Happy National Coming Out Day!

It’s that day again! I wrote a coming-out story some years ago, and it’s in a book, Can I Sit With You?.

Here’s a link to the full story online if you’d like to read it. It’s called “The Sex Change of Zyax II“.

True story from my 5th grade life in Houston, Texas in 1980.

Here is a picture of me at around that time, in my big plastic glasses frame, slightly stringy brown hair, and a tshirt with an iron-on patch that says “Friends Are Forever”.

Liz 1981

While the legal and cultural situation for GLBT people has changed somewhat for the better in the U.S. since my coming out experience 35 years ago, I think that we can’t underestimate the damage that hateful bigots still do even with those changes taking place. LGBTQ youth are still at greatly increased risk of being targeted for violence, and at more risk for suicide, than straight kids.

I was pleased recently to see this new of a dude escaping from a bad situation from his family, and that he had good legal support: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/10/06/trans-man-trapped-in-india-by-parents-allowed-to-return-home/.

Anyway, keep speaking up and representing, because this battle isn’t over.

The wtf-ological imperative

On the last day of Open Source Bridge I had a hilarious random encounter. I was taking some notes and making badges while listening to the lightning talks (which were great). A guy came up to me and gave me a post it note where he had written, “Wikipedia:” and then some links to articles on the categorical imperative, Karl Popper, and a couple more.

He said something like, “You might benefit from reading these, young lady.” Not sure what I said; something like “Ummm thanks. Why are you giving me this?” He said “I like SCIENCE.” I agreed that I also like science, asked his name, and shook his hand. Then I told him it was weird to call me young lady since I’m obviously old enough to be his mom. He went back to where he was sitting and the lightning talks carried on.

I really wondered what was going on. Had I ever met this person? Was he doing this with everyone or was he fixated on me for some reason? I looked at his web site. It didn’t seem odd. Maybe this was just a slightly socially awkward act, and not a Gift of Fear moment from a member of some odd corner of the manosphere. Maybe this is how Dark Enlightenment people try to make frenemies!

At some point later I was standing next to the same guy reading the unconference schedule. I asked him why he called me young lady and why he gave me those links. “Did I do or say anything in particular, at the conference, during my talks, blogging somewhere, that made you think I am in need of special education about empiricism?” He said everyone should have it. “Yes . . . but why me today? What is it? And why call me young lady? I’m 45. You look like you’re in your early 20s.” The guy said it was because of my tshirt. I was wearing my “End Patriarchy” shirt where the word patriarchy is in html markup as an “end” tag; a mildly nerdy feminist joke. He explained that he dislikes postmodernism. I said it was an odd thing to do. He then explained further that he calls every woman “young lady” and that even if I were 70 he would still call me that.

I had to leave the conference to catch my flight so missed out on this puzzling conversation, but I added as I went away that it wasn’t very polite and it seemed even not very empirical of him to classify me as young no matter what. I don’t always care about politeness, it isn’t that really; it’s that his action and the way he talked to me were mind-bogglingly condescending!

I thought about how communication generally happens. I have passed out flyers to people on the street or during rallies or events but usually not as a shorthand to tell them that they’re wrong in real life. Argument at that level generally happens in something that is framed as, well, argument, or public discourse, or has some other teaching, learning, or activist context. But perhaps my tshirt with its feminist joke is like an invitation to philosophical debate! Yes, I asked for it by wearing this outfit…. *snort* I think if this is going to be a movement, the enlightened ones need something more catchy than a torn pink post-it note. There should be some Kantian Chick Tracts for budding deontologists to hand out on the street to anyone who expresses some identity politics or looks like they might edit the Geek Feminism Wiki. Like creeper cards, but you just hand them to people who are sitting in a chair minding their own business! There could be a whole series of philosophical and political comic books that let feminists and other wrong headed folks know where we missed the logic train. It would be especially great as part of a cult to save our scientific souls! Like Less Wrong, but *even sillier*!

Maybe trading cards or a collectible card game so that I could whip out an Instant and like, counterspell the dude’s Karl Popper with a Paul Feyerabend card drawn by Katja Foglio. It really needs more elegance and fun to be playable!

