Transpennine

So, here’s a bag of worms that I’m going to tip out all over the floor and really work into the carpet.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder. It’s rare, or it’s presumed to be rare, and I first encountered it a long time ago through BMEzine and the body modification world. The stories would show up a few times a year, usually anonymised, of someone having gone through with cutting off a digit, or a limb, and how miuch happier they were in the aftermath, getting used to existing without the offending body part. In the context of a site where things like ear pointing, tongue splitting, urethral rerouting, penile bisections, clitoridectomies, castration, flesh removal, scleral tattooing, PTFE and titanium implants and good old piercings and tattoos were firmly considered to be value-neutral expressions of personal/sexual/artistic freedom, as long as they were done in a sterile environment, with informed consent, and by a trained practitioner. It was extreme, and still a little controversial, but basically just “one end of the sliding scale” where having your ears pierced was the other end. We nodded, we read the long, technical ramblings about the legal and professional requirements for various types of modification, and moved on.

Now the word “Transabled” is coming up a lot more often, and it’s being linked to disability. And not just people cutting off limbs – There’s people asking to be paralysed (Like Chloe Jennings-White), or to be blinded (Like Jewel Shuping), and more still who use wheelchairs or canes or other accessibility tools for not-directly-physical reasons. I don’t think that the number of people has changed, necessarily, just that the narrative has changed from being one about body modification to being one about inherent identity. As, indeed, it might – I know plenty of modified people, myself included, who feel “just a bit wrong” if (for example) they’ve taken out their piercings or stopped dyeing their hair, and in the other direction I know at least a few modified people who felt “just a bit wrong” before being modified in the first place; The common refrain of “I always knew I’d end up covered in tattoos” is common for a reason. So it’s not unusual for discussions of identity and discussions of body modification to overlap (See “The Church Of Body Modification” for a potted example of how strange it can all get).

A lot of people seem to balk at the comparison of transability and being transgender – Usually along the lines of “Transability is just BIID, and is a mental illness, and being transgender is not a mental illness, we’ve already had that fight, we don’t need to have it again.” – and I understand the reticence. Being transgender is, well, hard enough as it is. But that’s the angle I end up thinking about it from; I’m trans, I’ve always* been trans (Though we can go back and forth until we’re both blue in the face over whether I’m innately non-binary and that people have always treated me as such because they saw that in me, or if I’m “not a woman” because everyone has always told me that I’m not) and it’s something that, when I think about it at all, is pretty keenly felt. Not being “out” to anyone wouldn’t make me cis, dressing up as a woman wouldn’t make me cis, using a girls’ name wouldn’t make me cis, they would all at most just make me miserable. It could be argued that, for example, a chest reconstruction is a long surgery, it’s a painful recovery, it’s risky, it doesn’t always result in the chest you planned for, and society will treat someone that doesn’t pass for cis even worse now that they no longer “automatically” pass as their birth-assigned gender. But nobody worth listening to would ever say “We should never offer top surgery, only counselling to make trans people happier in being stuck with whatever gender they were asigned at birth”.

And I wonder if the same is true for the transabled – Even if told to stay quiet, to never talk about wanting to be paralysed or blind or cut off a limb, they’d still be themselves. I see far too many commentors saying “They’re choosing to be disabled!” in a way that you’d never say to a transgender person “They’re choosing to not be cis!”

And this runs up against the other unpleasant implication – Bodily disabled people telling the transabled “You’re appropriating our experience!” sound a little bit like trans-exclusionary-feminists sometimes (For example, Germaine Greer, who links womanhood with having a vagina, or Julie Bindel, who claims that trans women are just men who want to invade women’s privacy and mock them).

I think if someone told me that they really believed that they should have EDS, if they were saving up to have their joint capsules surgically weakened, if they scrubbed their skin with glasspaper every morning to get that “being touched is painful” feeling and hoicked around on crutches and sat down suddenly every few minutes… I don’t know what I’d do. I’d certainly not hate them. I’d probably worry about them, on the practical level – Are they safe? Are they doing anything that would really cause them serious harm? Is there someone that they know and trust who can ensure that they’re not making rash decisions without thinking through the consequences?

