Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Depression spoons

Note: Much of what I talk about below is based on my own experiences.  It's anecdotal.  While some of it is backed up by actual research, I don't want to put in the extra effort of citing sources.  Please feel free to do your own research to make sure that what I'm talking about is not a bunch of BS.

Many people are familiar with The Spoon Theory, which tells the story of a Lupus sufferer explaining to a friend what it's like to live with a chronic illness.  While it's a good general guide to the kinds of things people with chronic illnesses deal with, it's told from the point of view of someone with a physical illness.  It's easy to understand, "You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question." Her hands hurt sometimes, so she has to think about what she wears, here's more effort involved than for someone who is healthy.  But, this doesn't translate well into depression or other mental health problems.  So, I figured I could lay out some examples of what costs spoons for people with depression.

Emotional energy - this is our "spoons" equivalent.  Those of us who have depression have less of it than those who are healthy.  The reason being that just fighting the depression (and it's a near-constant fight) drops us down in energy.  An acquaintance on Facebook recently re-posted this:

depression is like trying to peel a potato with another potato its not fun it doesnt work and you just wanna cry

#and then people are like #God! Why don’t you just get a peeler!? #and then they HAND YOU ANOTHER FUCKING POTATO
 I like to also think of it like running a race with a sack of rocks on your back, and everyone else gives you crap for not keeping up.  Both metaphors work well to describe the war we fight against this disorder.  Or, to put it in computer terms, a healthy person and a depressed person may both have 2 GB of RAM, but for the depressed person, 1 GB is being taken up by a huge system hog of a program, and one which doesn't benefit them at all, like some sort of malware.

Socializing - it's necessary for everyone's mental health to have social contact with other people.  I have personally experienced the pitfalls of not being social, and it's not pretty.  When I didn't see anyone for a month, I stopped taking care of myself.  I was unable to eat or sleep.  Sometimes, I couldn't even make myself get up to use the restroom, I would just hold it for hours on end.  It was bad, and I don't recommend it.  Socializing can play out in depressed individuals in one of two ways (normally).  Depressed extroverts can definitely benefit from socializing - IF they have enough spoons to get them to a place to socialize.  If not, they're probably going to be stuck without spoons for a while.  For the introvert, socializing *costs* spoons.  We regain our energy in solitude.  BUT, it's still not healthy for us to not socialize, and depressed introverts can have a hard time balancing the emotional demands of socializing, and the cost of not doing so.

Physical tasks - Not having emotional energy can mean that physical tasks seem much more daunting than they are.  Have you ever looked at a sink with only five dishes in it, and wanted to cry in despair?  I have.  Have you ever wanted to do something, but couldn't make yourself get out of bed to do it?  This is a regular problem that depressed individuals face.  Some people think it's just laziness.  It's not.  When you are literally thinking about how it would be much easier to be dead than to have to wash those dishes, there is something wrong with your thought processes.  Your brain is not working right.  It's not laziness to have to deal with that despair every day of your life, and not kill yourself, it's strength.

Lack of support - Like so many other invisible diseases, depression does not have obvious physical symptoms, at least, not until things have gone *really* wrong.  In addition, people who are depressed are often afraid of allowing themselves to be vulnerable to other people.  They tend to put on a brave face for their audience.  Even when someone is aware that an individual is depressed, they will see them in a happy mood (yes, we *can* be happy from time to time), and think that the depression is likely not so bad.  What many people don't see is when we're alone, when the depression has the most potential to be at its worst.  People don't often see depressed people when they're counting out their pills to see if there're enough to kill them.  They don't see them staring at a knife, wondering if they can build up the nerve to open some veins.  And of course, no one can read someone else's thoughts, so people can't tell when I, or any depressed person is thinking things like, "No one really gives a shit about me."  or "I'm such a failure, I will never do what I want to do in life." or "I won't have to worry about paying my bills if I'm dead."  No one hears these thoughts, so many people assume that they don't happen.  For many people, the only real emotional pain is their own.  This lack of support also costs spoons.  People give you shit when you cannot go out.  People talk shit about how messy your apartment is.  People don't understand why sometimes, you cannot fulfill obligations, why you can't do anything but the bare minimum, and sometimes, not even that.  You have to explain yourself, over, and over, and over again.  In addition, it's sometimes *hard* for people to be supportive.  Depressed people will often see things in the worst possible light, which means that they will sometimes assume that their support network has an ulterior motive for being supportive.  We can be really irrational when it comes to this.  And, let's face it, who wants to deal with someone questioning their motives all the time?

