Monday I received 3 vaccinations. Tuesday woke up autistic.

Monday I received three vaccinations: influenza, hepatitis B, and tetanus. Tuesday I woke up autistic.

The tetanus was so if I cut myself on a rusty bit of metal while digging in the dirt planting something I don’t die horribly. This seems reasonable to me — protecting me from an unlikely but reasonable hazard. Check.

The hepatitis B recommendation was based on my doctor noting that I’m part of a high risk group. Not because of my bisexuality (I have a very good doctor!) but because of my tats. He mentioned that in even the best, cleanest, most professional shop, exposure is possible. Protection from an even less likely but still reasonable hazard, as both tetanus and hep B are treatable but not curable. Check.

The influenza is not really about protecting me. I spend almost all day, almost every day, in a small room with indifferent ventilation, in close conversation with a variety of people. Or, as I like to put it, I sit in a comfortable chair in a comfortable room and talk about uncomfortable things. I owe it to my clients to avoid missing appointments due to preventable illness and to avoid exposing them to said disease. Check.

The autism is because I was born that way over 50 years ago, although not diagnosed until about ten years ago. Check.

I can run the first two sentences of this through a mental Social Interactions Flowchart™ and predict with reasonable accuracy how different groups of people will respond to them. This flowchart was built up over decades of data gathered under the aegis of “there must be something fundamentally wrong with me”. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed that I started to understand what was right with me.

Yes, there are some specific deficits that come with my autism. There are issues with social reciprocity. There are times of being overwhelmed by sensory input. There is a special level of exhaustion that comes with acting in ways interpreted as normal by most of the population.

But it’s the superpowers that didn’t fully unlock until I understood that while my differences were fundamental, they were not wrongnesses. Superpowers that were held against me until then. My hyperlexia, that led to years of bullying that I couldn’t understand (what do you mean I’m throwing off the grade curve, the teacher uses a percentile scale so my grade can’t possibly affect yours!). My ability to compartmentalize (possibly the most valuable skill I can have as a mental health counselor). Intense focus (no, I’m not daydreaming, I’m solving a problem). Self-soothing (no, stimming is not bad behavior, it’s preventing a meltdown). Enhanced pattern recognition (want to play chess?).

And while sometimes I will miss incoming sarcasm in a verbal interchange, thus being accused of taking everything too literally, you know that I will not lie to you. Because the number one superpower that is treated as a deficit is telling the truth. We’re told we’re tactless. That we’re rude. That we’re abrasive. But if being honest is a deficit, it’s a deficit I will gladly embrace.

(crossposted to Medium)

Posted in Autism | 1 Comment

Gay, Lesbian, ________, and Transgender, revisited

Dateline yesterday, MPR.  Newsreader in a story about, I believe, employment law mentions that there are issues for “gay, lesbian, and transgender people”.

So I’m definitely not straight.  Ask anyone who knows me.  But for me to use the word “gay” to describe myself (or to be described that way) would be to assume a certain load of baggage that goes with the word.  I’ve told the story before about the diversity professor who, when I mentioned my wife, took a step back, put her hand flat on her chest in a gesture that was almost but not quite a pearl-clutch, and said “I thought you were gay!”  Yes, professor, I’m not straight.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m gay, because gender is not a limiting factor in my attractions and potential partners.

So employment law must not have any relevance to bisexuals, right?  I mean, it’s not like I have ever faced — or feared — discrimination at work because of it… except for all the years I hid it precisely because I feared formal or informal retribution.  Like the time I was working as a security guard and my site partner for the evening went on a homophobic rant.  Or the time, in on off-site employment management bonding retreat camp, when during the modified game of Truth Or Dare the question of same-gender sexual contact came up, and I quietly drank my beer and spent the night alone in my tent terrified that someone had picked up on my reaction and I would receive… consequences.

It’s not like there has been anything published that would indicate workplace discrimination against bisexuals is a thingam I right?

I noted a few years ago that this removal of the B from LGBT is pernicious, corrosive, and spreading.