But then this gets to another point – So, BIID or transability is talked about a lot in the sense of “An ablebodied person who believes they should be disabled”, but that kind of assumes another really unfortunate thing – That a disabled person’s body will always feel “right” to them. Indeed, I know that for a lot of us, probably the majority of us, it does, especially for people that’ve always had their disability. But much as the phantom pain in a phantom limb is unsettling, neither all nor no disabled people want to be ablebodied. I strongly suspect that the majority of people denouncing the transabled would assume that all disabled people want to be ablebodied, and indeed that’s a big theme in the comments as well; “I hope you meet someone with a real disability, so that you learn that being disabled is a pointless living hell”. Well, it’ isn’t, but also there are definitely a large number of disabled people who wouldn’t really want an abled body. They want society to be better adapted for their needs – Whether those be spatial, social, temporal – but they don’t want to be abled. Conversely, there are those of us who would bite your hand off to have an abled body, who wake up every morning feeling a deep sense of wrongness (“Why don’t my legs take my weight? How can’t I stir this cup of tea?”) and whose self-image and reality don’t match up even at the most basic level. From talking to people, the “answer” there seems to be a mixture of doing everything they can to get closer to being abled (at least on some axes, if not all – For example, someone may well accept the stairlift because it means they can get around the house without using a cane) and a long, solid grieving process over the body they don’t have.

I don’t know, I’m basically just full of morphine and rambling, but if there’s anyone with BIID or who is transabled who’s reading this, I’d love to hear from you. It’s a subject that I’m woefully ignorant on, and that the media and popular perception seems determined to take out of the hands of the people involved.

*Other than for about fourteen months around when I was nineteen. That was weird.

Personal, personal.

So, Friday was my other meeting with Dr L. First off was really simple – Yes, she’s willing to do the referral, they just need to take bloods for a variety of hormone levels and things like that. She took a quick mental health history (Mine, and close family), re-checked my relationships with my friends and my family, and asked if I’d ever self-harmed; Not asking to see the results, just asking if I had. I, of course, told her, listed methods, and she didn’t judge me at all – She seemed unsurprised, actually. Best possible response. She also did an assessment of “Sexual characteristics” which I assumed would have been something scientific, but was actually “Breasts are present… One piercing… Armpit hair…” So it felt more like a check of “Are you conforming to gender stereotypes?” than “This is a proxy for your existing hormone levels”. If she was actually looking for something like an intersex condition or PCOS, I’d have assumed she’d want to see things like hair growth on stomach, or unusual presentation of genitalia. So I have no idea what that was all about, but she was pleasant and professional and laughed when I said that there had been two piercings, but the cat took objection to the other one. So no fault there.

I then went to get bloods taken, and was lucky in that the nurse on-duty had a slot free immediately, so straight into the room we went, with two tiny butterfly needles. She’d asked “Good vains or bad veins?” and my response was “Crappy veins. Rolly, collapsy, deep and narrow. Paeiatric needles if possible.”

She’d been pleasant about that, seeing what the smallest needles she had were (21g) and being reasonably inquisitive about why I had awful veins. I was happy to chat about EDS-HM, let her stretch up the skin on my right forearm, offered to let her try bending my fingers back to see what a “boggy” joint felt like, but she declined since she was “Risk averse and didn’t like hurting people”. All so far, so normal, in fact fairly positive.

She listened to me when I told her where the good vein was, and I’d taken off my overshirt (leaving me in a vest) so as not to risk getting blood on my cuffs – Regular readers will know that the “one good vein” is a massive sanguine superhighway on the back of my right hand, which bulges clear of the line of the skin on either side of the anatomical snuffbox when I flex. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, a testament to the combination of good muscle development in my forearms, and to the terrifying paper-thinness of my skin. She punctured near it, managed to miss the vein (even though I could feel the tip of the needle brushing against the side of the vessel, and I was happy to tell her to just pull back by half a millimetre and have a second go) then withdrew, leaving it bleeding and with a bruise rising up. She put a cotton swab over it, held my hand to the desk with her thumb to put pressure on it, and waited for the immediate bleeding to stop to try again.

And then things got awful.

Now, you probably all know that I have extensive self-harm scars. They’re all on my left arm (Not the arm she was meant to be looking at), they’re all fairly obviously healed and they obviously (to anyone who knows what wound healing looks like) range from about six months to decades old. I don’t habitually cover them up, firstly since I dislike wearing long sleeves and I don’t think that I should have to hide any part of my body to make someone else more comfortable, and also because I think it’s probably helpful to youngsters who self-harm to see an older gent who basically has his life all in order, and has obviously also done so. I distinctly remember being a young teenager and despairing of the idea that, by self-harming, I’d be stuck forever in teenagehood, somehow. That I’d always be “emotionally immature” and that I’d be hated and thought of as disgusting or pitiable whenever someone saw my arms. I’m not exactly inviting a conversation, but I’m setting a little radio beacon on the numbers-station of non-verbal-communication, that people can have their histories and that their histories aren’t all they are.

