tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2030-12-18 02:14 pm

How to post comments if you don't have a Dreamwidth account

I request that you read my comment policy before commenting, especially if you don't know me offline.

If you have a LiveJournal account and want to leave comments on my journal, you can do that without giving Dreamwidth a password or any personal information except an email address. You can follow these instructions (with slight modifications) if you have an account on a site that provides OpenID credentials, too. (For example, any Google or Google+ account should work this way.) Here's how:

  1. Go to the main Dreamwidth page
  2. Follow the "Log In with OpenID" link
  3. In the "Your OpenID URL" box, put yourusername.livejournal.com. For example, if I wanted to log in with my LiveJournal account, I would type "catamorphism.livejournal.com".
  4. Click Login.
  5. Click "Yes, just this time" or "Yes, always" when LiveJournal asks if you want to validate your identity.
  6. The first time you log in, you'll see a message "Please set and confirm your email address". Click the "set" link and follow the instructions.
  7. You'll get an email from Dreamwidth containing a link. Follow the link to confirm your email address.
  8. Follow the instructions. You should now be able to leave comments.

Edited to add as of February 26, 2013: There have been intermittent problems with using OpenID to log in to Dreamwidth. The most reliable way to comment is to create a Dreamwidth account, which is free.
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
2015-03-19 08:31 am
Entry tags:

The Sarcasm Gap

Who doesn't love to make fun of homeopathy? It's important to differentiate yourself from other people, especially on the basis of perceived intelligence and on socially prestigious understanding of science. Most people know very little about science, especially scientists, since specialization means that nobody can deeply understand all that much. So making fun of pseudo-science is a useful way of raising yourself up by putting other people down.

But I wish skeptics would train some of their razor-sharp wit on another pseudo-scientific medical treatment that is widely believed to be effective: intentional weight loss. Sure, homeopathic cures can be found in any CVS, but if you actually talk to your pharmacist, they'll tell you those cures don't work (possibly while looking sort of embarrassed). Weight loss, on the other hand, gets recommended by almost every single medical professional you can find, for everything from tonsillitis to toenail fungus.

Losing weight in the short term is easy for most people, but the vast majority of people who lose weight through intentional means gain back all the weight, and more, within five years. This process begins a pattern of frequent weight cycling which has serious health consequences; fat people who lose weight end up in worse health than fat people who remain at their natural weight. So while intentional weight loss is more effective than homeopathy in that in a tiny minority of people, it does produce long-term results (whereas homeopathy does nothing), it should concern you more than homeopathy does since unlike homeopathy, it actually has harmful results. If you're bothered by non-evidence-based "cures", then intentional weight loss should bother you since there's no evidence that it's either possible (again, for almost everybody) or that it leads to improved health outcomes (for anybody).

Are skeptics afraid to take on a foe that's worthy of their intelligence and humor? Is it fun to make fun of those you believe to be stupid, uneducated, and dupes of the supplement industry? And is it not fun to make fun of medical doctors -- educated people who nevertheless recommend non-evidence-based interventions that do more harm than good? If so, why?
tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
2015-03-16 11:29 pm
Entry tags:

Don't Go to Grad (School)

With apologies to Reel Big Fish
Don't go to grad (school)
You'll get old and snide and overqualified
Don't go to grad (school)
You'll be so disappointed
When you end up an adjunct in Riyadh
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yea yea yea

I hate to ruin the magic
I hate to kill the dream
But once you fail your prelims
Well you'll know just what I mean

You might think that it's cool to hang out with scholars
And chase knowledge instead of almighty dollars
But no one gives a fuck and your reviews all suck
And there's no novelty in your Ph.D
You will hate education
And no one's going to read your dissertation

Don't go to grad (school)
You'll get old and snide and overqualified
Don't go to grad (school)
You will be so damn terrible
You will disappoint your mom and dad
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yea yea yea
It's a losing bet
That you will regret

And even if you make it
All the way to MIT
I don't think you could take it
The egos and hypocrisy
Everyone is so fake when it's visit day
And they ingratiate 'til you matriculate
And rejection fears will make all ideas
Bland and boring, your reviewers all snoring
Your advisor will become a jerk
Faster than you can write "Future work"

Don't go to grad (school)
You'll get old and snide and overqualified
Don't go to grad (school)
You will scrimp and be frugal
till you leave to work for Google
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yeah yeah yeah
Your passion will be lost
Like opportunity cost... alright!

And if you think that the joy of research
Will help you cope with the unknowns
Wait till you quit and go bankrupt
And you can't discharge your loans
Nobody cares what you have to say
Tenure-track is dying anyway
You'll be stymied by self-doubt
And critics will find fault till you burn out

Don't go to grad (school)
Don't even try you will regret it yeah
Don't go to grad (school)
You will be so disappointed
When you end up an adjunct in Riyadh
Don't go to grad (school)
Oh yea yea yea
So just drop out now
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2015-03-15 09:48 pm
Entry tags:

The church of the hacker, or, fake geek girls and outside agitators

'There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.'

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

When people call out abuse, microaggressions, or macroaggressions (the last one also being known as oppression) within your community, some people are going to want to defend that abuse because they like the way things are and don't care who gets hurt or excluded. This is the "fuck you, got mine" approach. One way for them to do this is to position themselves as being more authentic or more central members of the community than the dissenters are. It's the "fake geek girl" strategy, weaponized to gatekeep people interested in social change out of the community.

Geek culture, specifically, isn't a majority group (although it's complicated, since geek culture also controls access to the most elite jobs within what's essentially the only remaining accessible middle-class profession). But when dominant groups intersect with non-dominant groups, people in the dominant/non-dominant intersection tend to win. For example, you can be a Christian engineer and no one will think less of you as an engineer, no matter how much you display your Christian identity in the context of being an engineer, hacker, or geek. The same is true about an atheist engineer, because what engineers value is being dogmatic and doctrinaire, not ideological fine points. However, accusing somebody of being an "SJW" can, if you play your cards right, delegitimize them as an engineer, or hacker, or geek. This is because "SJW" is shorthand for having a marginalized identity or believing that marginalized people shouldn't have to subordinate themselves to powerful people in order to be accepted. In geek culture, if you start a campaign to give somebody a reputation of "just caring about politics" (which is to say, political interests that aren't aligned with the dominant group's interests), that can be a very effective way of taking away their professional credibility. The Christian engineer never has to worry about this form of pollution-of-agency attack, at least not with respect to their religious beliefs.

While the details are most certainly not the same as the trajectory of the civil rights movement in 1960s America, there is a common strategy: the consolidation of power by othering people who demand the redistribution of power. If you can convince people that someone who wants a more equitable distribution of power is automatically not authentic, not real, not one of us, you've convinced them that the only way to be part of something, to be accepted, is to accept abuse and oppression.