Now it’s reached public radio.  Something that, while imperfect, at least has a history of trying, sometimes, to get it right.  I would have expected this with Fox.  I think that’s why I am feeling so simultaneously let down and enraged.

Comparisons with racial issues frequently go awry, but I’m going to essay it again here.

Imagine what would happen if the newsreader made a comment like this: “Employment discrimination affects all People of Color, whether they are Black, Latinx, or Asian.”  Think about that one for  moment.  Are you noticing who has been left out?

If you didn’t, read it again.

If you did, reflect on what it really means, to simply leave out a large group of people who are significantly affected, as if they just did not exist, or were such a small minority that they were statistically insignificant.

It’s getting worse.  We need to be louder, not quieter.

Go forth, and be fabulous.

 

Posted in Bisexuality | 1 Comment

Textbook Bi

(Key rattles in lock. Cue sound effect of rusty door squeak.  Sound of electronic broadcast equipment warming up.)

Howdy! Been a while, which I will talk about at our next meeting.  Right now, I have something short to get off my chest.

I recently got access to a new (and, at east according to the publisher’s advertising materials, highly praised) textbook for Psychology of Women classes called, appropriately, Psychology of Women and Gender (Liss, M., Richmond, K., and Erchull, M.J., 2019 W.W.Norton).

Being who I am, I turned to the chapter on sexual orientation and started reading.

And stopped.  Cold.  Icy, even.

In a book with 108 pages of academic references, on page 176, is a table of “Sexual orientations beyond the binary”.  In it, bisexuality is defined as “attraction to both women and men”.  There are others listed, such as skoliosexual, “attraction towards non-binary individuals” and pansexual “attracted to all genders based on an individual’s personality”.

So can you hear the divisive and biphobic twaddle that is coming out of a college textbook that may be a student’s only official classroom interaction with bisexuality?  Fuel for the damaging idea that bi is a cis-only orientation?

Now, that’s the kind of thing that upsets me, but it’s not the reason I got pissed enough to temporarily come out of retirement long enough to drop a few hundred words.

No, the part that got me is, in an academic textbook that will be used for psychology, counseling, women’s, and gender studies, the authority that a generation of therapists and social activists will cite over and over, a book that has, again, 108 PAGES of researched references,

the reference for this table,

the peer-reviewed academic source,

is

are you ready?

TUMBLR.

The best source the writers of the textbook that will be used to educate young professionals and activists, is f*ing Tumblr.

On the next page, a graphic sourced from It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.

W.W. Norton, this is sloppy and beneath you.  Authors of this textbook, seriously? Is that actually the best source you could find?

If I was in your class and I cited Tumblr in a paper, not as an aside, but for an incredibly important and pivotal point, you’d reject it as not an academic source.  No peer review, no accountability.  Totally anonymous twaddle.

But now that it’s enshrined in a textbook?  Now it’s Official.

Thanks.  You’ve just your part to divide the bisexual community into separate parts that reflect not our prejudices, but yours.  You’ve erased all transgender bisexuals, you’ve reinforced the idea that people who use the label bisexual are only concerned with genitalia, and cis genitalia at that, while the Pure and Holy Anything But Bisexual people are attracted to individuals, and to personalities.

Thanks.

A.

Lot.

 

(There’s another piece coming soon, much longer, about activist burnout, whether one should let sleeping blogs lie, what the semi-retirement of a blogger actually means considering that while I wrote the vast majority of this over a couple year spurt of activity, it still gets new readers and even a few comments.  Looking forward to writing it, hope you enjoy reading it.  And, Judy?  Sorry I’ve been out of touch.  Busy is not an excuse, but… running my own business takes a lot more than I realized when I started it 3.5 years ago. I still think the world of you.)

Posted in Bisexuality | 5 Comments

Dear Dave, or, Ally Follies Part Not Again

I just saw Dave Chappelle’s new shows.  Now, I think Dave is great.  He takes on race and society in transgressive and effective ways.  As a White person who tries to be an ally to People of Color, there are way worse people I could be paying attention to.

