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Upheaval

So, as y’all have no doubt noticed, things have been pretty quiet around here lately. The reasons for this are simple enough on the surface: I’ve been busy. August has been, to put it mildly, an extremely hectic month for me.

There was, of course, my trip. This was wonderful, but it was also busy. I spent more time with other people than I did with my laptop, which on the whole I suspect was a good thing, but did mean I updated rather less.

That wasn’t the primary reason for my absence, though–I’ve been dealing with work and, moreso, with some rather drastic changes to my plans for the fall.

Bluntly, I was planning to be going school. This is not going to happen. I owe my school two thousand dollars, and until that has been paid, I cannot register for any courses. I do not have two thousand dollars, so I’m taking a semester off. I found out about this in a very precipitous fashion, and it hit me hard! I’ve mostly recovered now, but dealing with the emotional fallout from that took time.

Beyond the emotional, this turn of events has real practical implications. There’s a surprising amount of bureaucracy to work through–canceling things, applying for others, finding a new counsellor (Student Counselling Services is only open to current students, alas)…paperwork. And phone calls. Both of which are things I despise, and which take their toll on me.

And finally, there is money. I need a job. I have my work with my school, but it doesn’t pay enough. I was hoping to work for my father at the Canadian National Exhibition on weekends, to build up a sort of buffer until I can get back on my feet. I did this this past weekend. It was an unmitigated disaster. I may go back next weekend, I may not; I’m scared to, quite frankly. So that is not necessarily a tenable option for some temporary income.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve created a donations page, with accompanying button. This button, right here:

It is to go on my new Donations page. As I say there, if you can’t or don’t want to help, I understand. But I appreciate, so much, anything you can give.

Wedding Bells

I’ve been thinking about marriage of late. This isn’t at all coincidental, as the universe appears to have done everything in its power to ensure that this is the case. In the past week:

  • I visited my sister, for the first time since she got married.
  • I flew to Winnipeg, partially to attend a friend’s sister’s wedding.
  • I learned my dad and his partner plan to get married.
  • And Proposition 8 was overturned in the USA.

That’s a substantial number of matrimonial events weighing on my mind. The last one is probably the most pertinent, as it’s the most overtly political. I mean, same-sex marriage has been legal here in Canada for a long time. But it’s good to see that it’s slowly moving forward in the USA as well. That being said, allow me to say something some may find shocking (though not, really, if you pay attention to what I’ve said in the past, in various outlets).

I don’t actually believe in marriage.

Or rather, let me clarify: I don’t believe in marriage as a path to legal recognition. As a ceremony of commitment between two (or more) people, I think there’s a lot to be said for it. I mean, I certainly feel it’s possible to have a committed relationship outside of the framework of marriage, but I’m not about to tell anyone their wanting a ceremony to mark said commitment is wrong, or bad. That would be silly.

But I don’t think the government should be involved. A lot of the discussion in the marriage debate has centred around rights–rights married couples have that unmarried ones don’t. Hospital visitations. Joint taxes. Myriad other things (I freely admit I do not know every single way couples benefit from a legally recognized marriage. But I know that in the USA there are over 1,000 benefits at the federal level). I think that, inasmuch as there is a system that grants access to these rights, it is certainly unjust to exclude queer/same-sex couples from that system, which is why I very much support the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and celebrate when it occurs in various locales.

My question, though, is simply this: why must marriage be necessary to access these benefits at all? I mean, yes, in Canada queer married couples have access to all of the same rights as straight ones. But poly relationships, for example, meet with no legal recognition.

Privileging marriage–whether same- or cross-sex–is privileging one kind of relationship above others, and above people who aren’t in relationships, but still trust each other intimately. And that is something I have a great deal of trouble with. I feel, to put it bluntly, that it’s really messed up.

So, no, I don’t support marriage. Not as a legal construct. As something emotionally meaningful to many people, certainly. And that’s not insignificant! But I don’t think it should be the path to tangible benefits, encoded into law. I’m not about to start crusading against same-sex marriage; as I said above, if it is going to have legal benefits, I support those being made available to as many people as possible.

I just feel that it’s a decidedly flawed model.

In the past month or so I have been to two or three workshops on disability and sexuality. All of these, to be clear, were wonderful. They were, however, almost exclusively focused on physical disability.

Now, I want to be crystal clear here: Conversations about physical disabilities and sexuality are incredibly important. I am glad they are being had, and that I have had the opportunity to be a part of several in the extremely recent past. However. I feel like my particular (almost entirely mental) issues definitely have an impact on my sexuality and sexual behaviour, and I haven’t been a part of as many conversations that centre mental issues (though I have no doubt such conversations do exist, especially Here On the Internet).

