jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

In the human social circles we've been inside, there is enormous stigma against saying that you've been hurt, especially by someone who's part of the circle.

The assumption is that you've brought it on yourself. You chose to take offence. You chose to be victimized, or your choices left you susceptible to it. You now choose to play the victim, and it has to be a role that you play because no real victims exist. Not here, not in our circle, not as a result of our kind.

The second-fastest way to lose friends is to point out who they victimize.

The fastest way to lose friends is to require them to take responsibility for having hurt you. Especially if you're too hurt by them to do it in a polite way, because politeness is the social grease that's smeared over violence to mask it.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

A bit of a run-on sentence, from http://stormsandpower.blogspot.com/2014/12/mormons-ex-and-still.html. The pertinent part is bolded:

For me this work raises other questions especially at this time when so many people seem troubled by the facts of Mormonism’s past and the politics of its present as to whether that ex- of ex-Mormon means you can no longer define them as part of the experience of the Mormons as a people.

I think that for a lot of people, that's true. Being "Mormon" doesn't necessarily mean being a member in good standing of the modern, correlated Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no matter what its leaders say. It's more of a cultural identity, like being Jewish, and there are people who cherish and embrace that identity even as they question Mormonism's basic doctrines or historical foundations.

Personally, though, I see myself as less of a participant in the Mormon identity, and more of a victim of Mormon culture and institutional Mormon religion.

Politically incorrect, adj.: "True, but we pretend it isn't"

It's politically incorrect to use the v-word in today's society, where everyone is an ubermensch and can breathe lightning and decide whether or not something hurts them. But you can't really have a conversation about things like "victimization" and "victim-blaming" without there being victims.

The word has come to mean "morally deficient person who dwells on past grievances and blames others for her own flaws," when it really just means "person who's been wronged." And while I'm okay with some people I'd otherwise call abuse victims choosing to identify as "survivors" of abuse instead, I also think that term places abuse in the realm of natural disasters and acts of god. Things that just happen on their own, that you can't prevent and can only learn how to deal with.

It may seem that way to abuse victims / survivors, since abusers choose people who can't fight back as their targets. But in my experience, the reason abusers blame victims -- and telling them they can't call themselves victims is a form of victim-blaming -- is to keep them in an abusive situation, both mentally and physically. If they're the ones causing the abuse, there's no need to try to escape or seek redress; they just need to make themselves worthy of not being abused anymore.

And that's what Mormonism does

To a lot of people outside the institutional Mormon church, with its political activism, and to a lot of people inside it. Who don't fit into Mormon culture, but don't have a meaningful choice about what culture to participate in.

I wanted to call myself Mormon, but kept being reminded that I made a very poor one.

I was "unworthy" of their sacred ordinances and coming-of-age rituals, because I was honest in Bishops' interviews. I was constantly reminded of how different I was from the hand-shaking, back-slapping, neurotypical Mormons around me, and when my mother of origin saw me cringing from physical contact she chastised me for it.

I don't know how many youth dances and "young single adult" activities I spent pacing in driveways, parking lots, and darkened hallways, either listening to my MP3 player or watching the shadows get longer.

I don't know how many lessons and talks I sat through where people told me that the technology which enabled me to live a halfway fulfilling life, connect with people who valued me for who I was, and have experiences I never could otherwise, was an irrelevant worldly distraction.

And when I finally left the Mormon church, and started telling people about the abuse I received at the hands of my Mormon family, all the Mormons I talked to about it had two reactions: They felt very sorry for me, and they distanced themselves and their culture from the abuse, with canned statements like "not all Mormons are like that" and "our church teaches against that." Even though my parents of origin were, and as far as I know still are, "worthy" members who were never chastised or held accountable by the church for their actions, and who used its teachings to justify (and its power structures to enable) hurting me.

Meanwhile, my interactions with church members and leadership were major factors in my becoming suicidally depressed.

So if a non-mormon leaves the Mormon church

... can she still be called an ex-mormon? I don't know.

I know I've always been fascinated with Mormonism, but it's become more of a morbid fascination since I left. Their culture, doctrine, and practices basically embody abuse and rape culture and kyriarchy, and any time I need an object lesson for "what not to do" I can use them.

