Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight for more details, some of which are spoilers. It features references to (mostly past, with lingering effects) gender dysphoria, exploring lingerie, dealing with mixed feelings, Vagary walking in on Calliope in her underwear, Calliope's pissed-off reaction, and other angst. Most of the focus in on how she feels about her new undies, though, which is mostly positive. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
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Warning: Although generally sweet, this poem contains references to prejudiced and unsupportive behavior by some people around Danso and Noah. Think before you click.
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Note: There is some squabbling in this poem, because people have different opinions about how to solve problems. It's inevitable in any group, but more common in support groups where folks are perpetually low on spoons. Happily the group has ways of handling this.
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March 31 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Learn about transfolk and read a FAQ list. There are ways you can support a transgender friend and promote trans equality.
See a list of my QUILTBAG characters. In particular: The Blueshift Troupers can change sex/gender. Frankenstein's Family, Schrodinger's Heroes and The Steamsmith have trans* and/or genderqueer main characters. Polychrome Heroics has several scattered throughout multiple threads, of which Calliope has a subpage.
Do you have favorite books or other resources about gender diversity? Got a personal story to tell? Feel free to share them here. This is safe space for discussing sex/gender dynamics.
This brings up some engrossing questions about ethics and rules of engagement. Discuss.
Spoilers are not blocked out below the cut. I recommend reading "Who Rekindle the Inner Spirit," "Capes and Credos," "Wrong," "Chase" Part 1 and Part 2 before entering this discussion, although it is not required.
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In discussions of trauma triggers, people who do not have to cope with triggers generally seem to think of those who do as weak and pathetic. Perhaps they are also the kind of folks who laugh at the kid using crutches. But here's the thing about crutches: they let you go places you couldn't get to without them. The same is true of trigger warnings. These are discussions that really need the presence of people who have survived trauma, who have triggers, and who cope with them in various ways including trigger warnings.
Fortunately I'm not an idiot and I have fans who talk with me about how and why they use trigger warnings. These include:
* Finding intense topics that they enjoy but other people find squicky.
* Avoiding topics they aren't interested in or that are too triggery for them.
* Sorting material by intensity so they can ramp up with a new author or touchy topic.
* Searching for a particular type of story to switch from their current mood to a different one.
* Managing topics based on mood and resources, so they can read challenging things at a safe time.
* Learning what kinds of things may be triggery for other people, to modulate how they discuss those topics.
* Looking for what to warn about in their own writing.
* Using warnings to mark their writing/blog/etc. as trauma-informed space.
* Talking about warnings as a means of managing space online or in person.
Although there are many ways to use trigger warnings, the two most common uses seem to be expanding what the person can read by choosing to read touchy things in a safe mood, and avoiding stuff that would be downright dangerous to mental health and safety. Which is basically what any adaptive or safety device is supposed to do: let you do more, and protect you from possible injury.
My readers have consistently said that trigger warnings allow them to explore more things, because not only do they have more ability to make informed choices about reading, but also they come to trust me as a writer. They know that I'm doing my best to warn for things, and that I handle harsh topics with respect. And by "trust" I mean I've had people not only read things in the general topic that is triggery for them, but actually prompt for me to write things in their trigger zone, as a way of coping with it. Which has led to some very detailed, intimate, and intense literature for other folks to enjoy. Literature is a terrific tool for confronting difficult issues, if handled with care.
So that reminds me of negotiations for other intimate and intense activities that people may do, where communication is utterly essential to make sure that a good time is had by all and nobody gets injured. A responsible partner will see that everyone is on the same page and wants to be there.
Now consider that the same people who are condemning trigger warnings, a form of communication which is desired by enough folks to have started this conversation, are also often the ones yammering about the need for communication and consent in sex. Which is to say, they want to have all the control about what gets talked about and who gets to talk.
*edges away from the skeevy people*
As always, if you use trigger warnings as a reader and/or a writer, whether because of your own challenges or out of respect for other people's issues, you're welcome to share your thoughts on this topic here.