To say, "It doesn't have to be this way" is to expose yourself and your reputation and credibility to every kind of attack possible, because "it doesn't have to be this way" are dangerous words. They inspire fear in those who find it more comfortable to believe that it does have to be this way, that all women should stay indoors at night (instead of men learning not to rape), that people who don't like being verbally abused should "just grow a thicker skin" (instead of everyone learning not to be abusive), that children should patiently wait until they're big enough to hurt smaller people (instead of parents respecting their children's boundaries). What those using the "outside agitator" / "fake geek girl" defense wish for is making "it does have to be this way" a self-fulfilling prophecy by scaring everyone who can imagine a different reality into silence and submission. But as long as we recognize that, they won't get their wish.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-03-04 10:37 am
Entry tags:

Things I Am More Worried About Than "Call-Out Culture": An Incomplete List

1. Forgetting to clean the lint filter in the dryer and starting a fire in the laundry room.

2. Gingivitis.

3. Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

4. Unpaid library fines.

5. Getting botulism from canned food.

6. Getting cancer from having to go through airport body scanners, even though I have TSA Precheck

7. Getting salmonella from drinking a cocktail with raw egg white in it.

8. Splinters.

9. My cats getting rabies, even though they're vaccinated and don't go outside.

10. Defamation lawsuits.

11. Making a mistake on my taxes.

12. Toenail fungus.

13. Eating the wrong part of rhubarb.

14. Amtrak derailments.

15. Getting falsely accused of sexual harassment.

16. Sunspots causing bugs in my code.

17. Not understanding IEEE floating point.

18. Celery.

19. Split ends.

20. Stepping on a power cord.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-02-21 10:53 am

Raising Trans Kids by Default

I am planning on becoming a parent within the next year or two, and while I don't exactly how I will do that yet - getting pregnant and giving birth myself, adopting a baby, or adopting an older child through the foster care system - I know one thing about how I'm going to treat an infant who comes into my care in one of the first two ways.

I know that it's impossible to determine what a person's gender is without asking them, and that, therefore, I don't know the gender of any child who is too young to talk. I also know that 'sex' is a synonym for 'gender' that cis people use when they want to misgender us in the name of 'science'. So, I know that if I become the parent of a newborn, I won't know their gender - or sex - immediately at birth, much less before birth. How could I? I wouldn't have access to any better tools than the ones my mother, and any medical personnel who were helping her, when I was a baby boy in 1980. If I don't accept my own misgendering at birth, I can't justify doing the same thing to somebody else.

I have talked about wanting to raise a child in a way that was gender-agnostic up until the time when they were old enough to express their own gender. But sometimes people misunderstand what that means, and think it means forcing a boy or girl to be androgynous instead, past the point where they know their own identity. Of course, that's not so - the point is for me to respect my hypothetical child and not gender them without their consent.

But I'm wondering if it isn't better to talk about raising a child starting from the default assumption that the child is trans. Normally, we make a default assumption that a newborn infant is cis. We assign a gender marker that is difficult to impossible to change later, based solely on an observer's assessment of an infant phalloclitoris as a potential instrument for penetrating vaginas, or as not potentially suitable to this task. We also try our hardest to mold reality to our assumptions by rewarding child behavior that confirms it and punishing behavior that contradicts it. It doesn't work, of course - treating trans kids like we expect them to be cis doesn't produce cis kids, just traumatized trans kids.

I don't have to explain to any trans person that it *is* traumatic to be expected to be cis before you even have the language to protest, and if you're cis, just take my word for it. It is. But even parents who are themselves trans usually re-enact this process on their own kids. I don't blame them, exactly. Social pressure to conform is strong, and not everyone is up for explaining to any stranger who comments on the baby that everything that believe about sex/gender is wrong.

Personally I can't conceive of doing to a child something that was so harmful when it was done to me. At the same time, I know I don't exist in a vacuum apart from peer pressure. Perhaps it's easier to resist the assumption that cis is default if we assume something different instead; humans tend to have an easier time thinking about positive than negative statements.

I think it's understandable to latch onto genitals as a differentiator since babies are otherwise pretty similar. Like finding out your baby's zodiac sign and constructing an imaginary personality around it, picking a binary gender gives you a place to start imagining who this tiny stranger might be. But unlike an arbitrary horoscope, building a story around a gender marker has devastating consequences if you pick the wrong one. Any trans teenager who's been abandoned by their parents - who were more attached to that story than to the real, living child they were raising - can tell you that.

So rather than rejecting gender, I want to suggest an alternative narrative, at least to myself. That is, should an infant come into my care, I will assume they have a gender identity that isn't 'male' or 'female'. By assuming non-binary rather than whatever binary sex they weren't assigned at birth, I can do two things. First, as a person whose gender is one of the two socially sanctioned options, I can remind myself to be extra attentive to the needs of a child whose gendered experience I don't understand firsthand. And second, assuming that male and female are duals is just another way of accepting sex assignment at birth (if I pick the opposite of what the doctor said, I'm still letting a doctor tell me what to do.)

So what if my child turns out to be a boy or a girl? Well, if so, I'll accept that from the moment he or she says so - self-definition wins above all else. For a 3-year-old, that just means using his or her pronouns to refer to her or him and, if he or she chooses, supporting him or her in using a gendered name. Of course it also means letting the child wear or play with whatever they want, but I would already be doing that.

What are the advantages of a non-binary default over a cis, or trans binary, default? Wouldn't no default at all be better? Maybe, but I suspect that my best intentions, my brain will construct something to fill a void, so it's better for me to be explicit. That said, what if the child turns out to be a boy or girl? Will they have been harmed by the assumption that they weren't?

Maybe; I can't know for sure. I don't think the potential harm is nearly as great, though, as the harm done by the alternative, the harm of a cis default to a child who isn't. I know that harm from personal experience, so I don't need to elaborate, except to encourage you to consider the effect on your self-concept of having the world tell you - having the adults you have to trust most tell you - that a basic, fundamental thing about yourself you know too deeply for words is false. That they know better.

The non-binary default doesn't have an entire society mobilized to enforce it, so for that reason - power asymmetry - I don't see how expecting a child to be NB could possibly do as much harm as expecting a trans child to be cis does.

Many parents, trans and cis, say they're assuming their child is cis because statistically, that's the most likely thing. I would hate to have to explain to a child, 'I hurt you because of statistics'. They say they won't uphold gender expectations (except, of course, the expectation that the child is their assigned gender) and will affirm a trans child's gender if their child comes out as trans.

I don't doubt their sincerity, but I know I have plenty of internalized cissexism. Once I decided to work off the assumption my child was cis, would I give up the social capital of having a normative cis that easily? Would I feel pressure to, subconsciously, encourage my child to fake cisness so I don't have to deal with the stigma of being a trans parent of a trans child (baggage even if I was cis, plus suspicion that I somehow made my child be like me)? I'm not confident that the answer is 'no'.

I also reject the argument from statistics. Look at a baby, and that baby has a 100% chance of being cis. Or a 100% chance of being trans. You just don't know which one yet. The limits of my knowledge don't change objective reality.

Rather than centering what might be best for a cis child because cis people are the majority, then, I'll center the needs of the most vulnerable group and trust that the outcome will be best for everyone. That's usually how it works, after all: for example, we have a modern 'LGBTQ rights' movement because trans women of color resisted violence. If we'd done from the beginning what the modern marriage-focused GL(B) movement (silent t) does now and center the needs of privileged cis gay men, we would have made no progress since the fifties.

I think that by centering what would be best for a child whose gender is non-binary - something I'll ask for advice on and educate myself about, since I lack firsthand - I'll be doing what's best for any child. A cis boy or cis girl won't be harmed by getting to declare his own maleness or her own femaleness. Either one has the rest of their lifetime to have the entire world backing them up.

The risk of assuming you know what your child's gender is and that it's binary is this: getting attached to an imaginary, idealized child instead of a real one. This is why some parents of trans children say, 'I feel like my son/daughter died': they are mourning the loss of a relationship they formed with an imaginary child, at the expense of the real child who could really use their support. I don't expect to say 'I feel like my genderqueer child up and died' in the face of my cis daughter or son, because there are no social structures encouraging me to value a genderqueer child more. So that's why I don't think my future child will be harmed by my assumption, even if they're cis.