I also know Mormon culture has influenced me. My method of prayer is still very close to theirs, even if the object of worship is different, and their teachings on sexuality are the reason that I'm such a prude. :P Not because I'm okay with slut-shaming, rape victim blaming, and having adult men ask kids of all genders about their sex practices one-on-one behind closed doors, but because the shame I internalized from those teachings is something I may never be rid of.

If there's anything (arguably) positive I got out of Mormonism, it's being unafraid to be different in public. Nowadays, the institutional church's PR machine is spending millions of dollars to make Mormons appear normal, or at least bring them up to Mitt Romney levels of normalcy. But I was raised with the thought that I was supposed to be part of "a peculiar people," with beliefs very different from everyone else's, and I should be unafraid to share those different beliefs.

I like to think I've learned some about boundaries since then. But as you can see from the sidebar, I'm still okay with being different, and with explaining my differences to others. It helps that the only way we know how to describe ourself truthfully is to use different words, and pronouns, than others use.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Content note: Sexism, descriptions of physical and emotional abuse, some brief strong language towards the end, and descriptions of interpersonal conflict within a family.

There's a good story somewhere in Ender's Game. A child gets taken away to a magical school In Space, and is forced to survive when both teachers and students are literally trying to kill him. In the end, he faces a moral dilemma, and how he responds after everything that he's been through defines who he is as a character.

It resonates with me, because it basically describes a Mormon upbringing.

On the one hand, you're mass produced and depersonalized, especially if you come from one of those Utah families with nine kids. On the other hand, you're told repeatedly that you are a Chosen One, part of a chosen generation of Mormon kids, and your actions and faithfulness will help bring about the second coming of Christ. (Mormons are averse to calling him "Jesus" for some reason.)

Ender spends his whole childhood training to be a soldier. Mormon kids spend their whole childhoods training to be either a mom or a missionary. I can't overstate how much these two roles are glorified, or how much the bike-riding, nametag-wearing missionaries are held up as role models to Mormon kids who are assigned the male gender. And all the while, your belief that you're one of the few people that God approves of -- and that everyone else needs to be like you -- is creating this wedge between you and the people around you, which you are encouraged to see as "they hate me because of my righteousness."

Seriously, this is the major theme in the first couple parts of the Book of Mormon. The POV character is a Mary Sue, whose brothers hate him and repeatedly try to kill him because he's so awesome and always does what God wants him to.

The problem with Ender's Game is not that Ender goes through all this. It's that Orson Scott Card did, and is apparently blind to it.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

(Content note: Transphobia, detailed account of interpersonal conflict.)

I went to speak with my therapist the other day, and the first thing on the agenda was how I was treated by one of the receptionists on my last visit to my psychiatrist's office.

Read more... )

I kind of have to fight my Mormon upbringing to write accounts of being treated badly. I feel like, what she said and the way she said it were right; I just need to be patient and accept that I'm not a full person, and it's okay to do things to me that they would never be okay with if it were anyone else. Abuses of power and trust are supposed to stay hidden and never see light, because abusers are more valuable than the people they hurt and it's important to not hurt their feelings.

The fact that I was raised this way, by people I now know were terrible, is part of the reason I write about this. Also because I want to keep my friends and loved ones posted, and I want to remember what happened and explain it to myself, so that I don't slip back into feeling like I deserve it all and it's all my fault.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

(Content note: Abusive religion and families, depression and self/victim-blaming.)

One of the reasons I still sometimes visit the exmormon Reddit is because it helps to see what I went through from an outside perspective. When you're Mormon and live in an abusive family, everything's supposed to be all smiles and happiness, and you suppress even your memories of the times that they're not.

Part of the reason for this is that you are told, outright, that when you're having hard times it's your fault:

My FIL is a Branch President [Pastor] at the MTC [Missionary Training Center]. He shared an insight that turned my stomach [...]

Every so many weeks there is a set talk that is rebroadcast. The main theme of the message (from one of the 12 [Mormon apostles], I think) is that obedience and worthiness (and work) are the key elements of missionary success. And that there are people prepared in the mission field, prepared for every specific missionary. It is vitally and eternally important that every missionary be worthy of the full guidance of the Spirit™ to ensure they can be led to these people. These nonmembers, these brothers and sisters, are relying on the missionaries to be worthy so as to receive the inspiration to give the nonmembers a chance at the gospel – possibly their only or best chance in this life! The guilt of worthiness is laid on THICK!

