Daily Archives: July 6, 2015

Just Checking

I may have mentioned before in this space that I started counseling at a very young age. I don’t recall...

The post Just Checking appeared first on Pretending to be What We Are.

The Absent I: Marriage Equality and the Continued Erasure of Intersex People

Guest Post! This week’s article at LQTU is written by Celeste Orr.

The image features colorful beads that spell out the words, "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual."

Why is “intersex” an afterthought in our community?

While many queer and allied folks have been celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, many others rightly question whether this time is indeed a time for celebration.

How can we celebrate as our fellow queers, specifically trans people of colour, face homelessness, un/underemployment, housing discrimination, staggering suicide and murder rates, and police and prison violence?

Recently many articles address this matter and note that trans issues are the “next fight” or the “next step” in fighting for LGBTQ equity, freedom, and liberation. But framing trans issues as “next steps” neglect that fact that, for trans folks and many other queer people, same-sex marriage was never the first step.

For many queer folks same-sex marriage was never the first step because we think that marriage is a fundamentally flawed institution. Marriage has deep sexist, anti-poly, and queerphobic roots. Many queer people are not homonormative and marriage, therefore, does not reflect their lives. For many other queer people same-sex marriage was never the first step because evading being killed was and remains the perpetual, all too often unachievable first step.

For queer and trans people who do not have white privilege, class privilege, homonormative privilege, and/or non-trans privilege, mere survival is always (and already) the first step.

Framing trans issues as “next steps” erases the (continued) activism and work it took for transphobia to be recognized as not just as the “next step” but a “step” at all.

Even if well-intentioned, framing transphobia as the “next step” also inadvertently re-creates a hierarchy of queer lives, identities, acts, and of (life-threatening) queer issues. Many trans activists, queer people of colour, and queer poly people have criticized this very hierarchy. Queer and allied folks should be wary of reproducing this hierarchy with “next step” discourses.

In thinking through the ways in which certain queer folks, even within queer and feminist communities, are marginalized, regulated to the bottom of the hierarchy, or are the proverbial “next step” I am not too surprised that, in the midst of this supposed queer watershed moment of same-sex marriage, the “I” in LGBTQI has been dropped, forgotten.

All of the articles I have come across in mainstream and feminist forums that address marriage “equality” and the “next steps” queer folks are “going to fight for” (or more accurately have been fighting for) exclude the “I.” Why is the “I” not a “next step” in mainstream discourse?

Building from the Organisation Intersex International’s (OII) definition of intersex, “intersex” is a general term “applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly” or exclusively “male or female. An intersex person may have the biological attributes of both,” typically Western, culturally recognized, legitimized, and institutionalized “sexes or lack some of the biological attributes considered necessary to be defined as one or the other sex.”

Put differently, “intersex” refers to numerous kinds of embodiments that deviate from the (hetero)norm or, what Abby Wilkerson refers to as, “normate sex.” In other words, intersex embodiments illustrate that the cis-trans binary is insufficient.

Intersexism – the structural and systemic oppression of intersex folks – is real and palpable. Despite the fact that intersex embodiments, specifically those with variant genitals, typically pose no health risk, intersex infants and children are often subjected to state-sanctioned, non-consensual, genital mutilation at the hands of medical professionals.

This mutilation is paternalistically done in the name of fixing, curing, or managing the queerly disordered intersex body. In the United States alone, Emi Koyama reminds, “five children are being mutilated everyday.” That means approximately 1,825 children will have their genitals non-consensually cut on and de/reconstructed this year in the US by “benevolent” medical professionals.

In addition to this unspeakable violence with various long- and short-term physical and psychological effects, many intersex folks face systemic shaming, gender policing, queerphobia, and discrimination at school, work, and home.

Historically, many medical professionals have kept intersex folks’ medical records secret even when asked to view them. Some intersex people struggle with fitting into sexed and gendered spaces, like bathrooms. Some intersex folks also struggle with filling out governmental (or otherwise) forms that force one to pick a sex or gender.

In fact, these spaces and institutionalized sexing practices utterly erase the very existence of intersex people.

