Defining the concepts of race, gender, social class and youth

As a criminology student I am looking at the definitions of crime but also more general concepts of race, gender, social class and youth.

Today I was asked in my study material how my own definitions of these concepts compare to the ones in the chapter. And then, as I thought about it I realised that I can’t accept any of those concepts or their definitions. Because as soon as one does, divisions are created and from that stems inequality. As a socialist there is no place for those concepts as socialism sees every individual as an equal and unique part of humankind.

But maybe the only exception might be youth or age (in relation to crime and the law). Because children and adolescents have not fully developed they can’t be treated like an adult for the law. I think this is correct. The debate should always be there about where the line should be drawn though, and this is different in each society, and through time.

As for race, class and gender I think they are social constructs that are in place for the ruling class to maintain control over people. If those concepts would loose their meaning because people no longer identify with them, the whole capitalist system could be undermined. I will explain this a bit further. Let’s take gender. This system is build upon the notion that there are male and female gender roles, of which the male role is valued more and given more power. The power, equality and independence of women is undermined, curtailed and oppressed in lots of ways. For instance in marriage, childcare and parenting responsibilities, work, financial and educational opportunities and also in a sexual and physical way. When women are starting to protest and challenge their roles in society, this would mean that men have to give up some of their power and take on some of the tasks previously done (often unpaid) by women. This would undermine the basis of capitalism which monetises every aspect of life and needs constant growth and profit being made for it to flourish. Many of the tasks done by predominantly women are unpaid, and time consuming like looking after children and housework.

As men are in power under this system it is not difficult to understand that anyone challenging or stretching the definitions of being a man is immediately facing adversity, discrimination and oppression. This is probably why gay and transsexual people are facing more of this adversity than gay women.

But imagine a world where none of these concepts exist. Imagine that every person can express their identity in any way they want without the threat of violence, oppression and adversity because the basis of society is founded on the principle that all people are equal and the first priority is not profit and private property but to achieve the highest possible standard of living for everyone. That is what a socialist society would be like.

Under capitalism this equality is not possible because the essence of it is based on inequality, exploitation and division. It is a pyramid system, where a handful of people reap the rewards of the labour of the majority.

By Kahlo 28/10/2020

Change

Today I took a physical step towards my transition. I cut my long hair to a more male look. It took a long 2 hours to get rid of my enormous amount of hair. It is also very thick and dense which is great but takes a lot for the hair stylist. This is the result:

Before
After

I love my new hairstyle and next week I am going to add colour and a piercing! So I’m not finished yet!

This morning I went for a walk with my daughter and dog and I felt so happy. Since I have started to really take steps to open up and try to express my identity I feel different, better, healthier and above all happier. I start to realise that I have kept hidden a big part of myself. Not only have I tried to conform to my birth gender, also my sexuality and my creativity have been oppressed. For about 20 years I have not properly made any art, writing or other creative expressions and I feel totally liberated now I am sharing it here on my website. It feels as if by coming out I can also allow myself to be creative again, to grow again.

As I am questioning my gender, I am also questioning my sexuality and I think this exploration will take longer. I have experienced some serious traumatic events happening to me over the years, and I think that has made me so closed up. I was literally hiding myself away, to keep safe. But now I feel I can take some steps to open up and I will do it gradually and slowly, because I am still apprehensive and anxious to expose myself. I am still worried I will choose the wrong people to hang out with, to form relationships with. And to be honest, I am a little worried about what kind of responses I will get to what I post here.

But I do feel very strongly that I don’t want to hide away anymore. I want to get out there and meet others like me. I am very excited about that. I want to get a discussion, a conversation about being transgender with others. Because it needs to be normalised. I want for younger people to be anyway they identify with and for gender as a concept to disappear. Cause it does not matter at all. It shouldn’t matter what sex you are, what your sexual preference is, or what the colour of your skin is, or your political views. Every unique person should be able to express their identity in any way they choose, in any situation, without fear of discrimination or adversity of any kind. Because it is nobody else’s business but your own.

