“I want you to know who I really am.”

Twitter is one of my main forms of social media lately. I have many great friends there. I also really enjoy twitter games, things like the following where for each like on the tweet you share something. This one in particular I really related to:

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as of the time of this writing, I have 26 likes on the tweet. So I’ve shared 26 photos of characters I identify with. A big thing for me is relating myself and my experience to the stories of others, be they real or fictional. So this was interesting and fun for me. I decided I wanted to write a little about each of the ones I’ve shared. I figured this would be a better medium for the long form parts. There will be SPOILERS for each character and their story. You are warned.

  1. Tali’Zorah – Mass Effect

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In the Mass Effect games Tali starts out on a pilgrimage to find something of value to bring back to her people. Through the course of the games she is always looking for something. I relate to this, as most of my own life has been spent searching for many things, often without even knowing exactly what I am seeking. Seeking a home she’s never known is something I too feel.

2. Elsa – Frozen

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Elsa spent her childhood being told to hold her true self back, locked inside and trapped. When she finally lets herself just be herself, while she does face some hardships, she is much happier. I definitely felt this myself.

3. Celes Chere – Final Fantasy VI

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Celes starts a series of characters who believed they were with the good but really were being lied to. She was a general in an empire, a loyal soldier. When she resisted the actions of the empire she objected to, she was locked up to be executed. With help she escaped and fought back against the true evil inside those she had been loyal to. I relate strongly to this as my experience with religion.

4. Mona – Shovel Knight

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Mona is mostly a shared aesthetic and a love to dance in private. She’s also smart and wants to help those she cares about. This is very me.

5. Nonon Jakuzure – Kill la Kill

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Nonon is eternally loyal to the woman she loves, willing to fight and die for her. She also has a deep, passionate love for music. These are traits I share on a fundamental level.

6. Nina Windia – Breath of Fire II

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Nina is in exile from her home because she was born with black wings, while everyone else in her home has white wings. This difference has caused her to be hated and ostracized from of her home and family. The only one who is still close to her is her sister. This mirrors a lot my own family and home life.

7. Marin – Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

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Marin cares deeply for everyone on her island, loves to sing, and dreams of a life spent free.

8. Finn – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I described Finn like this to a friend once: Raised from childhood to believe something that was a lie, only just starting to take control of his life, only just starting to find people he can trust, and wanting a home. Also gay as fuck. So… me.

9. Vala Mal Doran – Stargate SG-1

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Much like Celes and Finn, Vala lived a life that actually caused her a lot of pain, and spends a lot of time trying to take care of herself in the wake of what was done to her against her will.

10. Elizabeth – Bioshock Infinite

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Elizabeth spent her life trapped against her will, and has the power to see into other worlds. I relate that to my stories and poetry.

11. Hinata Hyuuga – Naruto

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Inspired by her love, Hinata, a shy and timid girl, starts to fight against her fate. Her two main fights I connect with deeply. The first is against her cousin Neji, who’s much more skilled and talented, but hates her, she fights back against her family for her own sake. In the second she fights against an overwhelmingly powerful person to defend her love. She stood in the way and would give her life to protect that which is precious to her.

12. Fuu Hououji – Magic Knight Rayearth

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Fuu is a caring, devoted friend who wants to support and protect those important to her, and has healing powers.

13. Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter) – Sailor Moon

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Tall, kinda clumsy, lots of exes, looking for where she belongs. Defender of those important. And headcanon in love with an Ami (much like me and an Amy).

14. Hitomi Kanzaki – the Vision of Escaflowne

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Hitomi is a girl out of her element, trying her hardest to figure out what she wants. She’s often confused, but she supports those important to her, and tries her hardest, no matter what.

15. Elspeth Tirel – Magic: the Gathering

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Elspeth is someone who just wants to find peace and calm, but is always drawn into chaos and conflict. Another defender, ready to do what’s right, even when it endangers her peace.

16. Hanako Ikezawa – Katawa Shoujo

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Hanako is a girl who is scarred down her entire side by a fire as a child. She’s extremely shy and has issue with how she looks. I relate strongly to the kind of shame she’s lived with just for her body.

17. Kyoko Tokiwa – Full Metal Panic

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Kyoko is mostly the supportive best friend who’s always there for the main character, upbeat and happy.

18. Shinji Ikari – Neon Genesis Evangelion

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Shinji clearly has some serious depression, has a long history of abuse from the people who were supposed to love him, and gets hated just for existing. Literally me.

19. Wakaba Shinohara – Revolutionary Girl Utena

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Another supportive, best friend, but with her own deep story of hurt, love and friendship. I am forever touched that Utena could not draw a sword against her best friend, even at the begging of Anthy. Their friendship is that strong.

20. Laura Kinney/X-23/Wolverine – Mavel’s X-Men

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Laura is another who was raised in lies, used and hurt by those with power over her, and spends most of her time now finding her own way in the world.

