As of June 2014 I am actively using Dreamwidth again. However, most entries will be friends-only.

If you subscribe or grant access to this account, I may take a while before following or granting access to you. This is due to time constraints (I work two jobs), health issues, etc. I'm also picky about people to whom I grant access. Don't take it personally if I don't subscribe or grant access, as it doesn't mean I don't like you or find you interesting, I just have limited resources and must manage them wisely.

About me:

32 years old, non-binary gender, asexual, divergent from the mental/neurological norm in several ways, abuse survivor, voracious infovore, interested in creative pursuits but lousy at actually doing them, 10+ years of retail/foodservice, 2-time college dropout/flunkout, bird nerd, introvert but not misanthrope

My pronouns are they/them/their/theirself/etc.
It seems I cannot go through my backlog of RSS feeds without encountering at least one smug anti-ebook graphic or text statement. I wonder if anyone who creates or reblogs these sentiments knows or cares how important ebooks have become for people who cannot read standard print books because of a disability.

For many people, disability is not a real thing that affects real people who live everyday lives and want to do things like enjoy stories, keep up with current events and culture, or seek knowledge of things from the past. It's aggravating that people who profess to love books so much have no concept of people who are slightly different from them valuing the same things even though they can't enjoy books in exactly the same format or container.

Books in electronic format help people with many different impairments access written information.

A person with low vision (legally blind but with some usable vision) may require large print in order to read visually. Large print paper books are available, but the title selection is limited, they are very expensive, they go out of print much more quickly than editions with standard size type, and they are much larger, heavier, and more difficult to hold than standard print books. This last part is especially galling for someone with an additional disability that affects arm and hand strength and dexterity if they must hold the book close to their face instead of being able to rest it on their lap or a table top. In addition, paper large print books are often available only in 14 or 16 point type, when many people require 18, 24, or even larger type sizes in order to read comfortably for extended periods of time. With most ebook formats and display devices, fonts can be adjusted to the size needed, and some color screen devices even support high contrast (yellow or white text on a black or navy blue background) which is helpful for many people with low vision.

Braille readers also benefit from ebooks. Braille books are even harder to come by, and even larger than large print books. In most countries, braille books are only available from government-sponsored lending libraries or a handful of nonprofit organizations that serve blind people. A library may have only one copy of a book, and of that copy becomes lost or damaged, a replacement may never be made. My own local braille lending library lost thousands of books a few years ago due to a mold infestation caused by lack of funding for adequate climate-controlled storage facilities. The embossing plates for those books were not kept on hand so those books can't be replaced. Limited copies mean that someone may have years on a waiting list before they get access to a book they want to read. Even if you are first in line, it can take a couple years for a new book to be made available in braille, if it even gets transcribed in the first place. Having access to a digital braille file or a DRM-free ebook that can be displayed on a refreshable braille device means being able to have access to more books, more quickly, and even keeping a personal archive of files of books you've enjoyed. Can any of you print readers imagine only being able to get books from the library and not having the option of buying your own copy to keep? Never getting a book as a gift?

Text-to-speech is another way that ebooks are useful to people with print disabilities, and not just blind people: dyslexia, other learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, brain cancer/tumors, epilepsy, paralysis, cerebral palsy, stroke survivors, etc. If you can't see the page, interpret symbols, hold the book, turn the page, etc., you might be able to hear and process synthesized speech to gain access to the same information. Some text-to-speech programs are optimized for specific circumstances, for example programs for people with dyslexia may highlight the word on the screen as the computer reads it out loud, which can improve comprehension over simply hearing the words from the computer or an audio recording of human speech. DAISY, the combined ebook and audiobook format for people with disabilities (and a close relative of EPUB) is especially suited for this purpose.

And, finally, some people who may not be able to hold a print book and turn paper pages may be able to use assistive technology to use desktop, laptop, or tablet computers to read ebooks in that manner.

So before you snark on ebooks, think about who you may be snarking. Since few people reach old age without acquiring a significant disability, you may be short-changing your future self.
Blog entry explaining the survey: http://asexystuff.blogspot.com/2012/01/survey-for-asexuals-25-or-older.html

This is a survey for asexual-identifying people age 25 or older

Survey itself: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QG26KSL
I liked this post about the problems with the "open person" status of a person with a temporary physical disability, especially the phrasing "do help to you." Having help done to you is one of the microaggressions that people with an obvious physical disability deal with nearly every time they go out in public.

