What Gender Euphoria Feels Like

(Featured image description: A blue sky with clouds and the word “happy” written in it. Below is a smile.)

Hi all, 

Today I’d like to talk about something that is poorly understood about transitioning gender. Simply put, I’d like to talk a bit about gender euphoria. 

Gender euphoria, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, offers a few different meanings: 

The feeling a trans person gets when he/she/they can start presenting as the gender they identify as and people start treating them accordingly.

Or this one:

The opposite of gender dysphoria. Of a cisgender person, it is a state of happiness about being male or female and having the associated gender roles and body parts.  Of a transgender person, it refers to feeling great about living as your desired gender. 

(There is a third meaning on the page, but it’s nonsense clearly submitted by somebody with no clue. Hence it has been mass downvoted so I won’t include it here.)

So how would I define it for me? I would define it as some kind of buzz I get when I am embracing my true gender role – that of a woman. But I also define it as an affirmation that transitioning was the right thing for me. 

The buzz is hard to describe. It’s kind of like – a deep feeling of happiness that overcomes me. It can feel like I have goosebumps but not in a bad way as it greatly lifts my mood. 

I got this feeling initially through things like shaving my body hair, trying on women’s clothes as well as putting on makeup. This is although I would not pass in any capacity back then as I would have to learn how to do it all properly and appropriately. This progressed to times when I am correctly gendered by strangers in public and weirdly when I am wolf-whistled by creepy dudes on the other side of the road. Which putting aside the fact that is wrong and does also make me uncomfortable, it’s affirming in its own weird way. 

People in my life to this day still believe I am confused about my gender because I am not presenting in a way they deem to be feminine. Yes, I look feminine but some of my movements may appear masculine (thanks to gendered socialisation and also because I’m openly autistic, which is seen as a cis male-only thing still by many). However, they are wrong, and gender euphoria is how I know why. Gender euphoria that occurs specifically in trans people is something that cis people will never truly understand first hand, even if they are very supportive of trans rights. That is ok – especially as they are often the enablers of the trans person feeling euphoria in the first place. 

Even now, I still sometimes get that sense of euphoria when I see a good view of myself when I’m out and about or I notice some other positive change with my body or health. I have spent the last two years growing out my hair for instance and now it is up to a length that I am happy with. I also started an internship recently and I put on my work badges to help me communicate my needs (alongside other badges that reflect things about me).

I ended up taking a picture as I had one of the most genuinely happy smiles on my face that I haven’t had for some time, maybe ever. It didn’t look feminine at all but I couldn’t stop myself from smiling in such a way as it was completely natural and completely me. I felt happy as I was finally being true to myself and expressing myself openly as the woman I really am. I’ve been full time for a few months at least now and have no intentions of stopping that any time soon.

I do not think this will be the last time either especially as I will continue to experience new things now, I feel I am reborn again. One instance will be when I am eventually on HRT and can start undergoing my second puberty and hopefully grow breasts. I don’t want to dwell on the access issues I’ll have to get this – not today anyway – because I am working on that. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the new life I have while working towards all of my goals, one day at a time. 

Even if that means capturing memories of even the most random of euphoric times like the photo below one morning on my way to work. 

Image description: Selfie of Milla, a young woman with shoulder length curly brown hair, posing for a mirror selfie in a disabled toilet. She is wearing vintage glasses and a white coat.

Here’s to many more years of happiness.

Milla xx 

As A Marginalised Person, Politics Is Frustrating. Here’s Why.

(Featured image description: A group of anti-Brexit protestors posing for a group selfie. Many of them are white people wearing blue clothing and waving the flag representing the European Union.)

(CN for ableism, ableist slurs, fascism, voter suppression and te*f mentions to support arguments, no detail for last few)

Hi all,

I’m going to start today’s post with a strong assertion – when you are a marginalised person, politics is frustrating. It is definitely the case for me. The reasons why are simple to state, but complex and difficult to elaborate on Many are based on my own personal experiences but also due to recent history. They are:

  • Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly
  • Most people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith
  • Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.

