Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gender and Sexuality

I will not cover everything in this post.

Quotation marks indicate a reference to the term rather than the group defined by the term.

Includes terms I found interesting, and a few I made up out of roots that I think should make them fairly clear, occasionally with added syllables for rolling-off-the-tongue value.

EDIT: anthro- terms were previously gynandro-/androgy- terms (see comments).

Sexual identity is complex.

First of all, the standard-use terms currently don't define sexual orientation by what one is attracted to. The axes are what one likes and what one is--and the name is taken from the interaction between the two.

The assumptions are: you are male or female; you like males, females, both, or neither, and romantic attraction and sexual attraction are intrinsically linked. From these priors, we commonly call people homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual.*

These assumptions fail upon contact with the world. Not everyone is male or female. There are people who self-identify as both, neither, inconsistent/uncaring, or somewhere along a spectrum; there are hormone differences that set people along many parts of the spectrum; and even if we limit it to viable combinations of the X and Y chromosomes that science has formally observed, there are more than two options. Any way you care to slice it, a male/female dichotomy doesn't work.

So we've already found that 'hetero-/homosexual' don't work, because they rely on defined genders/sexes to work--you are attracted to something like you, or something distinct from you. 'Bisexual' does not work because 'bi' means 'two', so if we have more than two genders/sexes--never mind a spectrum--the term starts being rather absurd. Even if there were only two, I would prefer 'ambisexual' rather than 'bisexual', that is 'both' rather than 'two', but that's neither here nor there.

Given only the breakdown of strictly defined self-identity, asexual still works. 'A' simply means 'none', and the fact that it may originally have been meant as 'neither' does no harm to the term.

I will now use 'gynosexual', 'androsexual', and 'anthrosexual' for--respectively--attraction to feminine traits, masculine traits, and humans, and keep 'asexual'.

The added complexity doubles in attraction. I have already made the point that being attracted to a female or a male is not quite the same as being attracted to feminine or masculine traits. It is also possible to be attracted to the idea of a person being male/female, much as one can be attracted to the idea of someone being intersex.

Then there's the point that romantic attraction and physical attraction are not so perfectly snapped together. One can be, for example, asexual but andromantic--that is, lacking in a sexual drive, but still having a desire to be romantically involved with males/people with masculine traits.
* Other terms exist, but are much less common.
To see how complicated this gets in practice, I will refer to a previous post. The focus question: "Is Abby/Maggie a lesbian relationship?"

Strictly speaking, neither Maggie nor Abby have set genders/sexes--that is to say, they lack chromosomes altogether, and appear as whatever they want to look like during that slice of time.

Maggie has chosen a female form because that is what she feels she is. She is also attracted to feminine traits--she is gynosexual--is romantically attracted to people who are female/feminine--gynoromantic--and is attracted to the idea of someone being female. In other words, Maggie is a pretty classic lesbian. One could quibble that Maggie could choose to be male or sexless, but that's splitting some pretty fine hairs.

Abby, on the other hand... Abby likes Maggie. This does not spread to sexual love, but that's not because Abby doesn't find Maggie attractive; it's because Abby hasn't bothered to manufacture a sex drive for herself. Maggie was a creative force, so had a bit of one, and honed it because she wanted to, but entropy would have needed to create one from the ground up, and didn't care enough to manipulate one into being. This makes Abby asexual: it's not that she finds sex repulsive, she just doesn't particularly care about it. Romantically, Abby is attracted to traits, independent of the gender/sex of the being. This makes her anthromantic. Abby chose a vaguely female form and influenced Maggie with some positive bias because she recognized that Maggie would find a female/feminine form more attractive, and because Abby cares about as much about her form as about her partner's.

From Maggie's perspective, it's obviously a lesbian relationship. From Abby's perspective, it's a romantic relationship, and she'd probably look at you oddly if you tried to push gender/sex into it. If given the choice between a lesbian relationship, a heterosexual relationship, a male-homosexual relationship, and a polyamorous relationship, Abby would call it lesbian. But that's not a good description; it is merely better than the other three options.