I don't expect the rest of the world to understand, but that's okay. Like many queer people, I have the privilege of freedom from obligation to a family of origin, so I get to choose who will be around my kid, mostly. There are still strangers, babysitters, doctors, and so on, but not everybody has to understand. I feel okay knowing that within my own ability, I'll do my best by my kid, and not worry too much about other people's expectations that I can't control. And it seems like getting more practice in doing what's best for my kid even if the rest of the world resists, or is openly hostile to it, can only make me a better parent.
tim: "Bees may escape" (bees)
2015-02-16 07:52 am
Entry tags:

Repost: Cocktails involving candy

I'm reposting this as a public post because the original post has comments and I don't want to make them public without permission, but I also think I'm funny and want more people to know it.
Somebody on twitter (I believe it was [twitter.com profile] dopegirlfresh but I'm not totally sure) speculated on the question of what gummy bears soaked in rum would be like. I was unable to get this out of my head. I bought some gummy bears, and well, you know.

They expanded to maybe 3 times their original size and absorbed a LOT of liquid. As in, after a few days there was no liquid left in the jar.

I decided I had to follow up on the "Future Work" section, so I wrote this tweet.

That's not the best photo. Oh well. Roughly L-R: sour patch kids in sweet vermouth; gummy orange slices in blue Curacao; gummy worms in tequila; gummy watermelon slices in rum; gumdrops in whiskey; gummy peach rings in Southern Comfort. Oh yeah and gummy grapefruit slices in gin were somewhere in there, and I also tried gummy bears in vodka.

I started this experiment about 2 days before leaving on vacation, and I didn't have time to drain out any of the jars before leaving. And... since I returned, I've been kind of lazy. So I now have gummy candies that have been soaking in alcohol for a month.

Here's what the gummy peaches look like after soaking in Southern Comfort for quite a while:

I think the peaches were the biggest success. The gummy grapefruit slices dissolved completely into the gin. I've been still too afraid to try the Sour Patch Kids or the orange slices.

But I was asked for recipes! I have not tried any of these recipes yet -- so far what I've tried is "eat a single gummy peach, feel drunk, stop for the night." I have been trying a lot of cocktails out of a book I got, though, in alphabetical order, so I feel pretty knowledgeable about cocktails, at least the ones whose names begin with "A".

Peachy Nail

1 part Southern Comfort
1 part bourbon
3 dashes orange bitters
As many gummy peach rings as you want, soaked in Southern Comfort for 24 to 48 hours

Stir with ice, strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with boozy gummy peach rings. Be sure you don't have to go anywhere after this.

Greyhound Vending Machine

5 oz white grapefruit juice
2 oz gin (if you want to be classy about it, use Hendrick's or Bombay Sapphire, but Mr. Boston will do) that has had gummy grapefruit slices soaking in it long enough for them to completely dissolve -- probably a week

Pour into highball glass filled with ice. Stir, serve. If that's not enough sugar for you, you can rim the glass with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit and then coarse sugar.

Old Gummy

As much bourbon as you want, you deserve it
4 dashes rhubarb bitters (deal with it)
Several large gumdrops that have been soaking in blended whiskey for 12 hours (longer than that and they get to be a weird gray color)
Soda water

Place the gumdrops in an Old Fashioned glass. Wet them with the bitters and a short splash of soda water. Swirl the glass a little bit. Add one large ice cube (no ice balls, please). Pour in the bourbon. Stir. If you want to be classy when you're mixing gummy candies and liquor, instead of putting the gumdrops in the glass, put them on a short wooden skewer (or long toothpick) and use it as a garnish.

Let me know how these recipes work out. I'll certainly be curious. Also, I'm considering getting a job marketing alcohol to children.

The best source of gummy candies is the bulk bins at Winco. If you don't have a Winco near you, what are you doing? Move.
tim: A brown tabby cat's face. (spreckles)
2015-02-13 11:15 pm


Inspired by "I live in a house with wild animals and I really have to pee" by Ashe Dryden

Oh hey, friend, thanks for coming over the other evening! It was really fun, and that pumpkin bread you brought was great.


Oh, him? I'm sorry he bit you. You're not going to get rabies or anything, though, I took him for his shots last July. Yeah, it must have hurt, though, sorry.


No, I didn't really... adopt him, so much. He just showed up at my front door a few years back and wandered inside. It seemed like he needed a home, so after a couple days I bought some dog food and a dish and started giving him food and water. I mean, how could I deprive a poor animal of those things?


Oh yeah, he's bitten a couple of other people who've visited. It's really too bad. And I sure wish I didn't have to steam-clean my carpet so often. What can you do, though?


Call animal control? I don't know about that, it sounds sort of confrontational. I wouldn't want some mob showing up in a van to take away Buddy, you know?


A dog trainer? Huh, maybe. That seems like it would cost a lot. And doesn't it kind of infringe on his freedom to be the kind of dog he naturally is?


Tired of it? Yeah, I am, a little bit, and my housemate moved out because she said she couldn't stand finding her laundry torn apart or her books chewed up anymore. It's too bad, because I've had a hard time finding a new housemate and now I have to pay the rent for the whole house by myself. But hey, I'm not saying I would put up posters all over the neighborhood if Buddy wandered off one day. If he did, I would just shrug and get on with my life.


Oh, no, you're totally not the first person who has told me this. A lot of my friends just won't visit my house anymore. They want to meet me for coffee instead when we hang out, in cafes that don't allow any dogs in. It's okay. The way I see it, it's their loss if they don't get to be in my house.


Sue me? Why, I don't see how any jury could convict me of a crime. I'm not biting people. I'm not tearing their clothing or barking at them so loudly they can't carry on a conversation. I've never been anything but impeccably hospitable and courteous to my guests. It's not my fault if that dog keeps harassing them and if he just won't go away.


No, it doesn't bother me that much personally. I have a thick skin, you know?
tim: A brown tabby cat's face. (spreckles)
2015-01-24 06:42 pm
Entry tags:

Positive tape

A followup to this and this:

So I wasn't going to post this at first, but then [personal profile] wild_irises pointed out that holding it back for fear of being seen as self-absorbed is hardly in the spirit of Wishcraft, and she's right, so here goes :)

I tried to combine everybody's positive comments about me into a single narrative, something that resembles the spirit of the original exercise in Barbara Sher's book ("ask a friend to say good things about you for 3 minutes.") So I combined comments that were similar to each other and grouped them roughly by topic. This includes all the comments from my Dreamwidth post, plus some from Facebook and one from an email. However, I've mashed things up enough that there shouldn't be anything there that's possible to trace back to one person (except for the ones that were made non-anonymously here on Dreamwidth, of course!) So, don't assume that a given sentence has the same author as the next one or the one before it, because there are a whole bunch of cases where that's not true.
You're willing to listen without assumption, and to act. You're loyal. I never feel like you're gonna bite my hand if you don't like my idea, and honest criticism is gold in ways that people don't always understand. You are a straightforward and trustworthy person. You are a very encouraging friend. When I didn’t want to live anymore, you wrote me a letter that touched me and made me cry. You sent me a book that is dear to me and you wished me solace. It makes me happy to know someone that I could confide & brainstorm with if I am having a real crisis or need some insight. (within certain realms, to be realistic) You happily met up with me and readily continued a friendship, even though we hadn’t been in contact for ages.