Let’s pick them apart, one at a time:

Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly

Politics as a whole is largely inaccessible to disabled people because political organisations, by and large, do not make their events accessible for all types of disabilities. This includes debates to voting itself. Yet in-person participation is seen as the only “acceptable” form of political participation according to mainstream discourse. If a disabled person can’t access real-life political discourse, then their views are ignored by the mainstream. This is true even though online activism is sometimes the only way people can participate. Some examples include how disabilities like autism and chronic fatigue can stop people from being able to go to events.

This is, of course, an ableist stance to take but I can understand why online discourse is stigmatised to a point. The discourse is toxic and often the bigoted political extremes can be lured out and appear powerful. For example, this is why it is unsafe to be openly trans on Twitter even though the opinions of TE*Fs are not representative of real life. Offline, the discourse is considerably less toxic presumably because of the increased level of accountability somebody has for their actions. You have a real name and a face attached to somebody’s opinions – not an anime avatar and an obvious pseudonym.

From personal experience, I have found political participation to be quite difficult. I can get overwhelmed with debates easily and find them hard to follow, especially in real life. Online discourse is more accessible for me to understand but the toxicity of others affects my conduct. I do want to participate in real life more because it is the only way I will get taken seriously.

For example, recently I went to a local protest concerning the current constitutional crisis facing the UK. I got overwhelmed quite quickly as it was besides a major road and there was nobody I knew there – mainly older people. I struggled to work out the social aspects of everything and soon my anxiety eventually got so bad I had to leave and go home. It all got too much for me.

It’s also worth noting that many marginalised people are also politically homeless because they don’t feel any political party speaks for them. Any marginalised person supporting the UK Tories is figuratively signing their own suicide note for obvious reasons however other parties each have their own drawbacks that turn people off. TE*Fs are an example as there are TE*Fs in the SNP that haven’t been kicked out for instance. Likewise voter suppression is also a popular tactic used against marginalised groups as they are less likely to be able to meet the requirements to vote (such as having voter ID).

Many people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith

If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise about people – especially privileged cishet, abled white people – is that many have strong opinions about subjects they know little about. Furthermore, they will take no steps to listen to other people’s arguments especially from those with lived experience.

In other words, they believe that their view is the correct one and not listen to opposing views. This is fine when it applies to harmless personal preferences like hobbies or sports. However, when it applies to politics this is a problem. This is because harmful ideologies like the gender critical movement and curing autism are innately dangerous and will harm minorities in particular. Hence, they cannot be platformed and it’s therefore important that people listen to others as to why these viewpoints are harmful.

Privileged people will also fall back on arguments like “There are two sides” and “free speech” thinking that they apply here when in reality using these arguments gives permission for bigotry to spread. This is why those with lived experience need to be prioritised when it comes to these issues and privileged people need to sit down, listen then boost our voices. This includes not smearing people with strawmen like “SJW” as this proves they are not engaging in good faith. Or even worse – platforming marginalised people who have internalised their bigoted views than using them to discredit the whole communities fight for rights.

Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.

This is a reason where I am a bit more sympathetic to others. Most people, at least in the UK, do not undergo formal political education in school. This means they lack the skills to see through far-right bullshit and are more likely to become radicalised. This varies from being an “anti-SJW/anti-feminist” to being a full-on Nazi. To a lesser extent, this also applies to being brainwashed by right-wing media to believe false narratives about the political situations in their own or other countries.

This means they have to educate themselves about politics which is where the risks of being radicalised or brainwashed. Many people, especially social media savvy young people, are fortunately seeing through much of it as corporate media is becoming less popular. Many young people go on to study politics courses at school or university whereas other people educate themselves through self-study as I have over the years. Overall, there as hope, especially as young people in particular are becoming more aware of marginalised identities as those people became able to express themselves over the internet.

However, there is still a risk of others, especially older people, remaining attached to harmful beliefs, as well as kids brought up in conservative households or consume fascist media (like with the videos platformed on YouTube’s algorithm). It is these people that primarily push harmful beliefs like gender critical feminism – and on a more political scale – Brexit.

Brexit is a good example to support this example because in 2016 almost nobody in the UK knew enough about the European Union to make an informed vote on whether we should stay or leave. This isn’t a dig at Leavers or Remainers because this applies to everyone. The issue was too complex to be put to a binary referendum in part because it wasn’t well understood how Brexit would affect marginalised groups (which is a result of the first two reasons outlined here). I raise my hand and admit I knew little about the EU back then – even though I did study it as part of a business course in high school.