All in all, I just try to stick with 'romantic,' 'sexual,' and 'relationship.'

Sunday, September 18, 2011


"Name me, then, if I am so simple as that."

A pause. Sorting thoughts, though to find titles or merely sort through ones known, I did not know. "Keeper of the hearth. Peacemaker. Beauty."

Steph turned to Kent, eyes suddenly blazing hot enough to shut even him up. "You are infuriating." Then, as if that statement had broken a dam: "You regularly play tricks when I wish you were serious; you pretend to misunderstand the simplest of concepts simply to annoy me, and yet you pretend to understand things you do not to save face. You are the worst traveling companion I can imagine."

She grabbed his collar and yanked him against the wall. "Why on Earth would I be here if I weren't in love with you?"

It would be difficult to say whom the kiss surprised more.

They didn't have a spiritual guide, or a ship's captain, or a broom, so they did one of the old things. A length of string around both wrists, holding them tight', though not so tight' as they chose to hold each other.

" 'I love you' are not the three most important words in the English language, but 'I love you, too,' are the four."

"Who am I to question it?"

She looked up. "A person. Question all authority. Act if you believe it wrong. The number of people willing to act against something bad increases dramatically if they see someone else fighting it."

The firefly flits through the forest; the firefly flies though the fortress.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The general prompt:
Power you get is your super power. Hit random page. Next power that shows up is the power of your arch nemesis.

My Power: Magic (bit of a Superpower Lottery win, there)
My Nemesis's Power: Self-Spawn

Added for fun (I chose which was which before I clicked random, though):
My Sidekick: Stinger Protrusion
Nemesis's Sidekick: Destruction

"I think you should be running the show here."

There wasn't a head, exactly, but the hole in the universe was person-shaped. The head-analogue tipped to one side. "Oh?"

"Yeah." There was a stalemate, between the--um.

"What should I call you?"


I shrugged. "I don't have a good short description of you. If you don't give one, I'm going to end up with something like 'Black Hole', and that seems rather melodramatic for your personality."

The being stared and blinked--I think. Vaguely shaded: eyes are tiny. "Absence is a common choice. Those who prefer to humanize generally call me Abby."

"Right. Thank you." There was a stalemate going on, between Abby and me. Technically speaking, she--alright, yes, gender-neutrality, but I was calling her Abby--is the most powerful force in the universe. She is entropy. The slow decay of weathering wood, rusting iron, fire snatching up square meters of forest every second. She's not rot, precisely; rot is life's domain, but she is that moment of conversion inside every organism, taking organized energy and disorganizing it.

I was magic. Not a mage, not a magician, not a witch or a wizard. Simply magic. Components of spells, whether they call by word or symbol or thought, called on me. I was the miracles of the land. Like organization increasing in a closed system.

But, by definition, I was inconsistent. If I happened repeatably, I'd be science, and you'd know me in your world.

And, by definition, entropy is quite consistent.

"You were saying?" Abby inquired coolly.

"Ah, yes. Why do you follow him?"

She shrugged--well, actually, she did an eternally graceful movement best described as a shrug. But I really needed to stop or kiss her, and I was not entirely sure if one survived kissing entropy. "I am destruction. If I am to create something, I require a base."

"So you could make lovely driftwood sculptures."

Absence smiled.

The world outside would go chilly from that. So direct an expression on Absence herself meant no thing would smile for that moment. Here, in front of her, it warmed my soul. "Something like that."

"And that's what my Nina is for: someone to affect the fully material plane. But she doesn't run the show." I spread my hands and joked, "What, does your entropy spread to plans?"


"Ow..." I muttered under my breath, rubbing my ears. Smiles warm the soul; direct statements turn you near-deaf. "Unnecessary roughness."

"Nina is losing."

"What--" I started up. "She's fighting?"

"Injury is also my realm, if by a stretch."

One does not say, 'It can't be so,' to that tone. "...I can't feel her."