That idea is at the base of my political view; revolutionary socialism. In a socialist society there is no place for discrimination, racism or sexism because it is based on a democratically planned economy in which the main goal is to achieve the highest level of quality of life for everyone. This means there is no place for profiteering or monetising every aspect of life like capitalism does. Capitalism is build on the idea of profit and private property at the expense of the working class. It is based around exploitation and competition. This places groups of people against each other, it divides the working class in which minority groups are always disadvantaged. And being trans or gay in a capitalist society is challenging the idea of competition, because normalising gender would place everybody on an equal footing which goes against the concept of division and competition. Being trans is like being free, free of the shackles of the limitations gender puts on people. Being trans means you can express your identity any way you like. And that is threatening the status quo. Capitalist society needs women to be insecure about their weight and looks so they will keep buying beauty products and services and they can be kept under control. It needs the sexes to be put against each other, male and female so they can be controlled.

Going back to my own journey, I want to also make another small change. From now on I would like to start using the prefix Mx. and the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’.

I’ll sign off for now, speak again soon!

By Mayola 24/10/2020

Small Steps

Last night I was up late choosing hairstyles. Cause I decided a few day ago that one of the small steps I can take to discover my true identity is by having a haircut.

I have long hair, over my shoulders long and I shed a lot of it everywhere. It drives me nuts. All my laundry is always covered in my hair, it even ends up in my dinner sometimes. And don’t start about my shower drain! Yuk. It is always up in a bun, I brush it twice a day and that’s all I do with it. So I might as well cut it off.

In my teens and twenties I did loads of experimenting with my hair and look. I have had dreads, mohawks in all the colours of the rainbow, I had it completely shaven, so not a really big deal for me to do. But for everyone else around me it is always a shocker. I reckon that’s just a bonus. Lol!

Anyway, I made an appointment for tomorrow 12 o’clock. And I am going to take this photo with me as an example:

My new hairstyle

I will post before and after pics tomorrow, sadly I am not as pretty as this person in this picture but I’ll do my best to take a nice shot.

I am also thinking about taking a piercing. I discussed it with my 10 year old daughter but she thought it was awful 🙂 Not sure if I’m going to take any notice, we’ll see. I used to have a few piercings. I did one myself through my septum and I had two under my bottom lip. I tried lots of nostril piercings but they always got infected and never healed properly so I gave that up. And I have some ear piercings, but they are not even anything special.

Basically, my whole exterior is undergoing major scrutiny and a refurb. I am most days dressed in black, it’s my favourite colour. So that is already quite an androgynous look. But I do have female shapes in hips and bum so I struggle to find trousers or jeans in a male kind of way. I do have a major benefit; I am 6 feet tall (1.80m) and I have size 8-9 feet (EU42). It is extremely difficult to find typical female shoes in that size, and trousers is also a major issue, well, female trousers. Thank God I rather want to look like a male female, haha. I already bought a male denim jacket with wool lining. And I have lots of oversized t-shirts. But other than that, oh yes, I forgot my range of boots. I have Dr. Martens rigger boots, strangely they are in the female range but look very male. And I still have very good work boots which are definitely male, and all my high-viz work clothes which come in handy when I walk my dog Goliath this winter. But other than that, I either don’t fit some clothes or they are just not my style. So I definitely need some advice maybe.

What I wear nowadays is usually a pair of black leggings, and a long-sleeved shirt with a t-shirt over it. Or I have a few kind of dress-like tops. And a couple of oversized hoodies. It’s all very understated.

Anyways, that was me for today, I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.

Coming Out

When I look back on when I was a child I never really fitted in anywhere. I very strongly felt wanting to be a boy. You can see in the photo’s in my earlier posts that I looked and dressed very much like a boy, but in between I had girl fazes. My parents never really made a big deal out of it but they didn’t really guide me in this either. I really didn’t like playing with girls, I was not interested in dolls and back then kids play was very much gender divided. I wanted to play with boys, outside, play football and war, and build dens. It was hard because the other boys in my street didn’t want to play with me because I was a girl, so with football I was always made to be the goalkeeper. I was a frantic reader and by the time I was 10 or so I had read every single interesting book for my age in my village library. I loved adventure stories and stories about the second world war. I read all my dad’s books from when he was a boy.

By the time I became a teenager I felt pressure from the outside world to fit in as a girl and I sort of automatically dropped the boy look. I think it was just too big a step to really question my gender to myself, without anybody pointing it out or showing me. But then a real struggle began because I grew a lot more body hair than other girls and my breasts didn’t develop much. I only started wearing a bra age 25 or so. I also had a lot of testosterone I think cause I was a very sporty person. I swam a lot, 3-4 times a week and a game of waterpolo in the weekend. I cycled a lot, 10-20 miles a day easy. I was very muscular as a result and had very broad shoulders. I am also 6 feet tall, which in the Netherlands is quite average for women, but here in England I am standing out big time.

