Posted in advocacy, Freedom, science, writing

Why We Need To Stop Cancelling Artists

Consider this a longread.

I’m not one to talk political at people, and this will not be a political piece. However, there is something that deeply perturbs me about silencing artists. We’ll talk about two today who have received heaping amounts of backlash for commentary they’ve made on a very touchy subject: LGBTQ+ rights.

Let me start off by making my views clear. I absolutely love LGBTQ+ people. I absolutely believe they deserve all the same rights we have as cis gendered people. I believe in gay marriage, I support Trans-rights, and particularly am in love with unisex bathrooms (because we all do the same thing, why are we so separated anyway?). What I don’t understand (and please, feel free to clarify for me in the comments) is why there is an argument over biological sex. Sex is indeed something we’re born into, but as you learn in undergraduate biological psychology, often times the brain can develop more feminine in a male-oriented body or develop more male in a female-oriented body. There are indeed hormones that are more specific to each sex.

This does not make things black and white, however. This means there is indeed a spectrum of gender identity. What this does not mean is that if you “feel kind of boyish” one day and you “feel kind of girlish” the other day, that you are gender non-binary. We all feel kind of feminine and/or masculine depending on who we are around, where we live, and what day it is in our hormonal cycle (because yes, men have them too).

What does any of this have to do with artists?

Well, let’s look at an example.

Dave Chappelle

Source: Daily Hawker

I was talking with a friend some weeks ago and when I mentioned the comedian, she said “oh, didn’t he say something transphobic or whatever?” and I said “I doubt it.” So I watched The Closer. And low and behold, I was absolutely right. Let me tell you what he DID say.

The beginning of his expression about trans rights and activism, he said specifically that he was for trans rights. Now, this doesn’t make someone ABSOLUTELY for trans rights, hell, anyone can say it. But I listened more closely. One of his first points in The Closer was that the LGBTQ+ movement has moved much faster than the civil rights movement. Things are gettin’ done. Fast.

Yes, trans people are still attacked. Yes, gay people are still attacked. Yes, there is still a humungous stigma against those who experience gender dysphoria. Yes, it shouldn’t be like that.

But things are moving forward. Commercials about LGBTQ+ rights are there. People are celebrating life and celebrating those in their life who are apart of that group. It’s a beautiful thing, it really is. But Chappelle made a striking, obvious, and brutal point: “gay people are minorities until they need to be white again.”

Now, that’s not attacking gay people. What that’s saying is that people who are gay (or any of the LGBTQ+) and who are white, still have a privilege and advantage over those of us who are heavily pigmented. Hell, even I have privilege, because I am mixed race and lighter than my father, who is a very dark black. I can admit that. Why can’t some people of the LGBTQ+ community?

One of his more controversial sayings, which I felt uncomfortable about too until I thought about what he said was: “DaBaby shot and killed a [man] in Walmart in North Carolina. Nothing bad happened to his career. Do you see where I’m going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a [man] but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”

This one is hard. But what he’s saying is clear. Careers, particularly artists like him who are in the eye of the public, are being slandered for saying things like biological sex exists. And it does. You can be born and man, you can be born a woman. No one is telling you that you have to stay as a man or as a woman gender-wise. It’s simply saying when you are born, you either have a penis, a vagina, or a combination therein. Nothing can change that as a fact.

Where Chappelle made a mistake is saying “gender is a fact.” Gender is more fluid, it’s on that spectrum, chemically and mentally, as we all learn now in undergraduate study (if you didn’t learn that, you’re learning it now). Sex is biological, and tied to your hormones, which, whether you like it or not, are still divided: men will have more testosterone than women, and women will have more estrogen than men. Nothing will change that as a fact either. If this wasn’t the case, trans people wouldn’t need hormones to grow into who they really are.

What I really liked, though, was what he said at the end: “Go back, go back tonight, after the show . . . I said, ‘how much do I have to participate in your self-image?’ I said, ‘you shouldn’t discuss this in front of black people,’ I know n**as in Brooklyn who wear high heels just to feel safe.’ I asked you why is it easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than it is for Cassius Clay to change his name?”

It’s the last line that seals it for me.

