even have period underwear for men. We are now on day SIX of a reactionary wave of anger from some cisgender women that Planned Parenthood used an inclusive term re: periods.

Planned Parenthood provides services to a lot of transgender people. They are one of the places that offer testosterone to trans men. Many trans men rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control and other reproductive healthcare services. Planned Parenthood was being inclusive by using a broader term than "women", and they are weathering a great deal of pushback.

I have had many ostensible feminists tell me this week that: only women menstruate, and that ALL women menstruate. This is ridiculous. It misgenders trans people of ALL genders and it misgenders cis women who do not menstruate for health/other reasons. The position that menstruation is inherently linked to womanhood is harmful to transgender people and many disabled women.

It may be possible later to discuss whether "menstruator" is the best term, but RIGHT NOW that discussion cannot meaningfully happen because too many transphobic people are engaging in bad faith in an attempt to throw inclusive language in a garbage bin. In my personal opinion, the best way to support transgender people right now is to support the "menstruator" label and we can revisit later.

(Personally, I am fine with the term being used in this specific context. It is accurate, descriptive, and de-stigmatizing. But I digress.)

*extremely network news voice* And now you know... the rest of the story.

Storify: Stop Misusing 'Straight'

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

*looks askance at a viral tweet*

Maybe if a "straight woman" (!?????) is panicking over her husband's shitty childcare abilities, the answer is NOT to scold the woman?

Can we also STOP assuming that women married to men are straight? YOU. DO. NOT. KNOW. Trust me on this. There's this weird liberal word salad thing going on these days where "straight" is being flung around like a cheap insult. STOP.

"Straight people don't understand LBGT letters haha!" Dude, you know there are straight trans people, right? Sit doooown.

*holds your face closely* "Straight" is not some magical fairyland free of marginalization because INTERSECTIONAL OPPRESSIONS EXIST.

*beckons you closer with my finger* You cannot tell if someone is cishet by looking. Stop throwing that label around when you DO NOT KNOW.

There's pointing out labels because it's germane to the subject and there's pointing out labels because you want a winning Pokemon card.

"Haha, I threw Straight Married Women onto the table! That gives me a +2 to all rhetorical attacks." Dude, sit your ass back down.

Social Justice is not Magic: The Gathering and the fact some folks can't grasp that is frankly terrifying to me.

*rides off into the night*

Storify: How to Support LBGTQUIA+ People

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[Content Note: Transphobia, Gun Violence, Pulse Shooting]

These tweets were written in the wake of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As of writing, this act of terrorism is the deadliest shooting attack in US history. The motive for the shooting is unknown to me at this time, but it is important to note that this was a gay nightclub that catered to LBGT+ clientele, that the shooting happened while the club was holding a Latinx event, and that this month is both Pride month and Immigration Heritage month. The shooter has been reported to be Muslim. I have no further information than this at this time. (06/12/2016)

I have written a series of tweets detailing ways to support for Muslim, Latinx, and queer people in the wake of this tragedy. I will be using the terms "queer", "LBGTQUIA+", and "QUILTBAG" in a largely interchangeable manner in these tweets. QUILTBAG is an acronym used by some members of the queer community, defined below.

Q = Queer and Questioning
U = Undecided (which some people prefer to Questioning)
I = Intersex and Intergender
L = Lesbian
T = Transgender
B = Bisexual and Bigender
A = Asexual and Aromantic and Agender (NOTE: A does NOT stand for "Ally".)
G = Gay and Genderqueer