So I ask, why is the “I” forgotten; why is the “I” not the “next step” in the emerging LGBTQ next step discourse? Answering this question many seem easy, albeit devastating: the “I” is rarely taken into account or represented. In 1999, near the beginning of the Intersex Rights Movement, Robert Crouch referred to this absence as the “structural invisibility” of intersex people and the systemic violence they face. That invisibility still persists today.

It is true to state that the “I” has probably been forgotten because historically, intersex rights – like trans rights, disability rights, and the rights of people of colour – are invisible to the majority of people. But, I want to complicate this narrative because sometimes the “I” (like the “T,” “B,” and POC) is tactfully excluded at the expense of homonormative or (white) women’s rights. Or, if intersex rights are visible or added to the queer feminist conversation, they are added superficially.

That is, the “I” is present in “LGBTQI” but it is never meaningfully addressed. With this in mind I cannot reduce the absent “I” to thoughtless negligence. Even if the absence is thoughtless, it is political.

I suggest that the “I” is forgotten or is being tactfully excluded because intersex embodiments, by definition, illustrate and remind us that the way in which we understand sex as dichotomous is a farce. And, in turn, we are reminded that the institution of marriage, an institution based on the dichotomous understanding of sex, is insufficient. If we remembered the “I” we would have to address the fact that the same-/different-sex marriage model erases intersex bodies, experiences, and people.

At this moment of the same-sex marriage “win,” many people probably do not want to be reminded that the institution excludes a part of our queer community, intersex and genderqueer people alike.

But it is imperative to acknowledge that same-sex marriage is not really a queer “win” or it is not a win for all queer or differently bodied people. Same-sex marriage is not really a “win” because an entire community cannot fit into the sex binary. Same-sex marriage is not really a “win” if we recognize that intersex infants and children are literally being cut on so they can fit into the sex binary the institution of marriage and our culture is based on.

It is true that for some people with intersex embodiments, specifically those who do not identify as intersex and/or identify as exclusively male or female, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a win if they want to marry their partners. For other intersex people it may be non-consequential.

Ultimately, though, it is another instance of erasure and marginalization. It is another law, another moment that further entrenches the idea that sex is binaristic, that intersex bodies are “wrong.”

If we remember the “I” and advocate for intersex rights, as I call all queer and allied people to do, we cannot make the same mistake and narrate the “I” as a “next step.” We cannot continue to reproduce the violent hierarchy of queer lives and issues. Like trans people, particularly trans people of colour, the crises intersex infants, children, adolescents, and adults face is immediate and dangerous.

These issues are not “next” – they are now and always.


Celeste Orr is a Ph.D Candidate at University of Ottawa in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies.

More Things I Wish People Knew About Bipolar Disorder


Another great post by my best cyberfriend, bpnurse. She always has things right on the money. For those who don’t know, she is the reason I started blogging.

Originally posted on bpnurse:

1.Not everything has to do with bipolar. We have bad days just like everyone else. We get mad, sad, frustrated, upset, but it doesn’t have to be due to our illness. In fact, it’s kind of patronizing to accuse us of having a mood swing when we’re really just having a crappy time of it. We are allowed normal feelings!

2. We don’t appreciate being asked if we’ve taken our meds. Again, we experience hardships just like everyone else on the planet, and sometimes we react poorly. Who doesn’t? We also have times when we’re happy, even overjoyed, and it doesn’t mean we’re manic or off our meds.  But it seems like some smartass always has to say it: “You’re not acting like yourself. Did you take your meds today?” Seriously, would you ask a diabetic if she took her insulin? A cancer patient if he went to chemo? No? Then why is it OK to say these things to…

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Stupid Brain/Nervous System *Stabs with Q-Tip*

I have an appointment with my general practitioner (GP) tomorrow, and I am a wreck. I’ve been a wreck for a couple of days now. Brain/body, really, stop this because it’s not cool. You do this for just about every single appointment that comes up, and there’s no need. It’s even worse because I attended an appointment with the nurse just fine last week, by myself, and felt like I’d made a good step. Instead, I’ve already had to ask my husband to come with me tomorrow because my brain is in such shutdown that I don’t trust myself to remember anything that happens.