But the nurse breached all possible bounds of good taste. Whilst we were talking about something completely unrelated, with her holding my right hand pretty firmly to the desk, she reached out with her free hand and touched my scars. No asking permission. No “Are they a sensitive subject, or can I ask you about them?” Just straight-off-the-bat touching them. And not a brief poke with a finger to indicate what she was talking about, as she asked “What made you do that?”, no, she actually traced them with her finger. Following the longest lines, exploring the texture on the crosshatching. I was so shocked that I froze, which effectively stopped me from pulling my arm away quickly enough.

By the time I unfroze, probably only a few seconds but it felt like forever, I responded with “Because my life is horrible.” and then quickly tried to divert. I could see that she wasn’t going to stop looking at them, or stop asking about them (Just fill in the silences here with inane and incredibly personal remarks like “Don’t you already have enough pain and problems?” and “I can never understand why people would do that” and “That looks like it must have been so painful”) I diverted onto the mechanical nature of them – Indicating the difference between an atrophic and hypertrophic scar, which ones were hyperpigmented, how the difference between a full-thickness lesion and a partial-thickness lesion affected wound healing basically doing the same lecture on immune function and cell growth that I would have given to a nursing student, but with specific reference to the unusual qualities of EDS-HM skin, and with my arm as Exhibit A, instead of a collection of slides.

It was the best I could do, she wouldn’t stop looking at my arm, and she had my other hand pinned to a table so I couldn’t put my overshirt back on.

Eventually, a whole fucking lifetime later, she tried a second venipuncture, but by now I was so tense and nervous that what should have been an easy stick was impossible. Another hole, another bruise. Come back on Monday, get someone else to try.

I left, feeling utterly fucking violated, and despairing of the training of some nurses. How much special knowlege does it take to not ask someone about something that is so obviously personal? I’d never even dream of asking someone how they got a road rash, even though I know that the answer would probably be “Came off my bike, skidded a bit, was fine”, because there’s always the horrible chance that they were riding pillion and the driver wasn’t so lucky. Fuck, I’d never dream of asking someone how they got so much as a papercut. So how did she think it was all right to ask someone, who was already in a very vulnerable situation, in such graphic detail about something which was an obvious symptom of mental illness – Especially when the person doing the asking was pretty obviously not about to sit around for a three-hour unburdening of the soul about the mental and physical pains which might cause someone to self harm (see: apply topical irritant) for relief.

Unsure whether to write an anonymous note saying “Hey, so, your nurse did this, and it was a bit out of line, and she didn’t mean to be intrusive but it made me really uncomfortable, could you ask her to not do it again to anyone else?” or whether that would trace straight back to me and make me the pariah of the practice.

Also, this is at least part of the reason that I’ve been fighting the urge to self-harm so badly for the last couple of days – If people are going to make free with the healed stuff, maybe actual blood-on-skin might make them think twice about touching, or asking, or generally bothering. I know that it won’t help, but that’s how my brain went about it. It’s been a long couple of weeks.

For the record, I’ve not self harmed.

Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015; Look left, look right, then look left again.

It may seem odd, after a year of writing and referring to myself as male, but also talking about my gynaecology appointments, to pick today to come out as trans. I’m, broadly speaking, a trans man – It’s not exactly clear-cut, since I’m never sure what other people are talking about when they talk about feelings of gender, but I feel uncomfortable being described as a woman or grouped with women, and when I imagine what “my ideal me” would look like, it doesn’t have perky breasts and rounded thighs, it has two days’ worth of stubble on its face, ginger chest hair, and the beginnings of a beer belly.

I’ve mentioned before that I was much more comfortable with my body in the past – When I was suitably athletic that “female” was a very long way down the list of descriptors that people looked for in describing me (They usually started with either “Ginger” or “Built like a brick shithouse”, then maybe “Covered in tattoos”, “Shaved head” and “Always wears that horrible army jacket”). Since being crippled, a large part of that ability to self-select which parts of my identity are my most defining characteristic have somewhat waned. It’s hard to make a good physical impression on the average person when, instead of striding up to them with a spring in your step and a grin on your face, you totter in slowly on crutches, then have to sit down and get your breath back before introducing yourself.