A lot of people also will not accept that they lack this knowledge. Whenever I’ve said this to people many have said I am calling them stupid when this is not the case. Putting aside why ableist slurs like stupid are harmful and should be eliminated, even people that are considered “smart” can be radicalised. Intelligence doesn’t come into this. It has taken me a long time to process this and understand why this is the case and I am worried that people will read this and think I am talking down to them. So I’m going to try to explain better.

If anything, there are likely two reasons – the first is that people don’t like to admit their opinions and facts are wrong. It’s human nature. Humans like to be right and we hate to have to admit we aren’t. Secondly, this could partially be a result of autistic/NT communication mismatch, where NTs read between the lines and apply their own meanings to what is said even when such meanings aren’t there. This is human nature too and this is before considering cultural differences.

If somebody isn’t a person of colour, disabled, trans, closely involved in certain companies/systems being discussed etc. they won’t have the lived experience to truly understand – which isn’t their fault. None of the reasons why people generally have inaccurate knowledge on politics are the fault of the people unless it’s willful ignorance (ie. “I don’t do politics”) or having to protect themselves for the sake of their mental health. We can’t all be experts at everything – it’s simply not possible.

There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important. This is so most people will become a politics expert by choice and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. Hence, people will make more informed political decisions. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct is not appropriate for these kinds of conversations.

In conclusion

With all this said in mind, this is why politics is frustrating. Change can and must happen, but there are a lot of barriers in the way. There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important so everybody can become a politics expert and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct and/or blunt is not always appropriate for these kinds of conversations.

There isn’t an easy solution to this and sometimes it feels hopeless and despairing. However, one thing that people can do to help to believe the lived experiences of others and boost our views during discussions – as well as share other correct, credible information. On the whole, though, the world is slowly becoming more inclusive and accepting on a variety of fronts especially in Western territories. Hopefully, as time goes by this trend will continue and the far right will lose again.

That’s all for today,

Milla x

Featured image source

Transitioning Into Work When You’re Autistic Is Doable, But It’s Harder Than It Should Be

Hi all, 

Apologies for the lack of activity as of late – I’ve had a lot to deal with, but one of the most important things that have come from that is the following. I’ve got an internship starting next week! I’m happy and excited as a result for the most part but I’m gonna blog a bit about my thoughts from a disability perspective. Part of the reason why is that most of my backlogged posts are quite serious so a more lighthearted approach will be needed for this one. 

Earning money is important 

I will soon be earning my own money and that makes me very happy for a few reasons. The first is that I will be able to meet something that all disabled people should have the opportunity to do (if they can) is to earn an income. Another reason is that I need to start medically transitioning privately. In the UK, waiting lists for trans medical care on the NHS are years long and are not sustainable so the recommended advice is to go private during the wait.

A supportive environment is more likely to exist than people think 

As an autistic person, one of the biggest things that myself and others like me have to look for is whether a workplace is supportive of our needs. Fortunately, the push by companies to recruit more autistic employees is increasingly popular so it is more likely that we will get the support we need. Of course, some companies do indeed sign up to schemes that are flawed just to appear supportive like “Disability Confident” in the UK (here are several articles about it, CW ableism) so it is a minefield and there is still some way to go. However, things are still better than before. 

I am not as clued up on trans related employment issues however things are faring somewhat better there even though trans people are more likely to be unemployed than cis people. Hence I don’t address trans related issues in this article. The employer I will be working for I feel is a good fit for me and will help me meet my needs through reasonable adjustment which greatly helps my confidence. 

New pathways may open up 

Once somebody gets their foot in the door workwise, multiple pathways can open up depending on the situation. But a lot of it comes down to gathering experience. Doing a job is one way that employers will judge their employees. If somebody can do their job well, that is a great start. Of course, many opportunities would require some level of networking and skill, however, supportive environments may be more willing to overlook weaker social skills if somebody’s strengths exceed elsewhere. 

However, there are other pathways to work such as self-employment which is an increasingly popular option for disabled workers due to the added flexibility. Hence, in a way, many disabled workers can create a supportive environment themselves. Being disabled makes working harder, but it doesn’t always make it impossible. 

