30 June 2021
It still feels kind of unreal.
After almost six years of waiting, innumerable sacrifices, and reckless leaps through the burning, acid-soaked hoop that is the American healthcare industry, I have finally, successfully received transition surgery.
And you know what? It was still worth every second of it. 1
I’d like to do a write up on the experience at some point, to help folks who come after me through the process. But damn, recovery is wild, so I’ve given myself permission to rest for a while.
I really like the idea of periodically sharing things that I’ve learned, because I’d be really excited to read someone else’s recommendations, and am always on the lookout for them. I figure I’m probably not the only one, so let’s do that today instead!
This article won’t be complex, or profound, or persuasive, but that’s okay! They don’t all have to be.
I hope they bring you joy, too!
I binged most of this show from my hospital bed, in the hazy couple of days after my surgery. Yet, it really stuck in my memory.
The Owl House is a Disney Channel cartoon that wound up on my radar due to its inclusion of a canonically bisexual character (something Disney has historically and vehemently opposed). And, yeah, that’s in there! Like, in the actual show and everything. It’s not super explicit, but it is on-screen and not in the last episode squeezed ten seconds before the end credits. I’ll take it!
The premise presents itself as character from modern world longs to adventure in a traditional fantasy setting, but quickly subverts audience expectations and creates something wholly original.
The character and world designs are creative, and beautiful, and also surprisingly macabre for a children’s show? Especially in the early episodes. One of the monster designs in particular had me jump in my seat, and I am not easy to shock.
Great animation, sincere characters, would highly recommend if you dig shows like Gravity Falls. Which I do.
I can’t say enough good things about this show. I watched a bit of Infinity Train every day during my post-op care routine, and not only did it successfully capture my imagination to the point that I sort of stopped noticing I was in pain, but I even ended up looking forward to that time every day.
It’s a Cartoon Network original, which was picked up by HBO in its third season. Ten minute, bite-sized episodes, a-la Steven Universe, with well developed characters (especially in the first couple of seasons) and just a ton of heart.
Putting together the mystery of this setting is kind of the point of the experience, so my lips are sealed on that. Overall I felt like I was watching an alternate reality version of Rick and Morty, that didn’t rely on nihilism to convey its message or visual squick to get a rise out of the audience. Oh, and it has a story. Like, with continuity. And a point.
It’s really wholesome overall but it also contains a lot of content that I was shocked to see in a Cartoon Network series. It deals with topics like divorce, and failure, and death in a really mature way. I was often caught off-guard by things I was sure would not be allowed on the network; honestly kind of gruesome character deaths, children being allowed to talk about the fear of dying, and anger not being depicted as an inherently villainous emotion.
I think this might be my favorite show I’ve watched in a long time. ❤ I absolutely devoured it and now I’m sad that there’s no more. I still think about it maybe once a day. But that’s how you know when something is good!
In this one, Abigail Thorne discusses societal structures that incentivize the avoidance of certain types of knowledge. She theorizes why an individual might build an identity out of not knowing a thing, and how these habits can be used to create implicitly taboo types of knowledge to oppress historically marginalized groups.
It is impossible to ignore that this was released at the height of a historic tidal wave of anti-transgender hate legislation, and it couldn’t have been better timed.
In my opinion this is her best work so far. :) I’m gonna keep it on hand in case I need to nudge folks on DEI issues.
Similarly, this is easily the best video hbomberguy has ever released. It’s always kind of like Christmas to see something from him in my subscriptions, but yeah, this one is chefs-kiss-emoji.
Harris does a close-reading of the original study which erroneously claimed a link between autism and vaccines, really combs through all of the shoddy sources and just generally dismantles it.
Actually, erroneously isn’t the right word, because he also provides an overview into the top-tier, can’t-make-this-shit-up investigative journalism of Brian Deer into the con artist Andrew Wakefield. Really nothing short of malicious will do as a description.
