When Your Values Are at Odds with Transition

One thing that happens when you write a memoir is that your values become abundantly clear.

A memoir, even when it’s about the author’s encounter with a difficult person, is about the author herself. It won’t resonate with readers if it’s a just list of complaints about someone else.

If you’re doing your job while you’re composing a memoir, you’re asking yourself:

  • Why did that one incident, in particular, bother me?
  • What was it I found odd about the other person’s stance that I couldn’t quite put my finger on?
  • What was I trying to say in that argument we had?
  • What couldn’t I abide, in the end, and why?
  • What final straw broke the camel’s back?

What’s become clear is that my values were at odds with my ex’s. Specifically, my values were at odds with the values he acquired as he became involved in transgender activism.

My ex likes to twist any value difference between us into “transphobia” on my part. For him, it simply isn’t possible to hold legitimate values at odds with his own. There are only illegitimate ones, namely, conservatism and aversion to difference. Thus, if I’m not on board I must be a conservative and a person who was “disgusted” with his presentation.

It’s a bald-faced lie. I vote democrat. I’m 100% pro-choice (unlike my ex, who once said pregnant minors should have to consult their parents before getting an abortion). I recognize and sympathize with the oppression of minorities. I’m in a same-sex relationship. I support the right of everyone to love who they love and wear what they want. I’ve dated “girly” boys and “manly” women (for lack of better terms). I supported my ex’s identity in many ways, before he lost his mind, from buying him clothes and manicures to role-playing in bed.

So no.

I am not a conservative and never have been. My ex’s values changed, not mine. The values I hold, which I’m about to share, were once his, too. Or at least he said they were.

These are the values I hold that interfered with our relationship after he began to pursue transition:

  • Honesty. I couldn’t keep lying to someone and for someone. I couldn’t keep moving my mouth in the service of dishonesty without feeling dirty and compromising my soul. I couldn’t keep biting my tongue and censoring myself to keep from blowing over someone else’s house of cards. I intend to live and speak the truth, however inconvenient for others.
  • Body-positivity. It’s kind of a dumb modern phrase, but the concept is sound. It’s better to love your body than to hate it. It’s better to treat it kindly than to harm it.  It’s better to age gracefully than to pursue youth and beauty. A person’s value comes from his mind and his ethics, not in the conformity of his body to some standard. Physicality is superficial. A failure to come to terms with one’s physicality is a failure of mental health because it’s unsustainable: our bodies deteriorate and forever move toward an undesirable state. There is no a way to “support” a transitioning person without encouraging or condoning his bodily hatred. And because I’m not religious, bodily hatred is self-hatred. There aren’t “good” reasons to hate your body, and I can’t, in good conscience, support someone’s idea that there are and watch him injure himself in the service of that self-hatred.
  • Emotional intimacy. You aren’t being emotionally intimate when you’re lying or being lied to. You can’t become close when you’re evading topics because you don’t want to hurt feelings or you fear increasingly frequent outbursts of temper. When calm and rational discussions must end because of thought-terminating phrases about “triggering” and “feeling safe,” real communication has been lost.
  • Physical intimacy. This is threatened when one partner’s addiction to role-playing supersedes normal sex. It’s threatened when one partner removes and suppresses the sex characteristics that turn the other partner on. It’s threatened when one partner’s self-centeredness precludes his interest in pleasing his partner.  It’s threatened by the decreased sexual response that are a side-effect of hormones. It’s threatened by surgery.
  • A tremendous respect for female people. It is simply not possible to value women in all our uniqueness while defending or accepting the idea that we are nothing but a collection of indistinct traits, indistinguishable from kangaroos, smoke and mirrors, and men who play Grand Theft Auto and jack off to tranny porn. Women are people who are shaped by intense shared experiences from childhood sexualization to the need to subdue rivers of blood to the knowledge that a new human being can emerge from our bodies if we’re not careful. This is not trivial.  One cannot respect women while subordinating women to whichever men utter the right incantations.