So this is an attempt to tease out my thoughts on how my experiences with disability shape my sexuality. I am very aware my experiences are not universal, and I welcome other people sharing their viewpoints and experiences in comments, as long as you are not simultaneously denying the reality of my own.

Oh, and in case it’s not obvious, this post will be talking about my sex life. Not in a gratuitously explicit manner, but, like, I’m going to be frank. Because of this, if you are someone who does not particularly wish to become better informed about my sex life (I could imagine this would be true of some people), I would advise you to click away. Save yourselves!

Okay, that was the longest preamble ever, am I right? Let’s get down to business. As you probably know (or if you didn’t, you will now!), I deal with depression and with something else that is probably ADHD, but hasn’t been diagnosed because I don’t have any money. These both have their own issues pertaining to my sexuality, and it’s pretty easy to discern which issues come from which source. So I’m going to divide them up!

Depression:
There’s one obvious impact being depressed can have on one’s sex life: when in the throes of a depressive episode, one’s mind isn’t always on carnal matters. Or at least, mine isn’t. I seek out companionship when I’m depressed, certainly–being around people has alleviated some of my bleakest moments. But sex is not on my mind at those particular times. Which, given how frequently those times occur, can kind of suck.

It can have an effect on relationships too. I’ll be blunt: I’m needy. Given my depression, and the fact that I haven’t (yet) hit upon a course of treatment that helps alleviate it reliably, I rely on people for support pretty heavily. I’m lucky that I have friends willing to serve this role. But if I ever get a long-term romantic partner, it’s very definitely going to shape our relationship. I mean, really, how could it not? It’s a big part of my life. But I worry that my frequent need for reassurance is the sort of thing that could put a strain on a relationship. Which, of course, exacerbates my worry that I will never find one, and feeds into this whole vicious-cycle kind of thing. It’s a problem.

The final depression-related issue I want to address is one I have, personally, been lucky enough not to experience to any great extent. But I’ve definitely spoken to people who have. And it’s one that I think gets overlooked a lot of the time: how medication can effect sexual desire. One pretty common side effect of SSRIs is a diminishment of sexual desire or sexual function. This can pretty drastically change someone’s sexual habits–I have at least one friend (who I’m not naming, because while I’m very open about my own issues online, I’m leerier about airing other people’s problems) who has, in her own estimation, been rendered essentially asexual by the combination of meds she is on. Obviously asexuality is not, in itself, a bad thing. Nor, in itself, is one’s sexuality shifting–that happens sometimes! But if it’s an involuntary shift caused by something you are doing to treat a wholly different problem? That’s the sort of thing that can necessitate some pretty radical reconceptualization of yourself. Which can be a scary or unsettling process. Even if you retain sexual desire, some medications can cause problems with sexual function, which is frustrating in the extreme, and can put a substantial strain on, again, long-term romantic relationships (or even short-term couplings). In many cases, the benefit of the antidepressants is worth this drawback. For other people or at other times…it may be a harder decision (I know it would be for me).

The Other Issues
Alright. I mentioned how my Other Issues are probably ADHD, right? Yes. I did. There’s a number of things bound up in that, but the chief one is a matter of focus. I have, to put it mildly, some issues with focus at the best of times–while writing this post, for example, I’m clicking away to do a half-dozen other things every minute or two–but rarely do they frustrate me as much as they do when I’m having sex.

The thing is, my mind wanders. Always. Most of the time, this is tolerable. But when I am actively doing something sexual, it really fucks with my ability to, well, fuck. Because even if I am really into the person with whom I am doing things, I can’t keep myself focused on what we are doing. I’ll be thinking about plans for the week. Or having a song run through my head. Or (as happened recently) obsessively wondering whether it is Wednesday or Thursday. And there are some things one can quite easily do while having all these thoughts run through their brain, but maintaining a state of arousal is not really one of them.

Because of this, a lot of my sexual encounters end without my achieving orgasm. I know orgasm isn’t the be-all and end-all of sexual experience. Believe me, I know that. But it makes me feel…well, kind of stupid, frankly, to have gotten off a partner, and to be doing things I quite genuinely enjoy with said partner, and to be thinking about the fucking day of the week rather than being able to, y’know, lose myself in the moment and, well, come. It is the sort of situation that lends itself to awkwardness, and is probably the single most frustrating sex-related issue I have.

