Emotional Wasteland; how to tear down the stronghold defence

I’ve been living in an emotional wasteland for more than 15 years. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anything, it only means that I’ve been forbidding myself to let a particular set of negative feelings affect my life. Of course, it didn’t go as planned, I did feel a lot of stuffs, but by denying those feeling, I created a situation where I forgot how to recognise them.

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I’ve been living in an emotional wasteland for more than 15 years. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anything, it only means that I’ve been forbidding myself to let a particular set of negative feelings affect my life. Of course, it didn’t go as planned, I did feel a lot of stuffs, but by denying those feeling, I created a situation where I forgot how to recognise them. And as I pointed out in my previous post, it becomes problematic when it builds up and I can’t see the threshold being atomised. I should be able to identify the early signs of distress and take preventive action, or at least prepare my defence. But to know why I have so much problems with this now, I have to come back years and years before.

When I was in middle school, I was quick to cry for any stupid thing. And when you grow up as a boy, your peers are quick to shame you for being so emotional. Heck, in the 90’s, even the girls were shaming you for that by calling you… a girl (not sure that changed actually, but I’m not in middle school anymore). After that, high school was a boring hell hole where every one but me was in a group, I started my college years with my first big “romantic” deception, I’ve been mugged a couple times, and by the time I was 20, I was fed up of being emotional and victimised. So, I basically decided to change all of that, trying to be more the person that people want you to be. But it turns out, when people want you to conform, they don’t mean that you should behave like a cold anti-social butthole.

After a few years of being like this, and refusing to feel anything, or to be vulnerable in front of someone, your body gradually accept the changes, and stop giving you any warning signs. You live like nothing can get to you. It’s boring, and lonely, but even that doesn’t feel as bad as it sounds, because your body stopped giving a rat’s ass about your feelings anyway. But, of course, it’s only illusion. If you have as much empathy as I do, you can understand how this wall is just a prank your mind loves to play on you, and all those feelings build up until the illusion crumbles and you as well.

And that’s where the weirdest thing happens. You would think that after a breakdown, you’d get a wake-up call and decide that all this was a terrible way to deal with your problem, and you should start working on it but no, you just go full 2nd amendment on it and you decide that you need more of your stupid idea to protect yourself. Mix it and shake it for a few years, and here you go, you built yourself a gigantic fortress full of cracks and, ironically, you end up an inmate in a prison you designed. And it’s the kind of prison where you can smuggle anything in, but nothing comes out. So you keep feeling, but to other people, you still look like a cold anti-social butthole.

Jump-cut to 2015: Crap! I’m transgender. I knew it already (1), but hey, now it’s messing with my sanity, so I really need to do something about it. My shrink tries to break into my defence, but she does that by finding workarounds. Bad luck, my wall is designed against that kind of evasive action. However I realise it fails in the face of direct action. Who would have known? I’ve always been honest, and somehow I was always waiting for someone to notice and reach out. So ask me a question bluntly, I will answer the same way, try to go around, I can play for hours, and we’ll both waste time.

So I realise that I need to let my guard down, but I have two problems: first I can’t just withdraw everything because, since I’ve now come out as transgender, I shifted in a particularly unsafe category of people, and I need to be careful. And second, I forgot what feelings feel. As I said, my body stopped warning me, so I have no idea what to let through, because I don’t receive relevant emotional inputs. I only know when it’s too late, and that puts me in annoying or embarrassing situations, to say the least.

So now I am trying to dismantle that wall, but it’s really complicated. It’s a piece-by-piece project. I need to really think about what constitutes a feeling and how it is supposed to trigger me. To give a bold example, when I experience something that is supposed to be sad, I have to tell myself that it is sad, and I know that an appropriate response to that feeling is crying. So I may try to force myself to cry. Think it’s messed up? I actually do it for real. I have some cues that gives me the tears right up. It’s kind of a cheap trick, but after learning some basic neuroscience, I realise that it’s a good way to reinforce a behaviour (2).

However it’s a very long process. It’s not a one-off thing. You don’t get it when you do it once. It’s like any other trained behaviour, it only reinforces when you do it enough times that it becomes natural (like driving, or flipping crèpes without folding them). And most often, you forget to do it because you’re too busy already to notice the stimulus. So I’m in for years and years of remediation. Hopefully, I’ll be prepared when Death comes knocking at my door. So when He says “I DON’T HAVE ALL DAY, ARE YOU READY YET?”, I can say proudly “I saw that coming!”