So, people’s first impressions are wrecked by my carriage – Small, distracted, unsure on my feet or not on my feet at all. Making a good impression in a wheelchair, when I’m not accustomed to using one, and thus sit in it like a sack of potatoes, is basically impossible.

Then their first impressions are stolen by how I’m dressed – I don’t have the option of peacocking around very much anymore. It’s not as if my absolute finery was particularly fine by anyone else’s standards, but I liked to wear what made me feel comfortable. Now I basically have to choose my outfits based on what I have the energy to put on – Jeans weigh heavy on my hips and restrict my movements, tight T-shirts are impossible to put on with injured shoulders, most of my coats and jackets are too heavy, or have impossibly stiff or fiddly fastenings, which are difficult to do with hands which only partially function most of the time. So I slouch around in worn-out greens, tracksuit bottoms, and loose T-shirts. In an attempt at dragging back some of my sense of self, I’ve taken to sewing my own clothes, to make things that’re comfortable and easy to put on and look right on me – This, of course, requires hours and hours of time per item, not always guaranteed to work as needed, and all reliant on extremely good health whilst working.

And finally, any chance of being percieved as masculine is taken away by the way that we construct masculinity and femininity – By no choice of my own, I’m forced to be passive. I can’t walk far, I can’t carry anything, I can’t drive, I can’t be physically active without really thinking it through first. I certainly can’t spend all evening propping up the bar anymore, either because my legs will give way or my medication will cause me to get incredibly loopy after four or five pints.

What makes matters worse is that EDS-HT (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility Type) is a very “feminine” condition. Despite actually affecting more men than women, more women are likely to seek help (as with most medical issues, really) and more women are likely to talk about it on social media or to go to support groups. As such, I know three cis men with EDS-HT, one or two AFAB nonbinary people, and dozens and dozens of women. Awareness for EDS in general is a bit… It’s not quite pinkified, and not quite explicitly woman-oriented, but it’s cute and quirky and definitely not brimming with the “You’re still a man” rhetoric of testicular cancer, or the “Ill health will strike, even if you’ve not finished your pint” aesthetic of heart disease. It’s a strange thing to be worried about, but I know that a lot of men, cis and trans, will be less willing to even seek treatment in the first place if they, like me, keep brushing it off as “Just another training injury” or “Yeah, my guts are a bit fucked up, I live on nothing but instant noodles and IPA” or even “Of course I’m tired all the time, I work hard”.

EDS, as well as the physical issues, seems to make us all look a bit alike – Big eyes, narrow jaw, small mouth, smooth skin, delicate wrists. Very, very feminine. It tends to make the men look gaunt and interesting, and the women look frankly adorable. When I was a towering inferno of energy and opinions, people tended not to notice that under the multiply-broken nose (Pretty much wearing my politics on my face) and cropped hair I looked like, at best, a seventeen year old boy that was almost fully-grown, but desperately waiting for his beard to grow in.

That was a long preamble. I’m not brilliant at self-editing, and all my thoughts seem to come out in one lump sometimes.

In a couple of days I’m going to the doctor to ask, for the first time ever, if I can have a referral to a gender identity clinic. I don’t know what to expect, other than that there’s a year-long wait.

I worry that, when I see the doctor, she will see a woman that’s lost control of her body so is desperately grasping at straws to change it, so will say “no”.

I worry that she’ll see all of the above – a genderless lump in a wheelchair, in a grey tracksuit, with lank hair and twig limbs – and find it so preposterous that it even has a concept of its own gender, that she’ll laugh me out of the clinic.

I worry that she’ll see someone who is already on so many drugs, that adding hormones to that mix would be an unacceptable risk for too small a gain.

These are not ridiculous worries. These are the worries of someone who lives in a society where gender is always linked to sex – not sex as in “physical sex” but sex as in “fucking”. And everyone knows that disabled people don’t fuck. Everyone knows that gender presentation is linked to being found attractive, or being percieved as your actual gender by your peers. And everyone knows that disabled people don’t have peers, they have carers. And because of the way that the media portrays us and society views us, disabled people don’t have an inner sense of self, we’re literally objects of pity; To be pushed across the road in our wheelchairs, or cited as examples of “Look at that lovely bright smile, despite the horribleness of its life” in inspiration-porn. These are the worries of someone who knows that cis people view transition as something completely cosmetic and optional, rather than being about as vital as pain relief or antihistamines.

