Acceptance (Part Two)

Hopefully my previous post was a fair enough explanation of what’s been going on these past few months. I realized afterward that I had alluded to a thing or two in posts earlier in 2015, but I hadn’t really said much after my accident.

So where did I leave off? Oh, right, with my mom. I guess I shouldn’t be terribly surprised. If I think back carefully, it’s actually pretty easy to see the hidden traditionalist socially conservative streak my mom hides under the surface. It’s not like my dad is much better though. I think it was back in June or July, after I’d decided to transition, but before anything medical had started, I was on the phone talking to my dad. I don’t even remember what we were talking about. Maybe we were already talking about his latest batch of conspiracy theories. Regardless, the conversation turned to Caitlyn Jenner. For the record, I can’t stand her. I didn’t like him (Bruce) and I never liked that whole Kardashian gaggle of stupid people. It’s all a bunch of Hollywood “celebrity” worship, and I’ll have none of it. That’s not really the point though. As we were talking, my dad asked me if I had heard about it. I said that I had, but didn’t lead on any more than that (I didn’t even watch the interview or anything…I was merely aware that it was a thing that had happened). He immediately continued suggesting that in his opinion, this was a conspiracy to “blur gender lines” or to make it so you can “identify as anything for any reason”. I don’t even think he had a personal opinion on it. It sounded like he was just telling me these things as though they were facts he was reporting on.

So was it any wonder deciding who to talk to about this was the difference between bad and worse? I might have gotten more sympathy from my dad…I don’t know. Honestly, I wish I had a second chance. I’d like to be able to try again. I think I actually can, since I suspect my mom never said anything to my dad anyway, and she probably ignored or forgot about it since I never pressed it again after that first time.

Against my better judgement I chose to go to my parents’ house for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was always my most favorite holiday and in the more distant past, I have very fond memories. Recent years have been far more lackluster and upsetting. I took the train, and my brother and his girlfriend were there to pick me up and take me to the house. I loved being able to see them. That was the highlight of the trip. My parents and my grandmother were already at the house. I guess I didn’t really expect much from my grandmother. I honestly thought she wouldn’t notice anything. She’s almost 90. Probably can’t see well. Certainly can’t hear well. The instant I walked in the door…and I’m talking not even having a chance to take my coat off yet. My grandmother sees me and exclaims that “with long hair like that, we should put a dress on you.” I get it, she’s 90, I’m not offended. But the speed at which it came. No “hi” greeting. Nothing. That was my greeting. My mom pretty much followed suit, constantly complaining about my hair. “Why is it so long? Why do you clip it? Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?” And really, that’s what the whole time boiled down to. I felt crushed.

I guess I should mention that the only saving grace in any of this has been that my brother and his girlfriend have not only been on board since jump street, but they’ve been supportive and a friendly face if I’m struggling with my parents. I did Christmas by myself this year in order to avoid another thanksgiving fiasco, but I did link up with my brother and his girlfriend to exchange a few gifts before carpooling to see our parents (one day only). I had only recently (as of the beginning of November) asked if he wouldn’t mind switching pronouns and names for me. He had actually asked me if I wanted to back at the end of August, but I wasn’t ready at the time. I was incredibly touched by the fact that when he made a tag for the gift he got me, he wrote “Hadley” on it.

I’m sure at some extreme level, it’s not, but sometimes it’s hard for me to feel like my parents’ love isn’t conditional. So much of my life has been focused on making them like me, and approve of me. Sometimes to garner preferential treatment and accolades, other times just to keep the peace. It was a lot easier to make major life decisions based on what my dad wanted rather than deal with the fallout from following anything but The One True Path™. As the oldest, I felt it was my personal responsibility to keep the peace in the family. To make sure that emotional blows were absorbed. Let my mom bitch to me about my dad, and not pass it along. Let my dad bitch to me about my mom, and not pass it along. Constantly wondering why there was so much pettiness and lack of understanding, love and respect. And the few times I got fed up, and just broke down and called them on it, I was accused of being dramatic.

I’d been unhappy in my life for a very, very long time. Things teetered from ages 11-14, but fell down completely once I got into high school and beyond. In high school, I kept extremely quiet about my increasing malaise and discomfort. I had personal internet access for the first time ever halfway through my sophomore year in high school. I think that allowed me to keep up appearances as I scoured the internet in search of what I was. I must’ve searched for everything back then. For a long time I latched onto personality types. It seemed to at least be a pretty accurate description, and made it easier to find people allegedly like me, but it was hollow. Things still weren’t lining up, and I wasn’t getting better. I still kept quiet. At that age, it’s very easy to tell yourself that things will get better. It’s a temporary problem. My future seemed bright enough (as my dad would’ve told it). Maybe just wait for that.

That future never really materialized though. It was like a carrot hanging on a stick in front of a donkey. It always seemed to be the same distance away, no matter how far into the future I got. Eventually towards the end of my time in college, I started hinting to my parents (with honesty) about the true nature of my malaise, though I didn’t really understand it at the time myself. I started to finally make my discomforts known. Just a little at first, but by the time I had graduated and moved out on my own, I had a handful of extremely frank, honest conversations with my mom. My discomfort must’ve been known by her by then, and in none of our conversations did it get any better.

Eventually I started to feel bad that my sadness and malaise were making my mom upset. No one wants to see their child upset like that. I started to resent myself for not being able to be a nice, normal, well-adjusted child for her. I didn’t want her to worry about me. I’m sure I didn’t make it easy, and there were a few times when conversations with her even grazed into my darkest thoughts. I guess I thought that maybe she’d truly understand what was at stake if I included more honesty. She only turned it around on me and framed it as me hurting her.

I guess the picture I’m painting here is that I was not good, and my mom absolutely knew this. So when I finally started unraveling the real bits of myself and what was up, and how to finally feel ok, better and happy for the first time in at least a decade, I thought she’d be overjoyed. To me, that’s what unconditional love is. In particular, that’s what unconditional parental love is. If I had a kid like me, and they told me what I told my mom, I’d feel two things. First, I’d feel relief. Relief that they were getting what they needed. Relief that they were finally maybe going to start finding the same kind of happiness most people have. Second though, I’d feel sadness. I’d feel sadness because I was unaware for so long that my kid was struggling with this. Sadness that they were struggling, and I didn’t know and didn’t help. I would’ve wanted to help, of course!