You have much warmth, kindness, and empathy. You care very deeply and so fiercely about so many important issues. You are aware of how other people see the world, and try to do the right thing. I believe you to be the kind of open minded person that in the heat of an argument, if proven wrong, would yell out apologies & correct yourself in the same heated tone you were slamming the ideas just minutes before........which is awesome. You are actively striving to be better and have the capacity to learn from your mistakes; you're also willing to make them in the first place. You continue to investigate your own biases deeply and refine your worldview and opinions as an adult, even as an adult over 30, motivated by wanting to treat other people better. You have great sensitivity to the suffering of others and your focus on other people is directly (rather than inversely) proportional with how much oppression they've suffered. There are people you’ll never know whose lives you have touched in a beautiful way. You are adding so much good not only to the lives of those you know and care about, but to all those people you will never know.

You also share your opinions and communicate well about them. I've learned a lot from you, particularly about privilege, and specifically in ways that I hope have made me able to treat people better, and/or that will make me able to potentially treat people better in the future. Your writing has led me to interesting questions and further exploration of topics like discrimination and intersectional feminism, which in turn has appreciably improved my understanding of the world. Your opinions sometimes seem outlandish at first, but often cause me to think long and hard. You make me challenge my assumptions. Specifically, you've made me realize that I tend to hide behind a belief that any progress is better than no progress on many fronts instead of actively working for change. It's an ugly truth but I'm glad you've helped me to realize it. You help me learn more and open my eyes to things I’d never thought about before.

You approach your life with both analytical distance and thoughtfulness. You think hard and deeply about topics many people shy away from, and speak frankly about your thoughts. Particularly, you confront difficult and complicated problems even if it would be easier to stay quiet; you don't shy away from conflict. You are an engaging writer with a lot of interesting things to say. I appreciate your precision. I like you because you speak your mind, but with respect for your reader; because you acknowledge complications and nuances while not adopting the cowardly option of either assuming all sides are all equally valid or that only one is. You are deeply engaged with social justice issues and are not afraid to take unpopular positions. You are a person of integrity and seriousness. I find your point of view consistently well thought out and understandable.

Specifically I enjoi the critical talk of cis, straight, white culture & queer, trans culture (when it warrants it), or even tech industry (aka bro-ding...get it? coding...bro....ah haaaa! you get it) You say interesting things about gender, including but not just how it affects your life. You pay attention to and amplify marginalized voices, particularly those of women and trans people. You "get" feminism and are outspoken on behalf of person who are not cis males, especially in computer science. I am always appreciative of your ability and willingness to advocate for others. You are strongly compassionate. I particularly like that you always consider children as human beings (and I'm curious what your parenting will look like in practice.) You care so much about people and non-humans too.

You come across as a knife with a neon nyan cat handle in subject matters you feel strongly about, all shiny, bright & happy "....but ...wait....oh god! ......I've been cut to size? but how???? " You have a low tolerance for bullshit, and the ability to cut through the bullshit and get right to the heart of the matter. You challenge empty rhetoric directly and do not tolerate even passive acquiescence to something you know is wrong. I have always admired your ability and bravery at times to tell it like it is. You are unapologetic about who you are and uncompromising about principles. That said, you're not abusive or threatening about it: you are critical while maintaining your ability to connect with others. You're fighting injustice and making this painful world a much better place.

You have always struck me as intimidatingly good. I say intimidatingly because it puts me in mind of something in one of Diane Duane's Young Wizards books: direct contact with the Powers that Be is actually a bit of a dangerous hobby for a human to get into, because the Powers are impatient with mere human flaws, including the flaws of their own vessels, and they tend to burn through whatever impurities they encounter.

That's what you try to do to obstacles between you and justice.

You are very clear about your goals and their status, but also flexible about them. You don't exploit others. You somehow maintain optimism about human nature, despite considerable evidence in your personal history for the opposite perspective. You're idealistic, but it's tempered by a hard-won jadedness, which I think contributes to your good and offbeat sense of humor. While you are a very serious person at heart, you are approachable and you don't shy away from enjoying life and relationships with others. You are very capable of relaxing and pursuing pleasure and leisure, without neglecting your convictions. You take responsibility for the things you enjoy. You are often fun to be around, and pleasantly talkative.

You are highly intelligent and apparently a very good coder. You enjoy learning and sharing what you've learned with others. I think the best thing about you (to me) is the fact that you're outspokenly more critical & well read than myself & I use that to my advantage to learn about or become more in depth with subject matter I wasn't aware of. You are enormously curious and eager to acquire knowledge and understanding, where understanding is more important than knowledge. You have a drive to get useful things done, which is far better for the world than a drive to get things done in general. I regret that you and I did not get to work together for the short time we worked at the same place.

You are responsible. When part of groups, you are good at identifying tasks for yourself and doing them correctly and consistently. You'll invent processes where there aren't any, and you'll improve them where there are some that need improvement.

You're fun when you're very horny.

Your beard is awesome. I dig your glasses.

Oh, and you let your kitties stay with us for a couple months and they brought us much joy.


Oh, and one more thing, Spotty and Spreckles telepathically communicated to me some good things about you, too. Don't ask me why they didn't tell you for themselves...ask them. Your kitties are strange... :)

Spotty - You happily pay for as many headphone wires as I chew up and still love me. You are fun to snuggle with. Oh, and you bring me my food!

Spreckles - I have never told you this and I should have. You gave me a really spiffy name*. And you make every day fun. You make me glad to be a cat. And you bring my food! If you bring me more food, I will say more good things about you! Right now, I need to nap! Sorry!
Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my DW post, on Facebook, or in email. I'm not thanking you for having positive opinions about me, since I hardly think that my thanks will affect your opinions one way or the other :) Rather, I'm thanking you for writing them down, which is hard to do.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-01-23 08:10 am
Entry tags:

Shuffle things meme

Take this list, remove a thing, sort it by how much you like the things, add a thing at the top, a thing in the middle, and a thing at the bottom (preserving the sortedness, pedants):

(most liked)
The Mountain Goats
Getting up early
Getting something in the mail that isn't bills
Thermal underwear
Steam locomotives
Nessie Ladle
Eating paper
Undercooked Aubergine
Celery in a stir-fry
(most disliked)

From http://pseudomonas.dreamwidth.org/134958.html -- like him, I have tried to add things which are not *universally* loved/hated; I feel putting "Orgasms" and "Genocide" on there would be kinda boring...
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-01-22 10:28 pm
Entry tags:

So why was I asking for compliments?

I'm reading a book called Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. The book has lots of exercises in it; one of them is about trying to see yourself the way others see you. The premise is: we all have negative tapes playing in our heads; we're all self-critical. To quote her, "A direct statement about yourself is considered objective only if it is negative."

You can't stop the negative tapes just by saying you're going to stop thinking these self-critical thoughts -- rather, you have to replace them with something new. A positive tape. She suggests two ways of creating a positive tape; the first one is to sit down with a trusted friend and ask them to spend about 3 minutes talking about precisely what's good about you. Your job is to write it all down (and not argue with your friend!)

I didn't want to do this face-to-face with somebody, so I decided to do a distributed version instead, which I did in this post (and on Facebook, and in one person's case, email). Now that I have some responses, I'm going to try to compile them together into the equivalent of that 3-minute monologue from a friend (combining common themes together).

And then I will have a positive tape (written down, so I can always refresh my memory) that I can always replay when the negative ones are too loud. I don't think my self-esteem is especially low these days, but I still have plenty of self-critical thoughts and some residual impostor syndrome. Also, distinctly from actively thinking bad things about myself, there are plenty of good things about myself that I don't notice on my own.