Reserve spoons - With depression, you don't always know how many spoons you have.  There are less hints, because you don't have a physical symptom like fatigue or pain to alert you that you're starting to falter.  Sometimes, you're unconsciously thinking about something which upsets you, this drains your battery, like a crappy app running in the background on your phone.  All of a sudden, it's dead, and you have no idea why!  Same deal.  You'll be focused on a project, getting things done, then all of a sudden you'll hit that wall.  The sudden despair, the questioning of why you're bothering, that sort of thing.  If you're at  home, this is when you lay down, and possibly start crying.  If you're not, you start fighting panic about how you're going to get home, when driving takes so much effort (it doesn't, you're just being irrational, and *think* it does, because that's what depression does to you).  So, you start holding spoons in reserve.  You know that you may hit a wall without realizing it, and you can't allow that to happen.  Because if you hit that wall, you're likely going to have to spend the next twenty-four hours recuperating.  So, you get paranoid about your reserve spoons.  You know you can't get ready to go out, because you may run out of spoons while you're out, so you stay at home.  But that costs spoons as well, because you're not getting your necessary socializing time in.  It can easily spiral from there if you're not careful.  Sometimes, you just have to take a chance with your spoons.

So, there's hope.  With the right kind of treatment, depression can be overcome.  It has the potential to take a long time and take hard work for treatment.  Which sucks, right?  Going to psychotherapy can occasionally zap your spoons for the day, if it was a particularly difficult session.  (I've had a few of those, but I view them as completely worth it.)  I've been on anti-depressants on and off for almost all of my life.  I've been in psychotherapy for almost three years now.  While I'm not 100% cured of depression, the people in my life have commented that they can see a difference.  *I* am aware of the difference (when I'm not thinking irrationally).  But it still costs, because you're not just paying in the spoons for the session, but in the spoons that it took you to earn the money to go to the session.  So, for some people, it doesn't seem worth it.  I don't blame them, I can see their point of view.  But I hope, for their sake, that they will eventually see that the spoons spent now means many more spoons gained down the road.

How does depression affect your spoons?  Please comment to let me know!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The role of antidepressant medications in my life

When I forget to take my medications for a few days in a row, I don't have the energy to do anything.  I don't want to leave my house, I don't want to talk to people, I can't manage enough energy to clean.  I barely have enough energy to make or buy food to eat.  When I remember to take my meds every day, I can manage to be a functional human being.

There are a decent amount of people out there who have tried to convince me I don't need to take my medications.  They bring up how often antidepressants are over prescribed.  I agree that there are many medications which are over prescribed, antidepressants among them.  However, antibiotics are also over prescribed, and you don't often see people telling people with bacterial infections that they don't actually need the antibiotic.

I'm a big believer in psychotherapy.  I believe in it because I know that it has permanent effects on brain structure.  For many mental disorders (but admittedly, not all), psychotherapy has the strong potential to be a cure (with a therapist that works for you (note I didn't say "with a good therapist", some therapists will be good for some people, and bad for others, which is why it's important to "shop around" until you find a good fit)).  However, for some people, it won't always work by itself.  I worked with a psychiatrist once who said that for some people, they needed to be able to look at their life in a different light *while* they participated in psychotherapy.  This is the role of antidepressants, to allow a different perspective.

My depression is pretty severe.  Even when I am not in a terrible mood, suicidal ideation is a near-daily experience for me.  It is extremely difficult for me to not be overwhelmed by both personal and farther-reaching events which may affect me.  In addition, I find it extremely hard to empathize with people in difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed with sorrow for their positions.  All of this takes a strong toll on my energy level.  I am constantly struggling against this, all day, every day, unless I participate in escapism.  But, of course, I can't go through life reading fiction and watching TV shows.