In secondary school I started to get bullied. It got really bad, with kids beating me and I only had one friend. I struggled with how I looked, I felt a deep shame about my body hair, but despite that I kept swimming. It got so bad that my parents took me out of that school and I went to another, much smaller school. Here I really flourished. I had a whole group of friends, I got my first boyfriend there. But still I struggled academically and only just managed to pass my exams. To do this I worked incredibly hard, 4 hours studying a day. But it didn’t help, I just couldn’t concentrate and take anything in. My confidence in my ability to learn was at a low, I wasn’t interested in the lessons anymore and started to play up behaviourally. At home the crisis deepened. My sister left age 15.

Then I really became very depressed. And angry. I didn’t know what to do with my life, I wanted to go to Art College but didn’t have the grades, so I went for the next best thing. It only lasted 3 months. I walked away from home, from school, from my friends and started living in squats. The next 5 years I would be drifting, travelling, just really lost. My mental health got extremely bad, I was constantly in crisis. I tried to commit suicide, I had extreme violent outbursts and psychosis. I used a lot of drugs, alcohol.

During this time I experienced a lot of traumatic events, rapes, beatings and I even got drugged, gang raped and held against my will by a bunch of criminals who were involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. You can imagine I did not have time or the mental headspace to wonder about my gender or my mental health, I was just about surviving. I didn’t have any steady relationships, or any real friends.

Eventually it took decades for me to recover and get my life together in such a way that I was not just surviving. Only really the last 5 years or so I found the space to try and figure out who I actually am. So now, because my body and mind were basically giving up and telling me this is as far as you can go. Only then I realised I have to stop working, stop what I am doing and focus on all the trauma and figure out why I am stuck.

Eventually what happened was, I was working 45 hours a week as a lorry mounted crane operator and only saw my kids about 2 hours a day. My youngest really suffered with anxiety and needed my attention, but I couldn’t give it. I was a single parent for most of my kids life and always struggled so much with the emotional attention they needed. Then I started for the umpteenth time to suffer with back pain. Really bad. I struggled to work. I got sacked from my job. The back pain got worse. I worked for another 3 months, struggled to get work because I had to get my youngest to school first. I felt more and more depressed and my confidence got a real bad hit because I got sacked. And then I thought I have to stop, I can’t do this anymore. I thought I have to figure out why I have such back pain, and why I feel so down and exhausted. Well, my back I think is just bad because of the stress of working so much and being a parent with multiple mental health conditions. I have to admit to myself that I can’t do it. That I have disabilities. So then a whole period of reflexion started. And because I started to think about everything, I also started to think about my gender and question who I actually am.

I googled it. And I came across a Wikipedia page about androgyny. On that page was a link to a test about the gender spectrum. It did say, don’t take it too seriously, cause it only gives an impression but I found it very surprising and at the same time totally affirmative of how I felt.

My test result. I am the red dot.

That was 2 years ago. When I told my parents I didn’t get the reaction I was hoping for. My mother was outright dismissive when I suggested I might choose to start using the ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns. For the rest I can’t remember seeing much reaction from them. Then I told all my Facebook friends, and I had lots of positive reactions. But that was basically all I did about it, because that was right after I stopped working and I just didn’t have time to process it.

Now I am just starting my first year studying Criminology & Psychology and I have time to think about it. We’ve just been through the first Covid-19 lockdown with oceans of time. I listened to podcasts about being non-binary. And it made me think about how I express my gender. So, I’m taking steps. I am planning to cut off my long hair and get a more androgyne hairstyle. I am thinking about publicly announcing I want to use other pronouns. And then, see how it goes..

By Mayola 22/10/2020

Borderline

After decades of chaos and self destruction, failed careers, sickness and substance abuse I finally got diagnosed in 2006. My diagnosis was Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (formerly known as Borderline Personality Disorder) and Dysthymic Disorder.

EUPD is characterised by 9 features. If you experience 1-5 you have EUPD traits, if you have 7 or more you are likely to experience the full disorder. If you experience any of these symptoms please ask your GP to refer you to your local mental health team to get a proper diagnosis.

The following nine features are taken from Wikipedia:

Overall, the most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to minor rejection or criticism;[13] alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation, along with varying moods and difficulty regulating strong emotional reactions. Dangerous and impulsive behaviour are also correlated with the disorder.

Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity, morals, and values; having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed; depersonalization; and, in moderate to severe cases, stress-induced breaks with reality or psychotic episodes.

The above text was taken from the Wikipedia page about Borderline which you can visit here.

My second diagnosis is Dysthymic Disorder which is a mood disorder. It is also called Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) which manifests itself in the same symptoms as Depression but longer lasting. You can read more about it here.

It was a relief to me to finally know why my life was so chaotic and that there is a name to it. It felt like I got at least recognition and that there was something I could do to try and make my life a little more bearable. But as I was about to find out, there was a long way to go and it was bloody hard work!

The next 2 and a half years I spend doing therapy with the aim to get my day-to-day life back to a relatively ‘normal’ (I hate that word!) way. I mean at the start I couldn’t look after my son who was only 4, which meant he lived with my parents for 6 months. If you have read my second post you can imagine how hard that was! But I really didn’t have a choice, I barely could keep myself alive, let alone a young boy.

The dozen different faces of me

I learned a lot in that time, about myself and how to steer my mind away from the dark. But I think the best thing was that I recognised then that I had a disability. And that meant I needed to stick to a few very strict rules if I wanted to get healthier and more resilient. The rules I have set over the years for myself are:

  • No drugs or alcohol
  • No repeated late nights of reduced or no sleep
  • A routine
  • Exercise
  • No romantic relationships
  • No team work, care jobs or customer facing roles
  • Limited responsibility (don’t take on too much)
  • Say no
  • For big decisions, take your time and speak to trusted friend first
  • Take medication religiously

Since then I have refined those rules, and sometimes tighten them up a bit. In the last 2 years I have found my mental health deteriorate again, together with my chronic back pain. It got so bad that I got sacked from my job (I was a lorry mounted crane operator) and a few months later stopped working altogether because I could hardly get out of bed.

I got a MRI scan but except two worn discs in my spine they couldn’t see why I had such excruciating pain. So my conclusion is that it probably goes hand in hand with my mental health deteriorating and the stress of working 45 hours a week. After about a year of unemployment my back pain did subside somewhat, but I will always suffer when put under pressure and the lower back pain is chronic anyway.

Simultaneous offloading doing the job I loved

Whilst going through this process of searching I decided it was time I really started looking at all the underlying issues. So I got help. I thought I just try all angles and started with my GP. I asked for a referral to the mental health team who started me on a skills group, once a week. I did that, and it just got me thinking and gave me a new perspective also because of the input of the other group members. I have to add that this process took about a year before I actually got help, because at first they didn’t take me seriously, and there was a huge waiting list.

Then I looked for more psychological help to deal with the trauma and I am now getting 1 hr sessions (by phone) with a psychologist from a charity who deals with sexual abuse victims. Yes, a charity. I think this is outrageous, all mental health services should come under the NHS and should be properly funded in line with the demand.

Another point I want to make is that I have often been offered i-talk by my GP. This is in my opinion a way to fob people off, reduce costs and make them believe they should be helping themselves by practising well-being techniques and not clog up the proper mental health services. On their FAQ page though, you will find a line that says:

“If you have been diagnosed with a severe and enduring mental health condition such as bipolar, schizophrenia or personality disorder, speak to your GP about your support options. IAPT services like i-talk are unable to treat patients with these conditions”.

So to end I want to say, if you suffer, demand help and if you don’t feel able to ask a friend, a family member or loved one to do the talking and be by your side when you see your GP and mental health team.

By Gif – 17/10/2020

Mental Health

My mental health deteriorated rapidly as soon as I hit puberty. Looking back now I know the emotional neglect and witnessing constant physical abuse by my mother towards my sister has damaged me. In combination with taking up a parenting role for my mother as well as my sister even as a young child put enormous pressure on me I couldn’t deal with off course. My father was another source of incompetence. He told me and my sister 30 years on after he suddenly experienced really horrific nightmares that when my sister was a baby he tried to strangle her twice. He then advised my sister to go see a doctor in case she might have brain damage.

My reaction to this phone call was anger. He basically ‘forgot’ all about this for 30 years, suddenly started getting nightmares about it and remembered it. Then felt so guilty he didn’t know what to do with himself, told my mother who apparently also did not know. And then concluded he should tell us because we ‘had a right to know’. And then had the audacity to advise my sister to go see a doctor about it! Well, I think he just felt the need to offload his guilt on us, cause he couldn’t live with this guilt. I bet there was never a thought in his mind how this knowledge would impact us in any way and if it might possibly be more beneficial to us not to know. And also, if it might not be better to after 30 years finally step up as a father and protect us. No. He had to tell us.