I won’t apologize for valuing honesty, body-positivity, intimacy and a respect for female people.

Instead, opponents need to explain why dishonesty, self-hatred, a compromised ability to participate intimately with a partner and a hatred of women must become a necessary consequence of gender dysphoria.

Is it Kind to Lie to a Transgender Person?

Being in a relationship with a “trans woman,” under the currently popular ideology, means telling an extraordinary number of lies. The most obvious of these is “you are a woman.” I’ll get to some of the others in a moment.

The transgender person thinks this particular lie is true and doesn’t know that his friends are telling him a story. The transgender person’s friends think this is a polite lie for the sake of kindness or a purely semantic concession and don’t know that the transgender person genuinely believes otherwise (such a level of delusion seems unlikely to many). The fact that neither side knows what the other is thinking is one of the hazards of choosing to lie.

I think a case can be made for never lying in any arena of lie.  It’s a goal I work toward every day. Starting from a place of sound ethics and bravery can make it possible to tell the truth in a compassionate way.  Sure, you can tell your friend that you like her ugly haircut and probably never suffer any consequences. Or you can say nothing, which is my recommendation in this situation. Or you can learn to say, if directly asked, something honest: “It’s awfully short, isn’t it? I have to say I preferred it when you wore it a little longer. But if you like it, that’s all that matters. That’s a popular style now. A lot of people like it!”

But let’s put aside the question of whether one can live without lying, ever, and focus on the question of lying to a transgender person.

Is it really kind?

A detransitioned female I’ve met, who sometimes writes under the name Maria Catt, says it isn’t. I’m paraphrasing from memory, because the post has been made private, but she said there’s “no respect” in simply acquiescing to your friends’ demands instead of treating them like capable adults who can handle the truth.

Here are some of the lies we tell to transgender people. My examples are skewed toward male-to-females, as that’s where my experience lies.

Lie #1: You Pass

During the time I spent heavily involved in the transgender community I met hundreds of transgender people. Some used cosmetic enhancements or prosthetics only, some took hormones, some had undergone a few surgeries, and some had undergone every surgery you can think of.  General (but very reliable) rule: these people do not pass. By and large it’s just not a thing. And importantly, when someone comes close to passing, the event is wholly unrelated to the interventions they’ve done. Skinny young dudes with good skin sometimes come close with no interventions whatsoever. People who’ve had every surgery known to man sometimes still look like guys in drag. 

But we tell transgender people they pass and we further we imply it via “gendering” and insincere compliments about their beauty.

Lie #2: You Can Pass

As mentioned above, interventions generally do not increase the chance of passing. So why does society perpetuate the myth that they do?

Suppose there was a line representing appearance as indicated below. “Masculine” looking people are at the left end, at the value 1. “Feminine” looking people are at the right end, at 200. As it turns out, looking masculine versus looking feminine correlate quite well to sex. Numbers 1 to 100 are men and the average man sits at 50. Numbers 100 to 200 are women, and the average woman sits at 150.

Transgender males who take hormones see themselves move from 50 to 52 . It’s an actual change. There are A-cup boobs there when there weren’t before. There’s a softening of the skin. And because transgender people, like people with other forms of body dysmorphic disorder,  spend a lot of time evaluating themselves in the mirror, this difference is heightened to them. They think it’s a 130. But the rest of us see a 52. To the rest of us, a 52 comes nowhere near approaching the most masculine female we know. Strangers who aren’t attuned to the political culture are unlikely to even notice in some cases.

Transgender people think their interventions are working. Everyone else knows better. Neither side knows what the other is thinking.

Consider the hazards of perpetuating the myth “you can pass.” Not only does it encourage the transgender person down the path of hormones and surgery, and the attendant health problems with that, but it does so for literally no objective benefit. That’s just sad.

