Stop Saying “Transtrender”

CW: transphobic slurs, non-binary hate

A few people dropped comments on my channel calling me a “transtrender” and a “tranny wannabe” a couple days ago.

Can you just stop? These are really gross terms. I see them used against non-binary folks all the time, even within the trans community, and it’s really upsetting.

Let’s clear some things up:

  1. I don’t call myself trans, though technically I am. I refer to myself as bigender, gender fluid, or non-binary, but I don’t use trans as an identity marker. I find it weird that people just assume that I do and then attempt to “use” that against me?
  2. BUT non-binary people can totally use trans as an identity marker to describe themselves. If you don’t identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, then you can claim the label trans. Full stop.
  3. Trans folks are more visible now than before. The Internet is allowing for more conversations to happen and for more people to share their experiences, leading to more diverse representation. This doesn’t mean that trans is “trending”. Trans and non-binary folks have always existed. What you may see as a trend is really just more visibility. With more visibility, also, I believe there are more people who may realize that they’re trans and/or non-binary, leading to more folks IDing that way. I know NB visibility certainly did that for me, as the Internet has been a great resource for my gender identity process.
  4. Why would someone “want to be” trans but not actually be trans? I don’t understand this whole “wannabe” thing. I feel like you either are trans or you’re not, and perhaps if you want to be, that means that you already are? I feel like this designates a gatekeeping process, whereby there are “real” trans people and then folks who only just “want to be” trans but are not based on some bullshit restrictions.
  5. These terms position people to have to “prove” their trans-ness and reinforce ideas of  being “not trans enough”. Read a good zine about this here.
  6. The whole “transtrender” thing is often based on the “doing it for attention” argument, which I think is bullshit because a lot of the attention you get for being trans and/or non-binary (especially online!) is extremely negative. For example, sometimes I can’t bring myself to make videos about gender stuff because I can’t deal with the hate I know I’m gonna get that week, and so I do something less “controversial”. As another example, I rarely come out as non-binary in public unless I feel safe, as people can be dismissive, disgusted, or outright angry when I tell them. I don’t “use” my identity to seek out attention, and in fact, I often try to avoid attention based on my identity, as that attention can be scary/dangerous for me.
  7. Hypothetically, even if someone were “just doing it for attention,” what business is it of yours? Who are they hurting? Why hurt them in return? Also, why do you think that you get to decide whether or not it is “for attention”?
  8. I think that sometimes, occasionally, someone will use terms like these in a botched attempt to engage in a conversation about privilege in trans and non-binary communities. I absolutely want to have these conversations, but beginning them with the terms “transtrender” and “tranny wannabe” are not the way to have them.

And finally,

9. My identity is valid. Your identity is valid. No one has to prove shit to anyone, so           stop trying to put people in that position.

P.S. Partly, I feel like there’s little point to writing this as the folks who call me and other enbies these things are likely not going to listen, but, on the other hand, I feel the need to say something. If you’re non-binary and/or trans and you’ve been targeted by this kind of thing, I hope that this post is at least a little helpful. You are valid, you are legitimate, and you are enough. ❤

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My Ever Changing Relationship with Reading

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[Image: pair of leopard print glasses sitting on top of an open dictionary. Yellow tones]. Source: morguefile.com.
I mentioned the other week that I was writing an essay on my changing reading practices. It’s been graded now, which means I can share it with all of you!

I was homeschooled during my elementary and middle-school years. I did not own a cellphone. I did own a computer, but my internet connection based on dial-up was very slow. I had a lot of free time on my hands outside of my coursework, which I spent most of on reading. I had another friend who was homeschooled and we used to keep lists of how many books we had read in the year with the goal of making the number as high as possible, forming a small reading community together. We were also a little competitive. I always wanted to be at least a couple books ahead of her, as well as compete with myself in previous years. My fourteenth year, as we kept track based on age, was when I read over sixty books. I spent many hours each day reading, in my bedroom, the library, or my grandparent’s boathouse on the river, my favourite location. My favourite genres were horror, science fiction, and fantasy, mostly of the young adult variety. I think I was drawn to these genres because of the escapism they offered, similar to how some are drawn to Harlequin romance (Woodruff).