So, thanks to everyone who commented! I probably won't post the summarized version publicly (too self-absorbed ;) but I appreciate everyone who provided me with raw material for it :) Also, this was a fun experiment and I would wholly recommend it to others.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-01-21 07:18 pm
Entry tags:

Please tell me precisely what's good about me

Edit: Thank you for all the comments! I have now switched back to not allowing anonymous commenting. Also, I'm tracking IP addresses again for future comments, but IPs for comments on this post still won't be exposed to me. I can't disable comments on this post without hiding all the existing comments, so I won't, but I don't need any more for now :) Here's why I did this experiment.

I'm doing an experiment (and will reveal why after I've gotten some data). I've temporarily enabled anonymous commenting for this post (actually my entire journal since you can't do it post-by-post, shhh) and I'm temporarily not tracking IP addresses (eventually I will turn that back on, but Dreamwidth won't show me the IP addresses for comments posted in the interim). Anonymous comments will be screened, and as usual, I'll unscreen them unless you say "Don't unscreen this".

With that said: tell me what you like about me, or what you think is good about me. One or two sentences is okay; if you want to say more, that's okay too. It would help if you could be as precise as possible, but don't obsess too much. Just say what you would say if somebody called you up and said they're checking my background, and to just say whatever comes to mind about me. You have the choice of commenting as yourself, or anonymously.

I'm not intending for this to be a meme, but feel free to make it one. I didn't come up with the idea, though.
tim: Solid black square (black)
2015-01-20 06:39 pm
Entry tags:

Holding our heroes accountable

I was saddened to read Amelia Greenhall's account of co-founding Model View Culture with Shanley Kane. Amelia and Shanley are both people I respect. So reading that Shanley treated Amelia abusively when they were business partners upsets me primarily because Amelia was harmed, and secondarily because I feel deeply disappointed in Shanley.

One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with in my adult life is that abusers aren't 100%-bad figures of pure villainry. That somebody can both do good things for you and abuse you, and if they do both, it doesn't diminish the fact that they abused you or make it any less wrong. I still haven't come to terms with it, honestly.

In this particular situation, I feel that I'm in a no-win situation. I suspect many of my comrades in the loosely knit movement to redistribute wealth and power in the tech industry feel the same way. I have a choice between:

  • boosting the signal for Amelia's message, which contributes to the abuse that is currently being heaped on Shanley for separate reasons -- in fact, the reasons that she called out an abuser herself and had a past romantic relationship with another abuser -- even though that's obviously not Amelia's intent; or:
  • remaining silent, which, given the degree to which I've supported Shanley in the past, sends the message that I approve of abuse when it's from someone who I personally like and whose work I like, which is not a message I agree with.

I'm choosing in this case to not be silent. I believe Amelia and I support her unequivocally in her decision to tell her story. I don't think the fact that Shanley has abused people means that she's beyond redemption as a person. It also doesn't negate the value of her writing or of the writing by other people that she's published in Model View Culture. We can accept that Linux is a useful piece of software while refusing to tolerate Linus Torvalds' abuse of contributors in public; we can also accept that Shanley has done incredibly valuable work while refusing to tolerate her abuse of colleagues, or anybody else, in private. Trustworthy leadership is important. That means that we shouldn't accept someone who can't or won't treat others with respect as the leader of a software project, no matter how good we suppose his technical judgment to be. And that also means that we shouldn't accept someone who quietly abuses people in private as the leader of a social justice organization, no matter how good we suppose her activist skills to be.

Some people are choosing this moment to question whether Shanley sincerely believes in the work she does. I have no doubt in her sincerity. I know what it's like to get so carried away with doing what you think is right that you forget to consider the feelings of other people. That's a reason, not an excuse.

We can be a stronger community if Shanley chooses to take responsibility for her actions towards Amelia -- and anybody else, as the case may be -- and model what accountability looks like. Of course, whether her apology is adequate is up to Amelia to decide.

I also want to emphasize that there is no excuse whatsoever for the scurrilous harassment campaign revolving around media scrutiny of her past sex life that Shanley has been subject to over the past week. What's being done to her is an attack against her as well as a warning to every other woman who speaks up in tech. We have to get better at coming to terms with the fact that a person who has been abused, who, even, is experiencing ongoing abuse, can also abuse others. So just as Shanley's behavior towards Amelia does not in any way warrant the torrent of abuse that Shanley is receiving for being a woman with independent opinions, that torrent of abuse does not justify her in violating other people's boundaries. Our analyses need to be complex enough for us to condemn the misogynist terror campaign that targets every woman who dares to speak in public, without making the victims of these campaigns into unimpeachable heroes, beyond criticism.

Because when you hold somebody up as a person who can do no wrong, you're dehumanizing them, just as much as those who cast feminist women as evil misandrist sluts do. Part of being human is the capacity to do wrong; to hurt other people; to hurt other people a lot. The part we get a choice about is how we deal with it when it happens.

Comments are screened. I will assume it's OK to unscreen all comments unless you state otherwise. If you ask me not to unscreen your comment, I'll delete it after reading, since it irritates me to have screened comments sitting around :)
Edited to add: To the sockpuppet commenter whose username is a word cleverly spelled backwards: uoy kcuf.
Edited to add, 2: In case it needs to be said again, fuck GamerGate; Milo Yiannopoulos is the scum of the earth; and fuck everyone who's linking to this post in an attempt to make the analysis less complex instead of more. I didn't write about my pain and heartbreak so you could use it for your bullshit harassment campaign. I believe that people can be better than their pasts, and I'm still holding out hope that Shanley will prove she is rather than sinking into the same defensive tactics we've seen from so many. Amelia said she didn't want her words twisted and used in your petty little hate campaign, so show some motherfucking respect.
Edited to add, 3: To the person who asked me not to unscreen their comment: I wasn't going to unscreen it anyway.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2015-01-01 08:01 am
Entry tags:

"The non-fungibility of romance"

What [personal profile] graydon2 wrote about the non-fungibility of romance is really, really good. As usual, I really like the way he thinks.

It would be like demanding someone sing a song with you. It would be like demanding someone laugh at your joke. It would be like demanding someone wants to bake cookies with you. These are all excellent things to enjoy mutually with someone else, that lots of people like to do, but that require mutual interest. They are all adjacent to much-more-readily available commodity experiences -- you can sing along to a recording, you can watch a funny film and laugh, you can buy and eat a bag of cookies -- but the mutual version, if you want it, is different. Noticeably different, and completely non-commodity. Every sing-along is its own thing. Sometimes all we can get is the commodity thing. Sometimes it's all we can handle, or all we want. Complaints about "nice guy" behaviour are not complaints about men wanting sex. They're about context.

Of course, a lot of guys do literally demand that people laugh at their jokes. "It was just a joke. Don't be so thin-skinned. Get a sense of humor."

