Who the Frag Am I?

February 12, 2010

On the First Steps in My Journey

Filed under: Identity — wtfmi @ 2:49 am

This is all Hillary Clinton’s fault.

A couple years ago I was stressed out, depressed, and having a hard time holding it all together — pretty much like I’ve always been. So it didn’t mean much to me.

As it happened, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were both running for the Democratic presidential nomination, which I found to be neat in a resigned sort of way. (“Cool! But shouldn’t this have happened, like, decades ago?”)

Then I started to notice (what was to me) a very obvious difference in how people were treating the two candidates, both directly and when discussing them with others. I talked to my husband about it and found, rather to my dismay, that he didn’t see it t all. He thought I was reading too much into things, that I was over-reacting, that I was getting just a touch hysterical on the subject.

I went ballistic. This pushed buttons I didn’t even realize I had.

Direct sexism has only rarely annoyed me because I only rarely think of myself as female. (I am biologically female and I identify as female-gendered when asked because it’s easier, but my grasp on gender has always been rather weak.) But not being taken seriously, not being believed, not being trusted with my own experiences … yeah. That’s a sore spot.

So for perhaps the first time I felt a thread of connection with feminists, and by extension with other women. I’ve never liked other women, probably due to neuro-atypicality. (Been attracted to them, yes. Been friends with them, no.) But I became interested in feminism and all its tropes, and when I am interested in something I study it exhaustively.

I went through a series of important realizations very quickly: that I harbor a lot of sexist attitudes; that sexism has affected me in many ways; that feminism has a lot to offer me; that feminists really annoy me.

And then I turned the question (of the primary) around and looked at it from the other side … and realized that I was profoundly uncomfortable about questions of race. So off I went to study racism. (This one I am still having trouble with. But more on that later.)

Along the way, I ran (back) into fat acceptance. (I’d wandered into fat acceptance many years ago via the BBW community, but I was at the time rather creeped out by a particular BBW-aficionado in my life and gave the whole thing a pass.) This time I came in through the research side of things — which left me with a deep distrust of medical press releases but a much better appreciation for my physical body.

One of the most startling thoughts that came out of learning about fat acceptance, though, was that not only is it none of your business if I am fat, but that it’s not any of your business whether or not I am healthy either. I’ll repeat that: My health is none of your business.

That one just blew me out of the water.

And that led me to reading about disability. And just in time … because right about then, my chronic and largely untreated depression got worse. Again. And I decided that it was time to start taking my mental health seriously. This wasn’t easy for me because I had long believed that my depression (and all of my other peculiarities) were weakness, pure and simple. If I were better, I wouldn’t have these problems.

The generic depression-and-anxiety diagnosis became bipolar disorder with a side of autism. I freaked out. I still am, to some extent. But I am beginning to feel my way through.

So if it wasn’t for Hillary Clinton, I would still be trundling along the same old way: stressed out, depressed, barely holding it all together, and blaming myself every step of the way. But instead I have a metric shit-tonne of new knowledge and tools rumbling about in my head, helping me — finally! — to understand myself just a little bit better.

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