Cognitive dissonance is a fickle thing and it sometimes wanes (I’ve seen it happen). It’s a hard wake-up call when that waning accompanies a realization that one’s finances, relationships and health have been compromised in the service of a lie.

Lie #3: Sex Isn’t Real

Because of that aforementioned mirror-gazing, transgender people are legitimately under the impression that bolt-on tits and eyeliner create a reasonable facsimile of a woman.

Recently I vacationed on the coast. About a mile away from me a beach security vehicle stopped and the driver opened the door. I expected the driver to be male because, you know, unconscious bias. But the driver was female. She wasn’t especially curvy and I couldn’t see her tits or her eyeliner (if any) from that distance. In fact, she was in a shapeless uniform and had short hair. But it was clear she was female. She started a slow walk toward me and eventually crossed my path, where I could confirm, though it wasn’t necessary, that she was in fact a woman.

People can tell females from males, even at great distances. It’s more than tits and eyeliner. It’s the tilt of a pelvis, the shape of a back, the curve of an ankle, the length of a forearm. Even a female’s cough sounds different from a male’s. There aren’t enough interventions to override this incredibly pervasive cellular information.

People (including children) know what sex other people are because it’s an innate and necessary skill. It matters when evaluating threat, choosing allies, maintaining family relationships, and evaluating sexual partners.

That brings us to the next lie.

Lie #4 Straight Men and Lesbians Want to Date You

My ex once posted that straight men were “too cowardly” to date him. I don’t engage with him but I wanted to scream, for his benefit more than anyone else’s, the much simpler explanation:  Straight men like pussy!

There’s a huge amount of propaganda out there about the dating prospects of trans people, especially post-op. The LGBT world promotes the lie that lesbians are attracted not to female bodies or female people, but to invisible female-identification occurring in the other person’s brain and/or to female-impersonating bodily modifications. It doesn’t work that way. Lesbians are attracted to females, not to disembodied tits. Otherwise they could glue a bra to a robot and never leave the house.

The medical community perpetuates another set of myths: that hormones won’t interfere with erections and surgery won’t interfere with orgasm. Finally, the mainstream news is full of stories about trans people with supportive partners or vibrant dating lives. The rare reportage of breakups and divorces places the blame on the partner’s failure to adapt.

Everyone ignores the elephant in the room: people who prefer men prefer unaltered men, and people who prefer women are not satisfied by facsimiles of women.

In an illumination of the two-facedness of this lie, everyone pretends it’s someone else’s job to step up and date trans people. I wish I had a nickel for every person who criticized the way I was managing my relationship, despite telling me they would have bailed after the first confession.

Meanwhile, trans people themselves are all over social media posting, “So weird and utterly inexplicable, but I can’t find anyone to date!”

People care about the sex organs of their partner. They care what they are, whether they work, and whether they can be named and enjoyed without a meltdown on the part of their owner. People care very much. People want to enjoy sex, not ineffectually stroke non-functioning and/or simulated organs.

This may sound mean. But it’s even meaner to wait until transgender people have undergone these interventions before letting the harsh truth sink in.

Pretending that hormones, surgery and a rejection of one’s own sex has no effect on dating prospects is nothing short of cruel.

I Think of You As a Woman

No, you don’t.

You’re not trying to fix him up with your dad. You’re not asking him for advice on natural childbirth techniques. You’re not inviting him to ladies night at the wine bar.

And he has noticed. But he’s choosing to cling to the pleasant lies you tell instead of the unpleasant reality you represent.

Lying isn’t a good thing. I couldn’t keep doing it. I couldn’t keep doing it for the sake of my own soul and I couldn’t keep doing it for the sake of his.

Lying to yourself is even more pernicious than lying to others, because it makes you ill-equipped to handle life. I couldn’t enable that any longer. Enabling a person’s self-deception is harmful to their survival.