Abby nodded calmly. "It appears she does not call upon you, Mistress Margaret."

"Maggie," I said automatically. "It's Maggie. Do you know why not?"

"Divination is your realm, I believe." On anyone else that tone would have been infuriatingly calm, but on Abby is simply was. It would be no more reasonable to be angry at that tone than to be angry at a picture of a black hole.

I cast not-water upon the naught-floor and pulled the truth from it.

"As if she ever thought you near her," the man--Sam?--sneered. He actually sneered, my goodness.

"I am her helper. Of course she did not." A blow, then, to the solar plexus, driving the air hard out of him. The words were confident, but the tone was desperate, and only became moreso. "But I can fight without her. Can you say the same?"

He laughed. "Childish. Your mistress aids me in this fight." Another of him came from behind and landed a blow somewhere low along Nina's back. She went down.

They said, together, "And you can do nothing without her."

I realized I had clenched my jaw when the muscles hurt. "Bastard." He only called upon me in truth to make himself anew, none for sustaining, but this was me; this was my domain, and I could right it.

I touched the surface of the water Abby pressed at me, but that wasn't important and pulled.

Both Sams fell. One was female now, the other still male but the wrong height and build. All of his would soon fall such. He ran the bodies hard, sapping what energy the magic infused in them would throw them into comas. And that was wrong, because some of them would doubtless be in some danger Abby pressed tight on all sides, but I only needed one more minute.

Not even a pull, just a shift. From him to them. He had not spread himself so thin, only to one other who was neither present nor the man himself. "One moment Abby," I breathed, "please."

Sam died, and I sliced off a piece of myself to give to little Nina. She'd keep her spikes, when she wanted them, and heal completely from any injuries she'd gotten under my care.

I shut my eyes. I was done.


"Hush, bright one."

Then the back of my mind went click.

"Dark," I mumbled back, already lost in her. Not evil, not wrong, but dark to my light; perfect, only missing me as I missed her.

Abby smiled against my ear. "Yes." And it was perfect, and it was beautiful, and it was worth it because she made it so.

One does not survive kissing entropy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

To Personhood

Things happen.

Sometimes wonderful things happen, and people grab every bit they can, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of a particularly unruly group of guests just after the piñata split open: all jabbing elbows and minor prizes.

Sometimes terrible things happen, but they do not happen to us, and so we hide. "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist..." We may blame the victims, because the alternative--that it truly wasn't their fault, that it could happen to us--is too awful to contemplate. It may even be happening to us, and we do not speak for we fear it will be worse if we do, or we simply believe is will be no better.

But we are social animals, are we not?

Sometimes horrible/glorious things happen, and they write a line of fire across your self. Sometimes it blazes so white-hot that you cannot imagine doing aught but following this, doing this, because you are saving something important. A soul, a species, a nation, a family, an individual. It hits, and there is a person who is you, who was not there twelve seconds ago.

Sometimes wonderful things happen, and people glory in them and share them, because that is what they choose to do. Good feels good. Some people need help, some search for those in need. There is not yet perfect symmetry, but what exists is beautiful.

Sometimes something truly awful, terrible, horrible occurs and all you can do for a moment is shatter inside, because everything you hinged on, every bit of your world, everything just did shatter.

And we turn, and we reach--

We come together. Forget religious barriers; even those who do not pray can appreciate coming together to share grief and hope. Forget race; we are all people and the lines blur more every generation. Forget these barriers you have built up; the world just shattered so the walls must have done. We hope together, wish together, despair together, stand with friends, lovers, strangers. We help those who are hurting, in all the myriad ways people can hurt.

Sometimes, the world shatters.

Every time, however gradually, we rebuild.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Between this post and the previous, this blog hit 2,500 views.
Assignment: 1) Find a mnemonic for power--either an acronym or around four words that start with the same letter. 2) Connect power to media and/or life.

During the power acronym exercise, I divided power into five sections: love, loathing, loyalty, liberty and lies. Upon reflection, I have decided that ‘love’ is a subset of loyalty, and therefore I will only define the four remaining.

