Straightening out my thoughts.

Okay, I’m going to take some time to write, now. Today…well, today…what happened? Shopping, mostly. I did pick up some good things to eat, which is positive. I also tried some French Brie, today. Usually, Brie is a bit strong for me, and textured like compacted dehydrated tofu, but this is creamier and milder. I like it! We also got some pears, and organic grapes, so this is going to be good. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was also able to do some reading. I understand now why the reading is given over a week, which makes sense given the density of this chapter.

No work done on the ePortfolio, today. At least — yet. (It’s 9:30 PM right now, though I have work tomorrow, so I shouldn’t stay up until 2 AM, like I can.) I’m hoping I won’t need to drop Collection Management later on, in order to get this done. What I have realized, though, is that it’s possible to draft the majority of a Competency essay in one day. Filling in the gaps is something else, as is tracking down evidence, but the latter isn’t hard. The former is what may require extra work.

I’m aiming to get a first draft of all my essays done, by Halloween. (After that, I have roughly 20 days to edit anything remaining.) Today was the 40th day before Halloween. I have 39 remaining. If I can’t think of anything to do, I should read over some of the ePortfolio examples. I think it would diminish apprehensiveness, and keep me from wasting time.

Just yesterday, I was out taking care of some mental health stuff. I did raise the alert about my last remaining major psychological issue, which I’m working on now. I just hope it doesn’t take up too much of my mental space, when I need my mental space for these next 39 days.

But I can do this, right?

I’ve also gotten the idea to write a biography. I probably, should. In my writings elsewhere, I essentially began this. Maybe I’m feeling pressed for time because I spent two days, basically, drafting this.

That’s probable.

There’s that, and the sleep hygiene thing, where I stayed up late Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and crashed on Thursday. And the Saturday and Sunday prior, I was drafting the narrative. Meaning…what was I doing on the Thursday and Friday prior?

Looks like I was blogging and getting over being sick. That sounds about right! And the week prior to that (Wednesday to Wednesday), I was wiped out with a cold. Less than a week before then, our visitor left.

So it’s not as bad as it looks. What I need to be okay about is not starting new activities to distract myself from working on my ePortfolio and my work in Collection Development. The biographical writing and the blogging on art and gender are the two things that I have done that I haven’t absolutely needed to do, though both have been constructive, even if disruptive.

I suppose I can’t block life out all the way, can I?

And I can deal with it if I have to turn in my interview late (or not at all). I’m already in an Honors Society and I’m in my last semester of classes. A “C” won’t ruin me.

How in the world can I say that? ๐Ÿ™‚

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Dreaming? Nonbinary feminine-to-masculine gender reassignment

So, new day. It’s been interesting, thinking on the gender presentation thing, but this isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved overnight. There are a lot of inputs that have been on my mind, recently…not all of which would be right to share, here, because they deal with specific people who are either in my life, or whom I’ve overheard.

One of the issues that has arisen is about seeing transgender positionality as an essentially privileged thing. I can see how the viewpoint would arise; I’ve noticed a definite trend in the demographic makeups of the genderqueer, nonbinary, gender-variant, and transgender groups that I’ve been in. But…I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that gender-variant identity is essentially White. For one thing, that’s not what I’ve observed.

For another thing, it’s probable that White TG/GQ/GV/NB people are more likely to be visible because of their relative ability to transition and relative safety in doing so; whereas TG/GQ/GV/NB people of color may already be marginalized enough so that they don’t feel capable of visibly taking on another stigma.

I know that in my case, I have enough stigmata that my life is pretty complex already, and this is without my changing to a male gender role so far as my public life is concerned. While I do think I would have been better off having been born physiologically male, a future of hormone administration isn’t welcoming…and, I’m looking at physically transitioning to a place where I’m seen as a Black male. A non-heteronormative Black male, at that.

Big deal with this: the U.S. has a prison culture. There are only a few males on the African-American side of my family who have not been in prison. I have not interviewed each of them about the circumstances which led up to their arrest; however, it’s well-known that police will target people of color over White people.