So, I do what I need to do, which is to take my medications.  These allow me to do simple things, like clean the cats' litter box, or bathe, or even something as low impact as going to a fast food place to get some food.  Back in September of this year, I stopped being able to do these things.  I wasn't eating, wasn't sleeping.  I was having trouble moving enough to even go to the bathroom.  Things hadn't been this bad for me since childhood.  This was the result of several different bad experiences which all happened within a month of each other.  What actually happened isn't as important as the effect of these experiences, so I'm not going to go into the specific events.  My point is, there are people who say that I can get by without the medications, and I'm pointing out that without them, I start slowly dying.

To be completely candid, I'm offended when people tell me I don't need my medications.  They don't know the details of my life.  They aren't familiar with my brain chemistry.  They don't know why I take these medications.  They assume, because they've read an article about how antidepressants are over prescribed, that I must be one of the dupes who is taking drugs because pharmaceutical companies have convinced me, or my doctor that I need them.  I started taking bupropion after a very sincere suicide attempt, which landed me in the emergency room, intensive care, and a psychiatric hospital.  (The hospital prescribed an SSRI, the bupropion came afterwards, when discussing with a psychiatrist what effects SSRIs have on me, and how my depression affects me.)  This wasn't the result of me going to my primary care physician and telling them I feel a little blue.  The latter is what is assumed, though, by anyone who has suggested to me that I don't need to be on my medications.

Do I want to be on these medications?  No.  I'd rather not have to make an effort to remember to take these pills every day.  I don't want to take these for the rest of my life.  By being in psychotherapy, I'm taking steps to resolve my illness, so that I can hopefully, in the future, be able to get off of these drugs.  But that really does not mean I should be off them now, or that I don't know what I'm doing by taking them.  So, to those who feel like they can tell me how I'm being fooled by "Big Pharma", please keep track of your own life, rather than telling me how to live mine.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why I'm Darth Kelly

Just about everyone is familiar with the Star Wars universe in at least some way.  The original trilogy told the story of the Force, and how there is the Light Side and the Dark Side.  Many view this as a struggle of Good vs Evil.  In the original trilogy, this is appropriate.  The Sith, the users of the Dark Side of the Force have become twisted individuals.  They have gotten rid of the Republic, and started a ruthless Empire.  Our young hero, Luke Skywalker, is there to set things right.

However, when reading the novels and comics, and playing the video games, we see an expanded understanding of the Force, the Sith, and the Jedi.  While Jedi are traditionally tied to the Light Side, and the Sith are traditionally tied to the Dark Side, there is nothing in their respective codes that actually force them to use either "side" of the Force.

Here is the Sith Code:

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.  
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.  
Through power, I gain victory.  
Through victory, my chains are broken.  
The Force shall free me.

And here is the Jedi Code:

There is no emotion, there is peace. 
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony. 
There is no death, there is the Force.

As you can see, there is nothing innately "evil" about the Sith Code, nor innately  "good" about the Jedi code.  Both are philosophies that we can identify with various non-fictional cultures.  Both are compelling ways to look at life.  One of the themes of the "New Republic" era novels (post Return of the Jedi), is Luke trying to find a balance between the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force.  He tries to be more neutral towards both.  He also sees the failures in the old Jedi order - that they, despite being Light Side users, and Jedi, were corrupt.  While rebuilding the Jedi, he holds them apart during training, but them encourages them to be a part of "normal" life, upon being considered Jedi.  He does this because he feels that the old Jedi did not identify themselves as a part of the culture of the galaxy; that in their serenity, they lost a part of their humanity.

In Dungeons and Dragons, there are two axes of morality.  There's the traditional Good vs Evil, but there is also Lawful vs Chaotic.  Many people familiar with both Star Wars and D&D view the Sith as being Chaotic, and the Jedi as being Lawful, rather than either being Good or Evil.