 

 

(1) Actually I knew since I was about 15, without really putting words onto it. But society puts so much pressure on you to conform that it’s really hard to accept it, or to find help. Especially back in the 90’s when Internet wasn’t yet the go-to place to find useful information. And as my friend Bria says: 

 

(2) There are some stimuli that have never failed to make me cry, and I think it’s because of some things I cared for when I was a kid, like the dog my family used to have. Shit, just writing about him gives me tears. And it actually makes me cry every time something sad happens to a pet (and that’s why I have a hard time with animal deaths in movies). So thinking about this when another supposedly sad stimuli comes up helps associate the response to the stimuli. And then it reinforces by itself, since crying when the stimuli happens makes me realise that the stimuli is something sad.

Getting an EMR certification: Two weeks of emotional roller coaster

The past two weeks have been hectic. I should include the two previous weeks too, when I had to work twice as much as usual while pre-studying for my paramedic course, so I wouldn’t have to worry about money during the course. But it was just busy, not especially emotionally charged. That’s why I wanna focus on the two weeks during which I was doing the actual course.

[…]

The past two weeks have been hectic. I should include the two previous weeks too, when I had to work twice as much as usual while pre-studying for my paramedic course, so I wouldn’t have to worry about money during the course. But it was just busy, not especially emotionally charged. That’s why I wanna focus on the two weeks during which I was doing the actual course.

And it was a hell of a ride!

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Both wonderful and horrible things happened. It’s also when I realised how fragile being transgender is in a social context, and how your confidence can be shattered by one unexpected event at the worst possible time.

Actually, the first week was pretty uneventful. It was more like the first climbing slope of a roller coaster. You reach the top very slowly but you can’t see what’s over the edge of the slope.

I had contacted the instructor early on to tell him that I was transgender and that I used a different name than my legal one. When we arrived on the first morning and he distributed the prop bags (tools we were about to use during the course), he handed mine with my chosen name written on it. I thought it was a nice touch and built up my confidence. Then, we had to introduce ourselves, but in a particular format. We were to first introduce to 2 other persons, who subsequently had to introduce us to the rest of the group. So I told my two follow classmates that I was transgender, and the guy who introduced me to the group used “she/her” pronouns right away and that was it. Except for the only person who didn’t get it and misgendered me quite a few time before I took him apart to make things straight, I didn’t have to complain about anything. It’s quite important to note, because that’s what was coming around to bite me at the end of the course.

So, the first week was quite uneventful. The most difficult things for me was to catch up every night with the study we had to do for the next day, because we received our books quite late and I couldn’t get ahead quickly enough while working twice as much as usual. Which was a problem later because I couldn’t stay after the class to practice the skills. And unlike the youngest persons in the group, I really can’t afford to skip sleep time, or I don’t function anymore, and I needed my brain fresh everyday if I wanted to remember the huge amount of stuff we were learning in a very small amount of time.

So here we are at the second week. Things start to be complicated.

Monday: the top of the slope. That the highest point in the track. You can contemplate everything from there. You have a wide view of the bottom and you may see the end of the track, but it’s kind of blurry. You’re just expecting the first descent, but also worried about how steep it is, because you still can’t see it yet.

Tuesday: It’s steep. Very steep. I crashed that day. I had a total mental breakdown. Everyday, after we had the lesson of the day, we were applying the new knowledge in role-playing-type scenarios. Everything we couldn’t do for real, we were stating them out loud, and the instructor, or the patient, was giving out the result. And I messed up big time. Like, I did everything wrong. I couldn’t asked the right question and I only took wrong decisions. I felt like I was so out of it, I went home completely depressed. And I couldn’t just decompress. I had to cram again for the next day. Maybe that’s what saved me somehow, because I didn’t have brain time to spiral into this depression. I had to stay on track. And I came back the next day, deciding to take it slowly but do all the required steps in order. Speed would come later with practice.

Wednesday and Thursday: Going with the flow. Turns after turns, loops, rolls, you just readjust your arse on your seat knowing something else is coming next. In a martial arts flick, it’s when the hero gets back on their feet and start again from the basic, and prepares for the incoming battle. It’s a reborn. And that’s what happened: I went back to the basics, reaffirmed my knowledge of the protocol and carefully asked the right questions to get to the right conclusion and provide the best treatment, while absorbing the constant flow of knowledge dumped on us. So I was prepared for the grand finale, the battle of the chosen.