Instead I got my mom saying it was all bullshit. I needed a hug, and I got a scoff. I know it’s hard to understand. I know it’s weird. I’m not asking that she be able to accept that right away at all. I was asking for the unconditional love that should’ve been there. The love that would’ve allowed her to say, “I don’t understand, but I do trust you and love you and want you to feel better and live a happy life.”

I’m not saying that my mom doesn’t love me, I’m sure she does, but the instant dismissal and disbelief…after I put my completely open heart and feelings on the line. I bared my unfiltered feelings and self to her. Of course I love my mom too. I’m never going to stop loving my mom. I think I’m within my rights to say that this hurt. It hurt a lot. It’s the one thing I think about continuously nowadays. I wish so badly I could’ve gotten a loving hug instead of dismissal. I hope that I can get something eventually. I’m not willing to give up.

So that pretty much brings us right up to the present. It’s an ongoing journey and an ongoing challenge. I have to wake up every day and consciously choose to continue. If nothing else, I’ve been able to keep things going so far, and really that’s all there is to it. Just keep stepping forward.

Acceptance

First of all, I realize it’s been a while since I’ve done any writing here. It’s been a very busy, exciting and scary past few months. I was pretty seriously injured in a road bike accident at the end of August and spent most of September recovering from that.

As bad as that accident was, it wasn’t the biggest news from August that I neglected to mention. It’s hard to name the precise reason why I’ve been so shy about discussing it openly. Actually, as of this past September, it’s been a year since making the first tentative moves. I don’t have this timeline enumerated anywhere, so I’m adding it here for posterity.

I think I’ve always kept most things very hush hush from literally everyone in my life, even though that’s never been too many people. From September 2014 to around January 2015, I mulled over some things in my own head, and discussed with others in relative anonymity online in forums and occasionally on Reddit. I was worried and afraid, and I didn’t want to preemptively say anything to anyone before I felt sure enough. On January 19th, 2015 I texted my brother and threw it out there: I was pretty sure I was transgender and was going to transition, male to female.

I was honestly unsure what his reaction would be. How can you ever be sure what someone’s reaction will be to something like that? It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d told him every damn secret I ever had. No other secret would have approached the severity of what I just told him. He was very cool about it, and in those very early days, it made a lot of difference. It was almost anticlimactic.

A few days later, on January 22nd, I texted my oldest friend from high school. We’re not as close as we once were, but I can still count on him to call me out on something that might be bullshit. I had to convince him I was not messing around since we have a history of creating elaborate fake situations to mess with mutual friends. This was not that sadly, but I was able to convince him. He was surprised, but didn’t outright disbelieve what I was saying. Though he did find me a few days later to confirm that I hadn’t gone off the rails completely, and that this wasn’t the result of some mental break (it wasn’t).

So for a while, that was it. I didn’t say anything to anyone else. I mentioned it to my therapist about a month later. Though, it being outside her area of expertise, all she could do was help me continue to navigate my way through what I was discovering myself.

Through a highly fortuitous Reddit encounter, I happened to find out that there was a transgender health clinic nearby. I soon had the location, phone number and name of the doctor there. I still don’t know what prompted me to make that call. I’ve always been terrible on the phone. Calling for pretty much anything, I get nervous, my voice tends to shake, I stutter a lot, but this was completely different. As scary as it was for me to vocalize on the phone, “yes, I’d like to make an appointment at the transgender health clinic” it all came out very matter of factly. I spoke clearly and wasn’t even that nervous. My first appointment was in the middle of May 2015.

The first appointment was very brief, but it filled me with confidence. She made it very clear to me that this was my journey, at my pace, whatever I’m comfortable with whenever I’m comfortable with it. I left with informed consent papers for HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and a followup appointment in 2 months. I managed to hold things together for that time, and not psyche myself out. The next appointment was a full physical to help establish a baseline of what we were starting with. I actually hadn’t had a full physical in years, and it was pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately, I spoke up, and the doc made it as easy and quick as she could for me.

After that appointment, another month went by so I could come back, look over the blood work, make sure I’d had time to read over the informed consent papers and make me good to go. I had actually worked up the courage to sign the papers some time beforehand. That was my own process, on my own timeline. There were just countless hours of hard self introspection. It was honestly exhausting. Feeling terrified but also incredibly optimistic. We discussed some final things, and I walked out that morning in mid August with a prescription for low-dose HRT and a stupid grin on my face.

I was pretty nervous about picking the stuff up at the pharmacy. Actually, I’m surprised I wasn’t worse about it. Again, like when I made the original appointment, it just sort of happened. I was surprisingly calm, grounded and collected.

It was a pretty low dose of things to start, but I want to make it very clear what those first two weeks were like. First, I can’t remember a time sleeping so well. Just getting myself into bed at night, and feeling genuinely relaxed in a way that I hadn’t ever really been before. Everything else was great too. I felt so relaxed. So calm. So at peace. I wish everyone could experience catching fleeting glimpses of themselves in glass panes and smiling so big because you love what you see for the first time ever. I say it to anyone who asks: HRT did for me in two weeks what antidepressants couldn’t do in three years. Sure, there’s a lot of other stuff swirling around…practical matters, ongoing doubts, future prediction and the fears therein, but for the first time in my life, I felt ok just being. It’s honestly hard for me to describe, and it was entirely unexpected. Everything else aside, I just felt right. I felt calm, present and right. I’m fond of using car metaphors for this stuff and I often described it as like pouring diesel into a diesel engine for the first time in its life instead of regular unleaded. I try not to be overly dramatic about things, but I think it saved my life. Certainly in the long term. It was starting to become extremely unclear how much longer I could keep things going the way they were.

Those first weeks were amazing, and the start of the first genuine improvement in my life. Unfortunately, my accident happened right after those two weeks. It’s unclear what caused it and I suffered a concussion so I still don’t remember. The best hypothesis from my doctor is that the anti-androgen which is also a diuretic contributed to dehydration and electrolyte loss and I passed out in the saddle. The only problem was that I was just beginning my descent of a 2200FT climb. I broke my right collarbone, my left thumb, had road rash on my leg and my arm, bruised ribs and the concussion. It was my first and only major accident in well over 7000 miles of riding, but it did help me see one thing: life is short. In the previous two weeks, I had seen genuine happiness. Doubts would come and go, but this was something I had to do. This was my shot.