This is intuitive–we don’t tell anorexics they need lipo or Michael Jackson he needs another nose job. But it’s more than philosophical. It was my experience in direct practice, as well. The more my ex pursued the comfort of lies, the sicker he became, the more he hated himself, and the more depressed he became–until he was contemplating suicide.

There’s no easy answer. But being honest and ethical has to be a start.

“Listen to Trans People’s Stories”

“Listen to trans people’s stories!” is a common response when women hint at the possibility that being trans is not exactly the same thing as being female.

As someone who was married to a “trans woman” and tried to make it work, I can’t be accused of not listening to trans people’s stories. I heard them in the most honest, most intimate setting possible, over and over again for more than a year.

As someone who has attended trans support groups, I can’t be accused of not listening to trans people’s stories. I heard them straight from the source: trans people in trans spaces.

As someone who has attended trans spouses’ support groups, I’ve heard more intimate, honest, letting-the-guard-down “trans stories” than anyone else I know, from women who wanted to stay married to trans people–the people who are most invested in hearing and understanding trans stories.

And as it turns out, the “trans story,” or at least the “trans woman story,” is overwhelmingly a story about sexual paraphilia.

A paraphilia is an “experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, or behaviors.”

The majority of “trans women,” especially the ones who did not consider themselves gay at a young age, are sexually attracted to feminine clothing and to themselves in it.  Most started with erotic cross-dressing. At some point later they became more interested in looking in the mirror than looking at their partner. For people born male, the line between “transgender” and “transvestic fetishist” is by no means a clear one.

Some are also turned on by acting “girly,” by the bodily functions of women such as menstruation, by the idea or reality of having breasts and constructed sex organs via hormones or surgery, or by several of these in conjunction.

Their marriages break down in large part because fetishism, by definition, is an interest that takes over and pushes out other, normal, partner-centered intimate activities.

This is hard for some to believe because we spouses of “trans women” often stay silent, lest we get mowed down by an angry mob with torches on social media. Over something we’ve experienced directly, and they’re merely guessing about!

It’s also hard to believe because “trans women,” my ex included, are out there marching on the platform that the sexual component is a dirty lie (all the while at home asking me to pull down his lace panties and call him a bitch). 

Of course that’s the official story. The true story–the sexual one–threatens to open a real dialog on whether trans women should access women’s locker rooms and other spaces.

But the medical community is well aware of the sexual story. A phenomenon called “autogynephilia,” a “male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female,” “underlie[s] transvestism and some transsexualism.” Although activists have tried to discredit the term, a search on something like Pub Med shows it’s alive and well among medical professionals.

Here, transsexual psychologist Anne Lawrence compiles 249 first-person accounts of trans women describing sexual attraction to themselves in feminine clothing or situations.

Did you know that men with fetishes and paraphilias tend to have more than one? And that “transvestites” fit that model?

Please note that all above links are to studies or medical or legal sources, not blogs or opinion pieces.

You might ask why the medical community supports transition in light of the fetish connection. Here are some interesting facts:

1. Up until recently, they did in fact oppose transition for fetishists. That changed after pressure by transgender activists to eliminate such “gatekeeping.” It’s worth thinking about why the transgender community does not want to ferret out fetishists from their midst, nor to see them denied transgender medical services.

2. Prescribing hormones to transgender people is still an off-label use. That means hormones are not approved by the FDA for transition. Doctors who prescribe them in such a way do so in contradiction of available research.

3. Many medical professionals are sounding the alarm about the lack of “robust evidence” behind the current protocol, some calling it a “medical scandal.”

Now let me make one thing clear. I don’t necessarily think fetishists are awful people. I’m not here to make judgments on paraphilias one way or the other. I think that topic is complicated, and in any case, it’s not my area of expertise.

But I also don’t think we have to pretend that men with fetishes are women. After all, “Fetishism is seen almost exclusively in men” per the DSM.

So yes, listen to trans women’s stories. You could start with the ones where numerous “trans women” on Reddit confess getting “spontaneous boners” from wearing women’s clothes and thinking about transition. (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 +)

We can listen to trans people’s stories, be fearlessly honest, protect the rights of trans people, and protect the rights of women and girls all at the same time.