Of course, challenges persist 

I know that I am in the minority for my community, especially as so many people who are autistic cannot access work for many different reasons. This is why it’s so important that acceptance of our identities is pushed out there so we can be better accommodated in the world around us.

A lot of people, including many of my relatives, have a lot of negative opinions about whether people like me would be able to find and keep a job. I can only speak for myself when I say this but I am determined to prove those detractors wrong because I know their pessimism is unrealistic and based on outdated views of the workplace (and assumes all bosses are assholes).

Anyone who has additional supports or marginalisations is worth a fair shot at the world of work – end of. It is quite telling – and sad – that many people disagree and will actively take steps to harm the careers of disabled professionals. It’s important to discuss positive stories of disabled people succeeding in work without falling back on inspiration porn-based narratives or centring nondisabled perspectives and change the narrative. Hence there will be more disabled people in work achieving their goals. 

And finally, it is also important to ditch the idea that disabled people have to be in work to have a fulfilling life because in reality work is not an indicator of somebody’s worth. It is just that the current state of capitalism has convinced the average person otherwise, including many disabled people. Hence there would be better social and financial support for those disabled people that cannot work so they can live equally fulfilling lives. 

That’s all for today. 

Milla xx

Featured image source

Life and Blog Update – August 2019

(Image description of featured image above: Image is a drawing of a woman with shoulder length curly brown hair and glasses holding her hand up to do a peace sign. She is wearing purple headphones, a pink blouse and a badge with the neurodiversity symbol on it. Towards the top of the image are black flowers. In the background is the trans flag. Credit: made with @SangledHere on Twitter’s Picrew)

Hi all,  

The second post in under two weeks? This is probably a record for 2019. Anyway, I’ve decided to write a blog post giving a bit of a life update as a lot has happened as well as some notes on plans for my blog.  

So, first off, some good news. Over the last several months, I’ve come out as a woman and have taken steps to live full time. This includes changing my name legally, updating as many documents as I can as well as socially transitioning so that I am now living as Milla full time. I also completed my final year of university and graduated. This is all before I turn 22 tomorrow – or as I like to call it – my first birthday as me.  

Unfortunately, this is also a stressful time for me as my home environment has become toxic and I need social care support for independent living put in place. Hence, I’m in an awkward position as I need support transitioning into work and independent living but I am unable to relocate for the best jobs. Dealing with this has taken up a lot of my time since I came home from uni. Hopefully this time next year this support will all be in place and I’ll soon be starting a graduate scheme.  

So, where does that leave my blog? Well, firstly, because of everything going on I have struggled to devote time to my blog and helping it to grow through writing and promoting stuff. I’ve also had doubts over the direction I’d like to take the blog mainly due to imposter syndrome and the fact I didn’t feel I had much original content to add to the conversation.  

On a more positive note (and partially as a result of the above), I have decided to shift the focus of my blog towards discussing both autism and transgender issues – most notably, how these identities intersect with each other. Information about this is very difficult to find hence being trans and autistic is very poorly understood. I did experiment with this earlier in the year by blogging about this subject and found that I enjoyed writing about it. This also included my recent review of Uncomfortable Labels of which I did note that more resources of its kind need to be produced. Hence, I plan to do more on this.  

I am not sure what else I should write about aside from those two topics. I still really miss my former days in games journalism hence part of me yearns to do more gaming-related content on this blog on the lines of what I’ve done already. However, I am unsure if this is something that people would be interested in (this is also a factor as to why I haven’t written another Subtly Subjective for about a year).  

Finally, I have also been working on a vastly longer extended writing project however I wish to wait until I am further along before I discuss any details. I am currently taking a break from writing it due to my living situation however I hope to be able to get back on it soon.

So, despite the rough edges in my life right now, I’ve never felt better about myself or the life I live. Transitioning at this time was 100% the right decision for me and I can now fully apply myself towards living my life. That includes dedicating more time to my blog which I will aim to do. If anybody has any feedback or other comments about what they’d like to see on my blog, feel free to let me know in the comments. Otherwise, hope you all have a nice day. 