Really brain, why do you think this is a good idea.

I think that, perhaps, a tiny part of it is fear that the doctor is going to go on emergency leave again out of the blue. He’s the one that does the sexual health clinic and IUD installation, and he ended up going off for a couple of months right as I was trying to get the ball rolling on that earlier in the year. I’m a step ahead compliments of the nurse; since I was already in for my routine smear test, she did the tests I needed done in advance of getting the IUD ordered and placed. If those all check out when we talk to the doctor tomorrow, then everything should line up to get things done once the sexual health clinic is back on its feet.

I know, logically, it’ll all be fine and everything will go well. But yanno, tell that to my asshole brain and unsympathetic nervous system (*insert rimshot here*).


Anyways, off to bed and hopefully a good night of sleep. Which will probably be followed by a day of climbing walls from panxiety (thanks morgueticia for the great term), but oh well. Then hopefully it’ll all be fine once it’s done and over and my broken bits get over themselves and act like nothing happened.


Quarterflash – Harden my Heart

I’m going to Harden my Heart

because this mental illness is making me feel really vulnerable and stupid.

I have been jamming to this song because it sums up exactly how I’m feeling..

Talking About Bipolar Disorder

Had a church friend come to me yesterday and say he wanted to sit down and talk to me about his son and the possibility that he might be exhibiting bipolar symptoms.  I explored it a bit with him and his wife and they are concerned about his moods.  They said he had exaggerated reactions to events, many characteristics they felt were OCD, and were worried about his stability in that he broke up with his longtime girlfriend without warning  They were both vague about what they were seeing, so I gave them my blog and told them to read up on my story and see if they could see any similarities or parallels to their son’s life.  Both said that since he was a doctor, he likely wouldn’t admit to anything in talking to them, but they didn’t know much to do besides try to talk him into seeing a counselor or a psychiatrist.

All I know to do is refer people to professionals and if they ask, tell them about my experiences.  I don’t claim to be an expert, just a survivor of my diagnosis. I’m glad I’ve been open about my experience so that I can point people in the correct direction.  THat’s what I want to do with the blog and any work I might publish about it–point people towards help and hope that they can get through the symptoms and diagnosis and still live a fulfilling life within the parameters their illness gives them.


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Trips are so much fun, no I don’t mean the hallucinatory ones, I mean the real ones. Real life is suspended, you are exploring new sights, eating new food, your interest is peaked, perhaps you are on a beach, swimming in the sea, the therapeutic sea. Thalassotherapy. On this trip to Turkey, I did have some anxiety and panic the first day I was there, which was highly unusual for me, it did subside very quickly and then I had a wonderful time. No responsibilities, no deadlines, just fun, food, family and friends. Getting dressed up, going out to dinner, a wedding reception, sightseeing. Freedom! Freedom from anxiety, from depression. Sometimes a feeling of wellbeing for no reason at all. Can I keep it all now that I’m home? I’m going to try. Obviously life is not suspended anymore, have play rehearsals every night for 3-4 hours to get ready for our July 16 opening night! Appointments, meetings, sessions, all waiting for me. Oh and unpacking, my least favorite activity in the world. But I suppose if I didn’t unpack, I wouldn’t be able to pack for my next trip, which I am planning even as I write this lol. Anyway, here are some pictures, memories, from my trip.



People who are complacent and happy and fulfilled are not the ones who accomplish great things. It is people who are driven, who have a “fire in their belly”. who are dissatisfied with their life, the state of the world, who feel this urge, hear the siren’s call, these are the people who do something great in the world.

I have been thinking, which am I? Certainly not the complacent kind. I am anxious almost all the time, yet I also have moments of blissful peace. Is it enough to be anxious? No. It has to be a directed anxiety, a goal oriented anxiety, the anxiety one feels has to be directed into achieving something. Just like energy, energy exists everywhere, but only when it is directed into an electrical cable can it light up the world.

I think education was to have taught me this directing capability, but I must have been sick at home the day they taught that lesson.