Anyway, I wonder how much consumer capitalism has to do with the idea that if you can pay someone to have sex with you, then you should also be able to pay somebody to have genuine mutual intimacy with you.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
2014-12-25 12:33 am
Entry tags:

Jesus: the original SJW

"Well, Jesus was a homeless lad
With an unwed mother and an absent dad
And I really don't think he would have gotten that far
If Newt, Pat and Jesse had followed that star
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

When Jesus taught the people he
Would never charge a tuition fee
He just took some fishes and some bread
And made up free school lunches instead
So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

He healed the blind and made them see
He brought the lame folks to their feet
Rich and poor, any time, anywhere
Just pioneering that free health care
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Jesus hung with a low-life crowd
But those working stiffs sure did him proud
Some were murderers, thieves and whores
But at least they didn't do it as legislators
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Jesus lived in troubled times
the religious right was on the rise
Oh what could have saved him from his terrible fate?
Separation of church and state.
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Sometimes I fall into deep despair
When I hear those hypocrites on the air
But every Sunday gives me hope
When pastor, deacon, priest, and pope
Are all singing out their praises to
Some longhaired radical socialist Jew.

They're all singing out their praises to....
Some longhaired radical socialist Jew."

-- Hugh Blumenfeld

tim: Solid black square (black)
2014-12-11 09:05 pm

An apology, and what I'm doing to make things right

In September 2014, I publicly named a person who had harassed me and one other colleague when I worked at Mozilla. To substantiate my assertion, I publicly posted emails from the harasser that my colleague had forwarded to me at the time. (I'm being deliberately vague in order to avoid drawing further unwanted attention to the other victim of this particular harassment incident. I have removed these emails from my web site, but, of course, the more details I give in this post, the easier it is for curious people to put the pieces together.)

I'm not sorry that I named the harasser, but in doing so, it was not necessary for me to post the emails; I merely could have said so, and it's likely that my credibility would not have been questioned. And even if it had been questioned, that wouldn't really have mattered.

Not long after this, the other members of the geekfeminism.org anti-abuse team, of which I was a member from its inception, asked me to temporarily step down from the team while they investigated a complaint that had been made against me. I agreed to step down temporarily. The other members of the anti-abuse team have determined that my publicizing of the emails violated the Geek Feminism Code of Conduct, specifically the sentence that defines harassment to include "Publication of non-harassing private communication". As such, I am stepping down from the anti-abuse team permanently.

I recognize that my actions have made some people feel unsafe speaking online in my presence and that they have damaged those people's trust in me. Since I am a part of the geekfeminism.org community, that means that my actions have harmed the community. I can't explain away what I did or justify why people should trust me again; I recognize that that is up to them, and will come with time if at all. I'm sorry for the harm that I did to a community that I value very much.

I posted the emails without talking it over with my former colleague because I believed at the time that (due to an unrelated issue) they did not wish to communicate with me. However, that's not an excuse; I could have sought the advice of trusted friends or simply not posted them. I acted hastily because I believed that the harasser was continuing to pose a threat and that people are safer when more information is out in the open. But it was wrong for me to make that decision unilaterally. My former colleague still works at Mozilla and has to interact with the harasser at work, whereas I don't; as well, while the harassment was directed at both of us, the emails that I offered as evidence were sent only to my former colleague. Thus, by disclosing the emails, I exposed my former colleague to a disproportionate share of the risk involved in this action (as well, without their consent). I regret doing that, because I could have avoided it by disclosing enough information to help people protect themselves from harassment without exposing my former colleague to further harassment. So I'm also sorry for making that hasty decision and for any harm it caused to my former colleague.

It's easy to assume that you understand the contents of a code of conduct that you helped draft without fully internalizing it, and that's what I did. However, going forward, I commit to upholding the geekfeminism.org code of conduct.

I'm closing comments on this post; if you have anything you want to discuss, please direct it to my email address ( catamorphism@gmail.com ) and/or to the Geek Feminism anti-abuse team.
tim: Solid black square (black)
2014-12-06 06:41 am
Entry tags:

December 6, 1989

[CW: discussion of the École Polytechnique massacre and violence against women.]

25 years ago today, a man murdered fourteen women because they were women and because they were engineering students. That man, Marc Lépine, said (before he killed himself), "I am fighting feminism".

It's a popular thing to scold people to leave their politics out of "tragedies". A tragedy is a disaster that could not have been prevented. But the École Polytechnique massacre was not a tragedy. It was a consequence of structural misogyny, which is not an inevitable part of social organization.

We would also be doing the victims a gross disservice if we dodged our discomfort with the misogyny that almost all of us have internalized by shifting blame onto the abstraction of "mental illness". Marc Lépine was not sick. He was not crazy. Rather, he was taking his society's teachings seriously, namely

  1. It is honorable to die for what you believe in.
  2. Being a man is special, and isn't inevitable from innate identity but must be performed through a variety of activities. When women try to do these activities too, they are threatening men's birthright.

When boys and men are taught that the most impressive thing a man can do is to die in a blaze of glory, they take that lesson seriously. The same teachings whose primary purpose is to encourage lower-income men to join the military and fight wars for the economic benefit of rich men have another, perhaps unintended consequence. What's the difference between going to war and killing those you're told to hate and kill, while potentially giving up your own life, and giving up your own life by suicide while taking as many people you hate with you as you possibly can? The first is respected by most nice people and the second is condemned by those who point their fingers in all the wrong directions. But really, what's the difference?

When you call Lépine, and other men like him, "sick" or "crazy", you engage in a form of othering -- a form that excuses yourself from your own responsibility to examine your own misogyny and call out that of your peers. To be clear, very few of us commit mass shootings, and the things that we do do to sustain patriarchy and kyriarchy (from addressing groups with "Hey, guys" to declining to hire women) are not comparable with murder. But we all make assumptions and say and do things that create circumstances that are favorable for more killings by more men like Lépine, men who are just doing what they've been told to do.

Dismissing Lépine and his ilk as "sick" or "crazy" is an act that declares your own blamelessness, which is counterproductive to dismantling structural misogyny. If he was sick, then we are all sick. But I don't think that's a useful word, because people who are sick need resources outside themselves in order to get better. We have everything it takes to make women's lives matter, already, within ourselves.

tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2014-11-18 11:16 am
Entry tags:

Required reading about Trans Day of Remembrance

I linked to some of these posts in 2013 and in 2012. It bears repeating.

Alyssa Caparas (2011):

I hate what TDoR has come to represent: a queer ‘holiday’ for embracing the narrative of fear; fear of violence, fear of death, self-stigmatization. The co-opting of POC trans women of a very-particular-background’s experiences as those of the ENTIRE trans community, regardless of race, class, or whatever. It’s a day to remind us all why we need to be afraid all the time and I think it’s a bunch of bullshit.

The large majority of people on the lists of the dead are NOT middle class white transwomen or men. They’re lower class PoC & PoC sex workers. I find it incredibly dissrespectful when white, middle, & upper middle class transpeople claim the narratives of transwomen of color & sex workers experiencess as their own. I’m sick of seeing Transbros at TDoR co-opting the narrative of transwomen’s experiences, internalizing them, and feeding those narratives back to everyone, then high-fiving each over how radical & edgey they are. I’m sick of being a Transwoman at TDoR and feeling marginalized by all the gender hipsters who’re there to bump up their scene cred.
(emphasis author's)

erica, ascendant (2012):

because trans identity is so caught up in Caucasianness, a new problem emerges with both the claiming of dead trans people of color altogether: if we weren’t “trans enough” in life, why are we suddenly being counted by the same people who wouldn’t have us once we’re dead? it’s because the idea that it’s dangerous to be trans has to be sold somehow, given that cis people generally ignore violence against trans people regardless of what color we are, and i do have no doubt that it seems like a good idea to use all these names. the trouble is that when this happens without any discussion of race, class, and how violence is often linked to certain types of work, reading our names uncritically is appropriative and using the deaths of people you didn’t care about in life as a vehicle for activism in death. i get that this has to be sold as a concept because cis people are often willfully ignorant that we’re getting killed out here. thing is, there are ways to sell this concept and be conscious of the racial/class/social politics involved herein. i see what the point of TDoR is in terms of public relations, but it isn’t so invaluable that the problematic things about it should go unchecked.
(emphasis author's)

Monica Maldonado, 2012

The truth is, the Trans Day of Remembrance is a day of political grand standing, using the deaths of trans women of colour as a numbers game to buy someone else’s pet project sympathy for votes, dollars, or attention. It’s a day where trans women of colour have greater value dead than we do alive.