So thick, in fact, that every week after this rebroadcast the Branch Presidencies are overwhelmed with missionaries bawling and shaking in dire need to confess to sins so as to be worthy. They are terrified that their past mistakes will condemn someone else. They line up to confess things they hadn’t shared before entering the MTC(fearing they’ll be sent home) or reconfess to perfect strangers sins they already owned up to but are afraid they need to make double/triple sure they have covered so they won’t condemn someone through unworthiness.

Emphasis in the original.

This isn't always the way Mormons handle these things. There's a glurgy song one of them wrote which confronts this viewpoint, and shows how unfair life is. Then it goes on to remind the Mormon listeners that "after the trials we will be blessed, for this life is a test." It's still a bad way of looking at things, and I've seen it used to minimize other people's suffering as being God's will and nothing to complain about. But it at least acknowledges that bad things happen to people who don't deserve them.

What it never quite got around to pointing out is that part of that unfairness is who gets blamed for what happens to them and who doesn't. The 18-year-olds entering the MTC are near the bottom of the Mormon hierarchy, right above women, poor people, and gays. And they're blamed for everything that goes wrong, like getting zero baptisms in a European mission. They usually pay for this privilege, out of their or their families' pockets. Meanwhile, the rich white men doing the blaming -- the Mission Presidents -- live in big houses and have their living expenses, medical expenses, kids' educations, and a lot of other things paid for out of members' tithing.

The biggest revelation I had, when I started reading books like Barbara Ehrenreich's, was that there were people who played by "the rules" and were thrown away anyway. This was such a blow to my system that I don't think I ever recovered. In a way, it helped to find out that not everything was my fault, and that the world was just a scary and unfair place. But knowing that doesn't make the guilt and feelings of worthlessness go away, and doesn't really help me deal with it.

I think that's why a lot of Mormons have this "just world" belief. (TW: Rape) They know, somewhere in their hearts, that they are all play-acting. They put so many things, so much loss and pain, on top of a shaky foundation of belief in their God's will and power, even when it means believing that they must have prevented him from blessing them through their unworthiness. And they know that if they ever stop bracing against it, it will fall down and crush them.

I'd have more sympathy for them if they weren't standing on me while they're doing so, and blaming me for not being a doormat.

I have even less sympathy for narcissists, whatever church they attend. Because what's worse than feeling like everything is your fault, is believing that nothing is.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Content note: Spoilers for the Ender's Game film, and a certain PC strategy game.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

5 minutes later ...

Cut for Homeworld spoilers. )

And now for our thoughts about how the story itself should have gone, inspired by Will Wildman's spectacular Ender's Game deconstruction.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Like seemingly most people who use the service, I have a library of Steam games that I bought when they were on sale, most of which I haven't played beyond a few hours if at all. In my case, though, it's not because I'm busy. Even when I can do anything I want, I rarely feel like I want to play them right now.

I guess most people have their own comfort zones. But mine seems to be so narrowly focused that my idea of fun is to play grindy MMOs, like RuneScape circa 2007. Or do grindy things in MMOs, like hundreds of random battles over and over again to obtain the extremely rare atmas in FFXIV.

Maybe it's how I deal with a high-stress environment. When you're being triggered every other day, and under tremendous emotional load, the idea of digital "comfort food" that's always there and always nearly the same experience can be soothing. Plus, being good at maintaining attention on repetitive tasks has advantages.

But then I put off reading messages from my loved ones, because I can't handle the thought that someone genuinely cares about my well-being. I fail to reply to supportive comments, that people leave on my most depressed entries, and I sometimes skip past them entirely. Not because they mean nothing to me, but because they mean so much.

I have procrastinated reading a loving, supportive message from my mother of choice [personal profile] burning_ground before, so that I could read things on Mormon websites that make me hate myself. Just because I'm used to the latter, and not used at all to the former.

Am I trying to conserve what I see as a scarce, precious resource? Am I so susceptible to autistic sensory overload that I avoid beneficial things? Or am I just a mean old lady, who hates fun and nice things and wants everyone to be miserable?

Maybe I just still feel like I have to do things I hate, and shouldn't do things that I like enough to notice the fact that I do.

No offence

Aug. 13th, 2014 02:48 am
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Earlier, I realized that if someone tells me not to be selfish, it's usually because they want to keep the selfishness all to themselves. I'm now convinced that if someone tells me not to take offence, it's because they're going to start dishing it out.

