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Let’s not talk about me, Zhiro, we’re here to talk about YOU. Right? RIGHT??

The first vlog of the month is up and open to the public over on Patreon.  If you’d like to see all my weekly vlogs and support my journey as an artist, please become a regular patron! And as always, a huge THANK YOU to all the LeyLians currently contributing. Every dollar goes to paying my amazing color flatter, Sorrel, who helps me get these pages done on time. (YOU’RE THE BEST, SORREL!!)

In today’s Vlog I talk about something that’s been on my mind lately.  The strange idea of “realness.” Who is “real” and who is not? Why do communities see the need to search for legitimacy by denying others a place within them? Where do you stop drawing lines to keep others out?

>Books quoted:
“The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer
“Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation” by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. Article in particular is “We’re All Someone’s Freak” by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

If you don’t have the time or ability at the moment to watch the video, the gist of it is discussing why so many communities seem to have the need to divide people into those that “count” and those that don’t.  There is a strange demand for people to be “real” all the while questioning whether or not someone is real ENOUGH to qualify as actually real.  Which I’ve always found very strange, and very frustrating, and exceptionally isolating.  Because ultimately, if you start drawing lines, where do you stop?  Go about it long enough, and the only person who gets to be real is the person at the center of the exercise…meaning they also get to be completely alone.

I’d been thinking about it in respect to the artist community, but reading “Gender Outlaws” made me realize that this phenomenon exists in a wide variety of groups.  Gwendolyn’s article, which I quote in the video, really spoke to me.  She put the behavior and the ultimate folly of it so powerfully that I will quote her again here:

“In the end, we find ourselves with one of two choices: do we push others like us away, to best fit in? Or do we seek out our kin, for comfort and company?  For that matter, if we are all someone’s ‘freak’, does this mean we are all each other’s ‘normal’ too — and worthy of embrace?…The notion of classifying things and then claiming that only this or that is a proper version of some being is a distinctly human construct, full of arrogance and hubris….We can worry about who is this and who is that, we can argue about who does or doesn’t belong.  We can talk about how much more legitimate one or another of us is. In the end, we are all somebody’s freak — and basic human dignity is not a privilege of the lucky superior few, but a right of all or none.”

Cory and I were discussing this further this evening and tying the question of “realness” to science fiction stories involving duplication or cloning in some form. Questioning whether the replicate, the clone, the copy is a REAL person or not. Do they count as REAL? In SOMA, or The Prestige, or even the clone armies of Star Wars, do those duplicates count as somehow less human? And how might the way that question is answered connect to this question of being “real” in a community?

This got me thinking about the concept of genuineness and realness in other manifestations. Many of us act differently at work than we do at home. Which person is real? This question used to haunt me a few years ago. I found that the way I expressed myself here on this blog, verses on a podcast, verses with a client, verses with my friends, were all different. Did that somehow mean I was being fake in all those places except for one? Which Robin was the REAL Robin? And where did the REAL me go all those times when I wasn’t her?

Eventually I concluded that I’m allowed to be more than one thing. I am not 2D. I have multiple dimensions, multiple facets. I am a person. I can be more than one thing. I can have good days and bad, be smart and clueless, skilled and untrained, gracious and monstrous. I have more than one facet. Each of which are impacted by situation, emotion, input, response, and even the quality of dreams I woke up from in the morning. ALL those versions of me are the same me. The seemingly paradoxical existence of all of those reflections does not negate one over the other. All of those Robins are real. Diverse, and yet the same.

What are your thoughts on real-ness? What stories do you think explore this topic? Have you ever had a time where your real-ness was challenged, and how did you deal with it? When do you feel the most “real,” and how do you cultivate that feeling?


Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

A few months ago I listened to the audiobook of an unique sci-fi murder mystery, Prime Suspects. in which the detective, the murderer, and the victim are all clones of the same man. Homicide detective Dave Begini. Our narrator is the 42nd version created, or at least woken up, specifically to solve this crime.

It was a wild ride and it quietly said all sorts of things about people and the question of who gets to be considered real.

I sometimes think that reality is kind of an illusion both with regards to people and to physical stuff because of the nature of how we perceive things and the fact that if two people who were at a singular event describe it, their accounts are quite likely to be very different. just because of what they paid attention to and how they perceived it.

Which to me means that everyone has their own little bubble of reality, which means that all these realities exist at the same time and thus are all equally valid. Society is just a shared idea of what we collectively, publicly, agree is real.
that’s all.
My personal reality does not have to match up perfectly with the Public Collective one. Though sometimes I need to remind myself of this.