In short I could not take this moment seriously and had trouble believing it even happened. So I honor that WTF by pausing a moment to record it for all time and make fun of it on the internet.

Chick tract

Making up superheroes

Moomin had a lot to say today in the car on the way home from dance class, where they were learning the dance to “Thriller”. I asked him to tell me it all over again when we got home so I could type it and put it on the blog. Maybe he’ll write with me on this blog and we’ll all get an education about the secret origins of all sorts of superheroes, a topic in which Moomin is an expert.


Me and T. and E. play a game now where we’re basically heroes in a team where we have nature powers like wolverine and wildebeest and of course, us. Anyway, T. is the leader of the team, which he always tries to be, and has all sorts of forest and nature powers. We can all fly thanks to robotic wings like in Batman Beyond. E. has liquid nitrogen mechanism on his back, well, on him, anyway, which can freeze things with ice. I am called Rockslide and I of course have rock powers,

Just today, the ending part of our playing was when we were flying over a desert and crashed an atomic bomb into it to escape it. I have no actual plot to this, by the way, but there’s an episode where an evil revengeful desert spirit enters my mind and I become its host and it tries to take over the world. but first it has to go through the rest of the team. It would be like possession, a little like Karma, the Marvel comics character who can possess people so that their mind is hers and her mind is theres.

I know her secret origin. She’s Vietnamese and was in the Vietnam War and a war explosion caused her powers to come out. When a soldier tried to kill one of the villagers, she stopped him by possessing his mind. Her brother Tran had the same powers but while she just saved the boy, Tran made the soldier kill himself. Tran was into his powers but Karma was afraid of them. Tran joined their uncle who was in a criminal organization, in other words, evil. Karma soon went to America with Leon and Nga and went out one day on an errand, but when she went back to the apartment she found it ransacked and her kids gone. They had been kidnapped by her uncle and Tran and if she wanted them back she would have to join their criminal organization. It was part of a Spiderman/Fantastic Four comic. Spiderman and the Fantastic Four help her and soon they capture the kidnappers and get Leon and Nga back. I won’t tell you the stuff in between.

Oh wait, did I mention that we all went through a quiz to become the superheroes we were? It talks about what powers you would have if you want to be a superhero, what costume, what team you would join, and so on and so on. T. made it up. We just had B. take the quiz and he chose to be a Fire superhero and he can control fire.

By the way, have you noticed that in books where there’s a dragon who’s actually good, the people still want to kill it? Even though it hasn’t done anything, they’re all yelling “You scourge, you pest!” and shaking their fists. And it didn’t even kill anything or burn down any houses.

Then we looked at 70 cute baby animals and watched Kittens Inspired by Kittens, which I leave you with,

Castle stories and rainbow drawings

Here is a snippet from an otherwise trashed 2003 notebook. I wrote down a story as Moomin told it and acted it out with little animals and his toy wooden castle.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful castle with a flag waving in the air. The handsome prince talked and he said “Hello Princess” and she was trying to go to sleep and snore and snore. He waked her up with a gentle kiss. The sleeping beauty came back to her castle. “Hi Sleeping Beauty” said the princess. And she came into the castle. And the witch cast a spell. Let’s have a picnic, we can make this a picnic table. They can have some grapes. Stir, stir, stir, stirring the grapes. And (Moomin) hammered the castle roof tight. And the castle floor. And they have a picnic. That’s the end.

It’s very interesting to listen to kids’ narrative structures and the ways they put in snippets of genre! How can tiny humans be only 3 years old and yet know how to make up stories? It’s so amazing.

Here is a zebra drawing from that same notebook. Like the castle story has all the elements of fantasy, the drawing has all the elements of a zebra, put together in a somewhat nonlinear way.


My zebra drawing (which I am sure he asked for; I drew a lot of little cartoons on request.)

zebra and horse

One more cute drawing, of a rainbow, by Moomin:

I’m tearing out those pages for Moomin’s scrapbook, and throwing rest of notebook away!