Discussion of transphobic incident. )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Valerie Aurora wrote an extremely good essay addressing what to do in this situation, and who is responsible for doing it. It starts by explaining what's wrong with telling suicidal people to "reach out and talk to a friend," as though this would save their lives and not merely be an added burden, and goes on to address things like sending the police to intervene. It argues

that we, as as [sp] society, should take more responsibility for making people’s lives bearable, and focus on supporting more concrete ways to prevent suicide, like helping people contact professional help, supporting research and treatment of depression, and fighting for social justice.

For instance, in the case of my parents of origin apparently calling a United Way suicide hotline which in turn sent police officers to my door -- as described in this somewhat visceral entry which I've now made public -- more helpful things they could have done to diminish my risk of suicide would have been:

  1. Encourage me to seek mental health treatment when I began having "emotional problems," about 12 years ago while we were living in Utah, from a licensed therapist who places my well-being ahead of adherence to Mormon doctrine.

  2. Read the Mormon version of Supportive Families, Healthy Children, a booklet published by the Family Acceptance Project. It explains how treating me the way they did when I came out to them as transgender increased my risk of suicide significantly, and shows how to relate to LGBT children in a way that the data show better upholds Mormon teachings on the importance of families.

  3. Treat my increasing unwellness and depression while living with them as our problem, not my problem, with the goal of helping me become healthy and not self-loathing (and gender dysphoric). Instead of communicating to me in a number of ways, and bringing me to a church which taught me explicitly, that if I can't live a sufficiently Mormon-y life it's better if I killed myself.

  4. Reach out to me with the intent of making restitution for the "mistakes" they admit to making and the damage they've already done. Such as my father of origin beating me as a young child, terrorizing me once I became sexually mature, and then breaking his agreement to co-sign a long-term lease and effectively raising my rent by $100 a month once I came out to him.

(Although I haven't counted, that last one is pretty easy to put a price tag on, and it is looming over every interaction or potential interaction with them. Why should I even talk to them when they directly caused me $XXX in damage, and show no sign of wanting to make up for it?)

Anyway, while that's all specific to my situation you can see how it applies to many other suicidal persons or marginalized groups of people. Instead of giving unhelpful advice, or using force to intervene, if you're concerned about someone you should educate yourself about their situation, and then (personally or as a society) take pressure off of them so that they can regain their emotional health. This applies doubly if you or your society are responsible for the state someone's in, like with young persons, victims of abuse, persons of colour, indigenous persons, poor persons, and gender / sexuality / species / romantic / religious minorities.

Whose choice is it, anyway?

The way things are set up right now, in the quasi-theocratic settler state that I live in, suicide is basically a crime, no matter how hellish your life is. The only way that makes sense is if your life isn't your own.

As Valerie says:

I want to put in a word for suicide as a legitimate, reasonable option in some cases. If you can’t imagine a situation in which killing yourself seems like the best option, you simply haven’t suffered very much. Suicide is, in a sense, the last form of protest against suffering that is too strong to make life worth living. Sometimes that suffering is purely organic – there’s something wrong with your body and it’s caused by nothing related to society. But sometimes, suicide is a protest against being forced to function and give support to a society that is so unfair and unequal that it’s not worth staying alive.

And finally,

If you really want to help, don’t do things because they help salve your personal feelings of loss and guilt, do things that lessen the suffering and illness that cause suicide.

She gives a list of these things towards the end of her essay.

Thank you to everyone reading here who has helped with those things.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Content note: Violence, threats of violence, and physical / religious abuse.

One of the big things my therapist seemed to look for when diagnosing me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was the way I relived trauma events in dreams. Even since leaving the Mormon church, for instance, I can't count how many times I dreamed that I "had" to go there again, with my family of origin or otherwise, and was basically treated as a child again. Sometimes I wake up from screaming at terrible people.

Another disturbing dream involved knives )

My mother of origin told me in an email once that I was being brainwashed by things that I read on the Internet, which were turning me against "my family." But the Internet and the mental health profession didn't give me these dreams. They just gave me the words for the reason I have them.

The Mormon church gave my family of origin words for the things that I'm going through, also ... like how when I was terrified to be around them, I was "bringing a cloud of darkness into [their] home." They just happen to be the wrong words, and to serve no purpose except to help them blame and fear their own victims. And remain ignorant of what others go through.

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~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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