"The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line." ~Joanna Field

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bookmarks - The Professor and the Madman

Sorry for the late post. I came home for the reading week and have run out of premade posts.

The Professor and the Madman is copyright 1998 by Simon Winchester. Published by HarperCollins.
This is what I would call a "creative nonfiction". It is a book based heavily on the story behind the Oxford English Dictionary.

It tells you the embellished facts about the two main contributors to the dictionary, Professor James Murray who headed the campaign for the majority of its run, and Dr. W.C Minor who submitted more than 10,000 entries to the work.

Minor was incarcerated for murder, and Murray was a professor at Oxford.
It tells their stories, using historical truths and backed up data... and filling in the gaps with narrative.

I like the style of this book, it goes back and forth between narrative and laying out pure fact. It makes everything bite sized. It helps that I am interested in language and dictionaries.

All in all a good gateway book to fiction from nonfiction or vice-versa.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Neither, and the Choosing of Names

Hey there~

So. I've been doing that thing that I think every one should do, questioning my self.
Not just that kind of second guessing thing, but my self, as in what makes me intrinsically me.
Soul searching, I suppose.

I should probably preface with saying that I've been going to a group recently where one of the opening questions each session is what your preferred pronoun is.
...for those who I've lost, a pronoun is something that replaces a noun. Your name is a noun. So Elsie is a name. If I want to talk about Elsie, I could use Elsie's name over and over, every time I referred to Elsie. But as you may have noticed, that's freaking annoying. So we use pronouns like "she" and "her".
The standard ones in English when referring to people are:

I Me My Mine Myself
You You Your Yours Yourself
He Him His His Himself
She Her Hers Hers Herself
We Us Our Ours Ourselves
They Them Their Theirs Themselves
You You Your Yours Yourselves

Then we have the object ones,
It It Its ...... Itself
They Them Their ...... Themselves

The main ones we deal with are the He/She ones. And that is where there is some issue.
If you are not biologically what you identify as, what pronoun do you use?
Trans people know this fight well.
So people try to create gender-neutral pronouns (Many languages have them. English leaves us with "it").
Ze, Ey and Xe being the most popular that I know of.
But it gave me a chance to mention what I've known for a long time. I don't like using the feminine pronouns (she) to describe myself. (For those who didn't know, yes, I am biologically female. Joy.)

Years ago I thought about using male pronouns. Years ago I briefly thought I might be a transperson, and would want to go the route of changing myself physically. But that never felt right.

I let it be for a while, then I realised that I don't really feel like either. I've known some people who feel like both. Androgynes, Bigenders and Genderfluids, I've known people who describe themselves in all these ways (I consider online friends to be "known", here). But that never felt quite right either. I don't feel like I'm both. I feel like neither.
So I did some research (then, and again recently). There are people who identify as third gender, which is closer to what I feel, but still not quite.
Then I stumbled on agender, or having no gender, and Neutrois, which are similar. Prior to this I had already determined that I feel genderless, I was just looking for words. I still don't like the words though.
I'm going with nongendered. Though linguistically incorrect, I feel it fits best.

Anyway, as this relates to my previous ramble, I want a pronoun that is not 'She' like my sex, and not 'He' as I don't feel male. I don't like the gender-neutral ones (I find them too convoluted and sound weird to my ear when referring to me.) Not to mention that while they may be neutral ground on the scale of male to female, they are still gendered pronouns. Just neutrally gendered. Which doesn't fit.
So I've settled on the logically available pronoun, It.
As English uses It to refer to things, and things are (in the English language) inherently without gender, it makes sense to use It to refer to someone without gender. (Not to mention it just feels right.)

That's one issue down.

The second (and easiest of the three I'm bringing up) is what do I do with my sexuality. I may be agendered, but I am definitively NOT asexual.
Being a bio-female, and being attracted to females, I've always presented as a lesbian. It's easy, it's quick, and it's technically true.
But my definition of a lesbian is a woman who loves other women.
And my definition of a woman is a person who identifies as female (regardless of sex).
So it isn't, by my definitions, true that I am a lesbian, because I am not a woman as I don't identify as female.
And I hate to lie when it is unnecessary.
So what to do.
But I stumbled upon some great words while doing my gender research most recently.
"Androphilia" and "Gynephilia"; attraction to men and attraction to women, respectively.
They are used by researchers and scientists when trying to present data without bothering with gender. A Gynephile is someone who is sexually attracted to women... regardless of their gender. Straight men and gay women are all gynephiles.
So yay, that is a problem crossed off the list with no fuss.
I may not be (by some definitions) a lesbian. But by definition I am a gynephile. Woo.