It’s also known that life inside a prison is violent and that rapes do occur, even in same-sex facilities. If it isn’t other prisoners, it could be the guards (particularly in a women’s prison). I don’t believe, if I were to be arrested for doing whatever, that I would be safe in either a women’s prison or a men’s prison (and I’ve had my supposed sexuality used as a weapon against me enough, already).

Which…just brings to light the lack of space afforded nonbinary people in this culture. Bathrooms, until relatively recently, have largely been either men’s or women’s; locker rooms and bathing facilities are men’s or women’s; apparel is either men’s or women’s.

It’s just one of those things. This is not to mention the surgical, “correction,” of those people who do not clearly fit into either the, “man,” box or, “woman,” box, which often causes lifelong scarring (I’m talking about psychological scars, but I would expect physical ones, too, from what I’ve heard and read).

Just in general, it’s a risky thing to transition. Especially if you’re not White. I have and had been attempting to hold solidarity with those people in history who have been gender-nonconforming and did not have the tools to be able to physically transform themselves. It doesn’t mean their identities were invalid, or nonexistent.

Now we have the tools, but society has not yet matured. For some reason, other people’s gender and sexuality are things that a great many people (not to mention, governments and the medical industry) want to control. I am not entirely sure why, at this point.

What I do know is that there is nothing at this point that requires that I change myself to, “make my outside match my inside.” My outside already does match my inside. My problem is that others see me, and the idea they get from my appearance is not at all accurate to who I am.

I would like a beard and a voice drop (just for myself), but the deal with that is that I’m likely to get hair all over — not just on my face. I also would likely get hairline recession, which I don’t want (it’s a reason I went on birth control — I was starting to lose it on my own), worse acne, and I’d lose my curves. I’m still not certain if I would be able to safely and comfortably bind for the foreseeable future. It’s easier after having been on testosterone, but I haven’t heard of it being a sustainable practice.

There is a possible in-between zone, where I could get a full beard and voice drop and then stop testosterone. I’d get back my curves (good? bad?), but then I’d still have the cartilage growth to deal with (which I can’t predict from here), possibly still hairline recession, and coarse body hair. It’s not that great a place to initially aim for, largely because it’s illegible to the vast majority of people…and people don’t like things they don’t understand.

The best-case scenario on testosterone is to get top surgery, stay on birth control or get a hysterectomy, get off of the medication that’s causing my weight gain, and become more physically active so that I can become buff. Of course, still maintaining my line of work (Librarianship) and my other plans for the future. It’s vastly easier to transition when one’s end point is…not something that makes one obvious.

And the fact is, still, that on medication for mood, anxiety, and detachment from reality — I’m essentially asexual, with a few rare instances of wanting to get close to certain people (but not really to have sex with them — a fact which people don’t understand, especially since I’m relatively open when talking about my body).

Also, I had been getting encouragement from one person who thinks I might do well on testosterone. The other day, I could see it. If I retained my long hair and got a beard and started presenting masculine, maybe with some eyeliner…yes, I can now see the possibility in that, and how it might make things make more sense in my life. I need to remember that I’d be transitioning to be a nonbinary masculine-appearing person, though: not to be a man.

On the other hand, there are a lot of other things to consider, like whether I’ll still recognize (or like) my own scent if I go on testosterone. I do know that getting top surgery isn’t anything I’m really hot on, because there’s nothing wrong with my chest. If I did get it, it would be, “because that’s what people do,” or for the sake of convenience and safety, or as a concession to other people. The first and third reasons don’t fly with me. For the sake of safety, though — that’s something different. And I would like to be able to be in public without a shirt.

(I did just remember that new eyebrow filler which will draw hairs on your face. That could be fun to experiment with!)

Why does it seem like my main problem in all areas of my life is having too many options?

Pushing back: embracing mortality

I’m wanting to do art so badly these days that the thought has arisen: “I don’t even care if it will kill me.” That’s not something that has come up, before. It did come up last night, and I neglected to write it down…but I don’t think the sentiment is an unfamiliar one, to many. (At least, to many in the art world.)