We all too often hear that this day is a day where we must not let the deaths of these women be in vain, but this just underscores the transactional nature of these women’s deaths, most of whom fought no war. They lost their lives not in valour, but only as a result of being women in a world filled with gendered violence. They lost their lives because — all too often — our society casts out the disenfranchised and marginalized, no longer calling the huddled masses and tempest-tossed to our communities with heartfelt calls of liberty and virtue.

We should gather to mourn the dead, not conscript them into a battle they never had the privilege to fight while living. It pains me to stand here and remind you that these deaths, of our brothers and sisters and wives and husbands and daughters and sons, that these deaths are senseless tragedies that remain a black mark on society. These deaths are signs of a systemic, institutional, social, economic, and political failure to care for our most vulnerable and marginalized populations. But what may be worse, is the crude politicising of these deaths serves no cause more than that of the same vanity we decry.

Edited to add: Monika Mhz, 2013 (video):

The reading of each mispronounced name that usually happens, mostly from extracontinental locations, acts as a drop of emotional currency for the pimps feeding the masses hungry for misery pornography and serves validation upon their fears. I want to be clear that all fear is real, and I sympathize deeply with the way that events like this -- the general climate of fear, nonlethal violence, and broader aspects of discrimination felt by our community can impact our lives in real ways, regardless of whether or not our risks truly match. But if we are to move forward in creating the change, if we are to move forward in ending the lethal, nonlethal, discursive, institutional and cultural violence that plagues our society, if we're to forge a future where trans women of color's lives are cherished and we don't find reason to feel that we must need to look over our shoulders every waking moment, then we have to be willing to have a real discussion about the violence that faces our community.

fake cis girl, 2013

The dead are us. They’re trans women of color trying to live their damn lives. They’re killed by partners, by clients, by random encounters on the street. I mean, seriously, the silence of white trans people when Islan Nettles was beaten to death walking down the damn street, and even worse the attempts at victim-blaming, were truly horrific…including some invective hurdled about how walking around in the hood comes with such risks. There is such a severe disconnect that part of what would help is that if white trans people in general listened to us this one day a year it could be a catalyst, or so I try to believe. Our realities include much more than how we’re seen in the TDoR list-of-names format: dead people. We are so much more than that, and our realities might be uncomfortable to the “trans community” or maybe, just maybe, the “trans community” will see us as something more than just a list of names of dead people and a bunch of inconvenient bodies and realities to dismiss in life.

Morgan Collado, 2014:

Trans Day of Remembrance is filled to the brim with the names of murdered Black and brown trans women, but is a single evening of remembering enough? And what does it mean that TDoR doesn’t explicitly talk about race and is often dominated by white people? Here in Austin there’s this tradition of calling the names of the dead and then having an audience member sit in a chair that represents where the dead trans woman would sit. The seats are always filled with white people and non-trans women. What do our deaths mean when our bodies, our lives, the physical space we take up, is appropriated by white folks? How can I mourn for my sisters when the space set up for that mourning is so thoroughly colonized? And how can I even see hope of living a full life when I don’t see myself reflected in what is supposed to be my community?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to honor those women who came before us, those women murdered by colonial patriarchy. But it seems like more often than not, the queer community at large is content with just remembering. We only hear about trans women after their deaths. And even our deaths are not our own. A week doesn’t go by without a white queer citing the deaths of trans women of color as the evidence of how oppressed they are. These stats are often used in service of their own assimilation; meanwhile, they’re happy to leave us out in the cold. We don’t even have dignity in death, nor the ability to decide what it will mean for us.

fake cis girl (2014):

TDoR generally sees trans women of color as acceptable losses as a central part of the minstrel show that it is. You can’t have a list of dead trans people without it mostly being dead trans women of color with a significant scattering of disabled trans women, too. This common thread between trans suicide and homicides of trans people is no accident, because the violence of rejection may not be the same force of violence that comes from a killer’s blade, but it’s violence nevertheless, and that violence drives some people to suicide. That violence, unlike the violence of a killer, is tolerated and even encouraged in our community. From Ryan Blackhawke’s since-deleted libelous comments complaining about last year’s version of this article to Andrea James’ harassment to the exclusionary nature of the only spaces trans women have (spaces like Ingersoll) comes this violence, and it needs to stop.

TDoR is still broken and still fails trans women of color. Gwen Smith still keeps the list manicured and controlled for whatever political purpose she’s aiming for, refusing to discuss race on the official site of TDoR itself, a day Ms. Smith continues to claim to “own”, and she hasn’t shown any willingness to change the reprehensible fact that deaths in custody don’t count when trans women are frequently targets of police harassment which disproportionately affects trans women of color, which leads to the logical conclusion that we’re more likely to be victims of police and governmental violence.
tim: A warning sign with "Danger" in white, superimposed over a red oval on a black rectangle, above text  "MEN EXPLAINING" (mansplaining)
2014-11-13 08:59 am
Entry tags:

Why I tell people not to go to grad school

I wrote the following on a closed Facebook group for Wellesley alums, and since I spent all that time writing it, thought it would be worth it to share with a larger audience.

See also: How to Fail Out of Grad School Without Really Trying (which I wrote while I was still in grad school).

I thought everyone in this group was tired of me talking about why grad school is a mistake ;) For me, grad school turned out not to be what it says on the tin. That is, I went (to two different Ph.D programs) thinking I was going to learn how to be a researcher. Instead, I found I was being evaluated on things that had nothing to do with ability to do research. My first program had a prelim that was basically filtering out anybody with any degree of impostor syndrome. My second program didn't want me there because I wouldn't tolerate sexual harassment (I wrote about that at length).

I also found that graduate programs -- compared to anyplace I've worked that wasn't a university -- are very unforgiving of, basically, any sign of humanity: chronic illness (regardless of whether it's coded as "physical" or "mental") that interferes with work or causes you to need extended time off. In my experience, if a company hires me, they value me and, all other things being equal, don't want to lose me. So they have a reason to accommodate me (not that companies are perfect about this, of course; the job I stayed at the longest, I left because my manager there made my disability the focus of my annual performance review). In a Ph.D program, though, you're disposable and interchangeable; you're paid very little, so in the same way you might throw away something cheap you bought at Target whereas if you invested in an expensive piece of furniture, you'd fix it, your department generally has no reason to keep you around when they see a way to replace you with somebody healthier.

Don't underestimate the effect of spending 5-6 years or more -- which are, for most other college-educated people, the very years they spend building their careers (often, the years when they can just focus on work and don't yet have a lot of family obligations) being severely underpaid. Of course, this is something that varies a lot by field, and if somebody is in (say) sociology I realize there aren't a surfeit of high-paying jobs outside academia. But for me (I'm in computer science), if I went back to grad school today, that would cut my pay to a sixth of what it is now. Even if you don't care about money (and I didn't think I did when I was starting grad school), it's easy to underestimate the psychological effects of being paid fairly vs. being grossly underpaid because your employer hopes you'll fall for the promise of jam tomorrow (that is, a tenure-track job, which in reality is all but unavailable anymore) and give them your labor for practically nothing now. It really changes the relationship between you and your employer when they're paying you enough that they value their investment in you and won't kick you out the door the first time you show you're human.