For my part, I don’t even know where to begin. I do my best, I’m “read” inconsistently, I’m usually reluctant to talk about gender beyond a grunt of confirmation or a head-shake of denial, and my friends are incredibly supportive.

It’s a unique and horrible set of axes, and I wish there was a better map to navigate it with.

Clarity

This is a bit outside of my usual remit, but I’m going to post it anyway.

You know the meme of “Ironic misandry”? It’s very clever. Basically, you write a tweet/post/status that says “Men are ugly and smell bad” or “Men are stupid” or “Men are fucking disgusting” or “I wish that all men would just vanish, forever” or “Kill all men” and then nobody is allowed to criticise you because it’s ironic and it’s just a marginalised person letting off steam. Any complaints about the post are responded to with “Lol delicious male tears” or “Fragile baby male ego”, and the complainers are judged as hating women and being basically everything thats wrong with society.

That’s exactly how it works, by the way. I’m disabled, so every now and then I can just smack an ablebodied person at-random in the legs with my cane, and nobody is allowed to tell me that I’m being a prick. Enough ablebodied people have hurt me over the years, so I’m allowed to just scream obscenities at them en masse because, hey, they must all be guilty, right?

You make an ironic misandry post which says “Men are worthless”, and nowhere does it actually say that you don’t really believe it, or that it’s just a joke. The meme of “men are worthless” is often a running theme through the blog/feed/timeline of the person saying it, so it’s very easy to believe that the person saying it really believes it. Justifications are usually either “I’m saying it because I’ve been hurt by so many men and thus fear them!” or “I’m only joking, nobody really hates all men, it’s just an expression of frustration at the patriarchy. Nothing to do with you.”

But, no. If I said “Dogs are worthless” you could reasonably assume that I don’t like dogs, rather than that I was annoyed by the social convention of dog ownership. If I said “Neckties are worthless” you could reasonably assume that I really disliked ties, rather than that I was just bothered by the need to wear them on formal occassions. Shouting “Men are gross!” and then retreating back to “I didn’t mean it like that!” when you’re pulled up for it is nothing but intellectual dishonesty – Either be clear in the first place (these posts are so rote that they obviously didn’t just happen to phrase it badly, they picked their words) or don’t post at all.

So why does it bother me so much?

They put up their post that says “Men are worthless”, and lean back in their chair, satisfied. “Ah,” they say “I have made myself feel less trapped by the patriarchy for a couple of seconds, and I haven’t really hurt anyone, because under patriarchy men are not oppressed therefore cannot structurally be harmed by my writing”.

The post is read by men.

By disabled men, who already know that they’re worthless because they’re not physically strong, or cant hold down a job, or don’t have families of their own.

By mentally ill men, who already know that they’re worthless because they cry over every little thing, or can’t be the pillar of emotional support that they’re meant to be.

By trans men, who already know that they’re worthless because they’re about as far from the “ideal man” as it’s possible to get.

By gender-non-conforming men, who already know that they’re worthless because they have to hide their non-conformity to varying degrees.

By non-white men, who already know that they’re worthless because they’re attacked by racists all the time.

By poor men, who already know that they’re worthless because worth in our society is basically always measured in pounds sterling.

By men with low self-esteem, who already know that they’re worthless because that’s basically how low self-esteem works.

“Ah!” you say “But none of these people are attacked for being men! They’re attacked for being disabled or non-white or trans, et cetera, so it’s fine.”

A thought experiment: You’re blonde, and you’ve never been bullied for being blonde. Its always been thought of as either neutral or vaguely desireable. You are, however, gay, and have been bullied for it for your entire life. Being blonde, though, that’s something that you’re happy and comfortable with and you never really have to think about it, even though the rest of your life is a bit of a minefield. You come home one day to find that your entire internet community – The community that’s supposed to be progressive and accepting, not the community of shock-jocks and 1970s bricklayers – is making blonde jokes. Constant blonde jokes. Blondes are stupid, blondes are gullible, blondes are morally-bankrupt golddiggers, blondes are basically no better than animals. Do you say “Oh well, at least they’re not calling me a fag!” or is it just one more bit of upsetting pressure in a life that’s already basically full of it? Even if the reasoning was “Oh well, blondes never have to buy hair bleach, so we’re just venting frustration at that!” would you not feel a little bit irritated and probably want to ask them to stop it?