 

But Dave, seriously?  Suppose I were a highly regarded comedian, someone whose return to public life was highly anticipated.  Suppose further that I had carved out an identity specifically as a Queer comedian, someone who straight people would be advised to listen to because I was able to make them laugh and be uncomfortable at the same time.

 

Now suppose that in the first half of my comeback concert, I decided to spend ten minutes or so talking about Black people, trying to get some laughs out of my saying “I really don’t understand Black people.”  Suppose that in the course of this, I used some words that are not slurs being widely reclaimed but words that are still pretty much slurs wherever you go, words that might be accepted by a small minority of Black people but only if used by members of the community.  If I played on old, tired, hackneyed stereotypes.  If I, a White person, tried to get laughs from a routine about, say, watermelon and fried chicken.

 

I think you’d be pretty pissed.  At the very least, you’d shake your head and say “That wasn’t really funny, man.”

 

Now, when you’re watching the second half of the Fliponymous Comeback Concert, I do it again, only this time…

 

This time it includes a speech about how I am an Ally to People of Color, and I hate it when Black Bloggers tell me I’m not doing it right.  That I can use whatever language I want, in any context I want, because I’m on your side, even though I don’t understand it.  I mean, I have a Black friend I gave concert tickets to!  Because somewhere I’ve acquired the title of Honorary Black Guy, it’s not a problem if I decide to deliver a couple of sentences in AAVE to get a cheap laugh — an AAVE that isn’t respected, but mocked.

 

Dave.  Ally is a verb.  It’s what you do.  It’s not a title that you get to wear because of some good things you have done.  It does not excuse you from any and all criticism.

 

All we ever ask of our allies is to stand up when they see injustice, treat us with the same respect they feel they are due themselves, and be willing to listen when they step wrong.

 

Next time, please think about this.  Think about how you would feel if one of the most highly regarded Queer comedians decided that it was appropriate to be just plain ignorant about race.  And then apply that standard to yourself.

 

INEVITABLE POSTSCRIPT ONE:  Dude, chillax, it’s just comedy.  If Dave Chappelle isn’t pissing anyone off, he’s not doing his job.

Here’s the thing.  I’m not angry.  I am disappoint.  And there’s this thing about comedy.  Great comedy disturbs, makes you think while you laugh.  The callback about Cosby and the superhero?  Brilliant, and I believe something only a Dave Chapelle could do.  The bits about how “WTF is the Q?”  Not funny in *anyone’s* mouth.

 

INEVITABLE POSTSCRIPT TWO: Why do you keep picking on allies?

If you think this is picking on allies, you haven’t been listening to what the community you claim to be an ally to is saying.  And that’s actually what we need you to do.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Value Of Two Cents, or, I’m Dealing With My Own Change So You Can Keep Yours

(This began on Facebook. The question was a real question.)

You know what I can live without? “Although this is an internal discussion within a marginalized community I am not a member of, here’s my 2 cents!”
We already know your opinion, thanks.
*
Question from the audience: Fliponymous, and this in all sincerity: are the opinions and points of view from people outside the community of value? If an outsider expresses their view could it provide something of substance to the conversation and, if not, could be an opportunity to educate the commentator on the issue? Or, is it better to shut non-community-members out of the conversation all together because their experience is too far removed from the circumstance to have any value.

I am honestly curious on this. Being a white middle-class hetero-cis-male I am almost always on the outside of conversations–and tend to stay out of them as well, both to preserve my peace of mind and to respect the community having the conversation but I sometimes wonder whether it is appropriate to take part, usually hoping to learn more.
*

There are two kinds of conversations had in marginalized communities. External conversations are general discussions where anyone’s input is welcome. Internal conversations are just that — discussions about how we are going to solve our own internal issues. Discussions about labeling are common, and frequently contentious. In these cases, the opinions of people who are not stakeholders are generally already well known and/or irrelevant, and frequently disruptive. For example, when there’s a discussion about bisexual vs pansexual as the appropriate label for people with attractions to multiple sexes/genders, a straight person wandering in and saying “Labels are just words and don’t matter” not only fails to add anything, but is actively disruptive, no matter how well-meant.