Since then and since recovering things have continued to improve. I went up from the low dose HRT to a more standard dose. I love how I feel. Sometimes things are still really tough, and fighting depression is an ongoing battle, but I feel like my head is so much clearer now. I wish I could help all people understand this about trans people. Regardless of any of the extraneous fluff, the fact is that I’m going to be ok now. I feel like a regular person, engaged in life, and ready to continue it. How could anyone justify wanting to take that away from me?

In early October I finally decided to tell my parents, or at least my mom so she could tell my dad. I still don’t feel like I have the kind of relationship with my dad that makes talking about something like this possible. It’s not that he’s unaccepting, but there’s just so little precedent for talking with him about personal matters in my life. With my dad, it’s always been all business and the few times we have delved into the personal, it makes it’s way into a business discussion. It was my dad who for years discouraged me from dating (curiously he didn’t do the same for my brother or sister) because I should “build myself, and build a career…then people would want me”. I had a feeling telling my mom was going to be bad, so I wrote up an email that was as concise as I could make it. I focused on the key elements that I thought couldn’t possibly be controversial. I was happier. I don’t do things hastily. I was excited about living my life for the first time ever.

It did not go well. It went horribly. My mom accused me of “following a bandwagon” and that I could “never be a girl” and that all of this was because of reasons X, Y and Z. It breaks my heart that she seemed to completely gloss over the most important part: me being happier. In fact, it never even came up. I blamed myself for not conveying my improved mood well enough. The hardest part is that I know now that how I feel isn’t terribly unique. I’ve read plenty of other trans people describe uncannily similar feelings of defectiveness, downward spiraling, and hopelessness on life that abated when they started transition. The only difference being the parents in those scenarios were too overjoyed that their kid was doing better to give a shit about what gender they were doing it as. My heart is truly broken. I had a single long discussion on the phone with my mom about the email a week later (which I had to bring up) that ended up devolving into a full-on blow-out argument about all kinds of old bullshit that has no relevance to me today and no relevance to my decision to transition.

I haven’t brought it up since, and I don’t intend to at least until I can come up with a better angle. I suspect she didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother telling my dad at all. At first I thought that maybe I needed to demonstrate that I was doing better, but I don’t live near my parents, so it’s hard to do that. Now though, I feel that’s an excessive burden of proof on my part, and one I don’t feel is fair. I told my mom sincerely and with great difficulty how I felt. That should be enough. That should be more than enough. I wish she knew how hard it was for me to share that with her. I wish she knew that I wanted to tell her because I care about her.

To be continued…

Hadley

I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost six months now, but I couldn’t think of a good way to talk about it. Heck, even talking about it directly at all seemed completely impossible. Well, I’m sensing a convergence of several things on my relatively near horizon, and that gave me a fun idea about how to write this post. Here goes…


Hi! My name is Hadley. I was born in Massachusetts in 1988. I was always really excited to be in the world. Everything was new. Everything was great. I started school in 1993 and quickly learned that I was different. I couldn’t tell how, I just was. By the time my second year of school rolled around, things were just too much to handle. There was some kind of misalignment. I couldn’t understand what it was. There were no options I was aware of. I often lamented out loud how it seemed like I was just irreconcilably different. Eventually I faded away. Life kept going on, but I wasn’t really that present.

I started building things and dumping as much creativity into the world as I could. I still tried to fit in. In middle school, I played baseball. I was terrible at it. I didn’t like doing it, but it seemed to make my dad happy when I had a few good moments. The most fun I ever had was my second to last year playing. The team I was on was awful and we lost every game. At least then there was no pressure. Even then though, I could tell I just didn’t fit on the team.

By that time, puberty had kicked in like an unwelcome party guest. It was a confusing time. It was a frustrating time. Leading up to it, I was so scared I’d be one of the first people to go through it. I’d long understood the changes, at least in an academic sense, but going through them firsthand was entirely different. Some things were gradual enough that I never even noticed. My voice changing was one of those. I honestly don’t even think it changed that much. Growing taller too. I never did get that tall, so I guess it just seemed like a continuation of getting taller as a child. Facial hair I absolutely could’ve done without. I was ashamed of it and scared to ask my parents what to do. I guess in a way, having mostly checked out earlier, I was disconnected from all those changes. They happened, but I pretended not to notice. I just checked out even further.

There were times when I noticed others were becoming different. They seemed to embrace the changes with open arms. My best friend I remember really came into his own. By the end of high school, he became really popular. Confident. Very much into girls in a way I just didn’t understand. Most of my friends ended up being like that. Even the ones who were clumsy about it.

Eventually I made my way into college naively expecting things would improve and be different there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My freshman year there was probably the worst year of my life. If I hadn’t already clamped down, I certainly did after that. Subsequent years weren’t nearly as bad, but I absolutely felt damaged beyond all repair. The only hope that kept me going was that I would be able to get a good-paying job when I graduated.

By my senior year though, even my hopes about getting a good job were fading. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to get a job. I worked hard to get one and did get one, but all the closing off had finally taken hold of my talent and interest in the field I was studying. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. All my passion was gone. Graduating, moving out on my own, and starting a “career” was like a shot of adrenaline to a dying heart. It boosted me for around 6 months, but then I was back to the same old track to nowhere.

By this time, I had all but forgotten about who I used to be. That person was long gone. After bouncing around on the bottom for a while, I could tell this was just no way forward. The closing off had taken everything. I was just existing for the sake of it. A shell going through the motions.

 

But that brings me to now. That was the past. Painful as it was, what’s done is done. I can no more change those things than I can turn off gravity. I’m not sure how I found her, but I found her, or maybe she found me. Sitting quietly on the bottom, waiting for the end, she found me. Maybe she knew I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t push her away this time. She was me. I was her. I am her.

Suddenly as if by magic, things began to seem real again. A future that wasn’t there suddenly was. A shell has no future. It’s just a shell. People have futures. She’s a person. She has a future. I have a future.

Let me tell you about my future. My hair is longer. Longer than it’s ever been before. Sometimes I put a bow barrette in it to keep it in place. Most of the time I just have a nice headband. When I look at myself in the mirror, I smile instead of looking away. It almost brings me to tears imagining all the years I wasted hating myself. I wear brightly colored clothes. A fun t-shirt with a reference to one of my favorite movies. Maybe a skirt or sun dress if the weather is nice. Instead of bland shoes, I have colorful but simple shoes. I replaced the laces on them to be blue instead of white.