Many people ask why I use "DarthKelly" as a user name on so many websites, and why I use it as "stage name" while singing karaoke.  I started using it when volunteering for a group that was unofficially called "Team Sith".  However, it has recently become more meaningful to me.  Historically, I've flattened or numbed my emotions as a way of dealing with them when they've become overwhelming.  As such, I have often not processed them, and dealt with them.  This has caused some unfortunate build up, and left me with some baggage that, after decades of putting it off, I'm having to deal with now.

Although it was never intended for this purpose, the username now reminds me of the fictional Sith Code, and reminds me that I can actually feel my emotions, rather than tramping them down somewhere largely unreachable.  I have historically looked upon strong emotions as a weakness, and this reminds me that they can be a strength.  I started out being Darth Kelly for inconsequential reasons, but as time has gone on, it has become a very poignant reminder of what my goals are as far as my mental health is concerned.  It's a tool, and I am going to continue to use it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

My shame

Low self-esteem, self-doubt, embarrassment, for me, and for many other people, these things are about shame.  Shame motivates (or demotivates, as the case may be) me more than just about any other emotion.  I seem pretty wired towards it.  If I don't have anything to currently be shameful about, my brain will pop up some memory which reminds me that I have plenty of things to be ashamed of.  

My earliest memory of experiencing shame was when I was around three.  My family was on a car trip, likely driving from Chicago to Texas.  We had stopped at a gas station, in Oklahoma, I want to say.  My father had to make a phone call, so went inside to make it.  I went in with him.  I got away from him at one point, and looked at some of the various products on display.  One was a little toy set which looked really awesome to me, though looking back from thirty years in the future seems somewhat tacky and cheap.  As I made this discovery, a man walked up, and stood next to me.  I did not look up, I assumed that this was my father.  I said, "Daddy, I want this!" and tugged on his pants.  The man said, "Little girl, I'm not getting that for you, and I'm not your father."  I was mortified.  I immediately ran away to find my dad, who was still on the phone.

Anyway, it's been thirty years, and I still feel uncomfortable thinking about it, and a bit more uncomfortable writing about it now.  The problem with a good memory means that I can bring back these shaming memories with ease, and the emotion usually comes with them.  The wrong memories will cause me to burst into tears, rather than simply feel uncomfortable.  Of course, that's only if I'm alone, because expressing a lot of emotion in front of other people is even more shameful for me.

I've been thinking about this a lot, recently.  I had a bad night, the other night.  I wanted to reach out to someone to try to get help.  But shame largely prevented me.  I was afraid I would be spoiling someone else's good time, and did not want to be a burden.  When some casual suicidal thoughts started creeping in, I sent a text message to my therapist.  I wasn't really near the point of attempting, but I knew I could get that way eventually, if left to my own devices.  He talked to me through text, which was all I really needed.  Eventually, I fell asleep, and woke up not feeling great, but feeling better.  That's the shame I always carry with me.  That I cannot get through life without being a burden to someone else.  I am ashamed that I am so needy.

Shame easily overcomes my feelings of self-worth.  I have extreme difficulties working on a resume.  I feel like I am lying when I put my skills down.  I feel like no one will take my resume seriously, because they'll somehow know I'm worthless.  The worst part of all this is that I know this is irrational.  The knowledge of my irrationality makes me ashamed as well.  After all, I cannot overcome this weakness, even though I know that it exists, and that I'm looking at myself in a very skewed light.  

So, one may wonder, why I am writing this journal entry.  Why am I baring my soul to the world?  Why am I allowing myself to be this vulnerable?  How can I do so, knowing that I am opening myself up to be judged, to possibly be more ashamed?

Why?  Because fuck shame!  That's why.  Because I want to get better.  Because I don't want my life ruled by the anxiety that comes from assuming that I will be judged by those to whom I am so closely connected.  Also, because I know I will not allow myself this vulnerability in person.  Maybe someday I can, but that day is not today.  Part of me is hoping that if I lay this out for everyone to see, that they will realize that I'm constantly hurting.  Maybe they will realize that when I reach out and say, "Hey, I need to talk, do you have a moment?" that I am honoring them by admitting my weakness to them.  Maybe it will open the door to allow myself to be human, and to join the human race.

I can dream, right?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why socialism is not for me

Before I get to the meat of this entry, I figured I'd share an example of the issues with our government, here in the United States.  New York City's mayor has put forward a proposition that would limit sodas sold in restaurants and movie theaters to sixteen ounces.  I can agree with the idea behind this - that one of the major causes of childhood obesity is soda, and therefore we should limit the intake of these beverages to help curb the obesity epidemic.  What I find ironic about this proposed ban on large sodas, is that our federal government provides a corn subsidy to farmers.  This subsidy is the main contributor to the use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in most of our foods and beverages.  So, a city government may cause a limitation on something to address an issue caused by our federal government.

Our federal government talks a lot about the obesity epidemic.  Rather than pull the corn subsidies, and let the raising expenses in soda and other unhealthy foods balance the issue out, instead they propose health care changes, taxes on sodas, subsidizing gym memberships, or even having a "fat tax".  It would be great if the corn subsidy only applied to corn which was meant to be sold as, you know, corn.  Just like it would be great if raw fruits and vegetables that were meant to be sold in their natural form were subsidized so that these healthy foods were available for the poor.

However, because there is now an industry built on using HFCS all over the place, and that industry lobbies to ensure that those subsidies do not go away.  This is the problem with our government, and why I do not think that socialism is a good solution for our country's needs in the current state of things.  We have a mixture of plutocracy, theocracy, and aristocracy.  Any efforts to provide services to our citizens will be corrupted by one of this facets of our government.  Look at "Obamacare" as an example.  The healthcare bill accomplished some good things: people cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, and insurance companies cannot discriminate based on gender are some great examples of this.  However, the fact that people MUST have medical insurance, even if they cannot afford it causes some serious issues.  The reason that this was put into the bill was because the insurances companies would not allow this bill to be passed without this provision.  The fact that our government sways more towards the interest of the corporations, and not to the people tells you something about it.  It tells you that the government will not regulate the corporations, and will bow to them.

Since I don't trust the government, I am largely in favor of a small, less powerful government.  I think that we should limit the government's ability to make these choices on our behalf, because they won't worry about our concerns or issues.  They will either look to their own best interests, their masters' best interests (corporations), or bow to the tyranny of the majority (and this is where we get the theocracy aspect).  I don't understand anyone who can trust governmental officials enough to think that socialism is an acceptable political outlook.

Maybe I'm just being cynical.  I'm open to debate / discussions about why I could possibly be wrong about this.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The fracturing of social liberalism

I've been thinking about why the religious right has had such tremendous success in the United States.  There are some obvious reasons.  9/11 springs to mind the most quickly.  After all, the way to dramatically demonstrate our separation from those terrorist attacks is to embrace the majority religion of the country - Christianity.  But, surely that kind of fervor should have faded by now?  I mean, our being united as a country in the face of the enemy faded two days after the attacks.  The good will other nations had toward us was squandered within a few short years.  So, why has this attachment to fundamental Christianity stayed so firm within our government?

I think that a part of the problem comes from the unity of the social right, and the fragmentation of the social left.  I consider myself a libertarian, though I realize that my particular party has a lot of faults.  My biggest problem with my fellow libertarians is that they are focused more on fiscal conservatism more than social liberalism.  They seem to be only concerned with paying less taxes, rather than protecting individual liberties.  (I have not missed the fact that the majority of the libertarians are straight, white men, and so therefore do not typically have their liberties stripped of them by the moral majority.)  Those who *are* focused on the social liberalism often do so because they want to be able to smoke pot legally, rather than because they want to promote any sort of social justice.  This leaves me with only a small amount of libertarians who are actively concerned with the overreaching of the government, and how it has demonstrably shown it's inability to manage itself, much less the country.

Many of my friends and acquaintances are socialists, in fact, the majority of them are.  Many of my social group are also democrats, and a minority are republicans.  The republicans seem to move in lock-step with one another.  And if they don't, they slowly become brought into the fold.  I've seen two acquaintances go from a libertarian outlook of "We don't care what you do in your social life, and it shouldn't matter to the government either" to the religious right outlook of "Same-sex marriage is morally unacceptable, and so therefore our government shouldn't accept it as a legal possibility."  I find this change to be somewhat baffling.  How can reasoning people go from wanting limits on the control of government to an outlook which promotes the government making more decisions on the citizens' behalf?

Much like the republicans have somewhat abandoned the libertarian party, the democrats do not seem to want to touch the socialists with a ten-foot pole.  As a result, you have three socially liberal groups, none of which work together (and this does not count the further fracturing within each group, I laid out how the libertarians are fractured, the socialists and democrats are not much different, I imagine).  So, is it any wonder that the religious right is so successful?  How can many fractured groups stand against the tide of a strong opposition?

So, how do we resolve this?  We must agree to disagree on certain issues.  I think we can afford to quibble on fiscal policy later, but we need to focus on some of the outrages of the religious right, now.  Until relatively recently, I thought the "War on Women" was hyperbolic rhetoric.  I could see a war on abortion, but on women?  Not so much.  However, laws are being considered to demand that women provide proof that they are not using contraception as contraception, but rather as a medication for other issues.  Domestic abuse has been decriminalized in at least one jurisdiction.  Republicans stood against the Violence Against Women act.  One state has even repealed a law that demanded that employers could not choose how much to pay their workers based on sex.

In addition to the battles that women have to face, LGBT rights are also being attacked all over the country. After a rash of suicides of gay youth, some politicians felt that we should try to work against bullying.  But many stated that terrorizing children is a right protected by the First Amendment.  Seriously, there have been movements to actively protect the "right" to bully someone to suicide in state legislatures.  It's being considered now in Missouri, along with outlawing Gay-Straight Alliances in schools (because THAT doesn't somehow violate anyone's right of Free Speech).  The idea is that by not allowing people to terrorize other people, they are violating a person's freedom to express their religion.  (I mean, that's only not okay if it's a Muslim doing it, right?)  Do I really need to get into the same-sex marriage debate at this point?  I mean, even if you take that out of the equation, the pro-bullying laws are enough to demonstrate irrational hatred of LGBT people, the same-sex marriage issue is just extra sprinkles of shit for this shit sundae.

There are these obvious issues which our country is facing, and yet, we continue to let this stuff slide.  I think we need to make a more concerted effort to demonstrate to our elected officials that we are not going to take this any more.  We need to get serious!  We need to write our elected officials - bombard them! - with our demands that they look towards the liberty and protection of our citizens.  We need to demand that they stop seeking the approval of Wall Street, and start paying attention to those of us on the ground.  We MUST vote.  If you don't know which district you're in, and who is running for what, I can point you in the direction that you can find out.  We need to demonstrate that we are paying attention to what is going on!  No more sleeping.  And we need to fully realize that social liberalism is what binds us together, regardless of fiscal concerns, regardless of party lines, we need to stop looking at this as "my team" vs "their team", but rather, look at this as, "my team" vs "the elite who control this country".  And we need to show the elite what kind of power we have.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Gender in the twenty-first century

A few months ago, I was reading this book.  Some people may be wondering why I was reading something on male sexuality, when I myself am not male.  So, I'll just say that I find sexuality to be a pretty fascinating topic in general.  I mean, that's the point, right?  Evolutionarily speaking, the point is to procreate, which requires some very specific sexual congress.  Which always makes me wonder why our urges are not more specifically pointed.  Which makes me think about alternative sexualities, or even, non-penis-in-vagina sexual acts, and why and how we all are so easily able to overcome this supposed program that we all want to create babies.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post.  That's just explaining why I was reading the book.  Despite the book being about male sexuality, it also dabbles in male gender identity.  I know for some people, these go hand in hand.  But, having interacted with both sexual and gender minorities, I can honestly say that for some people, it does not.

In this book, the author (Bader) suggests that males and females adopt different gender roles during the struggle to separate from their mothers.  He states that boys also have to separate on a gender basis, as well as personality-wise.  I have some problems with this idea, in that I don't believe that this is innate.  I believe instead that this is not a part of separating one's identity from one's mother, but rather a false dichotomy which is presented by the parent(s) and society at large.