21. Mia Ausa – Lunar Silver Star Story

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A kinda shy, but devoted mage, who supports her friends. Also love her look.

22. Tish Katsufrakis – The Weekenders

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Tish has esoteric tastes, loves learning, old media, and is just kinda strange. I relate strongly to that.

23. Wanda Maximoff – Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Wanda is another person mislead and hurt by those with power over her, and made mistakes. She seeks to do better, and wants to make up for her mistakes. She also is hated by many and just wants to be herself. Plus great aesthetics I love.

24. Stomer – Jem and the Holograms (Comic)

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Stomer is the one who is always trying to make sure everyone gets along and things get done. She’s always there to help her bandmates and friends. Also super gay for her love (like me!)

25. Ruka Urushibara – Steins;Gate

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Another character who supports those she cares about, even to her own sacrifice. She finally had a chance at what she wanted, and gave it up for the people she loves. (Also canonically transgender.)

26. Penny Polendina – RWBY

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Penny isn’t like most girls. The way she was born is different. She also wants to protect and care for everyone, while also enjoying the world and her time with the people she loves. She has lots of doubts, but she still makes her way forward. I am Penny.

— This is the list as it currently stands. I believe I have some new likes and if I add more characters, I will be sure to add them to this list and update it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into the mind of Rachel. —

Paranoia, paranoia, Everybody’s coming to get me, Just say you never met me.

Spoiler Warning:  I will be discussing some plot details of a very new show called Sense8 which is on netflix.  If you don’t want anything spoiled, do not read this unless you’ve seen at least the first 5 episodes.  You have been warned.

Sense8 may be the best new property I’ve seen a very long time.  The show reminds me a lot of the first season of Heroes.  Interesting and diverse ensemble cast, mysterious plot full of interesting questions, and great action and use of the powers of the characters.  I hope the show will continue into more seasons, as the first was full of emotion and great story telling.

The basic plot is there are 8 people who are all somehow psychically linked to each other.  They are starting to learn to share senses, as in they can see, hear, taste, whatever another is, as well as talk to each other, or even let them take control and use their skill.  As for the how and why, you’ll just have to watch to find out.

There’s a reason this is something I wanted to talk about on my blog, aside from just being absolutely amazing and full of emotion.  The show had me crying, gasping, even audibly cheering at points.  But there’s something I knew going in that had gained my interest in the show.  That reason is that it’s open pro-transgender issues.

The show is the brain child of J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis.  Straczynski is famous for his sci-fi shows, maybe best well known being Babylon 5.  The Wachowskis are of course the siblings who made the Matrix movies as well as several others that I personally love.  And Lana Wachowki is a trans woman.  In fact she’s one of my idols.  And they used this platform, as well as netflix’s progressive attitudes to not only include a transgender character in the main 8 characters, but also cast a trans actress to play her.  Let me reiterate:  This is a trans character, written by a trans woman, played by a trans woman.  This may be the very first piece of television fiction written that isn’t in some ways exploiting trans people.

Now shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black both include wonderful and positive examples of trans characters, and are definitely from a place of support.  But the fact is, they never fully understand how to truly tell those stories.  They’re the outsiders perspective on what it means to be trans.  This doesn’t make them bad, and in fact are very valuable.  But there’s a need for trans writers and creators to be allowed to speak for us.  For trans individuals to represent us on the big and small screen.

Now that that’s all out of the way, here’s what I wanted to say about the show.  They quite clearly metaphorically show my biggest irrational fear, one I’m sure many trans people face in their lives.  This is metaphorical, but in the show, the sensates (those with the psychic link) brains are developing into a different way than normal people.  After a fainting spell Nomi, the trans character, wakes up in a hospital with her mother there, who is horrible to her, constantly misgendering her and calling her by her old name.  That’s a big enough fear, but the big fear comes from a mysterious doctor, who with her mother, has had her right to care for herself, and are going to lobotomize her “for her own safety.”

Now in the show it has to do with her abilities and the mystery of how these people have this ability.  But my personal biggest irrational fear is that someone will be able to use the fact that I’m trans to say I’m mentally unfit to care for myself, get me locked up, and even try to forcibly change my brain.  This fear isn’t unfounded.  All you have to do is look up the ways the “civilized world” has treated trans people.  These things have all happened.  Now it’s irrational for me to fear this, as this isn’t something that happens, at least not in America.  I’m much more likely to be killed or at least assaulted for being myself.  But those things don’t scare me the way the other does.  So that part of the story had a major impact on me.

At this point I have a total crush on Nomi, and hope some day to be half that pretty, or even a quarter.  I laughed with her, I cried with her.  When she tells Lito her history, I could not stop crying.  Just thinking about that, about the ways they story mirrors my own feelings and experiences, I start to tear up still.

Do yourself, and the world, a favor: Watch Sense8.  The more people who watch, the more likely we will get more.  If for no other reason than to let Hollywood know that trans writers and actors need to be allowed to tell our stories.