I have a classic car that I love; a first generation Toyota MR2. I feel great driving it around. Sometimes people talk to me about it when I park to go to the coffee shop. Some people are surprised to see a young woman who knows so much about such an interesting car. I love talking to them about it. I love how it makes me feel when I’m driving it. My hair blowing in the wind from the t-top. Cute sunglasses and pride knowing I’m exactly who I want to be. I’m excited to be in the world again.

Even though things might not always be great (I still have many of the same real-world problems as before), I have a far more positive attitude and feel well-equipped to tackle problems. I even feel like getting into a relationship and having that in my life is something I’d welcome. Unlike before where it felt like a necessary addition, the lack of which caused me to feel inferior, it now feels like a bonus. It’s ok if that’s not part of my life, because I’m happy as myself. I’m the real me. I’m not really sure to whom I’m attracted. I think I’m still rather asexual, but it doesn’t provide as much definition for me as it once did. My new confidence makes me far more attractive to potential partners and I’m far more ready to be in that role. I’m not squicked out by it as much. Imagining myself with a partner in a sexual situation makes me feel happy instead of gross.

That’s the future I want. That’s the future I need. That’s the future that’s possible for me. Hadley didn’t find me. I didn’t find her. I am her. I am Hadley.

Bringing Back Color

Yikes. Aside from my web server meltdown a week or so ago, updates around here have been pretty scarce. Fortunately, there’s a justifiable and good reason for that. I’m not sure I want to write about it directly yet, but it’s worth making some kind of note about what’s been happening here.

I suppose it should go without saying that when you discover something about yourself that’s as deep and far reaching as your own sexuality (or in my case, asexuality), it kind of shakes things up. If you can think of an emotion or thought, chances are good that I had it when I was in the process of figuring all that stuff out this past August. Ultimately, it ended up being relieving, and helped to quell an extremely turbulent and unsettled aspect of my life. What it also did was activate a kind of reset switch.

When you spend so long (in my case two decades) in one track, trying again and again to make things work, and failing repeatedly, you start to become very narrowly focused. You’re in a tunnel, and the light at the end gets smaller and smaller as the walls close in. There’s less and less room to maneuver around. It’s constricting and suffocating. It feels like things will only get worse, and there doesn’t seem to really be any point. I was down to basically nothing when that reset switch activated.

Suddenly there were choices. There were options. The tunnel was gone. Remember that feeling from way back when? You didn’t need to bury that! Remember those few times when there seemed to be a really happy you who just did what made you happy? You can be that person all the time! You’re the same person now that in kindergarten insisted to your parents that you wanted those shoes. Never mind that they weren’t meant for me. I would wear them, I did wear them, I loved them. You’ve spent so long hiding, and perfecting your hiding skills, that the real you became but a distant memory, almost unreal.

Outside of the tunnel, life feels like it’s worth living. Like I can make decisions that are best for me. I don’t have to hide anymore. The best analogy I can come up with (both literally and figuratively actually) is that where my life was once filled with color, it slowly became drained until it was nothing but greyscale. Colors are bright, noticeable. Greyscale is subdued, quiet and safe. I can bring all those colors back. I want to bring them back.

I understand now that so many of my thoughts were really aimed at wishing that I was someone that I’m not. Someone that my limited understanding led me to believe I could never be. If I couldn’t be that person, then I guess I’ll just be no one. Because I was no one, I didn’t have any intrinsic value. I had to create value at all times. I ran myself ragged trying to push harder and harder to create value. If I’m not valuable, then I’m not worthy of being here. I have to create value! I needed to invent. I needed to write. I needed to constantly learn new, complex and widely varying skills and not only be proficient, but masterful of them. I needed to create, build and design, and I needed to do it nonstop. I lasted longer doing that than anyone should have to because I felt I had no choice. It was either create that value, or drive off into oblivion like in the movie, Vanishing Point.

To be perfectly honest, I think I did arrive at somewhat of a crossroads. I was simply too exhausted to create value anymore. If I couldn’t walk that path anymore, I had to walk the other one. That scared me. It scared me enough to admit I needed help. That help led to asexuality and my reset.

Those aren’t the only two paths I have to choose from. I may not be that someone I wished to be, but that person has value because they exist. They exist because they are me. What I’ve learned is that, while far from easy, it actually is possible to become that person. No matter how difficult that may be, I have to believe that it’s a better choice than choosing between being no one, and driving off into oblivion.

 

Depression

I wrote this post some time ago. I held off publishing it because it was deeply personal, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. After thinking about it, I’ve decided that it’s worth putting out there because these kinds of things need to be allowed in the open air without judgement or shame.


Admitting to myself and others that I am asexual has been a really big boost in my life. For the first time ever, I feel ok about things that have historically caused so much internal pain. Even though I first considered it in December of 2013, I shelved it immediately for one reason: depression. Six months ago, when I first went back to my doctor (for the second time in 3 years), I told her everything I was feeling, and how much I wanted help, but insisted it wasn’t depression. She disagreed. That was what I got help for the last time, and this was it all over again. In fact, in her estimation, things I was saying this time were much worse. It all seemed the same to me.

The only reason I even went in was because I felt like I was out of options. I felt like I was just one minor piece of bad news, one tiny hiccup, one bad thought away from god only knows what. I’ve never really had any problems with hurting myself, or planning to. Not physically anyway. Scorched-earthing everything else though? Oh you had better believe that was all on the table. That was the real problem; I didn’t know what I was going to do. Hurting myself? Pfft, that would’ve been easy and dumb. That would just hurt the handful of people who cared about me, and depressed or not, I didn’t want that. I knew I was capable of much worse. I just didn’t know what that would be.  I did do almost daily self-diagnostics asking, “hrm, does killing myself sound like a good idea today? No? Ok, that’s good.” That might seem morbid, but that’s what I did. I still run that test sometimes.

Now, six frustrating months of antidepressants and therapy later, I’m just barely seeing some light through the haze. I can see now that for the past 4, or possibly even 8 years, depression has been a major part of my life. Sure it’s waxed and waned, but it’s always been there. Let me tell you something about depression; It’s a voice that tells you shit that sounds absolutely real. You do not question those things. They are truth. Anyone who suggests to you that those things might not be real must be lying. Depression will convince you completely that you are fucked, that nothing and no one can help you, and you will believe it. I did. Sometimes I still do.

While I consider myself at present to be mostly out of depression (though it’s a fucking thin line), I’m hyper-aware of any change in mood or thoughts. That’s the thing about depression. It got you once, it knows it can get you again. So it just sits there, waiting for you. Waiting for you to start to panic at one negative thought. Waiting for just one tiny slip up. Then it’s in. Like an abusive partner, it tells you it will care for you, it won’t hurt you. But that’s all it does. Once it’s in, it just starts feeding you bullshit, and you will believe it. The more you believe it, the more bullshit it can get away with feeding you. And on and on and on.