In saying “Don’t get offended by it, you’re not oppressed for being men, you’re oppressed for being disabled” you’re basically saying “Don’t identify with the fact that you’re a man”. Which, well, is kind of what the patriarchy says to “failed men” as well. Crippled? Ha, forget about being thought of as male, you’re now a sexless lump in a wheelchair. Mentally ill? Isn’t that kind of effeminate, bro? Trans? You’re a woman really. I could go on.

For men that are struggling to cling onto their masculinity – Which is an important part of a lot of men’s identities, just like how being a woman is an important part of a lot of women’s identities – being repeatedly told by the social stratum that they’re part of that men are disgusting and pointless and horrible and should all die is really damaging.

You may note that I keep saying “Their social circle” or “The demographic that they’re part of”, and that’s because I keep wanting to talk about the kinds of people that make blanket statements about gender. We all know that “I hate all women” and “All women are manipulative and evil” and things like that are really common memes, and they’ve had far-reaching effects in society for a really long time. But things are getting better – It’s now widely held that saying that sort of thing is a sign of being a complete swine, and people end up taking sensitivity and diversity courses if they get caught doing it too often, and just generally losing friends. It’s a mark of being retrograde and, in most circles, of being bigoted.

The problem is that ironic misandry is largely practised by well-educated, young, often safely middle-class, often white feminists. People who claim to be all about being progressive, about moving society forwards, about making the world a better place just by being in it. These are people who raelly dominate in online feminist discourse. And thus when anyone wants to spend time in feminist circles, they have to contend with a constant barrage of (ironic!) hate, negativity and bigotry that they’re not allowed to respond to (Because male tears are just delicious, amirite?).

So feminist discourse is being overran by people who, for basically their own amusement, are making people suffer for no good reason, and are making feminism inaccessible to any man that doesn’t live up to the (very old, very patriarchal) stereotype of “Ha, men don’t have insecurities, they can just shrug it off”.

And no, that’s not “Only an ally with conditions, therefore not an ally”. That’s just common-sense “If someone is trying to understand your point, and supports your movement, don’t deliberately make it more difficult for them to join your movement.”

I’m pissed off, I’m hurt, I’ve spent most of the day in a morphine fog and throwing up into a saucepan since I woke up at about a 9 on the pain scale, and I’m sick of seeing basic bigotry being thought of as sparkly funtimes for everyone that matters. Because that’s basically saying that I, and people like me, don’t matter.

I’ve probably got more to say, feel free to argue the toss in the comments.

Walpurgis sauntered in

Very short update today, just that I got the phonecall from the fracture clinic – No bony injury at all on my x-rays, so no fracture clinic appointment, so time for more physio.

I pointed out that I already have more physio on the 6th, but apparently this is *more* more physio.

I genuinely cannot fucking deal with any more physio. It’s exhausting, it’s a complete shitshow as to whether I get someone who wants to help or someone who wants to make me miserable and guilty, and courses are never long enough to do any real good. Plus, since there’s no specialist EDS physios nearby anymore, I get given exercises that I can’t physically do, over and over again. And then I get called either lazy for not doing them, or irresponsible for doing them and hurting myself.

I’m also seeing a GP about my resounding self-hatred on the same day, so that should be fun.

Today I was supposed to be out with Best Friend, shopping for shirts and things. I decided that going clothes shopping alongside someone who generally has a much smoother relationship with his appearance than I do to mine was probably going to just upset me, so I went for a quick lurk around the necropolis instead. Briefly perked up for the two hours that I was out there – Sitting under the cherry-blossom trees with warm stone under your arse and the sound of pigeons echoing int he old funeral chapel will cheer anyone up – but I’m now home again and sore and going back to going out of my mind. Last night was a bit of a dark night of the soul, and I think it’s going to be a while before I pick back up from it.

The Devil came to Moscow

Yesterday turned into an absolute nightmare.

I’d dislocated my right shoulder a couple of days previously, and it was getting more and more painful, wobbling in and out of socket, generally being a nightmare. It felt as if there was a crowbar shoved under my scapula, wedged right through my ribcage into my sternum. I couldn’t lift the arm without tremendous pain, I’d been at maximum morphine and diazepam for half of the week, and I was alternating between sleeping all day, and staring at the ceiling and being unable to sleep when it was appropriate.