Just when you think, yep, that’s really bad, surely that’s the end of the story, no, it gets worse. And it just keeps going.
Shonalika’s video on Section 28 has only become more relevant since I watched it. I’m from the ‘States so I wasn’t familiar with this piece of legislature; maybe you aren’t either?
Section 28 essentially made it illegal to discuss being gay in a great many contexts, which had (and has, despite its repeal) a chilling effect on creators and the safety of queer folks in the UK, who despite not technically being illegal to exist, were implicitly labeled as dirty or unnatural.
Shonalika’s video focuses on the impact on the work of Jacqueline Wilson, but unfortunately it has since then become more broadly and immediately applicable. Hungary just passed a very similar law in a bid to cement the support of a more conservative base in upcoming elections. It’s absolutely devastating to the queer community, and countries such as Poland appear to be considering following suit.
So yeah, this is also going in my educational resources bucket.
I just discovered this artist; apparently she’s well-known but I’m fashionably late to every party. I’ve enjoyed going backwards through time with a new video essayist.
I did not know about the distinction between sign-supported English and BSL / ASL. My university only taught the latter, and I always assumed that’s all there was. The different grammatical structures are really interesting to me. I kind of want to give one a try!
Jessica also talks about some of the frustrating ways that folks interact with deaf people, and the micro-aggressions that often accompany introductions. One of the ERG’s I’m a part of was putting together a Mental Health Awareness workshop at the same time I was watching this, so it was extra relevant for me at that time.
I’m really excited to watch some of the other queer history episodes. I’ve only just started with them but I can already tell that I know a lot less than I thought I did!
The concept of digital blackface is something I’d really like to learn more about. Since watching this video, I’ve been unable to un-see those interactions in internet communities and around the workplace, in which the reactions of Black people are being used for heightened comic relief or otherwise appropriated.
Khadija is great about listing her primary sources so I’ll probably start there for further research. I need to do a bit more before I feel comfortable providing feedback to peers on this topic.
The second video discusses some of the ways in which society has different expectations of Black girls compared to their white peers. Specifically, that they are assumed to need less help, inherently know more about sexual topics, and generally lose the benefits and protections of childhood at an earlier age. The results are, among other things, greater rates of violence and incarceration. Khadija also notes that when media discusses or makes assumptions about childhood, that Black women are specifically uninvited from participating, and that she personally doesn’t relate to many depictions of the “childhood experience”.
This is an analysis of the mechanics, themes, and development of Cyberpunk 2077 which uses a Marxist lens. I mean, of course it does. Have you seen a Curio video?
Among other things, they heavily reference an early review of the game, “Cyberpunk 2077 is dad rock, not new wave”, which made the rounds just prior to launch. It was a controversial take at the time, but this review means a lot to me because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a major games journalism outlet speak directly to the quality (or in this case lackthereof) in transgender representation. In fact it might be one of the first I’ve read in which a trans author is given a voice at all. There’s an ethical appeal here which is either forgotten or suppressed in most media, and whereas I tend to forget most reviews immediately after reading them, I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time. It’s substantially more courageous than I’ve ever seen.
Curio’s take on the game is similarly fantastic, and pulls no punches with highlighting the hypocrisy of a deeply entrenched, capitalistic endeavor depicting inherently anti-capitalist themes and genre conventions. They do a great job highlighting the hollowness of the message by juxtaposing it against working conditions and a shockingly long bug reel that just kind of, runs in the background.
I’m working on a Cyberpunk 2077 article as well, which focuses on the different ways in which the game and its marketting treat transgender bodies. Keep an eye out!
I got really excited about the title of this video but, no, it’s not actually advocating for resisting arrest. Damn.
Instead this one is focused on an empathy-building excercise, to understand why some folks might feel it in their best interests to resist arrest. I’d be really interested in seeing how this content lands with a conservative-leaning audience, because I feel like the relative threat-level for folks posessing a less charitable perspective is pretty low throughout, and the sources are solid.