I’m at least fortunate enough to know its game, but I have to say, that doesn’t make it any easier to stop it. It’s unreal how convincing it can be. I still have a limited tool set to make some space between its bullshit and myself. I’m working really hard on that. Medication is like an EMP blast that just comes in and forces that space open. I hate the idea of taking medication, but when you’re in the position I was in, you need that EMP blast to make that initial space. But it’s up to me to keep that space open, and to not let those electrical conduits to reform. I can feel them trying to reform all the time.

I don’t know how my story with this ends. It could go any way at this point. I don’t know why I’m writing this either. I don’t think depressed me would’ve believed the things I’m saying here. I don’t know if I can say anything that will help others going through the same thing. I could say, “Get help! Blast that space open! Do whatever it takes!” but I know that’s not good enough. In fact, if you’re going through this, I don’t think there’s anything I can say. I bottomed out and became so afraid of myself that it’s honestly like I went to the doctor to get help for someone else. I can’t even tell you you’re not alone.

I guess all I can say is talk to someone. Someone you trust, or someone you don’t even know (like a completely new doctor, like I did). Talk to someone and just explain how you’re feeling. You don’t have to call it depression. You don’t even have to believe the things you’re saying. You don’t have to explain all your feelings either. If there are some that you want to keep buried, that’s fine. God knows I did. Just talk to someone about how you’re feeling. This puts at least some information into the hands of someone who isn’t listening to depression’s bullshit. Either they will be able to help you directly or find someone who can.

Good luck. To all of us.

How I Experience Mangoes

When I first identified as asexual, I struggled with lots of different things. Suddenly I was looking critically at my feelings without the social contexts in which I’d viewed them in the past. Deep down, it was like a sudden ‘snap’. I knew this was me, but at the surface, there was so much turbulence. One of the things that’s helped to calm some of that turbulence is thinking about how I experience asexuality, rather than asking if I experience asexuality. This was a very useful and helpful shift in my thinking perspective, so I wanted to share it (and specifically my personal experiences and thoughts) so that others might be able to shift their thinking as well.

You can read all the definitions about this stuff (as I did) until the cows come home. You can read other people’s experiences (as I did) until there’s peace on earth. After all that though, you’ll still be left wondering, “am I understanding that definition right?” or, “my experience only matches up to this person’s experience about 86%. Is that enough?” This is all thinking in the mode of do I experience it, rather than how I experience it.

Admittedly, if you’re starting from square zero, you’re going to have to do some of that do mode thinking. By all means, read definitions, read articles, read first-hand experiences, talk to people on forums, etc. That should get you facing in the right direction to figure yourself out. It honestly took me a while to find that one thing that caused my ‘snap’. If you’re curious, it was this (of all things). I don’t know what it will be for you. It might be the first thing, or the hundredth thing. Once I had my ‘snap’ moment, more and more things started to make sense and I started understanding other articles and definitions more clearly.

Even though I had hit that deep down ‘snap’ moment, I still felt unconvinced. Maybe this is just my personality, but I felt like I needed more. This was a HUGE shift in my life. Questioning my sexuality? That wasn’t something I did. I never even thought about it. I never felt like a sexual person (#youmightbeasexualif #oblivious). I guess I wanted to be absolutely sure (pro tip: you can never be absolutely sure about shit like this).

That whole endeavor was a losing proposition. Now, I think about how I experience asexuality. That’s much easier. I experience it every day, all the time, because it’s me. What does it mean?

  • For me, it means I don’t feel things in a sexual context. I can objectively recognize them (yup, that girl is what people consider hot, those breasts appear well proportioned, etc), but I don’t feel those things. Feeling here is not arousal, though it could be. I suspect you’d know it if you felt it. Gut instinct perhaps?
  • I don’t form (or attempt to form in my case) relationships based on sexual factors. Feeling that someone is “hot” isn’t something that happens for me, so it’s not part of the factors involved in forming that relationship. If I had to place the tag of “sexual attraction” on something it would be this. Feeling in that sexual context about someone and being attracted to them on that basis. Things that are important to me? She looks cute. To me this means “different” (hard to describe). I’ve noticed that anything different will do. Odd hair color, more androgynous. Lots of things like that. Outside of looks, there’s just a hand-wavy kind of mental “connection” where we’re on the same page. This is harder to judge, and I’ve misjudged it horribly in the past.
  • As I’ve said many times, as far as the physical act of sex is concerned, I’m curious about it. There are certainly big chunks that are just totally off the table for me, but I’m still curious about the major things. I’d definitely balk at a relationship with another asexual if sex wasn’t going to be involved at all, because I feel like this curiosity has to be satiated. That said, if she were willing to satisfy that curiosity (perhaps on both our parts?), that would probably be approaching my ideal relationship 🙂
  • When I was younger, I experienced a number of “punctuated equilibrium” moments where I suddenly became aware of things friends and other people my age were doing that was just so far beyond my experience at that time, I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt pretty horrible about it. Surprisingly, even to this day I still experience those “punctuated equilibrium” moments from time to time.
  • “Normal”, “straight” porn does jack shit for me. For the longest time, I saw other asexual people saying things like this, and I didn’t get it. Then I realized that I’d always completely avoided that kind of porn. I don’t even remember the last time I saw it. It’s definitely the bulk of the porn out there though, and apparently what most straight people are going for.
  • Kind of a funny one, but I’ve never understood the problem with women going topless. I just don’t get boobs. I’ve never touched a boob, and I don’t really care if I never do. They’re utilitarian, a persistent example of sexual dimorphism, and honestly, they look annoying. I’m glad I don’t have boobs. Apparently, lots of straight guys (and gay women) really dig ’em.
  • In college, whenever I saw some girls out sunbathing in the courtyard or on the green, my first thought wasn’t “omg, they are so hot”, my thought was more like, “man, I wish I had the confidence to lie out in the sun like that, it looks comfortable.”
  • I have “weird” things that make me interested in people. As I said before, I do have a type of “cute” that can do it for me, but there are other things that would just make a person seem awesome to me (especially from a relationship perspective). One of these things was if I ever saw a young woman driving a Porsche 944. I don’t know what it is, but I see a lot of those around, but it’s always some guy driving them. Why not some young woman? I would so want to meet her and chat! I told my friend about this and she scoffed saying it was “too specific” and had no bearing on a relationship anyway. Well, for me it does, and it would rank far higher than “nice boobs” or a “hot body”.