Of course, examples of early death from exposure to artists’ materials abound. I am reminded of Jay DeFeo, who died of lung cancer a couple of decades after working on her piece, sometimes called Rose, or Deathrose, for eight years. (This piece had been repeatedly built up and carved down, which would have created particulates. I suspect but do not know that she may have used Titanium White pigment in this; the photos I’ve seen are black-and-white.)

I have had a number of art teachers who have fought cancer. I knew someone who died in their 20’s from breast cancer, potentially from grinding down car parts (and refusing treatment). My nearest artsy contact has a rattling chronic cough (though I think they have been exposed to a lot of things besides art supplies).

I suppose the thing to do is to know what you’re getting into, before you get into it. One of my previous drawing teachers did make sure to emphasize the dangers of blowing pastel dust up into the air and then inhaling it. Of course, people still did it, which then exposed the entire class…except for those who brought dust masks and respirators. (Tip: turn the drawing board vertically and then tap it on a hard surface to clear the paper of dust, without raising excess dust.)

I was one of the people who did (eventually) wear a respirator…and the difference of the smell from within the respirator, versus the smell outside the respirator, was not at all subtle. I wore it because I was getting personally disturbed at sneezing, then blowing my nose and seeing blue stuff come out of my sinuses.

And this was working with the relatively safe stuff — we were only using NuPastels. Though now, anything with loose Titanium White in it is likely to get a Prop 65 Warning in California (that is, a label saying it carries a recognized carcinogen) even though the danger of Titanium White is mechanical, particularly where it comes to free nanoparticles: not a toxic one.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have been careful to avoid certain pigments because of their toxicity. By that, I particularly mean cadmium-based pigments. I learned of itai-itai disease while in the Art program, which is a disease caused by cadmium pollution in water sources. The incidence of itai-itai in this example was caused by mine drainage into the water supply people drank, cooked with, watered their crops with, fished in, and bathed in.

This lead to cadmium buildup in their bodies. Itai-itai literally translates to, “it hurts, it hurts.” I read this a long time ago, and the page I read it on has since changed, but one of the main symptoms is bone softening and fractures, even just under the body’s own weight. (There’s also some stuff about kidney [“renal”] failure in there, but I don’t claim to understand that…I just barely took Biology classes.)

It’s not that important to me to get brilliant opaque colors out of cadmium-based pigments (which are, generally speaking, water-soluble; meaning they can be absorbed through the skin). It’s one thing to take the risk of working, and die; it’s another to die slowly and painfully for an avoidable reason that you can foresee and take precautions about.

If you know ways to keep yourself safer, it’s likely in your own best interest to do it. Although I do know about taking on passive risk. I do understand that self-destructive quality that Freud referred to as thanatos. But there’s a reason to protect yourself as much as you can: and that is, to extend your life on this planet. If making art brings you joy, I would expect that you would want to spend as much time making art as you can, yes?

So don’t sell yourself (or the world) short.

My particular weakness on this point are cobalt-based pigments (particularly, in watercolors). Cobalt is another toxic heavy metal, like cadmium, but has a different range of symptomatology on exposure. The thing is that I haven’t found anything with the same colors, or the same working properties.

Probably the worst I ever got from this was contact dermatitis (itching) when I was trying to reduce my exposure to cobalt by wearing nitrile gloves, and in the process got Aureolin paint (PY40, Cobalt Yellow) all over the tube — and my hand, because the gloves smeared the paint everywhere, and I didn’t see it. Or feel it. When I finally took the gloves off to actually take the lid off the tube (instead of just stretch the gloves), I got the paint all over my hand — and had nowhere but my pot of rinse water to wash it off.

I think that was a lesson in not being overly careful, if doing so creates risks and problems that don’t otherwise exist.

At this point, the only major thing I have about the cobalt colors is that 1) I can absorb them transdermally, and 2) I don’t know how to wash out my brushes while never contacting the paint. Everyone says not to touch the brushes. They don’t give any advice on how to avoid doing so.