"[W]hat does it mean to have the power to vanquish someone?"

... "Well..." Rianne said. She was having trouble putting her thoughts into words. "It means you've got the power, but you don't have to do it. It means you could do it if you tried -"

"Choice," the Potions Master said in the same faraway voice, as though he wasn't really talking to her at all. "There will be a choice. That is what the riddle seems to imply. And that choice is not a foregone conclusion to the chooser, for the riddle does not say, will vanquish, but rather the power to vanquish."
--Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Chapter 76
Liberty: Power is not simply having an effect, but making a choice. Affecting a circumstance through conscious will and effort. The ability to choose one’s own actions, which includes the ability to do nothing at all. This power is the opposite of Lies, and is generally considered heroic. Also known by/subsets: will, determination, spirit, ability, responsibility, Heroic Spirit.

Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricaseeing rabbit without a fricaseeing rabbit license?
--Bugs Bunny
Lies: Manipulating, power at one remove. The domain of any trickster archetype. This works counter to another’s liberty, as it tricks another into thinking one is acting in accordance with one’s own will, when one is acting in accordance with the liar’s will—or, at the very least, not as one would if one knew the true situation. This power is the opposite of Liberty, and is generally considered dark. Also known by/subsets: manipulation, seduction, deceit, trickery, chicanery, misleading, white lies. See Tricksters.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
--Mohandas Gandhi

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
--Niccolo Machiavelli
Loyalty: Machiavelli noted the power of this, as did Gandhi, though they had strikingly different opinions. Though both accepted that it was strong, Machiavelli did not believe it enough on its own, perhaps because he required the leader to remain alive and in power. Martyrs can be lovely for one’s cause, but the martyr remains dead. Usually expected to go both ways—that is, troops are only as loyal to their commander as the commander is loyal to the troops. This power is the opposite of Loathing, and is generally considered unifying. Also known by/subsets: love, duty, fidelity, The Power Of Love, The Power of Frienship.

If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.
—-Winston Churchill, following Hitler's invasion of Russia
Loathing: Moving people against a common foe. This is power held in the hands of someone one is Loyal to, or someone one Loathes—-the former can inspire loathing by empathy, and the latter can divide the loathing-united group. Even if something is effective, people are reluctant to do it if they associate it with something they loathe. The latter is spectacularly difficult to pull off. This power is the opposite of Loyalty, and is generally considered unifying. Also known as/subsets: hate, enmity, Hitler Ate Sugar, The Power Of Hate.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Before we start, I want to make something perfectly clear. It was dark. It wasn't cold, and sometimes it was warm, and it was always dark. We had hidden underground for months, but we had the right supplements, and we had each other.

And it was always dark.

I was, in theory, just in line. Back-ish of the pack, just making sure everyone got out fine, no one had their foot caught in something, and that no one panicked.

Ralph--he person at the real back--was technically the one who was making sure we had no stragglers. But really, that was more a case of looking imposing. Put the big guy with good ears at the very back. Dark as this place is, there's always something likely to eat you. Or at least spook someone.

I wasn't a great pick for back-back. I was short, first off. And my default strategy relied upon not looking imposing. I was barely five feet if I measured myself right after I woke up, and thin enough that the breezes running through these tunnels should blow me away. I hadn't eaten a lot, and it runs in my family to look like we weigh less than we do. Everything just sort of distributes.

So I had the hard job. Because, again technically speaking, I didn't have a job. And, as I said, my default strategy relied on people assuming I wasn't anything much. So I couldn't even spread any rumors to make it easier. I just had to be on alert all the freakin' time because no one else but the second-in-command appeared to be able to think both I am the most important person in certain circumstances, and I can take orders. I didn't understand that, really; the most important person, second-to-second, was (comparably) low on the chain of command. A person who's looking at the board as a whole needs to be able to rely on that.

