Friday, October 2, 2015

To Care or Not to Care

Somehow it is already October. That seems too fast--I just finished week two of classes. How is it October?

There are a lot of things on my mind, but none that feels fleshed out enough for its own post. I started writing something for Tuesday about attention and FOMO but then got distracted and didn't finish it. Ironic, I suppose.

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Music for today:

Con Artist Culture vs. Pax Americana - Outline in Color

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Attention and FOMO: trying to recruit people for my competition team. It's weird because I didn't need a lot of recruiting. Build things, learn about design, meet upperclassmen in my major. Sold. But I'm not the typical case and a team full of people like me might not be optimal. Empathy. What are my reasons for doing things, how might someone else's reasons lead them to the same thing?

FOMO for me isn't a fear of missing out on everything so much as a fear of settling for something suboptimal. I'm okay not doing stuff; I just want to avoid doing the wrong stuff. Various friends have suggested that I take a social dance class but I would have to make damn sure that I would be leading. Ten weeks of dancing as follow sounds horrible.

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Why? Dysphoria. We went contra dancing on Saturday and even though the physical act of dancing follow is not unpleasant, I did not enjoy myself nearly as much as I normally did, to the point that I took the long way home and sat up in my dorm's library listening to aggressive music afterwards.

I don't enjoy negative feelings and I try to brush things off, which makes me confident that my dysphoria is actually existent. I'm angry at it, about it, in a way, because I had just started wearing dresses and skirts again, had just become more comfortable with femininity. And I don't think my problem is with femininity, but rather with things coded societally as female.

Take shirts, for example. My high school band teacher, repository of random facts, pointed out once that men's shirts have the buttons on the right side and women's shirts on the left because most people are right-handed and women were dressed by maids. Now, when I put on one of my woman-intended shirts, I feel a brief flash of discomfort. Sometimes anger. Sometimes repulsion.

What affects me? That the convention stems from women being weak and needing assistance? That I am not, am not, am not a woman? I resent my dysphoria. I used to like those shirts unreservedly. But I can't, now, not when they signal: this is a girl. This is a woman. Because those are lies.

I had my first experience of being creepily hit on yesterday and what bothers me the most is that it happened because I am perceived as a girl. Along with the usual disgust (at least I'm assuming usual? I have no experience with this) of unwanted attention, of course, but mostly, I'm angry because if I was a guy that would not have happened.

Luckily, though, I have good friends who are willing to listen and talk to me and who make me feel safe. Friends who use "they" and accept my gender confusion without dispute. Friends who make me laugh and offer advice and say to me "no, you're not overreacting, you're not crazy, you are allowed to be upset." I haven't told them about the dysphoria I've been experiencing, not yet, but I know if I want to talk about it then they will listen.

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I wrote the above before heading to volunteer at a huge climate rally on campus. Al Gore spoke, and since I'm unlikely to get around to writing about it unless I do it now, here are two highlights from his speech:

In many places, electricity from solar is cheaper than electricity from coal. "That's like the difference between 32 degrees [Fahrenheit] and 33 degrees. It's not just a difference of one degree--it's the difference between ice and water."

When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon, the average age of the people behind the mission was 26 years old. That means that when JFK first issued the challenge to America to put a person on the moon, the average age of those individuals had been 18. "They changed their lives so that they could do something incredible."

Bonus: he called the Koch brothers "knaves."

Non-Al Gore-related bonus: I had a brief conversation in Italian with some international grad students and they complimented me. I've been trying hard to do all my foreign-language-thinking/speaking/writing in German because I really want to go to Berlin in the spring, but Italian is definitely more comfortable for me and it's nice to know I've still got it.

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I like finding patterns so I'm trying to find a common thread connecting the above pieces. Recruitment/FOMO, gender dysphoria, efforts to rally action on climate change. The first and last have the common thread of trying to get people to care about something--which involves pointing out why they should care and what they can do, if they care.

My gender dysphoria is more of a personal problem, one that I wish I didn't have to care about. But I do care, and pretending not to
care is dishonest. And is it really a personal problem? If I try to downplay my own dysphoria and pretend it doesn't matter, is that trivializing it for the people for whom ignoring it is legitimately not an option? Likewise, I could comfortably live in ignorance of environmental issues, but for other people, particularly those in developing countries and marginalized communities in developed countries, those problems are too obvious to be ignored.

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