Milla xx  

REVIEW: Uncomfortable Labels

Image description: A white label on a blue fabric. The fabric has black text on it that says “Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman.” The author’s name, Laura Kate Dale is written below as well as the letter “M.”

(Content warnings in article for suicide, bullying, ableism and transphobia.)

Note: The book itself also contains discussion of drugs and abusive situations (including sexual abuse) but neither of those are mentioned in this review.

Hi all, 

When you are either trans, gay or autistic, there are a lot of ways those identities can impact on somebody’s life whether they realise it or not. There is a need for information and support as to how best to live life with these identities. To the credit of the wider world, there is existing resources for those identities separately. However, there is a huge lack of resources out there about how these identities intersect. 

This was something I noticed as well as I came out as transgender and started my transition. How does being autistic impact being transgender? And how does being gay come into that as well? (Even though, full disclaimer I’m actually bisexual but can’t feasibly see myself dating a cis man). Essentially, people with this particular intersection are trying to learn about this with no real support. 

In the first published book of its kind by a reputable publisher, Uncomfortable Labels is the first widespread resource for fellow autistic trans people and their support networks to learn from. The author, Laura Kate Dale, came out and transitioned in early adulthood to her mid twenties. Additionally, she was also diagnosed with Aspergers (now folded into the overall “autistic spectrum disorder” diagnosis) in early adulthood. These key facts shape both the book’s structure and her story. 

There are three parts to this book. The first section covers Laura’s childhood and life pre-transition and pre-diagnosis. Some topics discussed here are quite surprising such as how Laura stimmed as a baby. However other experiences are not so surprising such as bullying she encountered from her peers. I say surprising as this kind of intimate detail is something I haven’t seen in a book for a long time especially from somebody who is so out in the public eye. 

Many of these experiences were things I could personally relate to such as feeling uncomfortable with sexist rhetoric by cis men as well as being shunned by girls due to presenting as male (despite feeling more socially connected with them). The most notable part for me though was the following quote: 

“So much of what society told me about being gay, trans or having autism painted a terrible picture of my future.” 

This is because I had the same thoughts at the age of 20 in 2018. So even though there was a sizable timeframe between Laura feeling this and me feeling this, it goes to show that not much has changed for it to be significant. It actually reminds me of a recent survey put out with regards to disability in general. As a result, this really helped maximise the overall impact the book had on me and I doubt I am alone in this. 

The second section addresses Laura’s life through transitioning and getting diagnosed with Aspergers. She addresses issues trans autistic people face accessing NHS healthcare such as the long waiting times (which have only gotten worse as of late). Things like socially transitioning are also touched upon too specifically about building a wardrobe, dealing with facial hair and wearing makeup (some things I struggle with too).  

I particularly liked how Laura mentioned little about how she medically transitioned and sees it as unimportant but for anyone but herself. This is a very good approach because it goes against the transphobic ideas many cis people have about feeling entitled to know intimate details about a trans person’s transition. This section closes out with some positivity towards trans women who cannot pass which is something that is needed in general (using media representations of trans women as an example). 

The final section is less a memoir and more a collection of essays that discuss certain aspects of being autistic and trans. This section is perhaps the most hard hitting of the book as one chapter discusses how Laura has had to learn to deal with her friends dying (usually by suicide) due to how discrimination against LGBT people is still rampant in modern society. Furthermore, Laura mentions how so many of her family and friends abandoned her upon coming out or were not fully supportive if they did. 

On a more positive note, Laura also discusses access issues autistic LGBT people have when it comes to events like Pride and nightclubs, including conflicting access needs (note: this term was not directly used, but it’s what she describes). Examples include sensory overload and dealing with safety issues at events. This is something that needs to be discussed as the mainstream LGBT culture excludes so many autistic trans people.

The analogy of autism friendly cinema screenings was a very effective way of communicating this. Calling for a wider variety of LGBT spaces like cafes was a very good call. This is something I support because I don’t have much interest in attending current LGBT events due to the loud and rowdy nature of many of them. We deserve quieter spaces too. Laura also mentions her very positive experiences in roller derby having been fully included in the sport by all her teammates. It was by far one of the most heartwarming part of the book. 

Even better, Laura frames many traits of being autistic in a positive way in a later chapter, saying “”I think it’s important we [talk about positives of being trans/autistic]… if people start to see trans status and autism as having positives rather than negative.. ..maybe it’d become apparent why there’s such a need for society to adapt and accommodate our existence.” This is exactly the kind of positivity we need and this book mostly delivers (I say mostly, I’ll elaborate a little later). 

Additionally, there is also a prologue at the start at the book which very helpfully explains key concepts of being autistic and transgender in an accessible manner. 

One of the best parts of the book is how Laura called out many of the myths about autism. For example, she calls out Simon Baron-Cohen’s controversial “extreme male brain” theory which has been detrimental to understanding autism in feminine presenting people. Later on, she also calls out the myth that autistic people don’t have empathy (when in reality most of us do, it is only a sizable minority of us that don’t). 

Similarly, she also does the same with regards to transgender myths. The myth that being trans is a trend is one of the myths called out. She correctly states that it’s transphobic beliefs that lead to trans people ending their lives, not as a result of pressure by wider society to be trans (which doesn’t exist). 

There are a couple of caveats though, Firstly, there isn’t much discussion of how being gay impacts things compared to being autistic and trans. However, as the impacts of being gay are already understood more than being autistic and/or trans, this isn’t a big loss. 

More notably, I found some of the terminology used to be a mixed bag. While a lot of the transgender terms were accurate (ie. Assigned male at birth) I noticed a few missteps with autism related terms. Person first language (ie. With autism) is used over identity first (ie. Autistic). This is fine if it’s Laura’s individual personal preference. However, as many autistic community prefer “autistic” it feels a bit out of touch for a major published book. I think both terms should be used interchangeably as has been the case in other published books. Here is more information on the subject.

At one point in Chapter 6, the phrase “suffers from autism” was used. The usage of this term perpetrates a harmful myth that being autistic leads to suffering when in reality ableism from others is what leads to suffering. Considering Laura calls out transphobic myths that argues the same thing but for being transgender, isn’t that a bit strange? This is something that should have been caught out in editing and slightly soured the book for me for a while. 

For the first book of its kind, it’s overall an excellent start. So much said in this book is correct and vital to add to the conversation. With a little bit of polish with regards to the terminology, this book would be perfect. However there needs to be more books covering a similar area so that others whom have different experiences to Laura can themselves find someone to relate to and learn from. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later and for that to happen, I encourage people with the means to buy this book. 

That’s all for today. 

Milla xx 

Crowdfunding and Trust

Featured image description: Image is of a group of people from various ethnic backgrounds.

(CN death and abuse mention)

Hello all,

To start today’s post, I’m going to talk about something that seems completely irrelevant. I got the item pictured below in the mail a couple of months back. What is it? It is a collector’s edition for a visual novel I helped crowdfund a physical release for two years ago. There is something important that I would like to talk about in relation to it that is very important. But first, I am going to give a brief summary about how the visual novel industry works outside of Japan. This is relevant to what I have to say so please bear with me.

Image description: Image is of the side of a limited edition PC game called “Grisaia: Phantom Trigger 01&02 Set.” The boxart is purple and developed by Frontwing (as seen by the logo on the left).

In short, visual novels are a very niche medium. They are a hybrid between books and video games. They are a text-based medium often used to tell stories with many endings. and the medium has a stigma due to the very problematic diehard fanbase. This is one reason why they are difficult to justify localising. Thus, companies opted to used crowdfunding to help justify releasing the games overseas.

It is a very divisive method which has led to a lot of disappointment to say the least. There have been a lot of delays, unfulfilled goods and other widespread problems. This was despite it becoming part of the backbone of that industry. I’m using past tense because in recent months crowdfunding is not utilised as much. This is most likely because people stopped backing them. This reddit post (link here) summarised a lot of the fuckups that industry did. I used to follow the scene closely as part of my former games journalism role so can verify its accuracy.

Now we get onto the real message of this post. This post is not about visual novels – it’s about crowdfunding and trust.

Crowdfunding is a risk. If businesses do not fulfil their obligations everyone will know about it. In video games as a whole, the Mighty No. 9 kickstarter is well known as a bodged crowdfunder that damaged trust in the format to bring games to life.