Here's the thing about clothes: they go with people's skin tone. Or they don't. So if you want to see what clothes look like on the right body, you have to put them on people with the skin tone those clothes were designed for. People whose skin is some shade of brown look good in different colors than people whose skin is some shade of cream. Or gold. Or red. You get the picture. Those clothes aren't white girl clothes. They are black girl clothes. Nice, rich, deep colors. What people are saying when they bitch about the show is that 1) those clothes wouldn't look good on them and therefore aren't worth making, and 2) black women don't deserve nice clothes.
Fuck that noise.
The about labeling romance based on sex/gender instead of orientation raises another issue that I've been exploring recently: cross-orientation relationships. There's almost no discussion of it, and that causes problems. Cross-orientation relationships can happen when someone with a wider span hooks up with someone of a narrower span, like bi/gay or bi/straight. It can also happen when someone falls in love with a person of incompatible orientation, but they don't want to give up the relationship, so they try to retune it into something both of them can live with. Frex, if a lesbian falls in love with a straight woman, they may not be compatible sexually but might be able to adapt into a queerplatonic relationship. Ace with anyone sexual is another example.
I think my favorite cross-orientation relationship right now is Socket and Fortressa. Socket is a lesbian. Fortressa was previously involved with men but decided to abandon the whole love/sex thing -- and I don't think she's just celibate, I think she somehow hit her sexuality with a wrench until it crumpled into a motionless lump. It certainly isn't the same shape it was, and she doesn't respond to men the same way anymore. So. They started off with Socket in love with Fortressa, who had sworn off love, so Socket didn't say anything about it and set about becoming friends instead. That has actually worked pretty well, except that now the cat is out of the bag and they have to deal with that realization.
I think that, if people don't even realize this is an option then they miss out on a lot of opportunities, and if they stumble into it by chance, it can cause tension because the patterns don't match exactly. Just as a M/F relationship requires accommodation of the sex/gender difference, orientation differences can take some adaptation too. That's hard if you don't know what the heck you're doing.
This especially comes up with bi folks, because while the inclination toward bisexuality is common, the number of people actually identifying as bi is a lot smaller. Many bi folks join up with someone(s) who is gay or straight. And some of the problems in bi erasure come precisely from that lack of awareness about cross-orientation relationships; without it, people have a nasty habit of thinking that being with someone of the opposite sex makes you straight, or the same sex makes you gay. It's a case where labeling can make things clearer: "No, I'm not gay. I'm a bisexual man in a cross-orientation relationship with a gay man."
The question of combinations is another one. A majority of bi romance is written as MFF or FMM. In effect that merges bi and poly romance. This is a problem because many bi people are not poly, and many poly people are not bi, although there is a fair amount of overlap.
I have some characters who are both bi and poly. I have some poly families. I actually have more poly families than people may notice, because not all of them are tied together entirely by sex, and I count poly based on strong, lasting relationships rather than just fucking -- it's about who moves through life as a social unit. So if you mapped out the lines there would be some sex, some romance, some queerplatonic, etc. within a poly family, and that actually seems to be the norm based on poly families I have known. Not all of them are a blob of everyone-sexing-everyone.
Plenty of my bi characters are in exclusive relationships, though. Stan and Lawrence, Danso and Noah, they're in stable binary relationships. So as usual, I'm doing my "tell ALL the stories" thing.
I also discovered a couple of other terms.
Skoliosexual refers to an attraction toward nonbinary people. Hey, that's me! It is an accurate but incomplete description of my sexuality, adjacent to redheads. There are very few things that will really grab my attention on a purely observational level, without knowing the person, but those are them. (This is also what I got dissed for at the trans party. Making fun of skoliosexual people as "tranny-chasers" is not cool, folks.) So it's nice to have a word for that.
Lithosexual refers to having romantic feelings but wanting them not to be reciprocated. I had to laugh. This is so not new. This is half the Courtly Love custom of romance (the other half being star-crossed lovers) because lots of people practiced it but would have been horrified if their distant adulation was actually returned. It was enormously popular some centuries ago. If this is you, look into historic literature and you'll find it.