Though now that I think of it, that would be a good use of those nitrile gloves — provided, of course, that no water gets into them. Which would negate the reasoning for using them, in the first place.

I’m not sure what’s up with me, tonight. I am feeling better than I was last night, and basically, I’m feeling better than I have for the last week. I think I’ve turned a corner where it comes to my health. It is now, though, almost 1 AM where I’m at! (No wonder I’m having trouble thinking!)

I need to get stuff cleaned up. Particularly: books. And changing these sheets, doing laundry, and getting the dust out of here. I also need to re-read Chapter 2 of my textbook so I know what I’m looking for, when I work on my late assignment. I should be able to complete that, tomorrow, if I’m feeling anything like the way I felt tonight.

Once I get that assignment out of the way, maybe I should realistically look at doing something constructive with my watercolors…I see them every day, and they just get dusty because of my hesitation. (I deal with OCD; they tempt me, but I remember that I need to use caution in handling them…which leads to their not getting used.)

Something like recovering from an illness seems like it will make a person embrace life more strongly. Kind of like contemplating immortality, just to get smacked back into reality by a high fever…

I suppose I have the cold to thank for that…

Recovering from a cold; starving myself of art

Little by little, I’m getting better from whatever this is. I can sit through computer problems in order to write and upload this — barely. And I realize that what I want to be doing now is art. I don’t know why, though I know doing it as a vocation throws me into a group where “success” is not guaranteed and life gets a lot riskier. As someone with a documented disability requiring lifelong care…that’s not great.

I’ve been wondering about what I’m doing with my time while sick (I’ve got a cold or something). “Isn’t this a perfect opportunity to work on something nonlinear?” I ask myself. But then I’m like, no…art is work. That’s why they call it art work.

Apologies if I misspell anything; I’m touch-typing by hand with my eyes closed, mostly. Even though I’ve been getting better where it comes to my sinuses, my eyes still burn. Ordinarily I can tell when I mistype something…I just know that my fingertips didn’t go where they were supposed to. But, just in case.

And yes, I am writing this prior to working on homework for either of my classes. I hate that, but writing helps me keep my head together.

(I’ve since gotten my glasses, and my eyes have stopped burning. Huh.)

I kind of wonder if life would have been simpler, had I never taken a World Religions course. I think it was while I was there that I started to get a loose idea about castes, running parallel to my idea about genders. Try to hear me out; I misunderstand a lot of this stuff, but in a way that brings light to my own situation. Apologies, too, to anyone who has been hurt by this system and is reading this: I’m an outsider here, and so in this case I’m only commenting on what thoughts my World Religions class set off in my own mind. I’m in no way trying to color anyone else’s beliefs. I’m not an expert.

When I was listening to teachings on Hindu beliefs (I was maybe 24 years old?…I don’t have my unofficial transcript here), I was also in a space relative to gender that wasn’t all that easy to inhabit. What I got from that class was the idea that maybe I did have a, “true,” self: beneath all the conditioning that I had been taught about in undergraduate Sociology classes. They taught, basically, that conditioning shapes everything about who we express ourselves to be, and that in effect there is no, “true self,” under that conditioning. The latter view jives with Buddhism (which…I don’t know what I feel about that, now); the idea of having a personal essence or duty derives from Hindu thought (which is older).

My idea was that maybe I did have a, “true,” gender aside from man or woman, and it just wasn’t what most of the world understood or would like; or that maybe I had a, “true,” calling, even though I wasn’t born into a arts/crafts family. We’ve kind of made it an arts/crafts family over the years, but at inception I think it was M who was the artist.

In my case, I thought I was in spirit a person who made things…creativity was my main focus and drive. It was reflexive and needed to be directed outwardly, or it began to transform me personally, and not always in beneficial ways. Often it worked out so that I would be transformed in some way thatย I understood, but others didn’t.