This isn’t meant to be a list for you to relate to and say, “oh I get all of that, maybe I’m asexual”. I mean if that does happen for you, cool, but if not, it doesn’t really mean anything. These are simply descriptions of how I personally experience asexuality. They’re probably pretty unique and specific (just like my experience of life). My hope is that by making this list, maybe you will start to think about the “how I experience” rather than the “do I experience”. Hopefully, that will allow you to build a better understanding of yourself, and what being asexual (or not) means to you!

Stop the Shame

You know what needs to stop? Well, a lot of things, but in particular stereotyping, laughing at and shaming shy, introverted, inexperienced (sexually, romantically, etc) young men. Why is this so acceptable? I’m here to say that it isn’t ok, and it needs to stop.

Now this is absolutely not to say that other groups or people don’t experience these things, in fact, I’m sure they do. But I am a shy, introverted, inexperienced young man, so I can only authentically speak from that position. My hope though is that any other people that experience these things can relate, and take solace in the fact that someone (me) is standing up and saying it’s not ok.

I shouldn’t have to do this, but I will. I’m a shy, introverted young man. I’ve never had a girlfriend before, or really anything of the sort. I used to have much bigger problems with social anxiety, but I’ve come a really long way. Sure, I’m still working on it, but I’m always improving, and I’m happy about my improvement and where I am today. Anyone who says they have no problems is either in denial or lying. I’m very independent. I take care of my health, eat well, exercise, work hard at my job, have hobbies (even if they aren’t always very social), keep my house clean, manage my money well, and generally do everything any responsible adult should do. In my view, I’m basically a normal, hard-working adult. There are lots of us!

So why then do I need to put up with people stereotyping what a 26 year old male virgin who’s never been in a relationship looks like? Think I’m socially inept? Wrong. I’m not perfect, sure, but out and about, you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference. Think I must be flawed in some irreconcilable way because no one has been in a relationship with me? First of all, no. Second of all, that’s a pretty narrow view of why someone might not have had a relationship before. Maybe I put more effort into friendships. Oh right, I do. I’ve had a series of long-lasting, extremely close friendships since I was in middle school. Think I spend all my time alone in my parents’ basement? Fuck this stereotype. I’ve been totally independent of my parents since I graduated from college, and while in college, I was pretty damn independent too. “Neckbeards”, pathetic losers who can’t get laid, creepy loners, and on and on, it’s unacceptable. It needs to stop.

If we look specifically at the stance our culture takes on later-in-life male virginity, I say it’s fucking bullshit. It doesn’t make you less of a person. It doesn’t even make you less of a man (this is so fucked up I can’t even begin to get into it). It basically means nothing. It’s like some guys have long hair, some guys have short hair, and some guys have no hair. It doesn’t say shit about their worth as a person, or as a man. It just means different guys have different hair. If I didn’t tell you I was a virgin, you’d never even know. So why would you harbor a different opinion of a man if he said he was? That’s what a young man (or anyone really) gets for being honest. I think people who would harbor a different opinion about someone for that reason needs to take a serious look at themselves. They need to really think about why they feel that way, because they’re the ones who are in the wrong.

I don’t know whether to chalk it up to culture’s compulsory sexuality, especially compulsory male sexuality, or what. I do know that since I  have discovered asexuality for myself, I feel safer and freer to be myself (which is how everyone should feel). I’m definitely not saying that’s why I’m a 26 year old virgin (though it is certainly a big factor). The universe is a random and chaotic place. Who could say why? But why I am, or why someone else is (or isn’t) doesn’t mean a fucking thing. Neither I nor anyone else has to justify ourselves to you or anyone else.

Puzzle Pieces That Don’t Fit

[x-posted here from tumblr-land]

I’d seen a few of these ‘carnival of aces’ blog posts kicking around over the past few months and thought that many of them were pretty good. Then I thought, hey, I like writing, I write stuff all the time, I could write one of those things. The topic for September appears to be “Asexuals, Advocacy, and Allies” and while this isn’t a topic I’m particularly interested in or passionate about, it’s a chance to write. I like the idea of flexing my writing muscles. It reminds of me of debate club in high school. The best debates were the ones where you personally despised the position for which you were arguing. Heh, I guess I’m a weirdo.

I only started openly identifying as asexual a few months ago (after about a 6 month journey to get to that point). In retrospect though, it’s clear I had always been…something. It took a while for me to become self-aware enough to look at myself honestly. Please understand that my perspective on this topic comes from that history. A history of presuming I was heterosexual because to me, my experience felt “normal” and I was told that “normal” was heterosexual, so that was how I labeled my experience.

At the risk of dating myself, I haven’t been a student on a college or high school campus since 2010, so the more typical concept of a LGBTQIA + allies club/organization isn’t something I encounter in my day to day life. That said, I understand the point of those groups, and I’m sure they exist outside of college campuses. I’m just not near one right now. I do reside in a state (VT) that is (one would hope, and I expect is) pretty tolerant of all GSRMs though.

My apologies for that lengthy intro. Let’s get into this, shall we?

I’ll start by being brutally honest. Until I started looking into all this and self reflecting, I would’ve said the “A” in LGBTQA stood for “Allies”. Don’t worry, I always got all the other letters right. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever personally met LGB people though. The thing is, I never explicitly considered myself an ally. I simply considered myself NOT to be an ignorant jackass. My view of life pretty much from high school on was that, “Just being is hard for everyone. If you’re not actively hurting me, or my right to be me (whoever that was), I have no problem with you.” Somewhere hard-coded deep within myself, I considered LGBTQA people to be such a non-issue, I never even really thought about it.

Over the years, I had a few gay friends, likely at least one questioning friend, and a disaster of a “date” with a young bisexual woman. In retrospect, I guess you could’ve referred to me as an “ally”, though I certainly never felt like it. I was an “ally” to those people as much as I was an “ally” to any of my other friends. We were friends. I wanted to be the same supportive person to all my friends simply because they were my friends. If you want to refer to that as a “good ally”, I think that would be appropriate. It’s just not the term I would’ve used at the time.