No one should be denied employment or housing over how they dress. No one should be beaten up over what they look like.

But protecting the rights of trans people doesn’t have to mean redefining “woman” as anyone who gets a hard-on while wearing a dress.

Protecting the rights of trans people doesn’t have to mean making a civil rights crisis out of a tampon fetishist’s desire to share a women’s locker room with pre-teen girls.

Listen to trans people’s real stories, not the lies that are sanctioned by the activist community.

And when you do, consider whether those stories are the stories of women.

The Emasculation Fetish versus Womanhood

My ex-husband was aroused by wearing lingerie.

I used to refrain from saying that. First, I refrained in order to be respectful of his privacy. But then he decided to make a three-year post-divorce mission of dragging my name through the mud on social media. He decided to reveal my alleged dirty laundry–like that I called him a “tranny”–without revealing his dirty laundry–like that the entire reason I called him a “tranny” was that he requested it, in the bedroom, for a sexual thrill (I had used the word zero times before that request, despite his tossing in a completely fictional story that suggests otherwise). So I’m less motivated to respect his privacy now.

Then, I refrained from saying it because  he’s a “trans woman” and it’s become strictly verboten–illegal, in some places–to say things about “trans women” that they don’t want said. Even if they’re true. Even if the “trans women” themselves said the same thing last week on transgender forums.

My ex-husband was also aroused by being called insulting names, like “bitch” and “slut” alongside the aforementioned “tranny.” He was also aroused by being tossed around and mistreated in the bedroom.

He was also aroused by “sissification” porn, a genre in which men are forced into wearing women’s clothes as a humiliating punishment for some offense.

Notice the conflation of the feminine with the demeaning.

My ex-husband went on to become a prominent transgender activist in my area who loves to repeat lines like “being transgender isn’t a sexual thing.”

A man once wrote to Dan Savage and said that he wanted his girlfriend to squeeze his testicle really hard until it popped.

Emasculation fetish is a powerful thing.

There’s a paraphilia called “cuckolding” in which men like to watch their wives have sex with other men. Judging by their posts on “cuckolding” forums, they especially enjoy it if the other man is extra masculine and virile and if he manhandles the wife. Cuckold-fetishists like being tied up and otherwise prevented from interfering with the sex they’re watching. There’s a strong element of being “shown up” by this “better,” more alpha male.

That’s reflected in the non-fetish, general dictionary definition of the term:

Cuckold: a man whose wife is sexually unfaithful, often regarded as an object of derision.

In biology, it applies to male animals who “unwittingly invest parental effort in offspring that are not genetically their own.” In other words, a sucker. A fool. Emasculated.

On a cuckolding forum recently, a man expressed his glee at discovering that his pregnant wife’s “bull”–a name given to the man who has sex with the wife–is HIV positive. The cuckold fetishist has been “rock hard” ever since, he enthused, to know that “only a thin strip of latex” protects his wife and child from wasting of an incurable, debilitating disease.

Misogyny is behind the emasculation fetish.

It is misogyny to conflate “female” with “demeaning.” It is misogyny to call your wife’s lover a “bull,” as if she is some animal you’re arranging to have bred. It is misogyny to get a hard-on at the thought of infecting your wife with a virus.

Emasculation might seem, at worst, like a disrespect of men rather than of women. But why is it disrespectful to treat men like women? Because of misogyny.

The power of the emasculation fetish comes from the indignity of being “feminized.” Women are for abusing, not men! Imagine wanting to be as worthless as a woman!

Around one-quarter of men who die of autoerotic asphyxiation–that is, choking yourself while masturbating–are cross-dressed when they are discovered. (1 2 3 4 5 6)

The risk of being caught dead and cross-dressed is a sexual thrill for some men. It’s the titillating fear of emasculation.