That creative spark and drive is what I had then that was special to me. That’s why I’ve hung with this (the art, the writing, etc.) for so long. I’ve needed it as an outlet for my energy. It’s also a reason I now work in a Library: my interests change so often that it’s hard to stick with one thing. So I’ll stick with all things. ๐Ÿ˜‰

While things on medication are more logical, they’re also a bit duller. On the bright side, it’s easier to catch when my mind is not working well. The thing about beliefs is that people generally don’t look at their own beliefs, and call them false. There’s something about the brain that makes it think that what it believes is true, the majority of the time, whether any of its thought is true or applicable or not. While that makes it easy to make positive belief statements…it in no way ensures that those beliefs line up with any form of reality outside of one’s own mind.

The “professional” identity I find myself being pushed into now is an economic move so that I don’t go without treatment (for the same issue that caused me to be creative all the time) for so long that I relapse and get out of control again. I do have serious issues with trauma from having been sexually objectified all my life (which is a reason…but not necessarily a causal one…why I don’t identify as a woman. That is, being not-woman likely led to the objectification, which led to the rage). The rage issues are what I’m majorly guarding against, because…hey. I have a germ phobia. I don’t need to be fighting. It’s gross. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, I’d go to adult jail, now.

Besides, I consider rage a form of pain.

It is…indeed possible for me to drastically reduce one of my medications after graduation. It should help with the side effects (largely, muscle spasms), and if I’m right, it should give me back more of my creative ability than it’s giving back, now.

Right now I can feel it still simmering under the surface, bumping up under some of the floorboards in the back of my mind…as I try and focus on getting my degree so that I can be a, “Librarian,” so that I can get health benefits. (Which, in itself…is beyond idiotic. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE for being a Librarian???)

๐Ÿ˜›

It’s not an easy feeling. Really, not. I mean, just having to push that to the side so that I can deal with finishing grad school so that I’ll have class mobility, and be able to meet my basic needs. Even if I’ve realized that maybe I like working with things more than working with data. But craftspeople and artists don’t make an easy living in this society. And if you asked me now, yeah, that’s a reason why I’m thinking about not staying here for the rest of my life.

But I only have two more months of this, to deal with; unless, I don’t work.

I think I’ll be OK.

Photos. I finally took photos.

I’m posting this here instead of on Hidden Jewels (for now), mainly because it’s a continuation from the past two weeks. I couldn’t concentrate on reading today, so I went back to the photos I’d taken earlier when the sun was at full blast, and did a tiny bit of photo editing.

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To the left, is a close-up of one of the quilting cottons I picked up yesterday at a local quilting shop. It’s a batik, much nicer in quality than the ones I’ve gotten at the chain fabric and craft stores. I can guess at how it was made…and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was from one of the handmade bolts.

I’m just wondering, at this point…if I wanted to go into crafting as a vocation, basically in my case, apparel design or jewelry design (though I’m more interested in apparel design, at the moment)…how I would do that.

M had been talking about my being able to go back to my art after graduation. The one place I researched which I know has a fashion design program, is FIDM, and their biggest selling point is making friends and networking, which isn’t really my strong suit.

There are a number of steps which come before being able to design apparel, however. I’m thinking that it starts with making clothes (or jewelry) from patterns, then graduates into mixing and matching elements from different patterns, then goes into draping and designing one’s own patterns.

My biggest hurdle with this is the fact that my own sense of style isn’t traditional. I can be interested by traditional work, but the lack of readily available patterns for menswear, for example, is one of those things that I notice and don’t really “get.” As a female person who sometimes wears clothing made for men (and who would wear more of it if it were cut for my body), I know that not everyone who is female wants to wear traditionally feminine clothing. I also know that clothing styled for men doesn’t have to look horrible on a female body, but the apparel industry isn’t really geared toward gender-variant expression at the moment.

Anyhow, going off of my last post, I did get up enough nerve to take some more photos. Not a lot of them, mind; I could have gone at it and photographed all of my Fat Quarters, too, but decided to try not to go overboard. ๐Ÿ™‚

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The alternative to the carpet background is to lay down some muslin or something.