I watched an episode of Pose in parallel which grappled with many of the same questions, regarding who the police are meant to serve, the likelihood of a positive outcome when complying with their requests, and how that is influenced by race and socioeconomic class. 2
Zoe, a teacher herself, argues that contemporary schooling and grading is structured to build reliance on extrinsic motiviation, diminish personal agency of students, prime them to compete rather than cooperate, and otherwise train children to work in a capitalist society. The video also talks about the efficacy of personalized assessments and dialogues over static numbers and grading curves in order to evaluate a student’s learning.
And you know what? Even as someone who desperately misses school I have to say, yeah, this is pretty spot-on. It had never really occurred to me before, but if I was a multi-billion dollar company or a representative of some industry, I guess I would invest in shaping schools, too. They’ll be your employees someday.
I also learned about a legit sort of rebellion against grading systems, being led not by students but by the teachers, who are kind of over it.
This is the first Zoe Bee video I’ve ever watched so I can’t really speak to the average content on the channel, but I think I’ll be back. 3
This show has always been a bizarre part of my self-care routine. Monday means John Oliver and chinese food. I don’t make the rules, that’s just how it is.
The first episode is on a series of related topics which were 100% new to me; specifically, the ways in which Black people are discriminated against for their hairstyles, the ways in which our white-as-default society fails to accomodate or even understand their hair, and the simultaneous othering and appropriation of Black hairstyles by white people.
I was fortunate enough to have a history teacher in high school that was willing to teach about America’s history with internment camps and exploitation of immigrants, but I still learned things in the second one. It reminded me of this video by AJ+ on the origins of the pejorative “model minority”.
A fantastic horror / mystery novel about a cursed all-girl’s Catholic school, steeped in queerness and historical references. Already you know I’m onboard. It tells two stories simultaneously; the first of the original hauntings, and the second about a trio attempting to create a film adaptation, only to be tangled in the supernatural.
I’m in love with the tone, the humor, the gay disasters, just the whole package. It’s dark and yet very funny. Much of the plot (and in fact the title) is focused on a real book by a real human named Mary Maclane, whose memoirs about rebellion and bisexuality were treated as truly seditious in her time. It devotes quite a bit of screen time to exploring the ways in which early 1900’s culture repressed “deviant” identities and free thought4. Plain Bad Heroines sent me down a rabbit hole learning about this person, and inspired me to actually read those memoirs. But also the supernatural story attached to it is just really good.
Oh, and if you’re not sold already, it has beautiful illustrations
of children being stung to death by yellowjackets.
This one is on my list of books to provide a more detailed synopsis on in a future article.
Diangelo shares anecdotes of what it’s like to be in the “in” group as a white diversity trainer, and the vehement arguments made by folks who are desperate to deflect the effects that systemic racism has had on the opportunities available to them throughout life.
Once I’m done with this one I intend to combine notes from How to be an Antiracist, Stamped from the Beginning, and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, to get that information in the hands of peers who won’t read four books.
Girl, Woman, Other is also on my list and has similar subject matter, so I might have to do a followup or split them all due to length. I’m still figuring it out.
When I think about this period of my life, Death Road to Canada will always be the first thing to mind. I have no idea how much time I spent playing this while confined to bed, all I know is when I closed my eyes I saw little zombies and could swear I heard the music while I slept.
It’s a randomly generated zombie survival game with an absolutely flippant, wacky tone. The character creator is cute, but it’s also stuffed with more horror and pop culture references than I can count. Every minute with this game is weirder than the last. It’s also kind of janky, but in an endearing way?
Naturally I made myself and my friends in the game. We picked up a hitchhiking Jason Vorheese expy, who proceded to murder us all one by one in between missions. Another time everyone beefed it but the dog, who in a bid to complete our mission to reach Canada, developed sentience and began driving. In between you’re buying anime figurines and telling dinks to COOL IT and its just…so weird. I love it.