Friday: And I lost! The villain cheated, as all villains do to undermine the hero. More seriously, the examiner who came that day, rounded up everyone to explain how it was going to happen and… outed me, in front of everyone. For some people, it’s probably not a big deal, or maybe it happens so often that they are used to it. For me, it was the first time. And it came after two weeks of being around people who were too busy with their own learning to actually give a fuck about whether I was transgender. So, for my whole session, she kept misgendering me and every time I needed a result, I had to insist several times because she was too busy looking at her phone. I was completely disoriented and made critical mistakes. So she failed me.

I can back home in shambles. It was a disaster. I had spent so much money and effort into this, and for what result? I couldn’t think straight. I had a choice: either to retake the next day, risking to fail again and definitively, or spend more time in practice and retake at the next course exam. For the past two weeks, even in my sleep, all I could think about was scenarios and protocols, but that day, when I came home, and all night, I was thinking about how I could get my money back. I talked with one of my classmate, who tried to encourage me to go right away, saying I knew the stuff and I could do it. But my confidence was utterly shattered. Still I went early to bed, and though I did not sleep well, I decided to pop up at the exam, and to decide then whether to retake it again.

Saturday: An emotional victory. When I arrived in the morning, there was a new examiner. He was obviously way more professional and I felt more confident in my abilities. I also came mentally prepared to be misgendered, and I actually didn’t tell him I was a woman, I just gave him my legal name right away, which cut the need for explanation and let him use male pronouns. Only my friend let him know at the end of the exam (mainly because I had to play the patient once and my follow classmates kept referring me as a woman, which must have surprised him somehow). I still did a few mistakes, but not critical ones, and I was a bit too slow, because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t cutting any corner.

When the examiner called me in to give me the result, and showed me the green paper, all my body suddenly relaxed and I almost cried in front of him. I had been gradually stressed for two weeks, at a point where I completely burst, and then I found myself in a spot where I didn’t have anything more to do.

But I learnt a lot more than a skill. I learnt that the stress of being transgender in a social undertaking exacerbates any other stress that you may currently be subjected to. It is something that I have to be careful of, and I need to be able to identify it before it becomes a problem (I shall write an article about that later). And I also learnt that I can totally pass as a woman (1). Which amazed me, to be honest.

 

(1) I didn’t expand on that because it’s already a long article, and it was not the main point, so I’m doing this side note to talk about it but it’s totally not necessary to read it to understand the article.

So, as I said, no one but the instructor and two classmates was told that I was transgender. I basically spent two weeks assuming that everybody knew but played along, not giving a fuck (although I had to tell one guy especially, whom I heard talking about me to another person later on). Therefore it came as a surprise, on Friday, after the examiner asked for my *legal name* in front of everyone, that a classmate asked me if I was going by my middle name (my legal name may sound a bit like a female name for English-speaking people, so she wasn’t surprised). When I told her later that I was upset about being outed in front of everyone, she didn’t understand. She genuinely thought I was a cis-woman, and that was a huge comfort at the end of a horrific day.

So I am really wondering if people knew I was transgender, and who actually knew. Also, I had to use the women’s washroom, and it was quite stressful, because I didn’t know, if I ran into someone else (not someone taking the course), would they complain about it and rat me out. I was always timing my exit depending on people coming in or going out. I ran into an employee only once (I didn’t hear her coming), but she didn’t say anything. We just smiled at each other while I was stepping out of my cabin.

I can say that these two weeks have been weird on several accounts. Now it feels like a dream. I just woke up in the real life, but I still want this to have happened, I can’t believe it was all just a dream. And it wasn’t, because I have my certificate that proves it.

Oxenfree and the power of sound design

I play a lot of video games, and I wish I had the time and energy to review every one of them. But it’s not my job, and honestly, I don’t really want to talk about games that I didn’t like. And most often, I lack the skill to talk effectively about games I like. So what I will try to do, is pick a game that I loved from a previous year and do my best to give it justice, and hopefully, someone will discover something and will want to play it too.

[…]

I play a lot of video games, and I wish I had the time and energy to review every one of them. But it’s not my job, and honestly, I don’t really want to talk about games that I didn’t like. And most often, I lack the skill to talk effectively about games I like. So what I will try to do, is pick a game that I loved from a previous year and do my best to give it justice, and hopefully, someone will discover something and will want to play it too.

So today, I want to talk about Oxenfree (Night School Studio, 2016). And since it’s just out on the Switch, it’s a pretty good timing.

People who know me, know that what I like in a game (or a book/movie), is a good story and interesting characters. And also a good sound design (not in books obviously). Because you can have an compelling story and deep character arcs, if your sound sucks, it takes you out of a story. Personally, I don’t think the story of Oxenfree is that great. It’s good, and it’s consistent with the atmosphere it’s trying to convey. But it’s mainly a character-driven game. To me at least.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a group of friends who go to an island for the weekend. There is only one boat trip to go, and the next trip back is the following day, so they have to spend the night on the island. And of course, there is no cellular network. As you might expect, things start to happen, involving radio interference, friends disappearing out of the blue, and a WWII submarine stranded in time (that escalated quickly). And between all that, the characters spend their time talking about their life and Alex’s (you) brother (who died).

As you might expect from this brief synopsis, there is a lot of time-related issues, of the kind that will mess with your head. I am not sure that everything actually works, but who cares, because that’s not what’s important. It’s a game that focuses on grief and gives you the role of the younger sister who has to deal with it, and also with a bunch of friends who all have a different way to dealing with grief, and some will take it on you. And of course, you choose how to handle it.

To do that, it uses a very common system of branching dialogues. You hear someone talking to you and you’re given the choice in your response. It sounds like a pretty boring, overused system. But it’s done the perfect way. First, every dialogue prompt is timed. Not to pressure you (although some are really fast), but because you never have to actually choose anything. You can even play the whole game as a mute if you want, the other players will react in consequence. Also, the game makes trying to optimize your choice of dialogue pointless. Choices that seem good, may have bad consequences. And antagonizing some character may have good effects in the end (for some characters, at least). If I have one advice in playing this game, it’s this one:

PLAY OXENFREE WITH YOUR GUTS!

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Play the first time like you would be this character, with your own feelings, because that’s how you’re going to have the best experience and immersion. Don’t hesitate the second or third time around (1) to settle for a type of character and play it until the end, to see how it may turn the story, but again, don’t optimize. It kills the experience and there is no right answer anyway.

Now, about what makes this experience possible: sound design.

You’ve all played to games that use choices in dialogues; there is this awkward pause before you choose, and there are always weird transitions between each piece of dialogue, with the wrong tone, or other discrepancy that doesn’t feel right. In Oxenfree, there is nothing of that. Everything plays seemlessly. It’s perfect, and I don’t just say that because I love the game. It’s actually an amazing feature of this game, and that’s what makes it stand out. Every dialogue feels like a real dialogue, that plays along whatever you choose. The character will cut the other character or wait until they finishes, depending on your choice, or the character will talking continue even if you didn’t choose anything. The voice acting is always right, the sound editing is perfect, with no level difference or glitches, and it integrates amazingly with the soundtrack for the best experience possible.

For me it’s way more important to have a good sound experience than amazing graphics. Here, the graphics are good. They’re not extraordinary, but the artistic choice is interesting and it works well with the story, but the focus on sound is really a top-of-the-shelf performance. Something that has to be commended and rewarded. So I hope this review gives it credit, and I wish more people would play it, so Night School Studio, the developer/editor, would make more of that kind of game.

(1) The game is actually different the second time you play, thanks to a feature added later on (for free, which is amazing in the era of game-as-a-service) that uses the choices you make in your first run to change the story on the following runs, which makes for a good re-playability.

Game available on PC (Steam, GOG, Humble Bundle), PS4, Xbox One, Switch.

Editor’s website: http://nightschoolstudio.com/oxenfree/ (where the image is from)

Case Study on stereotypes and how to deal with them: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Yesterday was Halloween, and since I had nothing planned, I decided to go watch a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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Yesterday was Halloween, and since I had nothing planned, I decided to go watch a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So I asked a friend if she wanted to join, and she told me she didn’t like it and that it perpetuated harmful stereotypes about transgender and gender variant people. I had never seen the film before (yes, totally saw the film with a V stamped on my forehead), but looking at trailers and various images, I could see what she meant.

Why I decided to go anyway

First, I had already bought a ticket. Second, I like to get my own opinion of something before judging. And after some research online, it was pretty clear that nobody was taking this film seriously, so I was really curious, and went anyway.

So, how are the stereotypes?

Bad. They’re very, very bad. And it’s not just transgender, it’s everything. Every character is a bad stereotype who acts in a very stupid way. (1)

But?

But I don’t think it’s harmful.

See, there are a lot of movies throughout history where you can actually debate whether it’s alright to watch them. There are great films that show very harmful stereotypes, and you can definitely wonder if you could put them in context to decide if it’s still worth seeing, or if you consider that art and historical context doesn’t justify going through such things. I really think this matter needs to be taken into consideration case by case, and depends on your own feelings and the reasons why you want to watch these films. If you need an example, let’s say that in Blade Runner, Deckard sexually assaults another character. How do you think about that?

But RHPS is not such film. It’s a stupid 1975′ horror-SF-comedy musical that tried to capitalize on stereotypes, bad acting and terrible art choices (again, see note 1). 40 years later, it’s a curiosity that people love to make fun of. They even came up along the years with a very codified way to enjoy it, mixed with live performance and improvised audience participation. In the end, it’s not a screening, it’s a humiliation/execution for the enjoyment of the crowd (if you think about it, that’s even more disturbing). As I told my friend, in my opinion, it’s like the school bully who ends up being mocked by everyone. All its power has vanished by being ridiculed by the crowd. And in the end, that makes for a very enjoyable show. And it correlates with what I saw online before watching the film.

But you’re saying people who thinks it’s offensive are wrong.

Of course not. I just want to point out that the audience coming to see the show are not stupid enough to fall for these stereotypes. They don’t mention them? Well, it’s probably because they’ve seen it 20 times over, and they don’t feel like the need to go over this every single time. Quite frankly, I’m talking about that because it’s my first time watching it, but after a few time, I’ll be like “what, are we still on that?”

For me, it’s like Cards Against Humanity. If you know what kind of content may come out and if you feel like you may be offended, it’s probably safe not to watch it. But if you want to have some fun at the expense of a terrible film with a cheerful crowd, then don’t hesitate to give it a try. Just don’t watch it alone in your living room. That would totally suck.

And on a final note…

LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!

 

(1) There are people who honestly think there is a real plot with social themes and that the movie is made stupid on purpose to be critical of other musicals. To me, it looks like people are trying too hard to justify why they enjoy it, but I guess it’s debatable. I’m just not really interested in that debate.

To be a freelance translator (or not to be)

I am a freelance translator, meaning I translate stuff for clients respectful of my skills and experience while drinking coffee and watching Youtube from my home computer wearing only my panties, right? RIGHT?

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I am a freelance translator, meaning I translate stuff for clients respectful of my skills and experience while drinking coffee and watching Youtube from my home computer wearing only my panties, right? RIGHT?

FUCK NO!

Well, while some of it is true (I do work in my panties sometimes and watch Youtube instead of working), it’s not the joyful and peaceful ride everyone tend to think it is (that is, everyone who’s never worked from home). Matt Inman made a comic a few years back describing pretty accurately the pros and con of working from home (and it’s funny too, so you should check it). But I want to focus on one particular bad side of that kind of work: stress. Not the good stress that increases adrenaline levels and makes you more focus and causes the work high of workaholic people. I’m talking about the one that, if you build it to unreasonable levels, leads to anxiety and depression.

It’s a lot due to the social side of the work. In the translation business, work is mostly done via Internet, so I never meet my clients. They contact me by email to offer me a job, and we negotiate the rate and deadline until we agree on the terms and I do the job for them. I can also contact them out of the blue to whine about not having jobs, but ultimately, they are the ones offering. But that’s the thing, even if I work a lot for some clients, if they don’t have anything to offer at a certain time, I won’t get paid and they won’t give a single crap whether I manage to find some other gig. That’s a huge source of stress. And worst of all, I worry about that even when I’m overloaded. I can’t help but think that it could end right after the project I’m currently working on.

And it’s cumulative with the fact that sometimes, I go on vacation, so it’s a week here and there when I don’t get paid. I could also get sick, which would reduce my productivity and therefore my income depending on how sick I am. The other day, I went to my  part-time job (which I do because if I were only to do translation, I would never go out and never see the sun have a social life in a city where it’s already so hard to make contacts), and I got upset by something that normally wouldn’t trigger me, but I realized that I had built so much anxiety in the previous weeks that just a small thing could make me breakdown.

And there is something about translation that nobody usually know. It’s supposed to be a very interesting job, but really, it’s a crappy industry, and it’s not getting any better. It’s a disrespectful industry, where the translator’s skills and experience are not valued as they should. It’s like a food chain, and the translator is at the bottom of it. They get fucked from every direction, and they can’t do anything about it, because they have literally no mean of leverage against the companies they work for.

To understand that, we shall see it from the perspective of the translation company. Those companies never hire translators, because it’s not financially rewarding. It’s more interesting for them to give projects to freelancers. It’s cheaper, and they can go for different project types or language pairs without being specialized in it. So they hire project managers, who contact clients and then find a freelance translator who can do the job. So the translator can start negotiating, but ultimately, it’s the company that decides the price (you can accept it or refuse the job) because, like in any industry, there is a huge competition (obviously, the price also depends on the type of content, and the language pair, so it’s interesting for the translator to specialize).