So…the above image is of the four bits of fabric I got yesterday, about 3 yards in total (each piece is .75 yards), which cost about $38, including tax. For fabric, that’s pretty good. At least it is where I live, where the cost of living is apparently pretty stupid high.

So…the two on the left are batiks; as I said, possibly hand-painted. The second from the right is faux shibori, I believe (shibori is a method of tie-dyeing which can get really intricate, though I think this one is just a pattern). On the far right, I believe that’s an indigo ikat pattern (ikat is a method of dyeing threads in a particular pattern before they’re woven, and then weaving them together so that a design shows up in the finished fabric).

I’m really interested in fabrics right now, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the color issue plus the texture issue. I just get stimulated by color (I still don’t know how or why), and I get stimulated tactilely by working with fabric…which is also a mystery. It’s just nice to feel things that feel nice. Which is weird because I don’t consider myself a highly physical person…cloth is something else, though.

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Above are the Kona Cotton Fat Quarters I got a while ago, on which to practice embroidery. Only the pink has been embroidered at this point, though (I used an orangeย Olympus-brand sashiko thread which doesn’t appear to be that high in quality). That, in turn, was only a trial where I was pushing myself to do anything except be on the computer. It worked…even though I did the embroidery non-traditionally, because I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t study the optimal thread path before starting.

Well. (It would matter if the stitching was weight-bearing; one of the original uses of sashiko is to reinforce fabric.)

I guess when you just want to get started as fast as possible, to kick yourself out of doing nothing into doing something, it helps.

And I guess we’re pretty deep into the night, now. Here, I mean. I’ll see how I feel, tomorrow. I might want to work; I might not want to. I might be able to work, or not.

Oh, wait: I go to my job, tomorrow.

Coming up, I’ll just start reviewing my old work for the ePortfolio, without committing to writing anything. Working from Competency to Competency, I should have an okay time getting an idea of what to write…my Prof still hasn’t returned my first essay, yet, so I don’t even know if I’m doing the correct work.

I also need to summarize Chapter 1 of the reading for Collection Development, and read over other people’s responses…

I can take my textbook with me tomorrow and try and work through Chapter 2 and review Chapter 1 on my lunch.

I can also take one or more quilting books with me, in case I can’t concentrate… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stress and triggers. Recurrence of a familiar stance…

A few things have happened, recently. One: I’ve realized that I don’t really want to be female, though that doesn’t mean I want to transition to male. Not everyone around me seems to remember that “female,” does not always equate to, “woman.”

Another: Because of the stress of this final semester…I’m questioning whether I’m dealing with a bit of psychic fragmentation. I don’t think I would call it Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), but then I don’t really know what the medical opinion on this, is. I’ve just slipped back into a state that I recognize, which I haven’t dealt with for months (if not years).

I do know, however, that I definitely have used dissociation as a coping mechanism, in the past. Although it would be interesting if my way of being gender nonbinary was actually that I was plural (that I, “really,” had multiple identities, or deep facets that somehow include the same sets of identity and personality all the time)…I haven’t heard anything to that effect, and at this point it sounds too dramatic to be true.

On the other hand, I definitely have different subroutines in my mind, and I’ve read that being entirely, “integrated,” into one person, is an illusion, in all people.

It’s just…it’s weird that this mental constellation would come up again. Right now I’m dealing with a stronger-than-normal sense of being not-woman, along with what I can only call a darker viewpoint. I’ve also dealt more strongly with ideas about, “demons,” and the darker side of the paranormal, in this state — along with feelings of persecution when the darkness gets to the surface and others recognize it and try to condition me against it.

To be clear: when I’m like this, I’m not about being, “right.” I end up dealing with feelings of amorality, in favor of pragmatism and emotional validation, though I won’t generally open up about what I’m feeling. I know what is said to be the, “right thing to do,” or say, but…sometimes it’s hard to do it and keep what I’m actually feeling, hidden.