For those not familiar with the term, "open person" in this context refers to the status of people who are one the receiving end of social interactions that cross the boundaries of what a person would normally expect or tolerate from a person with a given type of social relationship. Examples are touching a pregnant woman's belly, touching the hair of a person of African descent who has natural hair, asking about a trans person's genitals, or asking intrusive medical questions of a person with an apparent disability or medical condition. There are situations in which these kinds of interactions are acceptable given a socially intimate relationship, but infuriatingly inappropriate when they come from a stranger or casual acquaintance.

Andrea is no stranger to this kind of thing (she has multiple disabilities), it just increased frequency when she recently injured her foot:

http://qw88nb88.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/thats-not-helpful/
I finished reading The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place a few days ago and want to recommend it to anyone with an interest in the intersection of race, ethnicity, poverty, workers' rights, sex and gender, and many of the other issues faced by Mexicans who come to urban areas in the United States seeking work. I was disappointed that sexual orientation and disability did not make an appearance in the book, but it did cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time (the unabridged audiobook is only 8 hours long).

What struck me most was the description of the hardships faced by married Mexican women whether they join their husbands in the United States or if they stay in their hometowns.

The postscript about the difficulties of getting standard "consent" from research subjects in social science fields when those subjects are from marginalized groups that rely on a certain amount of anonymity to stay safe was also enlightening.

The book is available from NLS as DB67566
It's only within the past year or so that I finally understood why I started disliking Halloween celebrations starting around the time of puberty. I think a lot of it has to do with being asexual and transgender (among other things).

Halloween, for those in the United States who are teenagers through adults, is a very sexualized holiday. It's also a holiday during which it's encouraged for people to dress up and to pretend to be something or someone they are not. For an asexual trans* person, pretending to be, or being assumed to be, something or someone you're not is often something that happens every other day of the year as well. For an asexual person, it's pretending to be a sexual person, and for a trans* person, it's pretending to be the gender they were assigned at birth.

When I try to represent myself as the person I really am, I'm often assumed to be pretending to be someone I'm not, or something that doesn't exist. I can't remember the number of times I've had someone call me "sir" and then decide it's a mistake, and then get mad at me as if I was trying to confuse or deceive them in order to cause them embarrassment. Or the bizarre time when I got lectured on needing to be more assertive when I tried to assure someone that I didn't care, never mind that I really was trying to assert my right not to have a preference for miss/ma'am/sir/hey you. Or the more frequent occurrence of being told I need to be more self confident when I try to assert that I am not seeking a romantic partner. I find myself in the seemingly paradoxical situation of sometimes trying to hide how I am different, and being invisible when I try to show it openly.

Most people have sets of cues stored in their minds that let them know how to categorize people. It's how we recognize what someone is dressed as when they are in costume. It's how we recognize when someone plays that role in real life. Sometimes those cues are helpful, and sometimes they're harmful. They're often part of stereotypes. There's a part of me that wishes that I lived in a world where it would be easy to cue people into the fact that I'm asexual and non-binary trans*, but I realize that in the kind of world in which I live, this could put me in serious danger, and I sure as hell don't want asexual and trans* identities to be exploited for entertainment the way that many racial and ethnic groups get distorted into "costumes."
I subscribe to a few knitting and crochet related publications. Ever since I began those subscriptions, I've received junk mail from various companies assuming that someone who knits or crochets must also be of several demographic categories that do not describe me. Most of this stuff doesn't even make it up the stairs to my apartment (hooray for giant recycling dumpsters!) but occasionally I'll bring something up for entertainment value. Last year I received a fat envelope asking me to subscribe to Love Inspired, a series of Christian romance novels published by Harlequin's (that's Mills & Boon to those in the UK) Steeple Hill imprint. They offered me two free books, no catch, not even a fee for shipping. The offer included a survey, on which I cheerfully checked NO to every question even though it was pretty obvious from the way the questions were phrased that they assumed anyone who would be interested in their books would answer YES to every question. What clinched the deal for me was the fact that they offered a large print option. So, out of morbid curiosity, I sent off the form and waited for the books.
A few weeks later, the books arrived, and sat on my dresser for a few more weeks until I worked up the courage to crack one of them open. I should point out at this point that one of the many reasons my peers (and in several cases, adults who ought to have known better) treated me like crap was because I wasn't a Christian. As a result I have a near-phobic reaction to a lot of religion-related things.