—–

Uh. I don’t have a neat way to wrap up this post. As with so much of my longer writing, it’s kind of disjointed to begin with, because I don’t have the patience to edit my work (NOT JUST ON MY BLOG. This goes for academic work too. First draft generally = only draft, which I am aware is terrible, and which maybe I will write a whole post about sometime, but now is not that time). This is, not surprisingly, related to some of the issues I was just talking about!

But the one thing I was trying to do with this post is, well, share my experience. Because while I’ve had a lot of conversations about disability and sex, I’ve had very few that address my personal issues. And obviously I am not expecting EVERY CONVERSATION EVER, or even most of them, to be all about my specific problems. Like I said right at the beginning of this post, I think those other conversations are incredibly important. This is just an attempt to pick up on a different thread, as it were.

“How are you?”

So, this is a pretty common question. It’s my standard conversational opener with people, and generally I do in fact mean it as an invitation for folks to tell me if something’s bothering them (if they’re comfortable with that). I’m aware, however, that most people see it as a sort of conversational nicety, the idea seemingly being that a certain ritualistic exchange (“how are you?” “fine, and you?”) has to happen before Real Conversation can begin. Because of this, I’ve been trying to find alternative ways of opening conversation, that don’t adhere quite so nicely to an exchange that’s basically become meaningless in our society, but it’s rather difficult to fight such a firmly entrenched narrative.

Lately, however, I’ve begun pushing back at this script a bit. It wasn’t even really intentional at first. I tend to answer the question fairly honestly, is all. But I’ve started thinking a bit about the response I’ve been giving recently, and people’s reaction to it, and I think there’s definitely stuff to talk about.

That response, since it seems an appropriate time to clarify it, is the one in the title of the post. When asked how I am now, I tend to answer along the lines of “depressed, but otherwise pretty good. And you?”. This…throws people off. It doesn’t fit the script. Firstly, most obviously, because you aren’t actually supposed to say how you’re feeling, but also because a lot people don’t see how both of those concepts (“depressed” and “otherwise not bad”) can co-exist. And that’s what I want to try and explore a bit here.

Here is, I think, the root of the problem: the word ‘depression’ means something different to most non-depressed people (that I’ve spoken to) than it does to me. To them, it’s a sudden thing. A bad mood that comes on for a couple of hours, probably with precipitating cause, and then goes away again. And while it’s present, because of its rarity, it’s consuming. They pay attention to it. When they’re upset, that is what is going on with them.

I don’t work that way. I can’t, and you know why? Because for me, depression is basically a constant. I’m never NOT in a depressed mood. Or at least, very rarely. Certainly, I also experience the more sharply-felt bad times that people seem to be referring to when they use the word, but depression is also my ground state. It’s just worse sometimes.

Because of this, I don’t have the luxury of wallowing in it. I don’t! If I did that, my life would be the most unpleasant thing in the universe, because I would do nothing else. I need to find ways to work through it, to enjoy myself despite feeling shitty. So, that’s what I do! I go out with friends. I spend time with people. I do things I enjoy with folks I like, and I do genuinely have a nice time.

But the whole time, I’m depressed. It doesn’t go away, which is what the people who are puzzled by my response don’t seem to get. I’m depressed. But I can also be fine. Certainly I don’t always pull off that balance, but often enough I do. I have my bad times, where being depressed really is all that’s going on–if asked how I’m doing during one of those times, I’ll most likely say so, too!

But most often, I’m just being honest.

I’m depressed.

I’m fine.

Maybe they can’t be both at once, but I must be. I have to be, because otherwise I would break.

Major Decisions

The pun really is too good to pass up. You see, today I made a decision that will affect the course of my next few years pretty significantly: I changed my major from Theatre Studies to Sociology.

School is a pretty big piece of my life right now, and I’ve written about it before. Like I said in that post, I am in some ways ambivalent about the whole thing. But I do like school, and while I’m here I want to be doing what I like in school.

And more and more I was feeling like that wasn’t theatre. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I still love theatre. I suspect I always will. But I may love it best as a consumer. And Sociology…

Okay, I spend all of my offtime doing cultural criticism. I talk about cultural norms with the people I know. I push back at them through demonstrations, and other activist things. They occupy a lot of my thoughts. But I don’t have any formal training. And I’m not saying you need formal training–I kind of believe the opposite, to be frank. But I feel like for me, personally (and only for me personally–I am not presuming to speak for anyone else), I would like to have the toolkit a formal sociological instruction would provide.