I was determined to read everything Stephen King had ever written. I had originally picked up one of his paperbacks in a Floridian condo, Bag of Bones, while on vacation with my family and was hooked from there on out. At that age, horror movies were forbidden to me by my mother, but she did not seem too concerned about the books. King’s works allowed me to escape into strange and frightening worlds, worlds written for adults, that made my skin crawl and kept me riveted. They provided a welcome distraction from my own life, which could, at times, be lonely and boring as a homeschooled kid.

When I went to high-school my relationship with books shifted. I made friends, was out of the house five days a week, and came back with plenty of homework to keep me occupied. I read less, though I didn’t quit reading entirely. I was always surprised when teachers gave us a month or two to get through one book. That was more than enough time for me, given my previous habits. During this period, I had less time for reading and less of a need for escape because I was engaging with my own life more. I had a crush on one of my classmates and he asked me out on a date. I had more friends than I knew what to do with. I was being challenged by the rigorous academic program I had applied for. My own life became just as, if not more, interesting to me than the young adult novels and the King classics that I had loved. I did not need them as much as I once did.

I did not own a cellphone until the summer after I graduated from high-school. When I did get one, it was a smartphone. This changed my reading practices because I began texting regularly and reading online articles on my phone, accessing new media. Though I still read print-based books, the advent of the smartphone in my life meant that I was often distracted from reading. For example, I might receive a text message or other notification on my phone while trying to read, interrupting the activity. I was also drawn in by the appeal of this new device in my life, often spending time using its apps or reading articles on its web browser rather than physical books. This new technological shift in the microcosm of my life became a distraction from the formerly solitary, uninterrupted practice of reading.

In the year after I graduated from high-school, I went backpacking through Europe. This was why I had purchased the smartphone, in order to stay connected with my family back home. I brought two travel guides and one of my favourite novels with me. The novel was very short and something I could read in one sitting, which I did a few times during the quiet moments while traveling. I also picked up another book for free at a lending library in one of the hostels I stayed in. Though I did not read very much, reading was a great way to wind down during the trip, which could at times be overstimulating and stressful. Most of my reading during this time, however, was functional. I read sections of the travel guides, maps, signs, and articles on my phone recommending certain destinations or activities. Reading became something I relied on to help me get around, find accommodation, and plan activities. I also encountered language barriers in many of the countries I spent time in, finding it very difficult to travel in places where I could not understand the signs, maps, or other texts.

My reading practices changed again when I began attending university. Within that first year, I was assigned more readings than I could handle. I had to learn how to skim. I had to learn which out of my assigned readings were important and which were not. I began reading summaries of texts online if I could not get through them before lectures. This was all very challenging for me, as I wanted to be able to read everything and get as much out of the assigned texts as possible. I simply did not have the time or energy for this, however, as there was so much that it was impossible to get through it all. Reading in university consumed most of my time but, unlike when I was younger, it was not for pleasure. I did my reading for my classes. I made schedules. I took notes. I examined texts through the specific frameworks taught in my classes, looking for specific motifs or themes which my professors had drawn my attention to. I developed eye-strain from focusing on small text for so long. I also developed a new relationship with reading, one which felt like more of a chore than a fun pastime.

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[Image: Pages of a yellowed-book caught in the motion of falling, shot from the side. Green background]. Source: morguefile.com.

I did still try to read for pleasure outside of my classes, though I was not often able to get very far. Reading for fun felt like a waste of time and energy when I could be doing assigned readings instead. I found it difficult to motivate myself to do it. I began, instead, to seek a more instant gratification in my leisure time. I began watching television and movies far more than I had before. It required less mental energy or engagement to watch an hour of television than it did to read a novel for the same amount of time. This kind of screen time slowly began to replace the time I had previously devoted to reading for pleasure, an activity I was indulging in less and less over the years.