What Bader also suggests is that one of the ways to achieve masculinity is to negate femininity.  While this may have had some truth in the past, I find it hard to believe that this works as well in the present.  As women have entered the workforce, especially the professional workforce, we have taken on qualities that are more typically considered to be "male".  For example, aggression and/or assertive behavior, the masking of emotions, and our dress (while still considered feminine) has become more in line with masculine types of dress.

I think that this has caused some of the trends of late, in which men do not always know what it means to be a man.  I've heard men complain that women are co-opting what it means to be a man, and that they don't like it.  Yet, if a woman acts in a stereotypically "womanly" way in a professional environment, they will complain about that as well.  Even more strongly will be the reaction to a transgendered woman, who acts in a stereotypically female way.  Aggression and anger towards this woman is considered to be a normal reaction.  The reaction to a trans man?  Why would you give up being something as attractive as a woman to become a man?

I think some of these issues are present because while the roles of women have filled with more options, the roles of men have not.  Male roles are typically as rigid as they ever have been in a professional environment.  From what I've witnessed, this is slowly becoming undone, but it's a *very* slow-going process.

I, myself, work in garage property management.  This gives me a unique opportunity to see several different levels of society, as far as the socioeconomic scale is concerned.  In my particular location, there are typically white males in management, women (of any race) as assistants, and both men and women in racial minorities as the hourly employees. Until recently, there were also a higher number of gay and bisexual people working in this location than one would expect (there still are, however, the numbers have fallen). There are exceptions to each of these categories, of course, but the tendencies are still there.

The reason I bring this up is that the gender roles seem to be more rigidly enforced amongst the managers and their assistants, and less so amongst the hourly employees.  I'm unsure of whether this is a class issue, or one of race.

In addition, as might be expected, gender roles seem less enforced amongst the sexual minorities.  Gay women are permitted to be more masculine, and gay men are permitted to be more feminine.  While I don't think that this applies to these communities at large (and my anecdotal evidence indicates otherwise), I nevertheless find it interesting that these stereotypes are prevalent in my workplace.  It's almost as if we have traveled back in time a of couple decades, when men wore shirts and ties, and women wore suits.  Except if you are a racial or sexual minority, then you get a pass.  This also applies to behavior, the female managers tend to be somewhat more emotional and passive than their male counterparts.

I find this an interesting phenomenon, in that many of the professional women I know are assertive and do not display their emotions at their workplace as much.  I believe that this was a common occurrence following the large amount of women entering the workplace in the 1970s, and continues to be so into the modern day.  However, my workplace seems to be an odd island in which gender expectations of yesteryear are prevalent.  Not enforced, but definitely a tendency. 

I think that those of us whose mothers entered the workforce in the 70s have, for the most part, been brought up by assertive women who do not express emotions as much.  As such, I believe that we are less likely to cling to the female gender identity of the past.  In fact, I believe it makes us more likely to feel ambivalent towards any sort of gender identity, that is not physical (make up, clothes, etc).  Whereas, with men, I believe that the gender role remains strong, but is being challenged.

I think this is why it's often easier for a woman to be able to empathize with a transgendered individual.  Men have a much more rigid code of behavior and dress than women do.  Because we have more experience with ambivalence towards our gender, we can more easily put ourselves in the mindset of being assigned the wrong gender.  (Not that I'm saying an cis individual can actually understand the trials and travails of being trans, any more than someone of a racial majority can fully understand the point of view of someone in a racial minority.  Just that it's easier for a cis woman to *attempt* to look at things from a transgendered perspective.)

I think that perhaps it's easier for gay and bisexual people to see things from a trans perspective, because gay and bisexual people will also occasionally question gender norms, and are seen as doing so by straight people, just by their choice in sex partner(s). 

So, what I wonder is, where will we go from here?  Will we, by the end of this century, be able to dispose of the idea that gender is a binary switch?  Will we be able to accept that gender roles are really arbitrary and only enforced by society, rather than innately configured by nature?  We're slowly starting to accept that sexuality is much more complex than gay/straight.  Not only is there an increasing acceptance for bisexuals and asexuals, but also people for whom gender does not matter due to some sort of non-gender oriented fetish.  Will we realize that this kind of abstract thought can apply to gender as well?