Though I won’t get into what it was that happened last night (I got triggered, particularly around issues of reproduction and, “motherhood,” which for me are obviously linked to ideas about gender and sexuality — which are obviously…slow torture for me), the pattern and the feelings are familiar. As is the social dynamic.

If it’s anything like it has been in the past…it may wear off by next Tuesday or Wednesday, at the latest. If it doesn’t shift, it would be weird. But…when this does happen, it leaves me without a non-occlusive vocabulary with which to communicate my state. That is, I do have a vocabulary with which I’ve explained this to myself: but others don’t understand it. To them, it suggests ideas that I was (thankfully) never exposed to, but which cause them to feel moral revulsion towards me.

I can see why this has come up, though, if I need to function and I am somehow not up to the task: I can switch into a mode which allows me to get things done by, “letting someone else deal with it;” that is, changing into a different person who can cope. And yeah, that does sound like DID, but DID is a serious condition, and I don’t feel that ill.

Of course, those around me may beg to differ…

Feelings on Japanese culture

This post is about my internal conflict (as a mixed-race, fourth-generation [yonsei] Japanese-American person [nikkeijin]) as regards learning Japanese language (nihongo).

This majorly has to do with tensions around widespread equation of race to ethnicity; past insecurity about being a legitimate member of my ethnicity; being part of a wider Asian-American community including other A/PI (Asian/Pacific Islander) people; mixed feelings over the popularity in America of Japanese pop culture (over the output of other cultures); historically-based Japanese racism; internal family tensions bridging off of that history of racism; how my own identity has been shaped by intra-familial racism; and ideas about cultural appropriation, or who has the “right” to display what ethnic signals (or to represent Japanese-American people).

On top of that, I now have ambivalence over describing myself (as I have for most of my life, and has been implicitly encouraged by my family) as more Japanese-American than African-American. I was raised with my Japanese-American family, while my extended African-American family is relatively distant. While relations with neither side are perfect, the methods of relation are markedly different. Seeing the problems now arising on the Japanese-American side of my family, as well, causes some tension in my knowing that I don’t want to follow in their footsteps (with the possible exception of my father and brother — though I know very clearly that I am not my brother).

There are a lot of complicated feelings here, so I can’t be sure I’ll be able to get them all out in this posting. I can’t assure anyone that what they read here is going to be accurate to what I’m thinking; I’ve realized that my English communication skills have been a bit overestimated. Nor can I really assure anyone that they won’t be upset by reading about my experience, but I ask that they own their own emotions and look at why they feel what they feel. If what I write is anything, it is a catalyst, and a way for me to express my own reality (which is likely different from everyone else’s).

It’s been a while since I’ve last studied nihongo (Japanese language). I have been involved with this since middle school, at the earliest, when I learned to read and write kana (Japanese syllabary). It is — or has been, since I was young — a life goal of mine to learn Japanese. In the beginning, I realized that I meshed much more with media emerging from Japan, than I did with American media. I’m fairly certain that a lot of this had to deal with the gender fluidity exhibited in shojo (girls’) anime (animation) and manga (comics).

As someone who was nominally female but who did not fit into feminine gender norms (at the time)…this, and the compassion displayed toward the “villains” in anime (who were actually relatable, and in some ways respectable), caused me to really kind of attach to anime. In turn, this caused me to seek out manga, which helped push me forward when it came to writing fiction, to drawing comics, and to beginning to learn how to read nihongo.

Since I was little, I’ve been watching Fuji TV and now NHK World. It’s something that has been kind of like PBS, and has helped with my comprehension of spoken Japanese.

When I was in my first years of undergraduate study, I chose nihongo as my language of choice, to fulfill my Foreign Language graduation requirement.

In any case…this entry is about my now being ambivalent in my drive to learn this. I’ve started to question my motivations, that is: what they’re based in. I’ve also started to question whether I even have a chance of being considered as human, should I ever travel to Japan. Maybe “human” isn’t the right word; there is a lot about rank and status in what I know of Japanese culture, so being considered “equal” is a more American ideal.