This has never been a tirade against trans people or trans rights or LGBTQ+ rights, it’s been about who gets the most privilege. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s a very well known fact that the experiences of a black trans woman will be much different from a white trans woman. Chappelle points out the imbalance in justice in The Closer. It has absolutely nothing to do with trans rights.

You know who does have to do with trans rights, though?

J.K Rowling

Source: Hawtcelebs

Infamous Harry Potter author.

She liked some tweets by someone who supposedly said something transphobic. If that supposed transphobic thing was “biological sex exists” I’m going to blow my lid.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what tweets Rowling liked because I’m rarely on Twitter and this happened a few years ago. I do know that Rowling having a cross dressing murderer in her book Troubled Blood (which I have) does not mean she is saying trans people are dangerous. Cross-dressing doesn’t even mean someone is trans. Hell, I love wearing dude sweats with a wife beater tank. I cross-dress. I’m not trans.

Now that we got that out of the way.

Rowling wrote an article on all of the allegations against her, and a few quotes stuck out to me, one of which I do indeed have a minor problem with.

One thing she points out is: “The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England), psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that ‘claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not align substantially with any robust data or studies in this tea. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’ “

In fact, one big topic in the trans community that isn’t talked about enough, and which J.K Rowling mentions in this article, is that people DO de-transition. They are silenced, they are rarely lifted up by the trans community, and that to me is disrespectful and hurtful. There are people who transitioned too early and saw it as a mistake. There are people who were confused on what it actually meant to have gender dysphoria, and thought that because they liked boy toys and played with boys as a kid, that they were actually a man. This sometimes does irreversible harm to the body: some women never get their voice back and testosterone permanently alters their physical form. Now, I am not a conservative and I rarely agree with everything YouTuber Blaire White says, but in this video she invites a de-transitioner on her channel and hearing that story made me research this topic on my own. Take a listen.

What Rowling seems to be afraid of is people taking advantage of the system. She says at one point that “the current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may not secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law.”

What I think people THINK she is saying is that people who don’t take hormones or surgery aren’t real trans men or women. She is not saying that. She is saying you can walk up into court, put on a dress as a man, say “I’m a woman” and have a lawful certificate prove it. What Rowling worries about, as a survivor of sexual assault, is sick men praying on vulnerable women.

Now, as someone who has worked for 5+ years as a peer counselor, I will tell you worldview is the first thing we look at and what I hear is a woman who is terrified of something that may never happen because of what has happened to her. I hear a woman who still remembers what it felt like to have a man overpower her, and I hear and understand her worries for other women and children. However, I also believe there are many good men in this world, and most won’t enter a bathroom with the legal guise of a woman to molest or assault a child/woman. Rowling’s comments aren’t coming from a place of hatred, they’re coming from a skewed worldview.

She says: “I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of color, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”

This is the quote I had an issue with. For one she said “like women”, as if trans women aren’t women. They are indeed, neurologically, women. Their brans have developed with more feminine hormones and structure, so they are women. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But also, most of her article is so focused on the abuse by men, the overpowering by men, the this by men, the that by men, that it almost comes off like she despises or maybe fears them still. This has absolutely nothing to do with trans women or men. It has to do with Rowling and her own inner demons.

If you’re curious of her full article, click here.

Conclusion

And so we see that when someone is called out for being “transphobic”, we really need to dive into what’s being said and what it means. Saying that biological sex exists is not transphobic. Choosing not to date someone who is transgender is not transphobic. It’s hurtful and discriminatory, but it’s not transphobic. I could choose not to date someone because they’re short. It’s discriminatory but it’s not because I hate short people, it’s because I’m not comfortable with it. And that’s my personal preference and people are allowed to have that when choosing their mates (for the record, my boyfriend is shorter than I am and we get along just fine.) Comparing the injustice against people of color to the quick moving, and quite successful LGBTQ+ movement isn’t transphobic. Being afraid of sexual assault, even when it is based on personal past trauma, has nothing to do with trans rights and therefore is not transphobic.

Saying “I hate trans people” is transphobic.

Hurting someone because they are trans is transphobic.

Refusing service because someone is trans is transphobic.

And last but not least:

Artists are the voice of our generations. They point out things to us that maybe we don’t always see. They speak words that are controversial. They bring in their perspective and yes, sometimes that perspective is based on anger or jealousy or past trauma. They are human.