When you're considering opportunity costs, also make sure you understand the real costs of grad school. Obviously, don't go anywhere that won't pay your tuition in full and give you a stipend for living expenses. But also know what the cost of housing is where you're going to be going to school; whether you can afford to live near the university or whether you'll have to factor the costs of commuting in (both economic and psychological; having any length of commute to work is apparently a major cause of stress and unhappiness in people's lives); whether or not your program will cover your health insurance or will add insult to injury by claiming you're not an employee (at the university I left, I had to pay thousands of dollars a year out of pocket -- a huge percentage of my stipend -- because they deliberately hired research assistants at 0.45 FTE to avoid paying for benefits); and whether or not you'll have easy access to mental health resources (which some of the most stable and well-adjusted people I know needed after a couple years in grad school).

And then there's the question of what you're going to do afterward. I originally wanted to be a professor. After my second experience in grad school, I no longer did, because I didn't want to be like the professors in my department who defended a grad student who sexually harassed his colleague while blaming the victim. But even if that hadn't happened, I doubt I would ever have been able to find a tenure-track job; even though there are still some TT jobs in computer science (although they're disappearing like in every other field), they're reserved for only the people who scored highest in the privilege lottery and have a monomaniacal focus on work. One or the other (generally) doesn't cut it. In grad school, I never wanted to spend all my waking hours on research, which meant that if I'd graduated, I would have had at most 2 or 3 publications; when I read CVs for tenure-track faculty candidates who were coming to meet with grad students, they had as many as 20 publications straight out of grad school. I realized that I didn't like research enough to spend that much time on it, and in fact, I don't like *any* one thing enough to spend that much time on it. I'm passionate about more than one thing, and I'd even like to start a family sooner or later. I've talked to one too many people who had to choose between going hard for tenure and watching their children grow up, chose the former, and regretted it.

(edited to add:) If you already know you don't want to be a professor or work at a research lab, and you get a Ph.D, be prepared to have to remove it from your résumé to get a job; at least in computer science, a Ph.D actually lowers your expected salary compared to a master's. Be prepared to enter every job interview on your guard, explaining why you're not overqualified or why you won't be bored at a job that your interviewer is already assuming is "beneath you". (This is, at least, the experience of some of my friends with computer science Ph.Ds.) Some people describe a Ph.D as a "union card" to teach at a university -- if you already know that's not what you want to do, think especially hard about why you want to get one. At least in my field, everything else you can do along the way (teaching, learning, reading, writing) is work you can do outside a university -- often, as part of an industry job, while getting paid a lot more for it.

Now, just because grad school is essentially a huge scam that promises much in order to extract extremely cheap labor from grad students and make them feel like they're getting an education, that doesn't mean it isn't the right choice for some people. If you read all this and think "hmm, I really still want to go," then you should probably go. Some books you should read first, though:

Leaving the Ivory Tower, Barbara Lovitts: It's about why Ph.D students leave grad school (spoiler: the reason is usually structural in that a huge number of departments systematically identify a few favorites among each incoming cohort of Ph.D students and actively neglect the rest; but faculty take credit for their successful students while placing all the blame on the individuals who don't succeed).

Getting What You Came For, Robert Peters: very readable, and describes what you need to be doing to get through a Ph.D program. It won't help if your advisor is determined to defend sexual harassment, of course, but if you read this book and more-or-less do what it says I think that you'll avoid some of the major mistakes that are avoidable.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
2014-11-08 07:24 am

NPR Continues to be Full Of Awful People

I read this article summarizing a study (paywalled, unfortunately) on trans men who become pregnant with interest, since (if all goes well) I'll be getting pregnant sometime in the next year. Interest and, also, nausea (and I'm not even pregnant yet).

Because any day is a good day for pointing out why cis people are wrong:

  • Automatically labeling men who have uteruses as "transgender" = ugh. For the record, if you want a ticket out of my life, one of the fastest ways is to call me "transgender". I still don't know what that word communicates other than "I am trying to perform my well-intentioned, liberal attitude." (I'm transsexual, but then, if you're about to describe me that way, consider whether it's any more relevant than the fact that I'm right-handed is. You didn't know whether I was right-handed or not? Exactly.)
  • "When Dad is the one who gets pregnant, the whole process of pregnancy and childbirth gets a lot more complicated." I guess so, but ONLY BECAUSE GOD DAMN CIS PEOPLE MAKE IT COMPLICATED WITH THEIR INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND ANYTHING MORE NUANCED THAN GO DOG GO.
  • "someone who has transitioned from a female identity to a male or masculine identity" - I can't even begin to explain all of the fail in this sentence other than by headdesking repeatedly. I'd like to propose a licensing system where cis people get to use the word "identity" only a limited number of times and only when referring to their own identities, as opposed to using it for invalidating trans people, which is what they always use it for.
  • "Pregnancy as a transgender man is unlike any other kind" - well, I haven't been pregnant (yet), so I don't know (and when I am pregnant, it won't be "as a transgender man", because again, wtf does "transgender" mean), but again, IF IT'S DIFFERENT, THAT'S BECAUSE CIS PEOPLE FORCE IT TO BE DIFFERENT.
  • "Some transgender men use testosterone to look and sound more masculine." This is like saying that some cancer patients use chemotherapy to look more bald.
  • "gender dysphoria, the feeling that one's psychological gender identity is different from one's biological sex" FUCCCCK it's almost 2015 and we're still repeating this nonsense about "gender identity" and "biological sex"? Reminder: humans do not have a "biological sex" that is different from their "gender identity". They have a collection of physical characteristics, some of which differ in ways that are sometimes categorized using a social model that some people ignorantly call "biological sex". But the only thing "biological sex" means is that a cis person is trying to misgender you because they feel that science is -- rather than a tool for understanding the world -- a good way for them to assert their power over you using the epistemic superiority that was granted to them the day they were born cis.
  • "The author of the new graphic memoir Pregnant Butch, a masculine-looking woman named by A.K. Summers, said one of the worst parts of her pregnancy was that it exaggerated the most female aspects of her body" -- I'll take their word for it (which maybe I shouldn't) that A.K. Summers' pronouns are "she/her", but why couldn't they find an actual man who'd been pregnant to quote in an article about, y'know, men being pregnant?
  • "In some of the transgender men in the study, gender dysphoria actually declined with pregnancy. These people said they were, for the first time in their lives, pleased with their bodies, which were finally helping them do something they valued that a typical male body could not do." WTF does "typical" mean? Why is a cis man's body any more "typically male" than mine?
  • "gender identity is a spectrum" - no. Fuck you. (That's my "gender identity.")
  • And finally, wtf is up with the headless-trans-man (though who knows what gender either the adult or the baby in the picture is... which is kind of the point, though it's probably lost on anyone working for NPR) photo illustrating the article? Given that the article strips away our autonomy and dignity, can we at least be afforded the luxury of having faces?

I should note that probably the study being discussed in the article is perfectly OK (though who knows? Since it's paywalled, I can't read it), with the exception of an author's use of "gender identity as a spectrum" (again, the term "spectrum" needs to be taken out and shot unless you're referring to a brand of organic all-vegetable shortening). I'm just objecting to NPR's coverage of it.