You can imagine that the tiny slither of trust I had left in him was well and truly gone by then. Cause you might wonder where he was and what he did to prevent my mother from harming us when we were kids. Well, he was at work or playing tennis or volunteering for, I kid you not, a charity called Wereld Kinderen (Children of the World). Both my parents did development work in 3rd world countries and ran an adoption program. They were both heavily involved in this and went to India every year to pick up 10 kids to hand them over to their adoptive parents in the Netherlands.

Me and my sister age around 6 or 7 on our way to school

In the meantime they totally neglected and abused their own children. My father always sided with my mother. He never stood up for us, called the police, called children services or even just blamed my mother. And strangely enough none of my aunts or uncles, neighbours or school took action and saved us. I am convinced that if somebody had interfered we would be taken away from my parents and maybe the harm wouldn’t have been so great. So you can imagine my trust in people is minimal.

Recently I have cut off all contact with my parents after my sister told me my mother continuously verbally abuses her and my 12 year old niece. I decided I can’t have a relationship with them without betraying my sister and I want to take a stand in solidarity with her. Also, I want to build my relationship with her as for twenty years we lost contact. All the abuse has driven us apart and against each other because off course my parents called upon my loyalty towards them, and gave so many mixed messages.

I am going to leave it there for today, but tomorrow I will explain in more detail what EUPD and dysthymic disorder is, and what it means to me.

By Gif / Friday 16/10/2020

First Time

Welcome to the first post in my blog. Yes this is the first time that I seriously attempt to keep a blog and have a proper website featuring all my art work, photo’s, poetry and writings.

It really is about time. I am a very creative person but all my creativity has been locked away for decades. I used to paint and draw every day, I took art lessons and wrote my own lyrics and poetry. My biggest wish growing up was becoming an artist and going to art academy. But sadly my dreams were dashed by the time I was 18.

I suffered severe childhood trauma and by the time I was a teenager my life was in complete chaos. It has left me with a few serious mental health conditions; Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (formerly know as Borderline Personality Disorder) and Dysthymic Disorder. I also suffer from psychotic episodes and chronic backpain.

When I was about 7 or 8 I had a very short haircut, only played with boys (but they never wanted to play with me, cause I was a girl) and really I wanted to be a boy. But then puberty hit me and I could no longer pretend I was a boy. I somehow had to conform. My breasts were very small and I grew a lot more hair than other girls. I also played water polo and trained 3-4 days a week so I was very muscular for a girl. I got mis-gendered a lot.

Me approximately 8 or 9 years old

I had a lot of shame about my body hair and did not have friends. I got bullied. I didn’t feel I belonged anywhere, and couldn’t relate to anyone around me. At home the situation got out of control, and I hated being home.

I started smoking weed and drinking a lot. I was maybe 15. I felt more and more depressed and hopeless. I started playing up at home, and at school.

Eventually I dropped out of school and walked away from home when I was 17. My younger adopted sister was already gone 2 years by then. From that moment on things really spiralled and I moved from squat to squat. I started using drugs, hard drugs. I started experiencing psychosis. Nobody had ever cared enough to help me, there was no help. I was very paranoid and aggressive. I tried to commit suicide.

During an eviction I got arrested and sentenced to 3 weeks in prison of which 2 suspended for 2 years. So now age 18 I had a criminal record.

Me around 20 years old in the window of an old police station we squatted in Amsterdam. Banner reads; ‘Squatting: no problem but a solution.
Photo from I believe the paper Het Parool.

I had a lot of shame about my body hair and did not have friends. I got bullied. I didn’t feel I belonged anywhere, and couldn’t relate to anyone around me. At home the situation got out of control, and I hated being home.

I started smoking weed and drinking a lot. I was maybe 15. I felt more and more depressed and hopeless. I started playing up at home, and at school.

Eventually I dropped out of school and walked away from home when I was 17. My younger adopted sister was already gone 2 years by then. From that moment on things really spiralled and I moved from squat to squat. I started using drugs, hard drugs. I started experiencing psychosis. Nobody had ever cared enough to help me, there was no help. I was very paranoid and aggressive. I tried to commit suicide.

During an eviction I got arrested and sentenced to 3 weeks in prison of which 2 suspended for 2 years. So now age 18 I had a criminal record.

By Gif / Thursday 15/10/2020