As a community we’re sensitized to this sort of thing. While it’s possible that a person outside the community might have something substantive to add, in the vast majority of cases at least part of the problem is because of people outside the community setting the terms – in the bi/pan Label Wars, for example, much of the debate is driven by straight and gay-developed Queer Theory and its expression in academia to the point that definitions of bisexuality not historically used by the community are in textbooks.

Brief aside: There is something that makes me uncomfortable with the terminology “outsider” being applied to a cishet person participating in an LGBT-focused discussion. Outsider is a misnomer here — views and opinions that are informed by the Overculture do not suddenly transform into #UnpopularOpinons because you’re in our space, even if invited to be. Being the only heterosexual person in a room full of queer people does not actually make you a minority.

The question “are opinions from outside the community of value” might be more properly expressed as “are opinions from outside the community unknown.” In the vast majority of cases, we already know what straight people (in general) think, and frankly the odds that what one individual outside the community has to say is different or valuable enough to be worth taking up air in the debate space (because discussion takes energy) are slim to none. (I fully expect to be pilloried for that statement, Reader, please take note of who objects to it.)

The “opportunity to educate” argument, while superficially plausible, falls apart for two reasons. One is that any internal discussion on an issue large enough to even catch the attention of the Overculture is big enough that there are phalanxes of volunteers working to educate the masses about it. The actual discussions where we are trying to solve our own problems are inappropriate venues for education.

Here’s an analogy for you. If you’re a Christian, and you want to know more about Judaism beyond what you can get from reading the easily available material, do you a) contact a local rabbi and sit down over coffee and ask questions, or b) walk into the nearest synagogue during Shabbat service and start asking the people around you what’s the deal with not lighting a fire on Saturday morning and it seems to you that it’s perfectly OK to set a timer so the TV comes on so you don’t miss Seinfeld because a timer’s the same thing as using a thermostat and you love Seinfeld because he’s Jewish, right?

If you get gently asked to leave because you’re disrupting something that is not directly your problem (even if you think it is because, hey, you have to give your more orthodox Jewish employees Saturdays off, and you’re a good employer because you do), is that the same thing as being “shut out of the conversation”? And believe me, when you look at the way queer people are excluded, any response that you get from us is gentle as eiderdown on a jasmine-scented breeze in comparison.

The other problem with the “opportunity for education” argument is, of course, the expectation that all members of marginalized communities have the obligation to drop what they are doing and perform an Act Of Education for anyone who demands it – or anyone who doesn’t want to be educated. Frankly, it’s hard to tell sometimes the difference between the honestly ignorant and the concern troll. There are days where it takes every ounce of energy we have just to keep going, and expecting us to always be willing to spend it on your enlightenment is actually pretty aggressive.

One of the places where this has been coming up recently is in the issue of labeling the entire LGBTQ community. GSM has been suggested, as well as a new one, SAGA. One of the arguments put forth for this is that the (seemingly) constantly-shifting initialism is “confusing”. This aspect is often mocked with constructions like LGBTQWTFBBQ or LGBTQIABCDEFG.

Here’s the thing. The fact that the debate is happening is proof that we have not settled the matter internally. The reason there is no debate about the word “gay”, for example, shows that that particular label has been resolved internally, at least enough that the gay community is comfortable not only using it but having it applied to them. (Are there individuals who object? Sure. But we’re talking about the community as a whole, which means consensus, not unanimity. Take notes, that one will be on the quiz.)

It is not my problem if cisgender heterosexuals are confused by the initialsm – which they aren’t, they are confused by the fact we as a community have not reached a consensus around appropriate terminology. We’re still arguing about the word Queer, and that’s an internal debate that’s been raging since 1990. I had a discussion recently with a straight person – a great public ally to us, in fact – and they decided to argue that they would not accept people using the word queer to describe their child because of its history as a slur. But it was not their decision to make. It is their child’s choice to accept or not accept the word. And their opinion, as a cishet person, does not have any weight with the queer community as a whole. As a white person, there are racially charged words I’m not comfortable with. I have the right to not use them, I do not have the right to tell people of color what words are appropriate for them to use.