I think in a way (especially in my younger years) the concept of an LGBTQA ally bothered me. I was always the “puzzle piece that didn’t fit”. If you can think of the vector, chances were I had taken crap from it at some point. From sexual harassment (from both male and female classmates) in high school,  to random jeering and heckling while I was going about my day in college, and everything in between, I’ve put up with a lot. Through all that, I never felt like I had an ally. No one (least of all me) could say how I was different, or why I so frequently seemed to be the recipient of such negativity. If I didn’t have an ally, why should anyone else?

Trust me when I say that I understand how horrible that might sound, but I felt so alone during that time. It felt like those negative attacks would never end, and they never did. I had to graduate and move away to get peace. Was this directly because I was asexual? No. I wasn’t identifying that way at the time, but I was different in visibly obvious ways that were likely the result of my asexuality (and introversion too). Again, it all seemed normal to me. This was how I had always been.

What about an alternate past? What about a past in which I did know I was asexual and identified that way. What about a past in which I did join LGBTQA groups (assuming they were accepting)? Would that have helped? I think it would have helped. The help wouldn’t have been because I would’ve had the “allies” I felt I didn’t have before, but because I was a part of something where my “difference” was clearer and didn’t matter. Having a group of support (even if indirect) to fall back on would’ve been massively helpful. Having that acceptance from others would’ve been helpful.

Getting younger me to that alternate past would’ve been extremely difficult, and I’ve known about asexuality since I was 15! This is where I think advocacy comes into play. If LGBTQA groups in high school or college had been more vocal about the wider variety of orientations and feelings, I could’ve started my introspective journey much earlier. That probably would’ve spared me from many uncomfortable moments and difficult situations. Instead of resenting groups like my high school’s gay-straight alliance, I could’ve joined them, and strengthened their entire cause through greater diversity. Whenever they did their advocacy events, I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines. My experience, which should’ve been included, wasn’t. No one was speaking for me, and I was clearly different, and struggling alone.

Knowing what I know now, about myself, about allies, about asexuality, I don’t think I ever personally experienced someone you could describe as an ally with one exception. One teacher, my high school shop teacher, who was also a great mentor to me, was the one who called out a girl in class for sexually harassing me. If he hadn’t said anything, I certainly wouldn’t have. Unfortunately I was sexually harassed again in that same class a few more times (by different people), and outside of his watch.

Ultimately, if I or anyone else doesn’t know what they are, they’re going to feel exactly like I did. They’re going to struggle exactly like I did. They’re going to resent the very people and groups with whom they should be allying themselves, just like I did. That’s why I think that advocacy is where efforts should be aimed. Without advocacy, any allies you are fortunate enough to find are going to be be sporadic, no matter how well-intentioned, like my shop teacher. If there’s knowledge and advocacy, especially in existing LGBTQA groups, good allies will follow necessarily.

As for me, allies are a bit of a moot point at this point in my life. I’m older, independent, and am battle-hardned so to speak (complete with unfortunate scars). I don’t feel like their existence in my life now would serve any useful purpose. I would love it if no one else had to go through what I did though.

 

There you have it. Thanks for reading! I enjoyed writing this and hope that it provides an interesting take on the subject as well as  adds diversity to the carnival.

 

List of Things

It might seem odd to many people, but I’ve never actually felt an intrinsic compelling reason to enter into a romantic relationship. Sure, there were plenty of external reasons, like not wanting to be left out, and not wanting to look different, but there wasn’t much inside me that was pushing in that direction. I remember the first time I thought about getting into a relationship. I imagined it in stages. Each stage progressed along to the next in a staircase fashion. When I thought about it this way, entering a relationship didn’t make sense. If you didn’t know you were going to want to go through all the stages (I definitely didn’t), why would you bother to begin with?

Whereas everyone else seemed to have their compelling reasons, I didn’t. Instead of looking for reasons that made sense to me, I just pushed myself forward anyway. This was uncomfortable, and largely unsuccessful. It made me feel bad, inferior, unlovable, and any other negative adjectives you might imagine. I didn’t even really think about not having my own reasons and drives. When I came across and started identifying with asexuality, I finally felt the nudge to look at relationships from a more internal perspective.

This was a very freeing thought. Wow, I could define things wanted in a relationship independently? I could identify things that got me excited and seek those things from relationships? Such a radical thought, right? I honestly don’t know how friends were defining relationships years ago, or even now. I don’t know what they were seeking. I never actually knew. Now I have the opportunity to think about what’s important to me, and what gets me excited. Could it be that identifying these things actually makes relationships more compelling to me? It absolutely does! I think one of the things is something I’ve always known, even if I kept it under pretty tight wraps for much of my life, and that’s emotional closeness. Feeling emotionally close to someone, and having them feel the same way about me is something that deep down, I’ve always wanted. I think this is probably a pretty common desire, though many might hesitate to admit it.

There are also things that I realize I don’t have to want. Things I can say ‘no’ to. Things I don’t have to be afraid of. One of these things is kissing. I really don’t want to kiss anyone. Not in any passionate mouth-mouth way anyway. In the few times I went out on “dates” with girls, it was always buried in the back of my mind that they were going to expect it. It was part of the cultural narrative, and they were going to expect it, and what was I going to do? I became kind of focused on it and I think the fear got in the way of me enjoying the moment. There are plenty of things like this. Things I don’t want, but are part of a cultural narrative. A narrative that I’m now feeling comfortable about dumping.

But this isn’t about the things I don’t want. What things do I want? I had so much fun running through this thought experiment. I felt like I was really getting to know me, and just imagining some of these things just left me with such a warm, happy feeling about myself and my future. So here they are (these are mostly physical things, and unless otherwise noted, I’m imagining these scenarios where we’re both fully clothed):