Studies have shown that cross-dressing has a high comorbidity with other fetishes and paraphilias. Almost as if it is a sexual thing!

On Reddit, a man once posted that he wanted a surgeon to remove his testicles and replace them with fake testicles. He frequented transgender forums, for what it’s worth.

Are you detecting a trend?

Do I think my ex-husband is a terrible person for acquiring an emasculation fetish? Do I think he’s going to choke himself to death or jack off to exposing another person to injury? Do I think he has ten other paraphilias?

Not necessarily.

Am I a “kink-shamer?” Much as I hate that word, no. No, I am not.

That’s why for a time, I called my ex-husband a “tranny” and a “bitch” and threw him around in the bedroom at his request.

I’ve indulged my share of kinks. I’ve had my share of kinks. As long as people act out their kinks with consenting partners, and without hurting anyone else, it’s not really my bag to call out kink behavior.

But do I think that fetishistic behavior in males equates to womanhood?

No. It does not.

If anything, it illuminates the very maleness of the thing.

Thought experiment: How many women do you know who get wet at the thought of having their ovaries removed?

“Fetishism is seen almost exclusively in men,” says the DSM, the health care field’s authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders, which include fetishes and paraphilias.

Getting off on misogyny is not the same thing as being female.

It’s practically the opposite.

On Believing Things That Aren’t True

For approximately twenty-five years, I believed I had straight hair, even though I have wavy hair. How did this happen?

It all started when I was a kid. Back then, I really did have straight hair (you can see it in photos). And my mom never cut it, so it was long. Down-past-my-butt long. My mom beamed when talking about her daughter’s beautiful, long, thick, straight hair. Other people complimented it a lot, too.

When I became a teenager I cut it and started getting perms, like you do in the 80s. That lasted off and on until my twenties. I liked perms even after I stopped liking 80’s “big hair” because perms gave my lifeless hair some texture and seemed to make it easier to “fix.” (Fixing it was important to me back then.)

So I don’t know exactly when my hair started getting a wave in it.

I do know that when my hair got a wave in it, I continued to believe it was straight and to say it was straight.

There were plenty of clues to the contrary. Like the stubborn wave in it that caused me to need to straighten it if I wanted it straight. But I had some weird justifications for that. First, the wave was a big wave, not a small one. I think I thought of wavy hair as containing cute, small waves that repeated and looked nice when you left them alone, not as containing one or two annoying big waves that just served to make your hair look messy.

Secondly, I’d sometimes say my hair was bendy like fishing line. It wasn’t that it had a wave in it. It was that I had leaned on it funny, or something, and it had bent, and it was wont to retain such a bend more readily than other people’s hair.

I think, in some strange way, I identified as a person with straight hair, because I’d once had straight hair and to some extent was rewarded for having straight hair.  Andy Worhol once said something about the trap of “self-imitation.” He was talking about art. But maybe there was something similar at work.

Anyway, I was at my hairdresser only sometime in the past few years and I mentioned something about my straight hair.

“Oh honey,” he said. “Your hair isn’t straight. It’s wavy.”

I asked if he was sure. I mentioned that it was bendy like fishing line. He rolled his eyes.

“Your hair is wavy, my dear,” he said.

“It’s quite wavy.”

Then I realized he was right. The damn hair was wavy. That’s why it was hard to fix. That’s why it retained a bend. That’s why it looked wavy.

Good lord. Why had I been spending decades telling myself that it was straight?

It’s instructive to face that I went so long believing something untrue, that I sincerely held a belief that needed correcting. It helps explain why other people think things that are untrue in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.

As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, a lot of people think that people like my ex (straight, late-onset, masculine, geeky) are “faking it.” He’s not. He thinks he’s a woman (though he clearly crashes against some cognitive dissonance once in a while as evidenced by some of the things he says). He also thinks other people can tell he’s a woman. This isn’t even a belief that he passes, but a belief that the woman-magic is seeping out of him in a recognizable way. He also believes I’ve called him names I’ve never uttered in my life. He’s also more or less heard voices.