The day you can’t handle someone else’s opinion is the day you need to get off the internet.

I wish I was famous enough to get cancelled for this article.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in psychology, science

Mental Health Month: Dissociation

As promised, here is last weekend’s OTHER Mental Health Month post. Tonight we’re talking about Dissociative Disorders.

You all know how this works: we talk about what the manual classifies as disorders, then we talk about the experiences. If you would like your mental health story (substance use and LGBTQ+ also!) shared on this site for Mental Health Month, contact me here, or reach me on my social media (linked below). People have seem to like reaching out through Instagram, and I enjoy talking with people. Feel free to contact me just to chat–that’s what’s been happening most recently.

Let’s dive into it.

Like Bipolar, this section is concise in the DSM-5 and tied deeply to studies in cognitive psychology, especially when it comes to the controversy of repressed memories. You’ll recognize the first diagnosis:

Dissociative Identity Disorder: This is not a light diagnosis to come by, although it has a wild history of it’s introduction into mainstream mental health. Formally known as “Multiple Personality Disorder,” DID is characterized with identity crisis. This means someone’s personality states are split into two or more, and can affect memory, behavior, perception, cognition, and other senses. This can be reported by others, or noticed by the individual themselves. Gaps in memory of trauma or everyday events may be obvious. This, obviously, must cause severe distress. We’ll talk more about this below.

Dissociative Amnesia: This is also related to trauma. The individual will be unable to recall autobiographical information related to a trauma or stressor. This is not the same as being stressed out and forgetting your keys. The forgetting must be above and beyond that of ordinary memory decay. This can be with or without dissociative fugue.

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: Depersonalization is feeling detached, or outside of your body observing your thoughts, feeling, and bodily sensations. Things feel unreal, your self is absent, and your sense of time is distorted. Derealization is a detachment with respect to what is around you: objects, people, feel unreal, wrong, or are distorted. You do not leave reality but this does cause distress and impairment in everyday life.

Other Specified Dissociative Disorder: Mixed symptoms of the above types.

Unspecified Dissociative Disorder: People experience characteristics of the above, but none of it meets the full criteria. Again, your normal is disordered.

Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?

This is the big question everyone asks.

I don’t refute people’s experiences. If someone tells me they have 25 different personalities, I’m not going to sit there and tell them they don’t; I’m not inside their body or their brain, and I haven’t lived their life. And it seems in the science community that experiences aren’t being question either, but rather the onset of symptoms comes into question. So, let’s talk about what we DO know.

  1. People are distressed by these experiences. Some lose control of their lives, bounce between hospitals, treatment centers, group homes. People are reliving traumas in their body and their mind. This is not a joke.
  2. Repressed memories, since their conceptual birth within Freudian times and psychodynamics, have never had any real conclusive studies. Behaviors can be studied of course; biological responses can be studied, of course, but whether or not someone’s memory is correct cannot be studied. If you ever take a cognitive neuroscience or psychology class, you will learn that memories are reconstructive. That is, our brains put memories together as we remember them. They are not snapshots of the past. We retain central ideas and key themes, but we will not remember incidents or scenes as they are. Flashbulb memories, those that are caused by sudden trauma, have been shown just as unreliable as our regular memories. Researchers have actually seen this process; new neurons branch and stimulate growth as we remember something–they are not pulling from neurons that are already there. Memory is not as simple as it seems and research on repressed memories is inconclusive.
  3. DID has a bad wrap. It got a bad wrap from people across the country back in the day opening treatment centers, holding people who are struggled with some sort of mental distress in their lives, tying them down, and telling them they have different people living inside of them. These centers were eventually disbanded for fraudulent billing (they got a lot of money for this breakthrough treatment) and got ousted as a cult. They kept people from their families, told them their families were the ones who had abused them, and ruined a lot of lives. It took years for those people to get real trauma therapy and realize their identity was intact. There’s a documentary on one of these centers that I watched in my Research course least year. If I find it, Ill post the link. The concert today, though, is whether this kind of literal brain washing is still happening.
  4. Planted memories are a little more solid than repressed memories. Again, our memories are reconstructed upon remembering, so it’s been shown that people are inclined to fill-in-the-blanks sometimes, remember something that was there that wasn’t.