Technology had also been changing. In university, I had a powerful enough computer and a fast enough Internet connection to have access to a wide variety of shows and movies online. My mother started a subscription to Netflix, an online video streaming service, which she shared with me. Netflix is designed to encourage the activity of “binge watching,” where one spends many consecutive hours watching TV shows or movies. When the viewer finishes an episode of a show, for example, the next episode begins counting down automatically and, if the viewer does not close Netflix, will play within fifteen seconds. The advent of Netflix, its wide selection and prompt to keep watching longer than I may have otherwise, certainly had an effect on my reading practices. As a student, I never would have paid for cable, but I certainly paid for an Internet connection, which was both necessary for school and entertainment. Netflix made it easier than ever to choose watching over reading, given its accessibility. Given how tired I was of reading for school, I leapt at this new opportunity. Online video streaming in addition to a smartphone certainly interrupted and diminished the practice of reading for pleasure. It felt like supersession was taking place during this time, with newer technology, such as smartphones and Netflix, replacing older technology, like print-based books, for entertainment purposes (Finkelstein and McCleery 121).

Six months ago, I created a YouTube channel and began devoting a significant amount of time to making one or more videos every week, watching videos, and connecting with other YouTubers online. I now spend less time on Netflix and more time on YouTube, whether it be as a creator or as a viewer. This has also affected my reading practices. In addition to doing readings for school, I read articles online as research for some of my videos. I am also far more active on social media than I have ever been, as I run several social media accounts which are connected to my YouTube channel. I read Tweets, posts on Tumblr, Facebook pages, blogs connected to some of the channels I follow, captions for Instagram photos, and anything else relevant to the content that I create. I even created an account on GoodReads, a website where readers can share what they are reading, book recommendations, and book reviews. On this website, I set a goal to read twenty books this year and every time I finish a book, I plug it into GoodReads and the number goes up. This website, an extension of my other social media accounts, does help to motivate me to keep reading in order to reach my goal.

There are also some YouTubers, called BookTubers, who read and review books in their videos, forming an online reading community. I have gotten several good recommendations from these kinds of channels. One person I follow recommended several audiobooks, which I have found to be a great way to read on the go. I can listen to these books on my smartphone while walking to work or cleaning the house. My phone does not just interfere with my reading practices these days, it can also facilitate them, depending on how I choose to use it.

It was through certain BookTubers that I have rediscovered young adult fantasy and science fiction. After growing older and falling out of the young adult range, I felt like I had to read works written for more mature audiences. In university especially, I was taught to value the classics or great works of literature from the canon. This was a form of gatekeeping, where in an act of elitism the academic institution taught me to value certain literary texts over others (Finkelstein and McCleery 99). I began thinking that reading always had to be a serious activity which developed and expanded the mind, meaning that I always had to read works that challenged me. It was through listening to certain BookTubers discuss their own reading practices that I realized this was not true. Many of them were adults who confessed their love for young adult fiction. They talked about the stigma around adults reading such “lowly” genres as science fiction and fantasy written for adolescents. They talked about why they loved it anyway, how it had freed them as readers and allowed them to escape into whole other worlds. They talked about the valuable lessons to be had in such works, which were often coming of age stories with many life lessons to share. It was through listening to such people that I was able to reconnect with my adolescent self who had adored these kinds of texts. Most recently, I have been reading a four-book fantasy series where the two main protagonists are sixteen. I am not ashamed of it, and am genuinely enjoying the experience of reading once again. Pursuing young adult fiction has helped me re-learn how to read for pleasure again instead of just for school, and it was online video, interestingly enough, that helped to get me here.

Though it is nearly impossible to accurately predict future societal and technological shifts, I do like to speculate on the future of my reading practices. Within a few months, I will graduate from university and will no longer be assigned readings in school. Though I do not know what kind of job I will have and how that will affect my reading practices, I expect I will be more interested in reading for pleasure once I do not have academic readings. I hope to continue to find new ways to incorporate reading into my life which accommodate the changing technology around me as well as my own needs. I would like to keep pursuing audiobooks, as I have found them to be an excellent way to read while on the go. I own a tablet which I barely use at this point in time, which I would like to begin reading e-books on at night, as it is well-designed for a person to lay in bed and read from with ease. I hope to find ways to mute distractions while reading so that I may focus on engaging with the text at hand. Essentially, I would like to read more. In order to do so, I need to acknowledge what is standing in the way of that pursuit and find ways to work around it. I find that newer technology, such as of Netflix and smartphones, are hindering my reading practices, so far as the reading of traditional books is concerned, and I would like to utilize technology to help them instead. Perhaps I need to make the books I own more accessible and engaging than they currently are in their print form. Perhaps this means downloading audio and e-books to keep up with the new ways in which my brain is processing information through the use of technology. I do not want to buy into technological determinism, thinking that changing technology must drive my and other’s reading practices, changing the nature of reading communities and societal approaches to reading, leading us into thinking “that the book is an obsolete medium” (Finkelstein and McCleery 120). We control technology, it does not control us, and we can find ways to use it which enhance our current reading practices. Regardless of smartphones and Netflix, books still have a lot to offer.

In conclusion, technological shifts and changes in lifestyle have affected my reading practices over the years. Phones and computers, with their access to the Internet, have come to replace books in many ways, demonstrating a kind of supersession. Heavy reading assignments have changed how I have approached reading and reduced the time I spend reading for pleasure. Though it has previously gotten in the way of my reading, I have recently been learning how to use changing technology to advance my reading practices through the use of audio and e-books. I have revisited the kinds of texts I enjoyed as a teenager in order to bring the fun back into reading, letting go of the notion that reading must be a serious, academic pursuit. Overall, just as the macrocosm of society has experienced technological shifts and changes to reading practices, I have experienced these things individually on the micro-level. I will always be a reader, and my hope for the future is that I will find ways to utilize changing technology to read more rather than less, a hope I have for others as well.

Works Cited

Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery. An Introduction to Book History. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print

Woodruff, Juliette. “A Spate of Words, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Or, How to Read in Harlequin.” Journal of Popular Culture 19.2 (Fall 1985): 25-32. Web.

My Future on YouTube

 

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Screenshot of the top part of Sage’s YouTube channel, Herb Dino.

 

I launched my Patreon page yesterday. I was very nervous. For some reason, I thought that my asking for support might make people upset or angry. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m painfully aware of the general cultural attitude that we have towards artists, the attitude that says they should not be compensated for their work, and the attitude towards YouTubers, that says they should not earn anything from YouTube because it’s just a hobby and not a job.

But for me, it is a job. I approach it like one. It’s a fun and fulfilling job, that’s for certain, but I pour enough of my time, energy, and love into it that I do consider it to be a job. Actually, it’s sort of more than a job…

I’ve had ideas for other careers before but none have ever stood the test of time. I’ve thought, “I could do this or do that” but never really gotten too excited about it, never really felt like it was exactly right for me. I’ve considered being a forest ranger, freelance writer, actor, published author, librarian, copy editor, and professor. I’d think about each of these things for awhile and then move on to something else, never quite landing on what I wanted to do.

And then I found Kat Blaque.

Kat Blaque is a YouTuber who makes videos on a range of topics from feminism to institutionalized racism to lgbt+ issues. She also creates content for Everyday Feminism, the Huffington Post, and Pride.com. What’s incredible is that, after years of hard work and dedication, she is self-sufficient. Blaque is able to make a living off of her creative and socially conscious work. As I watched her videos, joined some of the live streams on her Facebook page, perused around her store, and went over to her Patreon page, I took in a lot of new information, and not just about social justice issues, but about how to support yourself while pursuing what you’re passionate about.

I remember thinking, almost immediately, “This is what I want to do”. I had no idea where to start or how to make it happen, but I knew that I had found it. This was the thing. I could tell that this was the kind of work that would make me feel creatively and intellectually fulfilled.

I got my brother to help me set up a YouTube channel. I started making videos. Save for some of his advice, I had almost no idea what I was doing. Now, six months later, I have (maybe) half an idea. I’m not “there” yet (what counts as there?), but I’ve learned so much and had a lot of fun doing it. My world has expanded. I’ve met and talked to tons of amazing people. I’ve discovered a new outlet for my creativity. I’ve been inspired by a bunch of fascinating content. I’ve started picking up some of the building blocks on how all of this works.

My channel is still quite small, but six months ago I didn’t even have a channel so that in itself is something. I’m not done here. I’m not slowing down. I feel like I’ve only just gotten started, that this is just the beginning of my creative/career-related/YouTube/online journey.

When I first started my channel, I wasn’t in a great place. I was in a lot of pain and there were a lot of things happening to me that I couldn’t control. I’m in a better place now and things are consistently getting better, but having this outlet really helped me through some of that hard stuff. There were points where YouTube was the only thing I enjoyed spending my time on, the only thing that was making me feel happy or even just okay. And now that things are better, YouTube feels like an old friend that got me through some really tough stuff. Now this friend and I are going to soar together. We are going to pursue our wildest dreams, not because they’re realistic or practical or anything, but because WE CAN.

“I can” is something YouTube has taught me. “I can” and “I deserve”. No longer do I feel like the least talented person in my friend group, the writer who “isn’t any good” at writing, the desperate and repressed creative with little artistic skill, the one who will always be frustrated, or the one who will never be good enough. I still have my doubts sometimes, but I’m on track. I have found my path and sometimes I feel damn proud of what I do. I feel confident in ways I never did before. I think that’s because, until recently, I had never really found “my thing”.

Here it is. This is my thing. I don’t know what it will turn into, but I’m going to hold onto it and keep on going for the ride of my life.

Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would support me on Patreon at this point. I put my video out there worried I may lose subscribers and thinking it would say $0 per month for a very long time. Within 24 hours of my posting it, however, two people pledged.

$4 may not be a lot of money, but it counts. It is something. It counts because it shows me that other people believe in my too. It counts because it shows me that I was not wrong to ask for help. It counts because it raises my YouTube-based income from almost nothing to $4, and that is growth. However small it may be, it is growth and all growth counts.

I want to thank the two of you who chose to become my patrons. It means a lot. It has reaffirmed for me that this is the right path and that it’s not all just some idealistic, unattainable dream.

I also want to thank everyone who’s ever watched, liked, or commented on my videos or the other things I’ve put out online. As a small creator especially, all of that feedback and support really counts. I’ve had comments before that have put a small on my face for a whole day. I’ve had comments that have sent home the “Yes! That’s why I’m doing this” message.

I cannot predict the future. I cannot see where all of this is going to lead exactly, but it’s going to lead somewhere. That much I am sure of.

Thank-you for believing in me.

Adult Friendships & Unhealthy Friendships

 

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[Image: Sunset over mountainous terrain. Small silhouettes of two people sitting by the water. Most of the bottom of the image (the beach) is shrouded in darkness]. Source: morguefile.com.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to me now. That might seem like a funny question, but I think it’s worth asking.

Friendships change from childhood to adulthood. When you’re younger and in school, you’re often automatically friends with the people you see every day. You may form friendships in little groups and then be friends with all the members of that group because they are there, not because you necessarily like them. You may be friends with people you don’t particularly like because your friends are friends with them.

As an adult, however, you seem to have more of a choice. You can be more selective. You’re no longer bound to people who you have little else but school in common with. You know yourself a little better. Hopefully, you’re better at identifying toxic relationships or knowing when you simply don’t want to be friends with someone.

These are good things, but not all of these changes are good because, in some ways, adult friendships are also very weird.

You don’t see each other unless you actively organize to do so. You may go weeks or months without seeing the other person if your schedules are busy.

You may not have a common thread, like school or work, to keep you connected, and so you have to find and develop your own points of connection. If you don’t manage this then the friendship just sort of fizzles out.

In high school, I belonged to a group of friends, but now my friends are mostly spread out and separate from one another. I spend time with them one-on-one as opposed to in a group, which I prefer anyway as someone who’s pretty introverted.

Since entering the realm of young adult friendships, I’ve had no problem meeting people but a lot of difficulty with maintaining connections. People my age are so transient. We come and go without making too many commitments to each other because commitment isn’t always possible when you’re always coming and going.

Then there are ruptures, which can damage or end friendships. Ruptures are very common and can happen for a whole variety of reasons. It can be very hard to know how to repair ruptures, especially if they are only a symptom of a larger problem: an unhealthy relationship.

Friendships can be unhealthy. Friendships can be toxic. Friendships can be abusive. Sometimes we overlook these things because we don’t tend to expect them from our friends. We think of friendships as being relatively innocuous. We underestimate them. They can have far more profound effects on us and our lives than we usually give them credit for.

This year, I am learning more about what healthy friendships look like by learning about what unhealthy friendships look like.

Generally, they shouldn’t be stressful and demanding.

You shouldn’t feel like you need to walk on eggshells around a friend because any little thing could set them off.

You shouldn’t be putting their needs before your own in order to please them.

They shouldn’t act like they know you better than you know yourself. Your friends are not the authority on you, only you are.

If they become irritated with you all the time for no other reason than you simply existing, there’s a problem.

If they’re dismissive of the things you’re passionate about, the things that make you feel excited, there’s a problem.

If they take your friendship for granted, there’s a problem.

If you desperately need their support and they won’t give it, there’s a problem.

If their friendship and love are highly conditional on you being what they want you to be, there’s a problem.

If they’re having a relationship with their projection of you instead of you, there’s a problem.

No one is perfect. We’re all shitty friends sometimes, but when some of these things start to add up into an overall unhealthy relationship, it’s time to reevaluate that relationship.

As an adult, I feel like I have a lot more control over who I choose to spend my time with. None of my relationships are passive. I have to work to make them happen.

I believe in giving people second chances, opportunities to change, but I don’t believe in third, fourth, or fifth chances. I don’t believe in endless chances. At some point, you need to be able to recognize that your friend isn’t going to change.

You have a choice. Can you or can you not live with that?

I’m still making mine.

Welcome!

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[Sage, a white non-binary person with short red hair, tilts their head to the left and giving a small smile, wearing a black-and-yellow flower-patterned shirt, with their hair parted to the left and a paint splattered background].
Hello, I’m Sage, and I would like to welcome you to my new website!

I decided to create a domain using my internet handle rather than my full name for, like, job applications and other adult life stuff. I also wanted to start a fresh blog that is more incorporated in with my YouTube channel and all the other fun things I do online.

I have two goals for this site. The first is for it to be a place that connects the dots of all of the things I do around the internet. The second is to put out weekly blog posts on a range of different topics, from LGBT+ issues to book recommendations to personal updates. In a way, these blog posts will be the written correspondents to my videos. For example, I may write about my love of amateur photography on Monday and then make a video on Thursday about how awesome it is to be able to share that love with like-minded folks online.

So, if you prefer reading to watching videos, then this is the place for you. Or maybe you just want to know more about the Sage-things, and that’s cool too!

Speaking of the Sage-things, who the heck am I? And what do I do?

I’m a writer and a YouTuber. I make reflective videos over here about being a young person, school, feminism, identity, jobs, art, traveling and everything else that affects my life. In terms of writing, I’m currently working on a book as well as various smaller pieces here and there. I tend to write poetry, memoir, and short stories.

I’m non-binary and use they/them pronouns. I’m queer/bi/pansexual. I’m white, able-bodied, and deal with various mental health issues. I’m on the cusp of graduating with my undergrad from the University of Toronto. Bet you’ll never guess what I studied there (hint: it’s quite obvious).

I love being outside and in the nature. YA audiobooks are totally my jam and I am not ashamed to admit that I still read fanfiction. I prefer TV over movies. I hate cooking but don’t mind cleaning. I’m addicted to coffee but still don’t know how to make the perfect cup.

I make videos here. I tumbl here. You’ll find photos of nature and some quotes here. Frequent posts and updates reside over here. I write articles here sometimes. My adventures with books happen over here.  And I even utilize archaic technology here.

I’ll be adding some of my old pieces from my previous site to a separate page so they will not be gone from the web forever when I take that site down.

I want to make my internet presence as accessible as possible. If you have any questions or concerns about this site, please fill out my contact form or send a DM to @herbdinoohno on Twitter.

That’s all for now! Expect another post next Monday.