We’ll run away in unmarked cars, We’ll find our place beneath these stars.

Previously I spoke on the issue of representation.  Janet Mock and Laverne Cox are both wonderful examples, as they’re making headlines and television appearances.  This is awesome as their appearances are positive examples to let others know they’re not alone, and to show cis people we’re just normal people like them.  But while both Ms. Mock and Ms. Cox are very wonderful public entities, their also both very glamorous, almost unapproachable due to fame.

There are others who are famous while being trans, but they start being much less known to those not looking for them.  Jennifer Finney Boylan is not well known to those who aren’t trans or know someone who’s trans.  Parker Molloy is a fabulous journalist, who writes often about trans issues as well as sports (some interesting intersection there.)  These are just a couple of wonderful trans women to look into if you’re interested.

But there’s a potential new piece of media to show just how normal we really are.  The Discovery Life channel aired a short new reality tv series called “New Girls On The Block” about a group of trans women who are friends through group meetings.  Shot in the city of Kansas City, it follows these women and partners as they are living their life.  While I’m not particularly a fan of reality tv, I’ve been mostly pleased with the first two episodes.  It has the standard drama/timing stuff that comes with the medium.  But the biggest thing is it shows just what it’s like to be a trans woman.  That is, to have the same fears and desires and worries as everyone else, and then the extra level of the hurdles trans people face trying to live a normal life.  Some things are no issues, but other things become a fight.  For example, one of the women runs marathons, but is having to fight to be allowed to run in a women’s only race.

I really hope the show catches on.  They’re doing a good job of showing just how normal we are really.  That is what representation is about.  Showing other trans people they’re not alone.  And showing cis people just how much we’re really like them.

“We do have a lot in common.  The same air, the same Earth, the same sky. Maybe if we started looking at what’s the same instead of always looking at what’s different, …well, who knows?”

For anyone interested, the first four episodes are available to purchase on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

–  R

We can be Heroes, Just for one day

A few posts ago I talked about my love of gaming and even linked to a wonderful story from the Magic: the Gathering lore about a trans character.  That piece again is here:
http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/uncharted-realms/truth-names-2015-01-28

The reason this is such a big deal is it’s about representation.  Representation is one of those ideas that everybody kinda understands, but the majority never really think about.  If you’re a white, straight cis man, then you’re in such a majority it’s easy to forget that most characters in tv shows, in movies, in books, singers, actors, political figures, any public figure looks like you and are someone to whom you can relate.  That’s not to say there aren’t great women, or great people of color, great gay/lesbian people, or even great trans people to be representatives.  But each of those had to be fought to gain mainstream acceptance.

These role models start out as just that: someone to model yourself after.  But there’s another important factor as well.  Being seen by others as real, complex and human people makes it that much harder to reject us.  When it’s clear we’re your brothers and sisters, your daughters and sons, you sympathize and empathize with us.  Like the film “The Defiant Ones” in which Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are criminals who escape while chained together.  The two men disliked each other for being different skin colors, but by the end have saved each other, because they had to face the humanity of each other through their escape.  When we stop being punchlines and start being people in the eyes of others is when we are accepted, and great representation does just that.

But in a lot of ways the most important part of representation is that of the role model.  Alesha, the character in the story, is complex, someone of authority, power and agency.  While not real, she shows that a trans woman can be powerful and a leader.  Laverne Cox and Janet Mock are a pair of pretty famous trans women of color (double represent girls!) and both are awesome at not just busting down stereotypes, but at being public figures to look up to for the girl who doesn’t understand why she’s been told her whole life she’s a boy.  Recently Bruce Jenner came out as trans in a major national news interview.  I personally have not watched the whole thing, seen only a few clips, and read much about it on twitter.  Jenner (who as of this time has not given a preferred other name, and requested continued use of male pronouns) gave a detailed, complex and emotional interview in which it appears more and more people are able to finally see trans people as more than bullshit lies spread to hurt or terrible jokes.  I’ve seen some criticism about misgendering, but over all the only thing I can really say about the interview:  If it helps one trans person better understand themselves, if it helps one cis person come to be more accepting of trans people, isn’t that worth the spectacle?  Sure it might be showy and even gaudy, but Jenner is a celebrity, it’s how they live their lives, and no one forced the interview.

Finally I want to end with my personal story of representation.  No, I’ve never been one to someone (at least not that I’m aware of) but there is someone who’s story helped me so much more than she’ll ever know.  Her name is Shadi Petosky.  She appeared on an episode of Chris Hardwick’s podcast a few years back, and her telling her story helped me come to such a better understanding of myself and the truth of who I am.  I’m forever in her debt.  The link to her interview will be at the bottom.

So who are some of the representatives who’ve mattered to you?

http://nerdist.com/nerdist-podcast-shadi-petosky/