So when the first screams came, it was a relief. I got to use some emergency adrenaline. Your body doesn't give it to you after too long of anticipation, but screams always set it off for me.

The world went from a bundle held together by force of will to liquid serenity.

I spun and pushed Ralph up. I jerked an idiot's foot out of a crack--it was barely even wedged, she was just shoving it further in going from that angle. I got to the back, where rocks were falling, and made sure I was the furthest back. I was. Spun again.


The word cracked through the air like a starting shot. My world was still slowed from information overdrive, and everyone else seemed to be going even slower. I had to stay at the back, which meant I just picked the slowest two up. The next didn't want to be at the back, nor the next, and so we dominoed straight through to the opening, where this breeze was coming from, where he led us. Everyone seemed to stop on just the other side of the entrance, but the others still dominoing kept up enough of a push to get everyone out. By the time I got there I was snarling; it wasn't bad enough everyone was trying to kill us, it had to be ourselves killing us just because we were so dang stupid--

The sunlight touched my face.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Literature's Connotations

if (life is insane) {blog post is school assignment}
Prompt: What is Literature?

At the most basic, literature is the written word, whether in prose or verse. Though this definition provides a rough outline of the denotation, the connotations of the term are more complex—hence debates about whether a book qualifies as literature, mirroring arguments about whether a particular work qualifies as (true) art. One can find nebulous explanations of the content—e.g. Merriam Webster states that literature “express[es] ideas of permanent or universal interest,” hardly an objective metric. Literature is literature because of how the author chooses to communicate: Literature shows, rather than tells.

Impressionism acts as a natural extreme of showing rather than telling. Though ‘impressionism’ brings to mind painters such as Monet or Van Gogh, the heart of the movement—communicating feeling before fact—can extend to any medium of art. An author of an impressionistic work focuses on the feel of a character’s experience and the character’s thoughts, even to the extent of making the narrator so emotional or prejudiced as to be unreliable. And though often a careful reader can find what is genuinely happening, the author also pulls the reader into the work’s emotional environment. Whatever happens, the reader cannot merely watch as everything goes by. Literature in general, and especially impressionistic literature, requires thought and allowance for how characters’ emotions and biases affect their reactions—including how the narrator tells the tale.

Though impressionism is the natural extreme of showing rather than telling, that neither makes the genre the only literature nor necessarily the best. Parables, such as Aesop’s Fables, are created specifically to clearly demonstrate virtues, and so often show black-and-white views on a subject. In “The Tortoise and the Hare”, one is not meant to wonder whether perhaps the hare actually won, and the tortoise’s cousin is telling the story to make the tortoise look good; we assume that what we are told is true. Yet the stories still exemplify literature. The parables demonstrate a subject, rather than only stating that a fact is so. Aesop reiterates the lesson the tale is meant to teach at the end, but still uses the story as a medium to show why having the virtue improves one’s self and/or lot in life.

Literature shows; however, demonstrative details exist in books that do not fit as literature. Literature primarily shows. A sixth-grade chemistry textbook may use a story to explain a concept, but because the story aspect is secondary, the book is not literature. Similarly, literature can state things outright. An honest, omniscient narrator does not disqualify a book from being literature, as long as the story primarily shows. Additionally, demonstrating need not leave facts vague—showing emotional content works as well. ‘The clear sunlight turned Alice’s smile luminous,’ shows exactly what, ‘It was a sunny day. Alice smiled,’ tells, but evokes a character’s emotions—either Alice’s or some character who is enamored with Alice.

Literature demands interpretation. Literature speaks subtly. Literature is not restricted to making every bit of information clear, meaning that a good mystery novel can give the reader the same ‘Eureka!’ moment figuring out a mystery in real life can. This subtlety does not prevent literature from explaining a concept: literature may communicate subtly, but literature still communicates. The medium is designed to convey concepts, thoughts, and emotions that the author wishes to share or the reader wishes to experience. Literature is in how the author conveys those ideas.

Works Cited
Merriam-Webster. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2004. 25/8/2011. Web.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart