There’s always some kind of argument about what it means to be human. Empathy, for starters, makes you one. You’re empathetic and sympathetic to the plight of your fellow humans. That’s a human thing to do.
But this article won’t be about empathy.
Instead, it’s a speculation on humanity, a root cause, societal reactions, and as always, the love of the inhuman.
On a wide scale, mental illness isn’t treated well in media. Some get more positive light than others, but at the end of the day there’s one disorder that people talk about in hushed whispers, the one that supposedly breeds more killers and the one that’s arguably the most inhuman: Schizophrenia.
You’ve heard about it and I’m sure you’ve read one of the dime a dozen news articles about how mentally ‘deranged’ this killer or that one was. But what you don’t hear about is actual schizophrenic people.
We exist, there’s roughly a 3.2 million estimate in America alone of people living on the schizospectrum with a 1.5 million addition every year [ source ] , and by large we’re relatively harmless.
When I was a child, there was no name to my condition.
Nobody wanted to diagnose me with the dreaded S word. Instead, I was just an odd child. I didn’t talk right, I was quiet, and despite my family saying I was nice, I didn’t have friends. I grew up with a well fed love of dragons and monsters and I loved hearing about things that go bump in the night.
I remember my first horror movie and how it basically birthed my obsession with all things Friday The 13th [ I mean. I was BORN on the day. It was a collision waiting to happen ].
But my favorite thing in the world, and still is to this day, is Where The Wild Things Are. I thought Max was the luckiest kid in the world. I mean, he got to go live with big giant monsters and he got to be their king. And he was safe. He was safe from their judgement of being the weird kid, he was safe from anyone trying to poke fun, he was safe from everything.
As a kid, it was the coolest idea to me ever to be a monster king. As an adult, it’s still a super cool idea, but I realize that Max being protected by but also protecting the monsters is what drew me in. The sense of community despite the differences. The unconditional love, that the movie later showed us.
Like many people, I grew up with the narrative about how scary schizophrenia [ and as a close cousin, psychosis ] was. I knew I was mentally ill, diagnosed with this or that, but I was always glad I wasn’t mentally ill like that.
I still see this mentality. To this day.
As if, even within the community, there’s a slider of whats ‘acceptable’ or not in terms of symptoms. Apparently hallucinations, delusions and lack of standard emotion aren’t ‘acceptable’. So much for support.
In the past two years, the diagnosis sounded like a gavel drop.
Simultaneously, while it felt like some part of my life was ending, there was a new part of me beginning. I was still myself. I still couldn’t talk right, I’m still quiet. I still have a well fed love of dragons and monsters and I now consider myself a thing that goes bump in the night.
But the hardest part was, at the time I came to my diagnosis, I was also ready to begin my medical transition. Legally, I am medically transitioning to male although I identify as nonbinary.
I have no interest in the gender binary and often times, it feels more like a label for other people to be comfortable with rather than it being for myself. While it’s slowly turning to be more progressive, society at large, I don’t think, is ready to handle the idea that we don’t have to function by a binary system for gender.
Nor are they ready for the intersection of mental illness and gender.
By the time I brought up my gender to my doctor, she gave me a look like I had asked for an on the spot head transplant. She’s normally a lovely woman but due to recent circumstances [ revolving around my diagnosis ], she was very concerned about me and my mental health.
She then proceeded to ask me if I was ‘of right mind’ to make such a choice.
This is common for trans people with Schizophrenia or Cluster A personality disorder diagnosis’.
There’s a stigma for all mental illnesses that the person in question shouldn’t have any agency or know-how of their own person. Trans people, especially schizospectrum and cluster a people, now have their trans-ness brought into questioning. It’s a vile one that began with its roots in taking agency from people, and to this day, it’s still used to that effect.
However, today, it affects people with Schizophrenia and Cluster A PDs to the fullest degree still.
The Mental Health Act allows a person to be forced to attend treatment or detained by the court or another body if they are deemed a threat to themselves or to others. It’s called ‘sectioning’ and while it’s said to be done as a last resort, as someone who was sectioned, I’m very doubtful to this.
Especially since under the same act, should a police deem you a threat to public or personal safety, they may detain you to the nearest hospital for evaluation.
That goes without saying about the long and especially violent history of police and the mentally ill population.
But was I of right mind to make such a choice?
It’s possible, depending on who you ask.
After all, I was dealing with the aftermath of being sanctioned and was still shook.
But I’d like to think I was. I don’t regret my transition, even though my gender is a fickle subject. I don’t think my gender is the biproduct of my mental illness. I don’t feel as though I have any sort of ‘lean’, I’m equally parts what one would consider traditionally ‘feminine’ as well as ‘masculine’. Nonbinary identities offer people like myself, and my friends who also share the same situation and fate as me, a way out.
Nonbinary identities also offer me a way to be able to safely express myself through monstrous means. I wear fangs, I like long nails and sharp claws. I wear hoodies that are too big to give the illusion of being bigger than I am. There are no gender requirements for being a monster, nor are there any requirements for complicated things like empathy.
There are no places for people who sit at this particular crossroad. Even in communities that we’re supposed to be protected in. Nobody wants us because of the idea that we’re violent and sociopathic. There are no monster kings, nobody who wants to don a cardboard crown to protect us. Nobody wants to befriend us because how do you make friends with someone who has no feelings?
And so we joke.
Comedy as a coping mechanism is no stranger in the circles of sexuality, gender and mental illness.
We cope with our feelings of not belonging to any sort of label, and the alien feelings that are a subsymptom of our schizophrenia through joking and through our monstrous identities.
We find peace in our fangs, and in our claws. We identify one another by our fur, our scales, our spines and our horns.
We have our families, our packs, and we protect one another with the fierceness that only a monster could provide. We carve our dens, our homes out of cliffs that offer us the same loving warmth as the town we were drove from.
There will always be arguments on what it means to be a human and what requirements you need to fill. Empathy, sympathy, love and kindness.
Arguments that will leave people like myself left in the dust, as I can’t exactly say I’m fond of or even capable of such emotions. It stings, it always will, and all I can ask of these people is to strive to do better and to treat us with more kindness.
But in the meantime, all I can do is gnash my terrible teeth, roar my terrible roars, roll my terrible eyes, and wonder if living as a monster is as bad as everyone is making it out to be.
So that was rad! Thanks for letting me ramble on about such a personal topic for me, GenderTerror!
Hey guys, my names Jax Orion, but sometimes I prefer to go by Bigby because I’m not as big and bad as I make myself out to be. I’m 22, Agender, and for the most part I’m an artist but I’m slowly starting to dip my toes into doing nonfiction work based around gender, identity as a whole, mental illness, and the effect that genres [ specifically Horror ] have on that as a whole.
My hobbies include babying my cantankerous old cats and spending way too much time tinhatting over survival horror games.
As of right now, I don’t really have a professional space to write, but my ‘art and no other nonsense’ blog is over at jaxxorion ! If you’re alright with not a whole lot of coherency and random tangents about how I feel about video game discourse, and you wanna talk on a more personal basis, my twitter is @gaysonvoorhees !
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