A third issue is my name.
(I'm not telling you my name for a few reasons. One, if you are reading this you probably already know it (I have no delusions of grandeur, I know very few people read my rants.); two, if you don't know it you don't need to; and three, read the rest of the paragraph and you'll see it is pointless to tell you.)
My name is decidedly feminine. I have never heard of a single man with my name. This doesn't feel right.
I've met a person recently who can't seem to remember my name. So he calls me Sam. Sam is a nice, gender-neutral name. And I have to admit, it felt nice.
It also hearkened back to those years ago where I had thought about changing my name. I've never hated my name, it is a nice enough name. But it has never felt all that fitting. I just don't connect to it. And I figured that was fine.
But recently I've thought, maybe I can have a name that fits me. That I relate and connect to. So I've been on the look out for a new name.

And I think I've found one. It just feels right.

But let me tell you, it was not easy to do. Sort of. Once I found it, and let it permeate, it has become easy. But finding advice about picking a new name? Incredibly difficult.

No offence or disrespect to my trans friends out there, but that is who all the advice is aimed to.
Advice such as finding your name on a ranked list of popular ones for the year you were born, then finding the equally popular opposite gendered one and using that... well, it falls flat.
They have good points and (to me and my situation) pointless ones.
Picking a name that is easy to say, spell, read, and is ethnically close to what you present as, those are all good pieces of advice for my issue.
Feminizing/masculating your given name doesn't work. (For one, my name has no masculine form. For two, I don't want a male name any more than I want a female one.)

So yeah. I just wanted to put that out there. I have an obsession with proper terminology, which can explain why this is such a big thing for me, I guess. Sorry for the long rant, it's just how I operate.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bookmarks - Cut

Lets follow a theme, I guess. Now don't go getting all worried on me, I've had this book on hold for a while, coincidence brings it so close to the last one (considering I read the last one three weeks ago, this one last week, whatevs.)

Cut, by Patricia McCormick, copyright 2000, published by PUSH, part of Scholastic.

This is another book about self-harm, however Cut takes place almost exclusively in an inpatient environment. Our main character, Callie, spends the first half of the book not speaking to any one. We learn through her internal monologue and description where she is and why.

McCormick gives a pretty accurate portrayal of the desire for self-harm, and an interesting back story for why Callie turned to it.
Not as powerful a book as Scars was, however.
It could still be a triggering story, but I found it less pushy and less disturbing.
It is nice to see a positive portrayal of the inpatient environment though. A lot of people tend to be frightened when they think of being hospitalized for mental health (I blame One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for this, personally.), so it seems like a good thing to show teens that it isn't all bad.
Side note, again I am linking a previous post about suicide/self-harm here for good measure. If you are feeling bad I suggest looking at that and/or finding a resource you consider helpful in order to feel better.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bookmarks - Scars

Scars, by Cheryl Reinfield, copyright 2010, published by WestSide Books.
I quite literally just finished reading this book.
Okay, no, because by the time you read this it will be a week or more later, but at the time of writing this, I just spent a bit more than two hours reading this book (and about an hour looking at some of the resources provided at the end).

Normally when I do these things (though I have done so few that I am not sure there is a "normally") I will wait a bit longer between the read and the review, to let my thoughts sit.
But I don't want to this time.

Scars is an incredibly powerful book, and it brought me to tears. And I'm not sure I can say that about any other book. I've been sad, and maybe had a tear or two (looking at you, J.K Rowling...) but this book made me cry.
And at the same time I could not stop reading it.

Scars is about a girl named Kendra who has been sexually abused, and doesn't know who did it.
Or, more precisely, she "knows" but can't remember. She's repressed it, I guess I mean.

So she is in therapy. And she cuts herself. A lot.
This book will almost definitely trigger you, if you have ever self-harmed. So, yeah, watch out for that.

What I loved about this book (other than it is a lesbian character (didn't know that going in) and that it shows a very real side of cutting) were the relationships Kendra had.
She had a therapist who was wonderful to her, a great teacher, a reasonably close gay, male, family friend, and a girl who is helpful to her.
She is an artist, and she sees the world through those eyes.

I quite like this book as it shows how things can go right though. She has a good support system, for the most part, and deals reasonably effectively with her stress.

The author has been through similar situations, and I think that is what lends this story so much credibility, so much believability.
All of Kendra's feelings were understandable, accessible, and (in my experience) true.

I would prompt those who know self-harmers, or abused persons, to read this book. It is... disturbing, yes, but I think it could also be a great way to understand a bit of what is going on in their thought processes.
I would also encourage people who do self-harm, or were abused, to read this book-- IF, and only if, they felt they are in a secure place and have resources available to them.
Because this book IS TRIGGERING. There are explicit accounts of self-harm, and less explicit, but still disturbing, memories of sexual abuse. Kendra's mind is in turmoil, and it is a bumpy ride.

If nothing else, I suggest picking this book up for the resource list at the back, which is pretty thorough and interesting.
Side note, I am linking a previous post about suicide/self-harm here for a rounded out thing, if you are feeling bad, I suggest looking at that, or finding a resource you consider helpful in order to feel better.
(Thoughts on Suicide)