Also (as if this post wasn’t scattered enough already), I want to point out that I know I am going to run into some problematic stuff as I go up through the ranks of sociology classes. Both from my classmates, and probably from my teachers (as I learned just this past semester). To be honest, I’m almost looking forward to that. In theatre, controversial issues rarely come up. And if I can disagree with someone in a classroom environment, and by doing so, maybe change their mind, or the minds of others in the class? I feel that’d be worth it. I’m looking forward to engaging critically with material, rather than in the solely fact-based way that some theatre discourse tends to lapse into.

And sometimes it’ll be hard, and frustrating, and I’ll want to tear my hair out. But overall, I’m feeling like this is a sound choice.

Recap

So, as y’all may have noticed, I’ve not posted much lately. While this sort of silence on my part is hardly unusual, I thought I’d go over why exactly it happened in this case.

Simply put, I’ve been busy. Two conferences/convergences in two weeks (both of which, by the way, were awesome), work, and some significant mental health issues. Which last, let me tell you, are not at all fun.

Two weekends ago (as in, not the one that ended yesterday) was QueeRIOT, a radical queer anarchist convergence, here in Guelph. Friends of mine put it on–this was the inaugural year. I was a volunteer, which while a really positive experience, was also, well, tiring.

Then this past weekend I went to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. This was also excellent. I went to a number of workshops, and met a couple of people I know from the internet in person. But again, it was another four days of fairly high-investment activities, less than a week after I had finished…four days of high-investment activities.

I’m spent. I hope to write more about, in particular, the AMC at some point soon. But for now, I need to recharge.

On Joanna Newsom

Well, not quite. These are actually thoughts on certain fan and press responses to Joanna Newsom, and more particularly, to the fact that she is dating Andy Samberg of SNL.

Let me be clear: I am pretty much opposed to commenting on/dissecting any consensual relationship wherein the participants seem content (and frankly, I’d rather leave dealing with relationships where there are underlying problems to the people who trained to do that, also). I feel it is the business of the people participating in the relationship. The reason I am looking at responses to this particular one (and again, I stress, I am not examining the relationship itself) is because I think they tie together a number of…interesting tropes.

So let’s get started.

There is a certain thread that often comes up when Newsom’s personal life comes up among her fans. Not all of them do this, but enough. It goes like this: “I can’t believe she’s dating Andy Samberg…I mean, he wrote ‘Dick in a Box’. What does she see in him?”

And every time it does show up, I get really pissed off. Like, I don’t care about Samberg personally. I’m not interested in SNL. I barely know him from Adam. But, I mean…maybe she dates him because she likes him? Maybe he makes her laugh! His career would suggest he is good at doing that!

But why do people insist on dismissing him (and her agency in choosing to date him) in this way? The way I see it, there’s at least two major reasons. Which are kind of interrelated, mind.

1) Joanna Newsom is a Magical Pixie

This one is annoying because it’s an impression Newsom can’t seem to shake, and it’s one she’s made clear she dislikes. People continue to write about her this way, and it fosters this idea of her being “alien” or “other”, of only being interested in, I don’t know. High-minded pursuits and Medieval imagery. But you know what? She’s fucking human. She has sworn in interviews, she cops to watching bad TV and drinking beer, she’s a human being. And people’s insistent viewing of her as some kind of ethereal fairy-being means they can’t understand why she would date a guy who, you know, makes jokes for a living. Joanna Newsom doesn’t need jokes! She subsists on moonbeams and morning dew!

2) Joanna Newsom is an ARTIST.

And Samberg, in this equation, is not. The implications here are twofold; the first being that obviously, since Newsom is an ARTIST, she needs to date someone who is similarly ARTISTy. It plays into this weird idea of “dating at your level”, which is awkward and strange. People date outside of their field, profession, or skill level constantly, folks. The world does not end! The second implication is more insidious: it is the division of creative output into “high” and “low”, or “art” and “not-art” categories.

Look, I love what Newsom does. She writes gorgeous, complex, ambitious music. I am not a fan of what Samberg does. SNL is not my style. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Newsom’s work is any more “artistic” than his is! We can’t fucking make that call! It plays into this weird high/low culture divide and frankly, comes off as more than a little rooted in class signifiers. Samberg is for The Masses, so what he does doesn’t count, obviously. Ugh.

——-

These narratives bother me, because of the implications above, but also more generally, because they propose that there is a set of “rules”. There really isn’t. Or at least, there shouldn’t be. The two of them seem by all appearances to be content together, which should be enough. We don’t need to be critiquing whether Samberg is a WORTHY SUBJECT for Newsom to write her heartbreakingly beautiful romantic songs about (yes. This is a question I saw someone raise. HEAD. MEET DESK). If she wants to write songs about him, she will. That’s the point. Everyone should just…let them be.

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