However, I do try to challenge myself with ideas with which I'm not comfortable, and I had the promise that at least I wouldn't have explicit sex scenes dropped on top of the religious stuff. I find explicit sex scenes tedious and annoying. That's just a personal preference and not a judgment of anyone who likes them.

As it turned out, I mostly liked the book. I didn't always agree with how the characters perceived their situations or how they dealt with them, but it was an interesting story and had a satisfying ending. I liked it enough that I've bought a few more books in the Love Inspired series, and a few books from other Harlequin series like Harlequin Intrigue (mystery/suspense) and Harlequin Heartwarming. Harlequin Heartwarming is especially interesting because it consists mostly of reprints of older titles from other Harlequin series, including some Love Inspired books that have had most of the Christian references edited out.



If you read ebooks and want to check out some books from these series for yourself, you can download some for free here: http://www.tryharlequin.com/ Please note that I haven't read any of these freebies for myself and can't comment directly on them.

Having been previously skeptical of the romance genre, and of Christian fiction, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't think that a book where the main plot point was romance would hold my interest as an asexual and largely aromantic person, and I didn't think that as lifelong non-Christian I would be able to connect with characters who were as much in love with their faith as they were with their romantic partners. But I did.

What books were you skeptical of but took a chance on, and liked?
This post is for the first Carnival of Aces (http://writingfromfactorx.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/a-carnival-of-aces-call-for-participation/) on the topic, "Coming Out." I tried to stay on topic but I think I stretched it a bit.

I wish I had a memorable or eloquent description of different coming out scenarios I've had, but I can only think of one, from the one time I broke my personal "no religion, politics, or other sensitive topics at work" rule while talking with a co-worker, and even that wasn't particularly spectacular. I'm not sure how the conversation got to the topic of sexual orientation as he's one of those whirlwind conversationalists who can babble on for hours, zooming from topic to topic, but I ended up blurting out that I'm asexual. "But don't you get lonely?" he asked. I admitted that I do, but desiring company is not the same as desiring sex. And that was that.

I'm "out" to all of the friends with whom I interact in meatspace, and to most of the people I know only online whom I'd consider friends. I don't have any specific memories of telling people about it. I guess when the majority of your social circle are varying degrees of oddball, being asexual is not a particularly interesting detail. I'm grateful for that.

The important people in my life who don't know are my blood relatives. I have no idea how or when to tell them. I don't want to disrupt family gatherings by making an announcement, and if I tell people separately I worry about who to tell first and what the circumstances of the disclosure ought to be. I fortunately don't get much familial pressure or questioning about romantic relationships and I think my mother has mentioned grandchildren all of twice in the past 10 years. But if it comes up again, I may say something. I dunno. My family is complicated in ways I'd rather not explain in detail.

Some of the things that can make coming out difficult are invisibility and awkward vocabulary. I'd like for there to be more synonyms for asexual/asexuality that don't have the word sex in them. I think that those words can alienate people who might otherwise be more accepting or more willing to engage in discussions about the topic. Think about it: how many people do you know who use the word homosexual to describe themselves on regular basis? How many say gay/lesbian instead? How many civil rights organizations use each set of terminology? Oddly enough, I think there are more anti-homosexual people and groups who use the word homosexual than there are actual GLBT people and groups who do. I also wonder if the word bisexual, and the lack of synonyms for it (other than bi, which is problematic because it's also a prefix for a ton of totally unrelated words) might be a contributing factor to the invisibility and marginalization of bisexual people.

It would be a help to me, and I think other people as well, if there was a snappy, easily recognized word for asexual. I know that "ace" is commonly used among us asexuals, but how long will it take for that to go mainstream, and do we really want it to? I think it's too easily misinterpreted as the "asexuals think they're better than sexual people" misconception that crops up so often. Amoebas is fun, but I don't want people to think of us as a joke.

Words can change a lot in meaning an connotation. Think of how words like gay (used to mean happy, light-hearted), faggot (kindling), queer (strange), lesbian (person native to the Greek island Lesbos) have changed. How do we, as asexual people, take control of the words used to describe us? Are there negative words we should reclaim as our own (as some GLBT people have reclaimed "queer")? Can we influence people from the very moment we come out and get them to use the words we want, in the way we want them to be used?
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