So, in the spirit of respecting those who know this to be their experience, and also respecting cognitive science which shows it may be possible to create these personalities in therapy, I looked up an article that compared the two causes of DID: Trauma Or Fantasy? I can’t link the study because I downloaded it from my school’s database, but if you’re interested in reading it, contact me.

Researchers compared four different groups: Genuine DID diagnosed individuals, DID simulating individuals (people acting), people with PTSD, and a healthy control group (“healthy” meaning unaffected by a condition). Long story short, results showed that those in the Genuine DID group were not more prone to suggestive memories nor were they more likely to generate false memories. There are some limitations with this study, one being that it was a small group of people and that their malingering results came back inconclusive; I didn’t see them list any reasons for this. They used reliable and valid testing measures, but didn’t experiment, which is a big problem if they’re really trying to challenge the fantasy model of DID.

The point of all this scientific arguing? People’s experiences are people’s experiences. I honestly don’t care if a therapist put it in your head or if you actually went through a horrific trauma. The point is you’re distressed, you’re suffering, and no one needs that in their life. As far as experience is concerned, DID is as real as any other condition.

Does Your Trauma Need To Be Severe?

This is a hard question. When it comes to DID, it’s highly unlikely those series experiences are going to come after something like your verbally abusive dad. I’m not saying it can’t, we don’t know everything there is to know about the brain or how it processes things that harm us, but it is unlikely. However, derealization and depersonalization are common in people with anxiety and PTSD.

My second depersonalization episode happened when I was 15. I remember (and there’s a chance I’m remembering incorrectly, remember?) sitting in the passenger seat of my mom’s car as she drove me to school. I usually rode my bike or walked, but it was raining particularly hard that day. I felt myself floating, my spirit, and I was leaving my body. The inside of the car didn’t feel real, my arms didn’t feel real, and the experience of life wasn’t real. I told my mom, I said, “see, there it is again, none of this feels real. The car doesn’t feel real. It’s weird.”

I don’t remember if she said anything. But from that point on, dissociation became synonymous with living for me. I walked across four lanes of traffic and the three miles home with friends shouting at me, shaking me, calling my name, and I was lost in a void. I don’t remember them shouting at me. I don’t remember them touching me or that I’d narrowly escaped death. What I do remember is blackness. Becuase that’s all I saw.

It wasn’t painful.

It felt ethereal almost. I’d shed my physicality. I’d shed my ego, my anxiety, my worry, my fear. I’d shed my anger, and I had a lot of it back then. I’d shed my need for escape. I’d shed my uncomfortable reality. And, as strange as this sounds, it felt damp and warm, the blackness did. I couldn’t feel it how we feel, say, water on our skin, but I felt it in a purely infinite, internal sense. I felt spread across eons and for the first time I felt complete.

In our world, we diagnose this as dissociation, but I have not been convinced. This felt like I experienced raw life, real life, what we are outside of these meat sacks. But that’s a whole other conversation.

I remember walking through the door of my apartment and my dad asking me how school was. That, and the void.

I was never sexually abused or physically beaten to the point of hospitalization. I’ve never been in a car accident or a house fire. By big trauma event standards, I’m pretty low on the scale. I have endured repeated emotional and verbal abuse, some physical violence, homelessness, schooling terrors, and an alcoholic/drug addict parent while growing up. There are painful memories and a lot has stuck with me. So, the answer to the above question is, no. If something hurts you, your body and mind respond in the best protective coping mechanisms it can. Sometimes it needs to yank you out of the physical world and remind you who you are.

Does Excessive Day-Dreaming Count?

By DSM standards, no.

But, if your day-dreaming becomes so distracting that you find yourself struggling day to day, it’s worth talking about.

Thank you all for coming down this road with me. Mental health isn’t just my job or my personal affliction, it’s also my passion to share my experiences and knowledge, and to be apart of this kind of writing community. I am terrified of speaking and haven’t yet climbed over that hurdle, so writing is the next best way for me to be active in mental health advocacy. Thank you for being there with me.

This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we will continue with Gender Dysphoria, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and Personality Disorders. If you have a story you’d like to share with me, here are my social media handles. *Feel free to just chat with me, it’s been great getting to know all of you* My email info is linked above as well.

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

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