Erin Palette has often impressed me.
We met online through shared Firefly fanship, messaged back and forth often on matters great and small, and I was impressed by her humor and perception. We are both frustrated writers and when she began bouncing story ideas off me for her ongoing work “Curse/Or,” I was impressed at her imagination and skill. She began writing eminently practical reviews of firearms, paying particular attention to how well (or how poorly) they can be handled and fired by her elderly mother, and that impressed me as I am not a gunnie and I enjoyed them anyway. (It also impressed enough manufacturers that she gets weapons and gear sent to her for review.) When, after many careful discussions of identity and gender, she met me in person and this very reclusive person let me in on her secret, I was impressed at her determination to live life on her own terms in a world that can be very harsh to people who are different.
Little by little over the last year, as she made more friends online and ventured out into the “real world” with them to be accepted, she opened up a bit more. Recently a friend badly needed funds for medical attention and Erin, frustrated at not being able to do anything, realized that she had something valuable to offer: her face, hidden all this time. So she cautiously offered pics as a reward for donations, and they came in fast.
This week she came out, and I was impressed all over again.
You stumble into the bathroom, and you look in the mirror… and somethingalien is looking back at you. Maybe you changed race during the night. Maybe you switched genders. Maybe you are covered in blue fur. Regardless, that thing you see in the mirror is not you… and yet, you’re stuck inside of it. It moves in symmetry with your thoughts. It encases you, traps you, imprisons you. How horrified would you be to see this thing? To be this thing?
Worse, how terrible would it be to see this thing, this prison of flesh, every time you looked in a reflective surface? How awful to know that people who see you see it instead? How utterly discouraging to have well-meaning friends and relatives tell you “Honestly, sweetie, you look fine. I don’t see anything bestial or reversed about you. You just have low self-esteem.”
How long before you start thinking of that body as just a mechanism of flesh that the real you — the you stuck behind that thing’s eyes — operates? You don’t go to the doctor, you go to the flesh mechanic. You don’t eat food, you consume fuel.
How long until this utterly warps your sense of self until you can’t stand to be yourself any more?
This is my life.
I urge you to read her post and see one of the best explanations of living life with Body Dysmorphic Disorder I’ve ever seen. Or, as she explains, “The pithy term for what I am is ‘genderqueer.'”
Also great to read? The many comments of support from her many friends, many of them conservative gunnies, which shows that all stereotypes are suspect and lazy. There are haters, sure, there always will be. But they are weak little voices in a sea of affection.
Also, Erin took me shooting once, and trust me, you do not want to be on her bad side.
Meeting a woman online and finding out later she has dude parts is one of the oldest jokes of the Internet. But sometimes, if you accept and appreciate people for who they truly are, rather than what they happen to look like, it’s one of the best things the Internet has to offer.
Now get back to writing, dammit.