It is wild to think about how many things function not because there’s any logical reason, but because we collectively have agreed to BELIEVE in them. Nationality. Government. Money. Heck, any economy as a whole. Gender roles and presentations. The entire concept of “normal” behavior…

And then add to that the bubble of reality each person has, which may include similar versions of those collective beliefs, but never be fully identical to other beliefs, and it becomes kind of amazing that anybody can agree on anything, or that any of the larger collective beliefs can exist at all.

Humans are WEIRD. With all the good and bad that brings.

“Prime Suspects” sounds really interesting. I may have to add that to my ever-expanding book list.

Zhiro, it’s okay. The first step to correcting a mistake is realizing that you’ve made a mistake. Unfortunately, I have no idea how that knowledge will help you get out of a situation involving a rightfully pissed off god who can take over your body whenever he wants, so…

On the subject of realness in community, I see this a lot in queer spaces. I was not comfortable at my GSA in college. I went there because I’m bisexual, but since at the time I had a straight male partner, I was A) uncomfortably aware of the privilege this allowed me and B) I consistently came away from interactions with others in the group feeling like they didn’t think I was queer enough. My (different) boyfriend is running into the same problem now. He’s trans, and a lot of the current GSA is trans, but they’re all pretty snobby to folks who haven’t A) physically transitioned and B) don’t present as stereotypical representatives of their gender, neither of which applies to my boyfriend. It left both of us feeling isolated and with a bad taste in our mouth, which is frustrating since we live in a small town where the LGBT-sandwich members aren’t shouting about their identities for fear of violence.

POINT IS, setting levels of what it takes to be really X isolates the people who are actually part of your community and makes everything suck. (Not to mention it’s what the system wants, since it makes marginalized communities focus on infighting instead of changing the system that makes them marginalized, BUT THAT’S ANOTHER RANT.)

Sorry for long dump. The question of who is real and not real in communities hits me hard for the aforementioned reasons.

ALSO, as far as the question of who your real self is among multiple different presentations, there’s a psych theory where the personality is not fixed, but something that exists from moment to moment. No version of yourself is any less real, because social context is one of the things that define who you are. If that makes sense.

Your frustrations/fears regarding being bi but passing as straight hit me right in feels. I’m actually working on an autobio piece about this exact subject at the moment.

My heart goes out to your boyfriend. That’s a damn shame. I hope he can find, or together you can make, some more welcoming, inclusive spaces.

It’s not that I don’t understand why people engage in identity-policing when they’ve been marginalized all their lives, but I’m just really “who am I to tell people what they can and cannot be.” I’ve been uncomfortable all my life because of identity policing, so I really want to make sure that if I let others into my life, they don’t experience that as well.

Also, your identity is completely valid, Robin!

I recognize both books that you’re quoting, there! I’ve only read the anthology, though. Also, I second Skysong’s thoughts/references on personality. We shape ourselves differently depending on where we are/who we’re with. Everything is situational! \o/

And yes: SHAPE UP DREAM EATER! Answer Zhiro’s questions. =P

I highly recommend the audiobook version of “The art of asking” since it includes a lot of music and an even more personal feel. I was able to listen to it via my library’s ebook and online audio-book system, which was really cool. I could play it while I worked on pages.

!!! I love these two characters so much.

On realness – I think its normal to show the facets of yourself that work best for any given situation. Sometimes this means covering a lot of yourself, so that the group will function. Sometimes, that means the group accepting gracefully the places where you can’t cover anymore. Sometimes it means finding other groups, where you don’t have to cover because those aspects belong. So, I guess at some point I reframed the concept of realness as wholeness. How do I schedule my week so that all parts of myself get some time to be exposed and accepted and live? And, when I find a part of myself that conflicts directly with a part of myself that I took pride in, or formed my identity around, how do I give myself the space to contain multitudes?

The idea of personal presentation being an art of covering or exposing aspects is a really fascinating one to me. I’d always thought of it as like a rubix cube, where different faces cycle into different combinations, but the metaphor of a cover seems more whole. Scheduling a week to give all aspects attention and room to be expressed is amazing. I’ve experienced the negative side of NOT doing this, but never put into words why it mattered or how to be more proactive (other than including “Something creative” on my to-do lists). I’m going to have to ponder these ideas more. Thank you for sharing them with me!

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