So, now, how do companies assess the skills of the translators. Well, they follow strict regulation to meet the ISO 17100:2015 standard… just kidding! (1) Well they say they meet the standards, and their client are not gonna check that, because it’s way too complex. But, for example, standards specify that one can only translate to their mother tongue. I have translated to English for some companies, so I know that’s bullshit (2). Another one says that editors should preferably be experienced translators and specialized in the project content; well, nobody likes editing, so the experienced people refuse it, and it falls in the hand of the rookies. Again, I know that because those were almost the only jobs I was getting when I started. And how do they know if the translators are skilled enough?

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Now, let’s talk about Internet. It’s a progress that has awesome and horrible consequences in translation. It’s great because it makes things so much easier; you can contact clients rapidly, get work, annoy and/or block people, and you don’t have to actually meet anyone. But the flip side is that just anybody can now say they are translators and nobody can tell if they’re bullshitting. And there are a lot of bullshitters.  Actually, it’s pretty easy to know if someone is a crappy translator: they usually don’t have a proper registration (meaning they work illegally), but the translation companies don’t check that, and it’s not because they can’t, it’s because by hiring illegal workers (or, if you prefer, by looking the other way…), they drive the prices down (3).

The current situation is so bad that in France, some people in the translator’s union wish to implement licensing for freelancers and standard prices. For the record, I am totally against that. I don’t really want to develop on that because it’s not the topic (and it’s pointless anyway since it’s an international business), but the point is that the companies should be more respectful of their freelance collaborators.

There is a problem that makes me look at other line of work: there is virtually no career path. You can’t progress because there is no hierarchy (4). The only thing you can do is train yourself to get another specialization, and you’re always behind the trend because you can only react to the change in your specialization topic. Seriously, would you do a work if you knew it would not change at all in your entire life?

And then, there is technological advancement. The killer of many industries. It’s not gonna kill human translation. At least not in the next decade. And right now it’s actually helping in many areas. One thing happened with Internet was that it made industries work faster, which resulted in higher loads of production, and therefore documentation, that need to be translated. So a good thing about technology, is that it takes care of all the boring, repetitive stuff, so you only have to focus on the more important parts. Well, almost. A new thing that came out is called Post-Editing. Basically, it’s an editing job, but you correct a translation made by a machine. Exactly, like Google Translate. It’s paid a little better than usual editing, but it’s way under translation rate, although you often have to rewrite everything because, well, you know why. Once, I’ve got a company that asked me to do a “fast” post-editing: meaning I didn’t have to write well, I just had to make it “understandable”. I drew the line there. You don’t get to ask me to write like shit so you can barely pay me.

So there, this job is a stressful hellfest, because it’s hard to be respected, and I tend to always work with the same people since we develop an understanding and it makes it easier to work together, and they supply me with a consistent load of work. But I can’t help but worry about my future in this industry, and sometimes, I break.

 

(1) There are other standards for various specialties, that tend to be respected, especially in legal or medical industries, because a translator error can lead to terrible outcome (let’s say some people can die in clinical trials due to a bad translation).

(2) It’s a sound rule, but one can translate in a different language, especially in technical translation where it’s very codified. It’s more complicated in literary works where style is very personal.

(3) Illegal worker don’t pay tax, so they can accept lower income. Even the most respectful companies I work with never asked me about my registration number (but I put it on every invoice).

(4) You can get hired as a project manager or expand your business to make it a normal company. But then you’re not a freelancer anymore, and you have to go by company rules, so you don’t enjoy said advantages of being a freelancer anymore.

*Comics illustrations are from Mox’s blog. It’s hilarious, go check it out

 

Would I live as a foreigner for the rest of my life?

I had to ask that question to myself at least once in my life. And by “as a foreigner”, what I mean is “in the eye of the people of the country you live in”. It can take many shapes. In some country, intolerance toward a specific group makes it difficult to live there, even if you’re born there and speak the language natively. Descendants of Algerians people in France often mention that they feel like foreigners, even though Algeria was a French region for decades and countless Algerians moved to France around the independence. And I’m sure the same thing happens to many people in a lot of countries.

[…]

I am gonna talk about transition again, yay! Bear with me for a moment.

I had to ask that question to myself at least once in my life. And by “as a foreigner”, what I mean is “in the eye of the people of the country you live in”. It can take many shapes. In some country, intolerance toward a specific group makes it difficult to live there, even if you’re born there and speak the language natively. Descendants of Algerians people in France often mention that they feel like foreigners, even though Algeria was a French region for decades and countless Algerians moved to France around the independence. And I’m sure the same thing happens to many people in a lot of countries.

In some other country, it’s the lack of foreign people until recently that makes it difficult to live there as a citizen. Meaning that it doesn’t matter how long you stay there, people will always see you as a curiosity. That’s the case in Korea, where I lived. Wherever you go, people will always assume you’re new and you can’t speak Korean. I have friends who have been living there for over 20 years, and Koreans are still spooked when they hear them speak Korean fluently. I was always receiving comments like “Ho you really speak Korean well”, and sometimes they even dared saying it in English, like if ordering a beer was the only thing I could say in Korean.

I am not criticizing that, I completely understand the reasons. If you where from a country that was considered insignificant by most of the world for a long time, that would be normal to not understand why people would be suddenly interested in living there (even though you became the 11th economic power in the world and provide half the world population with pocket phones). But the point I want to make is: would it be alright for you to live in a country, if it means you would be considered a foreigner probably for the rest of your life? There is no right answer; it’s totally acceptable for many people and for countless reasons. The people born from Algerian parents that I mentioned at the beginning consider themselves French (and they are), and see no reason why they would live somewhere else (and many say that when they visit their families in Algeria, people say they’re too French. They’re loosing on both sides). There are a lots of perks living in Korea, that can overshadow the small inconvenient of being seen as a foreigner. Or you can be married in said country and it’s simpler to live there than moving your family away.

Personally, I live in Canada, more precisely in Vancouver (BC), and since I arrived, I never felt that I couldn’t belong. People just don’t give a crap if you’re a foreigner. I get asked occasionally where I’m from, because I have a strong accent, but there are so many people from various origins that it just doesn’t make sense to ask it to every one all the time. And I like that way better than the other solution. And that’s how I could answer another question that’s so weirdly similar.

One of my biggest fear when I started transition was: will I pass? (See, I told you it was about transition) Most trans know it. It’s one of the biggest concern when deciding to transition, since it’s strongly related to discrimination. In the latest poll, it ranks second, before “what’s my actual sexual orientation?” and after “Am I gonna get killed for being trans?” (1). And I say the questions are similar because, to me, when people look at me weirdly, it feels like I am a foreigner. Some trans person don’t care. They know people look at them, but they don’t give a crap, and for other people, especially when you don’t like the attention, this self-consciousness is very crippling. I never wear obviously feminine clothes or heavy make-up for that reason (also because I don’t want to spend half an hour more to prepare in the morning).

So, when I realized I could correlate both questions, it became easy to answer. Since I didn’t want to live as a foreigner in Korea, which is one of the reasons I didn’t try to stay longer, I realized that yes, I need to pass as a woman. I can probably bear to be seen as transgender for some time, but at some point, I want people to see me as who I am and not at “who I’m trying to be”, if that makes any sense (it does to me and that’s what matters), and I’m ready to go to very long lengths (depending on my resources) because there is no way that I am going back.

 

(1) Poll realized with a non-representative sample of 1 pseudo-randomly self-selected transgender woman trying to be funny.

How to change how things are done (GRS)

How to change how things are done, which can be also resumed as fighting inertia, is quite a general topic, but we’re going to focus on gender transition treatment, and more particularly surgery for transgender women (i.e. gender reassignment surgery a.k.a. vaginoplasty). So here I am, talking about transition after saying in my first post that I wouldn’t do it so often.

[…]

How to change how things are done, which can be also resumed as fighting inertia, is quite a general topic, but we’re going to focus on gender transition treatment, and more particularly surgery for transgender women (i.e. gender reassignment surgery a.k.a. vaginoplasty). So here I am, talking about transition after saying in my first post that I wouldn’t do it so often. But this one will be rather long, and I don’t want to be banned from twitter for spamming. So here we go.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this article in Wired that talks about a “new” vaginoplasty technique that is better than the current one. It says a bit what it does, who does it and… that’s it. The problem, I find, is that it cruelly lacks sources, because, let’s see:

  1. They say it’s Dr Ting who performs it, and he is director of surgery at Mount Sinai (NYC). Ok, this one is easy, here is Dr Jess Ting, although they only say he does hand surgery and plastic and reconstruction surgery. Well, reconstruction surgery matches with vaginoplasty, so I guess we nailed that one. But is he the only one in the USA?
  2. a paper describing the work of some doctors in India who were building vaginas a bit differently.” So apparently, there is somewhere a paper that describes a technique used in India (only?) that’s better than what is generally used now. Nice, can you tell us more about the paper? Not the paper itself, I’m sure it’s under strict copyright, but the authors, the publication? A DOI maybe? Well, no, apparently, it’s not interesting enough to have more information for people who might be interested in such topic, like, other transgender women.
  3. They were performing surgeries on women with a rare disorder that causes the organ to develop abnormally or not at all.” This one is just lazy. Seriously, not even the name of the disease?