Maybe the question is whether I have a chance of being respected and accepted in Japan, as a mixed-race person, when one of those races originates in Africa. Then that leads me to the place of why that dialogue should ever come into my head; why it should even matter, because I know that it’s stupid. (After all, all humans originated in Africa.)

But humans aren’t known for making sense, not in any country.

I also realize that a lot of this concern arises from some of my experience with my own family (particularly those who don’t know me very well, and my late grandmother), and my experience with one particular clique in middle- and high-school. Whether it was because of the fact that I didn’t fit in genderwise (I was more active than any of them; they probably thought it was because I was boyish) or that I didn’t fit in racially (I was the only half-Asian)…most of them never really accepted me, with the exception of one, who is still a friend.

Of course, it’s also possible that there were interpersonal things going on that I was unaware of, which ironically, I think I’d be better able to understand.

Going off of one of my readings, by the third generation in the U.S., the original diasporic language — in this case, Japanese — is lost (as happened in my family). Going off of what I’ve seen, by the fourth generation, partnering only to people of the same diaspora ceases to make sense. That is, by the fourth generation (yonsei), mixed-race (hapa) children start showing up a lot more frequently.

I think because of this, it’s a lot more understood for Japanese-Americans to be diverse, in the U.S. And because of that…I actually feel understood and accepted in a place like Hawaii, which has a very large A/PI population.

And I’ve wanted to learn Japanese, to be able to get back to my roots and get deeper into that of my cultural heritage which is GOOD. It may be because I’ve been reading into historical documents…by this I mean 1950’s English-language books about Japan and Japanese culture…but it’s reawakened some of those old, negative feelings about the source of my diaspora. Particularly the bitterness over how certain members of my family were not, “good enough,” for my grandmother, due to the region of the world their ancestors were from.

Then there is the giant World War II legacy, which is complicated on a number of counts: both the Japanese Internment and the fact that the former Japanese military was famous for war crimes. I suppose it could be said to be penance that the country no longer has any Armed Forces…but to be honest, even though I personally had nothing to do with this, it’s still visible that there are race tensions in Japanese pop culture. Which doesn’t make it necessarily non-problematic to deal with.

At one time, I had to take a break from dealing with anime (for a number of years), in order to be able to feel good about my own racialization. Because there was no one in those anime who represented me. The ones who supposedly came close, were being made fun of (though I still appreciate Cowboy Bebop for disrupting this).

On the up side, I have a lot of respect for the work ethic of so many Japanese artisans and craftspersons. I know that the people who were on the islands of Japan during the War were not the ones doing the crimes. There is so much beauty and aesthetic sophistication in so much of what I’ve seen come out of Japan. The language itself is beautiful. And I doubt that much of what is published in the English language about Japan can even hold a light to what is published in nihongo, itself (from library translations, and what I’ve seen coming out of Kinokuniya Books).

I don’t know what to think about there not being stronger laws to protect women and sexual minorities in the nation, but I know that as someone seen as both, I may not be safe there. The history of Japan is full of war and violence inflicted against its own people, and that it would spill outside the country at some time, was near-unavoidable. It’s a cultural difference that interpersonal interactions are more important in what I know of Japanese business, than supposed merit.

There is a lot of difference, culturally, between California (outside of Japanese-American community) and Japan. That doesn’t mean California is necessarily better. That means I’m between cultures, and find myself exposed to both. Am I actually navigating both? I am not sure.

I think I’ve just had a taste of Japanese culture, and that, while being initially enthusiastic about that exposure, I’ve now matured to the point of being able to become ambivalent about it.

While it is, undoubtedly, better to choose to accept the good and reject the bad, trying to disentangle those two, as in trying to disentangle the good and the bad in American culture, may be more of a full-time job than it seems. I do still want to learn Japanese. I just am not positive that I will ever be able to use it comfortably, in Japan. The thought of that possibility is difficult to deal with.

Then again, I don’t think the 2020’s will be the same as the 1950’s. Looking toward the future, there is always hope.