I have examples. But you’ll have to wait for the book. (Soon.)

Honestly, it’s been one of the hardest things about it all. If he was just a dick (I mean he’s that too, now, but), it would be easier to write off the whole experience as me accidentally getting involved with a dick. Instead, a person who was once kind and thoughtful and seemed to be facing reality has drilled so far into a bizarre inner world that he’s lost his personality, his grip on reality, and his connection to some of the friends and family who have shown him the most love.

My straight hair delusion was an easy-ish one to fix, all things considered. Not like being forced to update your beliefs on the existence of God or the fact that what your friend did that one time when you were asleep was assault. (I’ve had to do both of those.)

And yet, I went for a remarkably long time not seeing something obvious and benign and objective about myself that was right in front of my face (literally, sometimes).

What if I had insisted everyone see my hair as straight? What if I’d gotten mad at my hairdresser for his hair-phobic views? What if I’d said it was all of dire importance to me? Would people have stopped seeing the wave in my hair?

Identity is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. My ex once said to me, “I identify as a woman, same as you.”

But I didn’t identify as a woman, and I said so. That’s not to say that I identified as something else, but that I did not identify at all when it comes to gender–it all seemed like a set of made-up stereotypes that I found irrelevant. Might as well ask me which Harry Potter character I’m most like when I don’t read fantasy novels. Yes, I’m watching the shitstorm that can occur when one woman even alludes in a tolerant way to another woman’s belief that “sex is real” (even though that’s not why I chose that example; It’s one I’ve used before).

“Sex is real.” That’s what’s been named as the most hateful and criminally intolerable claim of our times. Not the spewing of “you cunt” and “suck my dick” and “die” that has been hurled in return, but the relatively boring “sex is real.” That’s how far things can go when people are committed to believing things that are untrue.

Anyway, I didn’t know what identifying as a woman was like, much to my ex’s ire and to his certainty that I was in some way lying to invalidate him.

I also don’t identify as a white person. Again, not because I’m something else, but because that would be weird. People can see my white face and they’re going to behave accordingly. They don’t need my commentary one way or the other.

If I were going to bother to identify as something, I’d identify as an artist. But I don’t, because I haven’t done any art in a while, and because I know that other people are only going to identify me as an artist if they see me make art, and further, if they like that art well enough that they feel it has some cred. I don’t get why I’d try to coerce their view, outside of just trying to make some good art and show it to them and hope they adopt the view on their own.

That’s what identifying is all about, isn’t it? Making a claim to something that isn’t obvious, is perhaps even counterfactual. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to identify. People would just know.

That’s the problem, for me. Coercing others’ views on things they’re not inclined to believe, or worse, getting them to pretend to agree, is squarely on the dishonesty spectrum. And if there’s anything I’ve come to learn about myself over the last few years it’s that I hate being dishonest.

I only ever do it under duress, like telling a hiring manager that I’m excited about the project when maybe I just need to pay the bills and feed myself. Someday I’d like to shed even the little white lies required of me by capitalism and other compelled social arrangements. Why not? What’s so scary about a world in which people tell the truth? I personally think it would revolutionize everyone’s bravery, compassion and ability to make a difference in the world. It’s my little utopian fantasy.

I have no interest in identifying as anything. I have no interest in coercing anyone’s thoughts or language. I’m interested only in interacting with people as free agents, who are free to voluntarily accept, reject, or question whatever I throw out there. Otherwise, why not check out of real life and surround myself with agreeable bots on social media?

Actually, that seems to be more or less what a lot of people are doing.

I’m going to stick with honesty as best as I can.

If someone comes along and tells me my hair is wavy, maybe they’re right. Maybe I have something to learn from them.

Is my hair wavy? Is yours? Why can’t we have those conversations? I’m not afraid.