Yet also, another voice speaks to me (no not really, haha, it’s just my thoughts) and it says: Why do you have to strive and wish for greatness, isn’t it enough to just be you? A kind and loving and compassionate you, who can affect people’s and little animals’ lives everyday, not in some grand way, but in a small way? There is freedom in this. I can be kind, loving, compassionate every day without being tethered to an outside goal. I can be me without the need for fanfare and external responsibilities.

I used to think my epitaph should read “She tried as much as she could!” I’ve changed my mind about that, now I think it should read “She was loving, kind and compassionate.” Hopefully that is all true of me so it can be put on my tombstone. Actually I am not going to have a tombstone, I’m going to be cremated.

Anyway, this tug of war between living a small quiet life and the wish to accomplish something great, something stellar, goes on my head sometimes; especially after I see something great like “H{N)Y P N (Y} OSIS.” Something like a one woman show with acting, singing, reading… I don’t know, who knows, we’ll see. I wonder how I can turn something like that into a reality? Certainly not by blogging about it, but by doing it.

Ok, gotta go and rehearse my song and lines for my upcoming play “Buster, The Musical!” Community theatre it is, but still something that screams: Look at me, here I am!

Sleep Sludge

I cryptified at 8:30 last night. I was still awake at midnight. There was one point where I started to nod off…Then the spawn appeared in doorway and bam, I was wide awake and my heart began racing and it was pure panic and paranoia. She snores like a lumberjack so that wasn’t conducive to sleep. I’d taken my Xanax and hours later…Still nothing. I tossed and turned. Over and over. I couldn’t get comfortable. The more frustrated I got, the worse the sleeplessness got. Tick tock. Knowing I’d have to get up and do time in the dish. I needed sleep. I got hungry but I was so afraid of upsetting the delicate balance, like food and walking around would just keep me up longer…

By two thirty, I cracked. I split a Melatonin into 1.5 mg just to get my mind to stop spinning. I’d tried all the therapy tricks. Stop signs, red balloons, counting backwards in odds from 1000 ( I did that six times, my brain was ready to pulverize from all the numbers.) An hour later I was getting a little mellow but still awake.I think around 4 I drifted off. Only to wake at 5, 5:30. Then my kid decided at six a.m. it was time to get up and I told her to go back to sleep. She screamed at me.

Slept through two alarms. Finally forced myself up. My kid promptly began screaming at me again because I dared to tell her to brush her own hair and now she says I always make her do work, like she’s some sweatshop worker. Jebus. I found a couple of 30mg Cymbaltas leftover from last month and took 30 this morning. I will take the other with my afternoon dose of Focalin, see if that makes it any better. Again, placebo effect or not, the last few days have been absolute suckage because of this lump dose. I was eyeballing the 60 mg, trying to discern how to pull them apart with spilling their medicative powder and getting the dose messed up.

Meh, not at 8 a.m. I have pants on, I’m good. I think I am going to go talk to one of the pharmacists where I’ve been getting my meds for ten years. They cross me as being more in the know than my doctor. Than all of the doctors combined because it’s like they all just make up the rules to suit their own bias or what they’ve seen in fifty patients, as if adverse effects simply don’t happen. Except unless you’re seeing Dr Q and she’s seen it happen before and warns you not to take the medication like that. Grrr. Just like my new doc and the Latuda. He read off about six side effects from his trusty smart phone, all of them minor. Then I get the pharmacy insert and it lists suicidal thoughts, hormonal changes to the point it can cause lactation, oh and you’re supposed to take it with 350 calories for it to absorb properly. And when I approached him with that, he scoffed and said no, that’s not true. I mean, the manufacturer, who has every reason to not disclose this stuff, says it right in their literature and this doctor, who’s barely older than my kid, knows more than they do.

I’m so screwed.

Still, can’t hurt to talk to the pharmacist. See if their input is different or if they concur with the doctor.

I hate griping about my doctors because for the most part, they’ve been fairly pleasant, nice people. But I’m not there to make friends, I am there for help, and none of them can agree on anything and I’m the one who’s lost in that shuffle. Frustration and a little outrage are reasonable, after 20 years of this crap.

I don’t want to do the dish. At all. Lack of sleep makes me snappish. Bridges could be burned. Plus dealing with my mother and bringing my kid home to tell me how much better grandma is than me…The housework, the lawn…It’s snowballed once again and something tells me my sporks will be gone by the time I get done with the dish.

On the plus side…No friends in my head popped out to wield a chainsaw at me.

Oh, wait. THat’s on the bad side, ‘cos that would be entertaining as hell.

17 negative stereotypes about bipolar disorder

The most frequently used search terms that usher visitors to my blog are: bipolar disorder stereotypes, bipolar stereotypes, negative stereotypes of bipolar disorder, stereotypes about bipolar disorder, negative stereotypes of bipolar, stereotypes of bipolar disorder – and they occur every. single. day. I googled ‘bipolar stereotypes’ and lo and behold, my most visited post ranked first. Nice. Well, nice, but it’s time to expand on that ole thing. Stereotypes breed stigma, which can have terrible (and in some cases even terminal) consequences. Everything gets an ism, dear reader, and the applicable one here is ableism.

“Ableism refers to attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. People with disabilities are assumed to be less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and take part, and of less value than others. Ableism can be conscious or unconscious and is embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society. Although ableism can affect all people with disabilities, people with psychosocial disabilities experience unique forms of stereotyping.” Ontario Human Rights Commission

Unconscious ableism is a result of upbringing, education and society. It’s tempting to leap out, all guns blazing, whenever it emerges, but that’s almost always the wrong approach. When you (calmly, rationally) tell someone why a stereotype is wrong, you’ll get a negative, neutral or positive response, right? You’re not responsible for their reaction and once you’ve said your thing, you’ve done as much as you can do. Besides, stereotypes are global things.


Bipolar is the latest cool trend.
They call it the cancer of psychiatric disorders, I’m not sure what’s so cool about that? Some asshole celeb ‘coming out’ as bipolar might make it seem cooool to their groupies, but nobody who actually has bipolar is impressed. If you need celebrity endorsement, pay attention to people like Stephen Fry and Carrie Fisher instead. Maybe people think it’s cool because of its tortured genius artist reputation? Hopefully that kind of thought is just an emo adolescent phase.

The medical profession invented bipolar so that they can diagnose more and more people with it and profit from it.
Ah no. More and more people get diagnosed with it, because the population increases and so, logically, do cases of bipolar; it’s incurable and so once you have it, you’re in those statistics for life (and with the genetic nature of the disorder, medical advances and extended lifespans, the stats drop even less); as society grows more sophisticated and life gets more accelerated, pressure on individuals increases and more people are likely to have their latent bipolar activated by the stress and trauma. It takes an average of a decade for adults to be diagnosed, so the perception of bipolar diagnoses falling from the sky like monsoon rains is laughable. As for profit, yes, there’s plenty of that in psychiatry and psychopharmacology, but that’s the way capitalism works.

But you don’t seem bipolar.
And you don’t seem like a psychiatrist.

Bipolar is all about the mood swings.
It used to be filed in a chapter of mood disorders in the DSM, but the latest update (DSM 5) has it in a chapter all of its own, namely ‘Bipolar and Related Disorders’, this is because while moods are major players, that isn’t the whole picture. For instance, one of the main aspect is cognitive. Bipolar is a cluster of varying symptoms, which have varying levels of various effects. See? It’s all very various. Educate yourself by reading this.

People with bipolar disorder have mood swings every five minutes.
People with ultradian cycling bipolar have several shifts in a day, but most bipolar sufferers experience them at a far slower rate. Some people even have years of, or years between episodes.


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But everyone has mood swings.
Indeed, but ours are not simple mood swings, they’re harmful episodes. People without bipolar, as well as people whose bipolar has been stabilised, experience moods that relate to what’s going on in their lives. People with active/untreated bipolar experience them as a result of the disorder regardless of life events, and at a far more serious level than ‘normal’ moods.


Bipolar people are always either manic or depressed.
List all the moods you can think of – we get those too. Where specific bipolar episodes are concerned, there are more options, like mixed states and anxious distress (two of the specifiers listed in the DSM 5), not to mention (shudder) anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure in formerly pleasurable things.

