The Implications of the Words We Say: Learning Linguistic Mindfulness

First, before reading the post below, please check out my most recent post to this From Fandom to Family blog of mine, which was a reblog from someone else’s WordPress blog: How I stopped worrying and learned to remove ableist language from my vocabulary.

I haven’t updated my blog in a while. This was saved in my drafts for ages and I decided to put the finishing touches on it and publish it today.

And please forgive my writing style below. For some reason, this time, I chose to write about the past in a pseudo-present tense, for effect.

I’m a small child attending an American public school, so of course we have to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Decades later, I’ll still remember the words. We did it — or at least heard it, even if we didn’t speak it — every morning for 13 years.

I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States of America.

And to the Republic
for which it stands

One Nation
Under God

With Liberty, and Justice, for all.

I remember finding out what the word “Indivisible” means and realizing for the first time it is not the word “invisible”. As a child, “invisible”, meaning: Impossible to see; not visible was a word I’d learned. I’d learned what “invisible” meant many years before I learned the uncommon English word “indivisible” that meant: unable to be divided.

I think it took me a long time before I had my little personal epiphany and began to fully understand that the words in the pledge aren’t just sounds to chant but rather two complete sentences that are actually supposed to make sense. I remember thinking about the meaning of what I’d been reciting only years after having begun saying it on a daily basis. When I was 5-years-old, I didn’t know what I was doing.

In kindergarten, I was certainly not old enough to care about the meaning of words I was being required to say. I should not have been required to say those words. I do not like that my country continues the tradition of saying “The Pledge of Allegiance” in school each morning.

I’m attending Catholic Religious Education Classes as a kid, and it’s called CCD, although none of us know what those letters stand for, or why we don’t just call it Religious Education. One of the most often discussed religious figures is the Virgin Mary. I find myself embarrassed at age 14 that I didn’t realize Virgin wasn’t just part of her name/title or something very specifically Catholic. This is actually a descriptive term? This means she’s never had sex? Wow. To have gone this far in life and to not know what Virgin Mary means? That is unacceptable. Words like “virgin” have meanings and I should’ve been taught what it meant many years sooner. Age 14 was a bit late. Eighth grade? Why had no one explained the concept of virginity to me before now? If the “Virgin Mary” was going to be discussed in my presence for as long as I can remember, the meaning of “Virgin” should’ve been of some importance. I don’t like having used a word myself for years, not realizing I didn’t know what it meant.

We head away from the auxiliary building on the church grounds where the classrooms are, going over to the church and the chapel area where the confessionals are, because today is the day, as comes up once a year now, where it’s time to, as a class, confess our sins to the priest. They guide us through a brief presentation first about what confession is, how it’s a Sacrament, how we need to confess our sins, and what common examples of sins would be. I start to feel nervous, worried, anxious. I didn’t do any of the things on the list! Disrespecting my parents? Never, my abusive mother made sure I always respected her. My dad… was always so worthy of respect in comparison. Using “bad language” like “Oh my God,” or “What the hell?” also wasn’t something I’d ever do. I’d always say “Oh my Gosh,” or “What in the world?”. But still… if I had used the Lord’s name in vain… that’d have been breaking a commandment, right? Maybe I should just tell the priest I did that. Maybe I should lie in Confession so that I have something to say. I look back down at the long prayer written on a piece of paper that is now my hands. How am I supposed to memorize this whole Act of Contrition? Oh, we can look at it even once we’re alone with the preist? Great. I can relax a bit.

I don’t care that much that what I will say is true because the pressure is on. I need to say something. I need to act like I am a sinner. The exact sin I choose won’t matter. I try so hard to be a good person and here I am feeling guilty about lying in Confession. Because telling the truth does matter to me. Because I do care about the meaning of what I say, and what these lies will imply about me as a person, as well as what lying itself will mean about me.

I am sitting in my aunt’s house, playing a game of Scrabble. I look at the letters I have. Included among them are J, I, and P. That’s probably not how you spell the word I’m thinking of, though, right? “To jip”, meaning to deprive, or to cheat? I turn to my dad. “How do you spell ‘gyp‘?” I ask. I’m informed it’s spelled with a G and a Y. “What?” I’m confused. That’s an odd spelling for an English word. “It’s based on the word Gypsy,” I am told. (I soon learn it is derived from prejudiced popular perceptions of the Romani people as thieves and petty swindlers). I am a bit horrified that this word that I had used casually in the past has this particular… history, and spelling. I vow to avoid using the word in the future, if I can remember. It just feels so… racist.

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How I stopped worrying and learned to remove ableist language from my vocabulary


Please read this post from Kasey Weird who blogs over at Valprehension. Please click the links and read the additional discussions on ableist language and arguments on why we should stop using all of these words. Please read all of it. As soon as I get a chance, I do plan to write a follow up blog post of my own on this topic. I’d love for people who read my blog to have the context of having read this other post first, before getting to reading mine. Thanks.

Originally posted on Valprehension:

For at least a year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to stop using ableist language in my normal way of talking. This means not saying things like “crazy”, “lame”, “stupid”, “dumb”, and other words that are rooted in current or past ways of describing people with mental and/or physical disabilities.

Ten Easy Alternatives to Common Ableist Language: Say unreal, not insane. Say unbelievable, not crazy. Say jerk, not psycho. Say awful, not stupid. Say bad, not dumb. Say moody, not bipolar. Say ridiculous, not retarded. Say eccentric, not mental case. Say dismantled, not crippled. Say unruly, not mad house. From Upworthy

This has been…. harder than I initially thought it would be. There are a *lot* of words that are rooted in ableist attitudes. And they get used a *lot* in normal day-to-day conversation. So it takes work to stop using them. And I’m not even really there 100% of the time yet. But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about today. I wanted to dig into my reasons for making this change, (and hopefully to inspire at least some people to do the same).

For a long time I was a person who resisted this effort, in…

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Identity vs. Description, and How Labels Are Used For Both

This was a post written for the May 2015 Carnival of Aces, which was hosted by elainexe and has a topic of “Identity, Labels, and Models”. For more information on this ongoing blogging carnival, check out the main page by clicking here. Consider participating sometime soon, or even hosting a future month’s theme yourself!

The Wikipedia page on “Identity” in a social science context — specifically in psychology, sociology, and anthropology — is fascinating. The idea of what makes something a part of someone’s identity is such a complex one.

In the ace blogosphere and community we tend to discuss identity fairly often. Mainly, most of us in this community prioritize asexuality as an identity, and if it’s not “identity” worthy levels of importance to a person, if it’s more just a description of how they “don’t find [many/any] people sexy” or “don’t care about/want sex”, then they probably aren’t going to bother staying in this community for long, or may not even search for/find the community at all.

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I was curious, so I chose to have sex! Then, my curiosity was satiated. I decided never to have sex again.

[Content Note: the following blog post is NSFW and contains very explicit descriptions of sexual situations. I also discuss menstruation/ovulation briefly.]

Elizabeth over at Prismatic Entanglements is collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write. In order to do my own small part to help, I’m sharing my experiences below. It is a response to this Tentative Revisions post she put up, and I definitely recommend you read onlyfragments’ post which was also written for this purpose as well. She discusses her journey toward where she is now: enjoying a sexual relationship with her girlfriend. It’s a very different post than what I am writing, below.

I’m a 25-year-old woman, and by one of the most common definitions of the term, I am a virgin. However, I have consented to sexual experiences at two different points in my life – about 1 week apart from one another. I was naked with my boyfriend both times, and he was wonderfully respectful of my boundaries. For weeks prior to us taking off our clothes together, we’d had conversations, mainly over texting, where he’d told me his fantasies, and asked me about mine. I’d told him I had never in my life had a sexual fantasy, honestly. I… wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be fantasizing about. He knew I’d never seen porn but had read some erotic fanfiction. He of course had seen porn. Again most of these conversations were via text, but we did have a few “real life” conversations too about these topics, and others. It was easier, in some ways, to talk about sexual topics via texting, though. It helped with some of the awkwardness and embarassingness.

We’d talked in person about how I wasn’t “into” the making out with tongue we’d been doing since our first week of dating, and how I thought I might be asexual but I was curious to try more things and see if maybe I’d like other things instead. We also talked about what his experience of kissing me/making out with me had been like, and he’d admitted to me that he had “gotten hard” while we had been cuddling… so by the time we were doing sexual things, getting naked together, we continued to have a very healthy approach to the whole situation. He was careful to keep checking in with me, and to stop touching me when I mentioned that it was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He wanted to be able to provide me pleasure. He had already told me, before the day where we first took off our clothes, that he thought he might already be in love with me. I appreciated him so much, was so grateful he cared so much about me, and I cared about him and his happiness too.

Still… despite all of this… I ended up breaking up with him within a few weeks of all of this. I broke up with him because he wanted to lose his virginity in the traditional heteronormative penis-in-vagina (PIV) way, preferably in the forseeable future, and it may have taken me a while but eventually I figured out that I did not want to be that person for him. I decided that I was sure I never wanted to actually have intercourse, or even ever be naked with anyone again.

After what had been months of anguishing over whether or not I was asexual and hoping I wasn’t, I embraced my sexual orientation. I decided I was sex-averse on the same day I decided yes, I was asexual. I kind of equated the two. I’m not sure why, but at the time I didn’t want to officially call myself asexual if I wasn’t sex-averse.

Also on that same day that I officially decided once and for all that I was asexual, I broke up with my wonderful, loving, sweet boyfriend. I wished him only the best, and that he could find a new romantic partner who this time would be much more compatible with him, sexually-speaking.

Allow me to backtrack.

I’m a 25-year-old white cis-woman from the USA, and by many definitions of the word, I am a virgin. I’ve never had penetrative sex with a man. I’ve never had oral sex with anybody. I’ve never been intimate in a physical way with a woman, nor with any non-binary person. I’ve never even experienced an orgasm. I’ve barely tried masturbating.

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Figuring Out My Mother Was an Abuser (Part 3 of 3)

Please read part 1: and Part 2: first! ;) Content note was on part 1, and all three parts are all tied together. I was originally going to just post them as one long post, but then decided breaking them up would make for easier reading.

Around December of my sophomore year in high school, when I was 15-years-old, I had to go in for surgery. At one point, I happened to be alone, and someone — a nurse, perhaps — casually asked me a question that caught me off guard.

Have you ever been abused?

I’m still, to this day, unsure of what they were going for with this question. It could be that since it was an orthopedic procedure and involved broken bones, maybe they wanted to suss out if someone had broken my bone as an act of physical abuse? Allow me to assure you now: the injury truly was not the result of abuse in any way. It was a freak accident. Anyway, I hesitated. Had I ever been abused? They asked me, point blank, and I specifically remember that I paused before answering. At this point, I already knew the answer was yes. By this point, at age 15, I distinctly recall knowing my mother was abusive.

I don’t know when that happened. I don’t know when I got to the point of knowing so much of what she did was actually abuse — to the point of truly considering it, in my own mind, to be abuse. I just knew, in that moment, that it definitely was. I was so much more sure than that day two years prior when I’d tried to garner up the courage to call the hotline.

However, I answered “No”. No I had never been abused. I lied. Because I didn’t want to have to explain what I meant by abuse. Because it wasn’t the type of abuse that “mattered”, the type that these medical professionals — or potentially a social worker/person from Child Protective Services — could do anything about. Because my mother was the person who had brought me into the hospital and she’d be so angry with me if she found out I considered her to be abusive, and nothing good could possibly come from me calling her abusive in this moment. Because clearly the person asking wasn’t expecting me to say yes, given the throwaway way they asked it, not even making eye contact as far as I know. Because after I considered the question for just a single moment, I knew they must have meant physical abuse, and all my mom had ever done to physically injure me were tiny little scratches. Yeah she’d abused me in some physical ways already at that point, and would continue to do more as the emotional abuse escalated more with time and escalated, as it often does, into things that are more physical (I still had a few more years to endure with her). But… she didn’t seem like a physical abuser to me at that point. She might violently throw or break objects. She might trap me in corners with her body. But the only time she’d ever physically injured me it was “by mistake” in the midst of a largely shouted burst of anger — or rather than burst, really usually it was a seemingly never-ending period of intense rage.

So no, had I ever been physically abused? The answer was no.

That wasn’t the day that I figured out my mother was an abuser. That couldn’t have been. That day was a day when I already knew. Rather, that was the day that I officially realized once and for all that at some point along the way I had stopped doubting that “abuse” was the correct term for the emotional torture she would constantly inflict on me. I remember that day, that moment so clearly. My decision to say “no” was huge for me. No I had never been abused. Because it had felt, so completely, like a lie.

I could talk about so many other things regarding my mother and her abusive nature, or about abuse in general. But I will save those topics for another day — probably another month. For now, I just wanted to get out my story of my complicated journey of figuring out, just short of my 16th birthday, that oh yes, I was actually abused throughout the majority of my childhood.

Thank you for bearing with me and reading the whole long thing. ;)

Figuring Out My Mother Was an Abuser (Part 2 of 3)

Please read part 1, first:
And consider the Content Note I put on part 1 as well, as it applies to all 3 parts as a whole.

My dad moved back to the same state as me — Maryland — when I was around 10 years old. He then could visit my brother and me more often. We saw him every weekend from Saturday afternoon or so through Sunday night. We slept in his apartment one night a week. My mom would never do any of the driving — my dad would drive roughly 6 hours every weekend in order to make this happen. Three of the hours were him alone in the car, and the other 3 hours every weekend included us kids. And for us, it was great. Car rides with my dad were so much fun. Car rides with my mother were torture. Going shopping for new clothes with my mom was also torture. My mom taking me to doctors appointments… pretty much anything with her was torture, okay? Going shopping with my dad was so much better. So that’s how things began to play out. My mom didn’t want to do chores like shopping for her kids’ clothes, and my brother and I didn’t want to have to spend hours alone with the woman, and my dad completely understood this, and was happy to spend his limited time visiting with us doing those kinds of tasks. It didn’t matter that my mom was the parent who wasn’t even employed and had the time to do this stuff during the weekdays while he was at his full time job. My dad didn’t complain. He was happy to be spending time with us. And as I’ll address in a later post, he was also a bit trapped in my mom’s sticky web of abuse.

I remember starting to watch ABC Family re-runs of the TV series 7th Heaven on a regular basis at my grandmother’s house after middle school, around when I was 12-years-old. I’d also record the new episodes that aired later at night during the prime time slot on the real channel (the WB) on my grandmother’s VCR. (By the way, for my K-12 school experience, I would leave school in the afternoons on a bus to my grandmother’s house. I went to my grandmother’s after school, every day.) I’d watch that ep the following afternoon, since I usually would be back home at my mom’s in the evenings.

I must’ve been 13 when I saw season 8 episode 9 the day after it aired. I’m not 100% sure it was that exact episode, but age 13 is about right for what I recall, and

This episode ended with a promo from Childhelp USA saying “If you need help or information call Childhelp USA, National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.” And also showed its website at

I remember sitting alone in my grandmother’s living room, finishing a 7th Heaven episode, and taking note of a phone number for some child abuse hotline. It was probably this one. I remember thinking long and hard about what my mom was doing on a regular basis, and if it was bad enough to count as abuse. I remember considering the fact that what was happening wasn’t really anything compared to the horrific story told in the episode I’d just seen; compared to everything I’d ever heard abuse to be. Cigarette burns and bruises on your arms, or even broken bones. My mother’s brand of abuse wasn’t physical enough, and it certainly wasn’t sexual. It wasn’t even perpetrated by my father, as all abuse supposedly was committed by men. Neglect could be something a mother could do, but abuse? What my mom did probably didn’t count. My mom did too many things right. She said she loved me and my brother. We were always clothed and fed. What I was considering potentially abuse was only my mom yelling at me and my brother a lot. Wasn’t that all it was? I wanted to call the hotline. I really did. I remember picking up the phone, and dialing most of the numbers. I may have dialed them all before quickly hanging up. But I did, ultimately, hang up. I didn’t want to risk saying that I thought my mom might be abusive only to be told my mom wasn’t actually abusive. I couldn’t risk that invalidation. I also was terrified that my grandmother might pick up the phone to make a call and hear me on that call. And then she might tell my mother. And I couldn’t have my mother find out I was accusing her of abuse! She’d be so mad. And that fear — that fear of what my mother might do to punish me for such a betrayal — stopped me from calling the hotline. I wasn’t sure it even was abuse, anyway. Continue reading

Figuring Out My Mother Was an Abuser (Part 1 of 3)

[Content Note: The post below, as well as part 2 and part 3, contain discussions of physical and emotional abuse. The focus, as you could probably infer from the title of this post, is on abuse from a parent toward children, but I did include some discussions of spousal abuse as well.]

If there’s anything else I should be adding a content note for, please let me know. I’m not sure. It’s a long post, and a lot of things get brought up. Triggers, Menstruation, just a lot of random things. I use an explicit word at some point so the post is probably NSFW.

I told you all that I wanted to blog about abuse? Well now, here I finally am, doing that.

Growing up in an emotionally abusive environment was… confusing.

I had somehow learned what child abuse was at quite a young age. Continue reading

Writing ace-spectrum characters in fanfic, and Which part of my experiences are my asexuality?

This is my submission for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces, which had the topic “Writing About Asexuality“. Details are in the call for submissions here, and once the round-up of all submissions is posted, I’ll edit this blog post of mine to include a link to it so that you can read all of the wonderful things people have written this month that relates to this topic.

I’ve been blogging about asexuality for over a year now, and I’ve also written a couple fanfiction things with fictional asexuality mentions/ace characters, and am working on a more massive ace fanfic project right now as well.

I’ve found that writing about asexuality certainly comes with an array of challenges.

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I want to blog about abuse… but I don’t know where to begin.

I’ve been reading a lot about various types of abuse lately. I am in the mood to write some sort of blog post to put on my blog here addressing some of these issues… but I don’t know where to begin or what the real topic of my post would be. :P I want to write about some of my very specific experiences being abused as a child by my mother. I want to write more theoretically and philosophically about power and abuse cycles and what we need to do to protect all people from all sorts of types of abuse. I want to write about victim blaming in cases like my own. I want to write about the complexity of my dad being a victim of my mother’s abuse, even after he’d been separated and essentially “common law” divorced from her for over a decade! I want to talk about specific types of abusive actions. I want to talk specifically about cluster B personality disorders like NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) in many abusive people, and I want to better understand so many of these issues. I want to talk about reading these non-fiction books that have flaws – flaws of sexism or assumptions of not-even-studied hypotheses being treated as likely true. I want to talk about statistics and how flawed and misleading they can be, and how difficult it is to make sense of these things. I want to talk about how the US court system is ill-equipped to handle abuse, but I’d be so out of my depth that I wouldn’t know where to begin. I want to talk about how my experience as a survivor of abuse has affected my life, my desires, my choices, who I am as a person today, but I feel like my experiences were much too minor compared to the horror stories I read about, and I’m not even sure the abuse I faced did damage me much in the long run. I want to do something tangible in the world to help children who are being abused the way I was, and of course all of the people abused in much worse ways too, and I don’t even know where to begin.

FYI, on tumblr, I got a reply to my thoughts here, and then I answered my tumblr fandom friend’s comments:

k8video​ said: I think its best to start from the beginning and build up from there. Find a way to link each topic within the topic and create chapters/posts that flow from the last. Maybe create a flow chart – if that makes sense? Interested to see what you write.

luvtheheaven​ replied: Thanks!! ;) I really appreciate the encouragement and knowing that I’ll have at least 1 reader… :P I think that is a good idea… I’ll see what I can do. I have an ace meetup event to go to all day today lol but maybe within the next few days I can find time to come up with a plan. Just outline a bunch of different blog posts I want to do eventually, then decide on an order and a way to sensibly tie them all together.