There is an internal debate in the Queer community about LGBT vs GSM/GSRM/GSD/SAGA vs Alphabet Soup. I personally favor LGBTQ+ or QUILTBAG. I personally oppose any initialism or acronym that either divides or erases the bisexual community. In my opinion, Alphabet Soup divides, while GSM etc erases. There is no consensus on this yet — I know of at least one person who I highly respect and consider a friend and mentor who is completely opposed to me on this matter. And we can and will talk about it.

But if you are cishet, kindly keep your opinion to yourself – it’s not helping for you to tell me how much you prefer one or the other, because it is literally not your problem.

One final example: there has been debate in the transgender community over transgender vs trans*. I used trans* in some articles here because at the time, the best information I had was that it was preferable. Since then, I’ve been informed that it isn’t, so I don’t use it anymore.

What I did not do was get involved in discussions among transgender people about how I felt one was more appropriate than the other. And you know what? I did not feel shut out of the debate at all, any more than I feel shut out of the primary election for the political party I’m not affiliated with. Once primary season is over, then and only then it will be my problem who the other side runs against the candidate my side decides to run against him. Just as people who have already decided to vote for him, have no business telling me who I should support in order to run against him.

(This is what happens when I tell someone I consider myself essentially retired from blogging. I get inspired.)

Thanks to Ken and Eric, who got me started, and Camille, who introduced me to the original thought.

Posted in Identity Politics (non-monosexual), Privilege | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

My Corpse Will Not Be Your Movement’s Foundation

No one is as clear and raw as Aud.

An Odd Rey

     Coming into an all day Bi+ Institute, where seconds before people in the room had been talking about how the Bi+ community, how the terms, bi,bisexual, and biromantic had at times saved their lives, and then raising your hand to state that you feel that those very labels, should be abolished in favor of a different term, like pansexual is violence.

   At the time I personally was too gobsmacked say anything. I personally take this moment, this utterance, as the trigger that sent me into a dissociative episode that lasted not just the whole rest of the day, but had extreme mental health consequences weeks afterwards.

    I felt hurt, so much pain and hurt. I’ll never forget the looks on people’s faces. The sheer pain. But also the sheer, unbridled rage. I at the time failed everyone miserably in not calling that statement out…

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Posted in Bisexuality | 6 Comments

Now in private practice

Logo

Howdy! I’ve just opened my own private psychotherapy practice here in Saint Cloud, MN. Details are available on Psychology Today as well as a bunch of other places online, including my website.

Here’s some information. Queer focused — bi, trans, gay, lesbian, asexual, all genders including nonbinary/genderqueer, all relationship structures (monogamous and polyamorous). I’m not an expert on kink but I know enough to not be afraid of it, or automatically assume that it is the problem.

Mission Statement: Prism Mental Health LLC strives to create a warm and accepting therapeutic space where people of all gender identities and sexual orientations have the freedom and safety to express all facets of their authentic selves and explore the challenges of existence. All people have common experiences to share, cultural differences to celebrate, and unique experiences that can be understood through these similarities and differences.

Population Served: Adults (18+). Prism Mental Health LLC does not discriminate against people based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, neurodiversity, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity, HIV status, or age. Prism Mental Health LLC focuses on providing services to members of the LGBTQ+ community and those who love them.

Patrick RichardsFink MS NCC LPC:
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (MN 1805), and a member of the Minnesota LGBT Therapists Network. I practice existential psychotherapy, which tailors therapy to individuals and uses a variety of techniques to help people heal themselves through the therapeutic relationship. I work with individuals, traditional and mixed orientation couples, and people in other relationship structures.

Posted in Bisexuality | 3 Comments