So in the end, we literally can’t find actual useful information about this without putting extra effort. This article smells purely like a hidden advertisement for the Mount Sinai so they don’t get competition. They don’t even talk about it on their website, like it’s a Research and Development project and they don’t want anyone else to do what they do. This is obviously not in the interest of transgender women who want to access what’s best for them without having to travel thousands of kilometers away or pay more than they should (which is zero or close to that figure in many countries). It’s always better to find a solution in your local area, or at least in your country, especially when your country has a relevant health care system that will cover it.

Enough said about this badly sourced article, now how do we get to have this kind of procedure?

First, we need to know what we’re talking about. This is why yours truly went above and beyond to find that information. So I started by contacting the Mount Sinai hospital about this matter and never got an answer. So either they’re too busy to answer a transgender woman they claim they want to help, or they just didn’t want to answer. Either way, they weren’t helpful at all, so I moved on to my second step: finding about the procedure.

The good thing, despite the lack of information in the article, is that they felt compelled to give out a minimum of technical information so they actually look like they know what they’re talking about. “They found a way to do that with tissue from the peritoneum, which is basically a bag of loose tissue that encircles the inside of your abdomen and holds your guts in place.” The fact that they actually name the organ they use (the peritoneum) helped a lot, because, after research, I managed to find more information about the procedure (which is called “Davydov’s colpopoeisis”). I won’t explain it in much detail, but if you’re curious, The Beverly Hills Center for Laparoscopic Urogynecology explains it very well, with pictures. And you learn about the condition of the women born without a functional vagina (Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser, MRKH), since that’s what the surgery was designed for in the first place. That also means that the Mount Sinai isn’t the only place to get that surgery.

If you want more detailed information about the procedure, there is an article (Ward et al., 1998(1)) for that. And you read right. It has been written in 1998, so obviously, this technique has been around for some time, and not only in India (I didn’t find the Indian article, though, which makes me wonder how this woman found it in the first place and not the article from Ward et al.).

Then, they are talking about the outcomes of the surgery: “while the new procedure is showing superior results so far, it will be important to monitor to see how it holds up long term“. They’re right, we need to know how the surgery holds up in the long run. Or do we? It turns out, there is already an article detailing that (Zhou et al., 2010(2)). And it’s neither in the USA or in India. Now it’s in China. Looks like this procedure is done all over the place after all. And don’t get me wrong. We definitely need more study, especially regarding transgender women. But the article is seriously misleading, and honestly the procedure is exactly the same for trans and cis women since it only involves body organs that are shared in both male and female bodies. And they can start from there.

Now the big question: how do we get to have more surgeons performing this surgery for transgender women. As I said in introduction, changing things is about fighting inertia, and the strongest inertia is, the more energy we need. In this case we need an insane amount of energy, first to be heard, then to be listened to, and that’s where we need to do something together. I can go only as far as people are listening to me, and I don’t have a big notoriety or charisma that helps the subject to be brought forward. I tried to talk to my doctor, but she said it wasn’t her place to tell surgeons what they have to do, which is sound. I told the PHSA (health care system in Canada) in my local branch, in Vancouver; the person I have in contact said it was very interesting, and basically told me that they are currently training surgeons to provide surgery services in British Colombia, so we don’t have to go to Québec, but I don’t know what they are trained on.

Now I’m on a stand still. I really don’t know what to do since I have almost no useful contact in that regard. My only is that the information I salvaged gets to be shared the most widely possible.

So, please share, and talk about it to your practitioner, your health care representative, your pharmacist, your Shoppers clerk (who’s also your pharmacist), your mom, your dog, anyone who listen to you. Maybe together, we can do something about it.

 

(1) Current Obstetrics & Gynaecology (1998) 8, 224~226© 1998 Harcourt Brace & Co. Ltd

(2) Fertility and Sterility Vol. 94, No. 6, November 2010  Copyright© 2010 American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Published by Elsevier Inc.