  • Sitting next to her closely, kind of like cuddling (but I don’t really have a solid definition of what that is). Being physically close to someone is really intense for me. I don’t let many people inside my personal bubble space often, so this feels like something that’s really special to me.
  • Lying next to her with my head on her chest so I can hear her breathing and her heart beating. I’m sorry, but I think this is one of the most intimate things I can imagine. I’ve always felt really alone in the world, and doing something like this seems like it would be absolutely amazing. That’s another person I’m listening to. They’re alive. I can hear them. I’m not alone in the world. How could anyone want anything more than this?
  • I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t too crazy about holding hands, but when I thought about it in more detail, I realized that actually, there is a way I would feel more comfortable with it. If we were sitting or lying down somewhere, I think I’d find it very enjoyable. In that context, it’s an active thing you’re doing rather than just holding hands while walking around. The latter feels like something that’s secondary. You’re not really focusing on it. When I’m in motion, like while walking around, I just have this quirk that I need full motion of my body. If we were sitting down together, I don’t have that concern, and I can focus on the touch-touch connection.
  • I don’t know exactly how to describe this next one, but I’ll say one of the things I most like the feel of is my hair when it’s been warmed by the sun. I think I would enjoy someone else’s hair being warmed by the sun as well. I guess you could call it head petting? That makes me think too much like a dog or something, but hopefully the idea is clear. This just seems like something nice to do, with a touch component that feels nice.
  • I’ve said here and previously how I feel about kissing (specifically the normal idea of romantic mouth-mouth kissing), but that doesn’t take kissing of the table completely. On the whole, it’s still less important to me, though I can imagine for others it’s a bigger deal, so there are a number of compromises I think I can make here. One is me kissing her on the cheek. While that doesn’t mean much to me, I think I could find it enjoyable. I think it’s probably the only way I’d be comfortable kissing someone else. On the other hand, if she wanted to kiss me in other ways, I don’t think that would be a problem. On the cheek, a peck on the mouth, anywhere above the shoulders, I would be fine with that. And though it’s not a “kiss” per se, I’m going to toss eskimo kisses in here, because it’s cute as hell, and honestly would mean a lot more to me than more conventional kissing.

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but these are all things that I’m really aware of now. Things that give me nice warm feelings when I think about them. Things that intrinsically compel me to engage in a relationship myself. This is such a change for me, and it’s so positive. I never could’ve honestly considered these things previously. There were just too many cultural pressures, especially associated with being male. Please pardon the phrasing, but that’s a fucking shame. To any guys out there: Find your own way. You don’t have to feel pressured to act a certain way. You don’t have to want things “everyone” wants. You don’t have to want things the cultural narrative says you have to want. You can want things you want. Nothing you want to do takes away from your male-ness. If you’re male, and you like doing something, then you’re defining male-ness to include that something. Period.

Speaking of cultural narratives, I don’t want to leave sex out of the dialog here. You’ll notice it’s not really included at all in my list above. That’s genuine. It’s not part of my list. I’m willing to do it. I think it might be fun, but it’s not a driving factor for me. Before I continue, let me be clear: no one, myself included, is obligated to include sex (or anything) in their list of things. That said, I do understand how important it is for people. Well, maybe I don’t fully understand, but I have a good hunch. So is there any way I can spin sex as an activity in such a way that I would include it in my list? I think there is. The way I can imagine it working (and please excuse my euphemisms) would be in a mutual “self-gifting” type of context. (Are you on board with the euphemism? Great!). The amount of trust I would have to feel for this to work is immense. I would have to know that she understood how far outside of my comfort zone this was. I’d be doing this for her. A mutual “self-gifting” type of context is something that allows for more freedom and flexibility I think, which makes it much more attainable. That said, more conventional sex is not totally off the table. It’s just not on my list. With a respectful partner, I’m willing to talk about this stuff so we can both feel satisfied, and respected. I think the “Want! Will… Won’t.” charts are brilliant, and a great way for someone like me (or anyone) to feel great about this kind of thing. Please check them out! Borrowed from http://smarthotfun.com/wantwillwontchart/ (reproduced here to save on her bandwidth).

Will Want Won’t Instructions and

Will Want Won’t Example Chart (Giving)

Will Want Won’t Chart (Receiving)

Will Want Won’t Toys (Giving)

Will Want Won’t Toys (Receiving)

Statistics are Rad

Let’s talk about normal.

I know there’s a big push from a range of people to stop calling things or people “normal”. Their argument (and it’s a good one) is that there is so much diversity among people, how can anyone be “normal”? You know what? I completely agree with that. People who say that are absolutely correct, and we’d all be a lot better off if we took that fact to heart.

The problem I have is that we can’t simply remove the concept of normal from our dialogs. It’s a useful concept, and those dialogs are important. Yes, no individual is “normal” per se, but if we follow that road to its inevitable conclusion, we just end up in relativistic hell. I personally insist on using the word normal, and when I do, I’m referring to the statistical normal.

Standard bell curve

Hey baby, I like your curves.

It’s true that among individuals, each person is different. That is to say, they fall somewhere different on a normal distribution bell curve. There are actually a mathematically infinite number of positions you could be on the bell curve. An individual could fall on any one of them, and possibly be the only person ever in the history of the universe to fall there! So yeah, basically everyone is different, and even math is cool with that. But still, the idea of “normal” is useful. I’m of the opinion that when you’re dealing with a large set (like people) and discussing complicated attributes (like with people) chances are, you’re going to be describing a bell curve like the one pictured above at some point.

There’s a mean (μ) and the concept of a standard deviation (σ) from that mean. If you take everybody who falls within one standard deviation of the statistical average, you’d be taking 68.2% of the entire population. That’s already the majority, but I wouldn’t quite call it normal. 31.8% is still a huge chunk of people. So instead we take two standard deviations. Now we’re talking about 95.4% of the population. That’s more than the majority, that’s normal.

This is such a useful concept. You can objectively say whether or not someone is normal. Before you start grabbing pitchforks and torches, let me explain the crucial factor here. “Normal” is not (never, ever ever) a judgment of validity, acceptability, or a reason to discriminate or anything else. It’s an objective, unbiased mathematical concept. Someone being normal or not normal means about as much as whether or not they the like The Simpsons. Some people do, some people don’t. It doesn’t really say anything about them as people. If 95.4% of the population liked The Simpsons, then I’d say liking The Simpsons was normal and not liking The Simpsons was not normal. It’s useful for me to be able to say that. It’s a useful statistical fact about the population, and I can use that language to have a dialog with someone else about the population. Do I care that 4.6% of people aren’t normal and don’t like The Simpsons? Not really. It’s just a fact of the population.

Playing Devil’s Advocate, I will say that many people have a hard time separating the objective, unbiased normal vs. not normal from the subjective, biased good vs. bad. If you think that may describe you, then you might consider not using the word normal. Try to get that notion of good vs. bad out of your head. I personally don’t have a problem with the idea of statistical normal. Math is my lover. We’ve been BFFs since Sesame Street. Yes we had a rough patch with discrete mathematics and theory of computation, but it’s never lied to me, and I expect it never will. It has no agenda, no bias and is as close to absolute truth as humans may ever get. That being the case, I think I’ll continue to stick to using words and concepts I understand that are backed up by mathematics and objective logic.