So, by Friday, I was enough of a wreck that I phoned NHS Direct.

I cen’t remember the first responder, but I eventually got a call through from a paramedic. She was fantastic – She also lives in my village, and has two first-degree relatives with EDS – and she immediately sent a taxi to take me to accident and emergency.

On one hand, this was fantastic. I got there within ten minutes. On the other, this was terrible, since I ended up at LGI, which has what I can only describe as a clusterfuck of an A+E.

Upon first arriving though, things seemed like they were going to be fine. I was immediately put on a trolley by a ridiculously flirty nurse (In an actual nurses outfit, short skirt and all) and taken into a booth. Her and a second nurse quickly checked over what had happened, noted down my EDS, and sent me off to x-ray.

I got two x-rays, then was wheeled off to a side-room, and told that it wouldn’t be long before they got back to me with my results.

I sat there for four hours. No call button. No pain relief. Nobody checking on me. I alternated between drifting in and out of conciousness, crying in pain, and  After four hours, my attempts at shouting to anyone who passed in the corridor were finally heard (By a random passer-by, not a member of staff) and she went to find someone. After a while, a different nurse came by and said “What’s your name?” and after I replied she vanished again immediately, even as I was trying to ask what was happening. I saw nobody for another hour.

By the time another nurse came by, an hour later, I was complettely insensate with pain.

“Good news” she said “It’s not dislocated, but we just need to send you back for one more x-ray to make sure. Have you had any pain relief?”

I replied that I’d had 14mg of morphine, before coming into hospital. At this point, she snapped;

“WE’RE NOT GIVING YOU MORPHINE!”

And I quickly had to reassure her that I wasn’t going to ask for any.

A third x-ray was taken, I was told to expect a call from the fracture clinic, and I got to go home. More in pain, more exhausted, and no closer to having my shoulder feeling better than before I went.

It’s a day later. My shoulder is still wrecked.

Unrelatedly, but still upsettingly, I’ve been really miserable in my body lately. Not because it’s in so much pain, but because it’s just wrong. I usually don’t feel much dysphoria, but I’ve been getting more uncomfortable in my own skin pretty steadily for the last year, so it might be time to talk to a doctor. Augh. Possibly understandably I’m wary of the idea of having my relationship with my body and my social presentation picked over by a stranger when I don’t even much like to discuss it with my friends, but it feels like it might be the best course of action now. I’ve whinged before, I won’t again.

I want more life, fuckers.

I am dysphoric as fuck today on so many axes.

One of the things that wrecks me emotionally is that I can no longer just identify as “athlete”. People look at me and they don’t see a perfectly-functioning machine that’s difficult to gender, they see a sad-looking woman in a wheelchair. Or rather, they see a sad looking ex-woman in a wheelchair, because of course cripples don’t have gender, they’re just objects to pity.

If there’s one thing that I’ve known since I was very young, it’s that I wasn’t a girl and wasn’t going to grow up to be a woman. Puberty was great – I shot up to six foot tall (before the scoliosis set in), put on muscle like I was being raised for meat, and was androgynous in ways that only a lanky metalhead can be. The same still, broadly, applies, but now I approach the world from a position of either walking with a cane, or being in a wheelchair. And one thing that weakness does is that it feminises the subject. Being treated, for the first time ever, as female is horrible. Having it even more closely tied in to a much older model of femininity (The idea that I’ve rambled about before of there being a almost a position in society for a disabled woman, since we understand the idea of a kept woman in the way that we don’t culturally understand a kept man) is even worse. By nature, I’m the breadwinner-y type. I like to work hard, give my friends presents, be always up for last-minute travel and unlikely heroism. Being stuffed into the mould of broken birdie, pet, fragile girl that people feel sorry for or fetishise for her physical frailty – It’s destabilising.

I was content enough with having a basically-female body, when it was the body of a basically-female nightclub doorman who boxed bareknuckle, had represented the country or county at more than one sport, did manual labour (and later on worked long hours as a lab tech, which is still fairly physical), and was usually mentally sorted by bystanders into “male” or “livestock” rather than “woman” or “ornament” or, worst of all “tragedy” as I am now.

Possibly, in short, I’m feeling insecure in my masculinity for the first time in my life, and I’m resenting that when some people get to have bodies that not only comfortably match their gender identity but also function really well, I get neither.