Mania is fun.
Hypomania (mania lite) can be fun to a certain extent and even mania might feel good – for a while. You’re thinking of things like happiness and euphoria though, moods without negative results. Bipolar is a disorder and mania can feel beyond awful at the time, consist of uncomfortable features (agitation and rage, for example) and have terrible consequences. We all have horrible memories of those.

Bipolar people are crazy.
That’s lazy thinking by people who probably haven’t even defined ‘crazy’ for themselves. The most common misconception is that crazy means psychotic, and most people don’t know what that is. Psychosis is not the act of stabbing people to death in showers, for example. Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences psychosis and those who do, would tell you that it’s often terrifying – something that needs treatment, not mockery.

People with bipolar disorder just need to try harder, think positive, snap out of it…
Growing evidence of the genetic, biochemical and neurobiological components of bipolar would suggest that the most accurate response to that statement is, “don’t be bloody stupid”. Go try harder to think positive and snap out of a migraine or something.

“People… may win a particular battle, but they are incapable of winning the war. Furthermore, why should be have to spend all our time fighting?” I agree that just using self-discipline will not get you very far. You will expend a lot of energy and still end up struggling more than necessary. {source}

Bipolar disorder can be cured. I wish. There’s no cure, there’s no recovery. There’s only the possibility of remission. The guarantees are nil, the palliative care is inadequate, the costs are high and a cure is the holiest of holy grails.

Bipolar people can’t sustain relationships.
Relationships are tricky for everyone and there’s no denying that bipolar brings its own set of challenges to the table. That doesn’t mean lasting relationships are impossible for people with bipolar, you wouldn’t even need to go further than WordPress to find lots of people in long relationships and marriages.

Bipolar people shouldn’t have kids.
Eugenics, much? Bipolar people worry more than you ever could, about the possibility of passing on their disorder – and actually the stats are low. Here’s a really good article about it all.

Bipolar people are irrational, unreliable.
During some episodes, it’s quite likely; many severe illnesses have that effect. Who gets to make that judgment call though? Unless you’re part of the person’s close support network, you can’t do it. The perception though, is that bipolar people are permanently irrational and unreliable and that’s far from the truth. By this stage in this post, you know that bipolar doesn’t mean speeding insane roller coaster.


Bipolar people are violent/dangerous.
As with other badly treated minorities, crime etc stats are higher than they are in the general population, but the statement as it stands is simply another I’ll thought out generalisation. Most people with bipolar disorder are neither violent nor dangerous.

Bipolar is just an excuse for wild/bad behaviour.
It may very well be the reason for it actually, and reading almost any memoir by a person with bipolar will show you how that works. That doesn’t mean it’s a get out of jail free card, trust me on that.

I’m so moody/I did a test online, I think I’m bipolar.
The difference between personality traits and psychiatric disorders, is suffering. If your moods are making your life hell, see your doctor, who will assess you and refer you to a psychiatrist if necessary. This article gives a great overview of the diagnostic process.

This video is so cool, I love it. The rrrripped dude with the lisp waffles charmingly and interjects pissed off grunts and growls into his list of stereotypes. I like him lots.

If we (society) could eliminate the myths, misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma around bipolar disorder, things would improve for everyone concerned. If society stopped assuming we’re imbeciles, marginalising and bullying us, we’d have a far better chance of getting diagnosed faster, treated better and less of us would wind up in the crime and suicide stats. We could spend less time and energy battling it all and more on managing it.

Further reading:
Twitter users use the word ‘bipolar’ wrongly and/or offensively all the damn time, the nasty little fuckwits.
Gender stereotypes and bipolar disorder. Unfortunately it uses the outdated gender binary system.
Stop the Stereotypes: Living Well with Bipolar Disorder. (webcast transcript) “Well Heather that’s a really great question.”
You Probably Don’t Have Bipolar Disorder (Or One Of These 7 Other Conditions)
10 things you should never say to somebody with bipolar disorder.
5 dangers of labels and stereotypes.
45 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood
8 Misconceptions about Mental Health and Mental Illness.
Crazy talk: The language of mental illness stigma.

Download Myths and Facts about depression and bipolar (pdf).

For everything else, there’s Google.