It’s also really hard, and I’m bad it, so I have yet to even unlock the higher difficulties. I probably never will.
This one’s not new for me, but it’s that sure-hit game that I find myself coming back to again and again. Noita is a procedurally-generated, physics-simulated dungeon inspired by Flash titles like ye olde Powder Game. The core game loop here is diving deeper and deeper into this dungeon, picking up gold and magic wands along the way. Each wand has some combination of spell components on it, like a gust of wind or teleportation, and you combine them in a really intuitive (but initially overwhelming) order-of-operations to create your own spells.
It’s a game about exploration, and experimentation. Trial and error, and figuring out the game’s rules. This game makes me feel like I’m good at math, which is not true, so I appreciate that.
Steam says I have 150 hours in it and I don’t think I’ve discovered even half of the secrets. I will probably still be playing rounds of this game in between other activities five years from now. It’s got that addictive “one more run” quality to an extent that few games manage to hook me with.
What I will say is that the game should have shipped with the “edit wands anywhere” mod because it does make the game approximately 300% more chaotic and fun.
This one surprised me. I have owned The Binding of Isaac in some form or another since it released over a decade ago. It’s been sitting in my Humble library for as long as I’ve had an internet connection. And I only just now got around to playing it. Honestly, I’m glad I waited, because all of the expansions (the latest one being fairly recent) make this an excellent experience.
At first it was just for the goof. It’s a game about being covered in piss and shit and blood in a dark basement, so what better time to play it than during my surgery recovery? What I was not expecting to be drawn into is the story built in between runs. It is startlingly similar to my actual life, in a way that makes me feel like I’m playing my own autobiography.
It’s funny because, growing up, adults straight up would not believe me when I told them what my life was like, and even those best efforts always felt like they had failed to convey the full gravity of the situation. It’s kind of cool to have something I can point to as a shorthand and say, it’s that, but real.
What looks at first glance like immature shock humor actually (is, but also) has a lot of thought behind it; the symbology around the Hush is really heart-wrenching, and can even teach you a little about biology! I keep playing hoping that the next ending will let this kid survive the ordeal he’s in.
He probably doesn’t in any of them, let’s be honest.
How do I even describe this one? Risk of Rain 2 is a character-class based third person shooter and platformer, which features a literally exponential difficulty curve. You’re racing the clock to find items which make you more powerful in order to complete the survival-defense mission at the end of each level, but the enemies scale with time and if you take too long you’ll be overwhelmed. It’s also multiplayer, up to 4 players.
I enjoyed the first one back in the day, but this one is even better! I was surprised by the third-person shift (the original was a side-scroller), but honestly I can’t imagine going back. Whoever decided where to physically model all of the items on each character deserves a medal. I lost it when I realized the Lens-Maker’s Glasses were individually positioned over each pair of Acrid’s eyes. He’s too cool for school.
Also, it isn’t lost on me that most of the games I’ve been playing during recovery are rogue-lites. I wonder why that is? Maybe it’s something about determination. They’re all randomzied to some extent, and I think I can really relate to persevering after multiple attempts in the face of a system which is outside of my control.
It could also be a focus thing. I don’t really have the energy to track a narrative-focused game right now, so there’s something light and freeing about getting smooshed and starting over.
I’m going to provide these without comment because the titles are mostly self-explanatory, and you could just as easily read them instead of my summary?
I swear, with Spiderman as my witness, that I will not rest until the endless gatekeeping constricting my community is annihilated. I will personally push every TERF and toss every piece of bigoted legislation proposed this year into a volcano. RAmen. ↩
In case my worldview on this topic is in any way unclear, see my analysis of Paradise Killer. ↩
Also her bookshelf is arranged in a little rainbow and that made me feel welcome. ↩
That is, when that free thinking was done by a woman. We teach Thoreau. ↩
I’m cheating and adding this one after publication because I liked it. ↩