This applies to privileged people who have money as well as those who do not across all sectors. I have a relative who thinks crowdfunding medical treatment is wrong. They believe that people should only go through the “proper channels.” Reputation matters and so do the experiences of those that use the methods. If companies mismanage crowdfunding, this affects trust in both the company and crowdfunding.

I have had to deal with many crowdfunding fuckups through my time in that part of the visual novel industry. I backed several Kickstarters over two years and only a few have been 100% fulfilled as of now. This follows many delays, lack of transparency and weeb pandering. This feeling remains even though I have abandoned the PC side of the medium for many reasons. This feeling leads to doubt on whether a crowdfunder is genuine. This is reasonable to a point and needed sometimes as scams do happen. So many people choose to take heavy caution.

Yet for many people, these feelings also extend to life-or-death crowdfunders. By this I mean crowdfunders for medical treatment or escaping abuse. These aren’t by corporations, they are by ordinary people and many of them are vulnerable. Sometimes they are a neurodiverse person trying to flee to a safe place. Other times they are a chronically ill person attempting to crowdfund medical treatment. These kind of crowdfunders exist to save people’s lives. Many people react by saying dreck like “Get a job” or similar unsolicited advice. This is instead of trying to understand why said options aren’t possible for people.

Of course, let’s not forget that some people don’t make it. One example is Shane Patrick Boyle, an American man who died in 2017 due to being $50 short of buying his insulin. The death of people is the tragedy caused by corporations abusing crowdfunding. This is on top of people not trying to understand why so many people turn to crowdfunding in the first place. Said people usually have the money to help but choose not to as a result of the doubts I discussed earlier.

This is why there needs to be widespread removal of mismanagement from crowdfunding. This includes proper accountability from platform holders like Kickstarter. It is also why people should apply caution towards corporations rather than individuals. The mismanagement of visual novel Kickstarters is a very good example of that. Help individuals who are fighting to survive. They need your money. They deserve your trust. Corporations don’t need your money or trust. For them, they need to earn it.

I would also add that the above also applies to trying to earn a living when self-employed. This is often the only long-term way forward for some people hence it’s important to mention. Because of my experiences, there’s part of me that says “Milla, don’t start a crowdfunder or anything similar. Find a way to get the money some other way You know what disappointment is and many people who would support you are also poor. You can do better than that.”

As for the game I took a picture of for this article, it will not be in my collection for much longer. Because it and other Kickstarter goods only serve a reminder for a time when I had faith in the wrong people.

Best wishes,
Milla x

Featured image source
Picture in article: Taken by me

What Does It Mean to be an Autistic Trans Woman?

(Featured image description: Image is of a neurodiversity infinity symbol redesigned with the colours of the trans flag alongside part of the transgender symbol).

(CN mention of misogyny, mental health, toxic masculinity)

Hi all, 

Sorry for the lack of activity for nearly two months. I’ve had a lot of work to do finishing up my studies. So at the time of writing this I am still in the early stages of transitioning but I have been pondering this question for a while, which I would like to talk about today in light of Pride Month. 

What exactly does it mean to be an autistic trans woman? 

It’s harder than it sounds to answer, mainly because there isn’t much information out there that is actually good and part of that is due to the stigma surrounding autism. For instance, it is harder to sieve through the mixed narratives that appear via a search engine (which vary from supportive to outright bigotry) if you don’t have any prior knowledge. Hence that is what makes autistic trans people so vulnerable and misunderstood. It is reasonable to suggest that the autistic and trans elements of somebody’s identity do interact with each other but to what extent and reasoning are not clearly defined. Of course, a lot of this is subjective and varies from person to person. 

So I’m writing this blog post to hopefully offer an insight as someone whom is just coming out of their shell and starting to embrace being the lady they really are inside. 

Please note that this perspective focuses on a trans feminine perspective. Trans men’s perspectives are important but for obvious reasons I can’t talk about that with complete accuracy (even though there are some overlaps). I encourage you to go seek out perspectives from autistic trans men on their perspective. 

For me, the answer stems from a few major points: 

Gender identity on an internal level is complicated 

Many people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and have no problems with it, hence they are cisgender. Many people also do not identify as their assigned gender hence it’s a little more complicated with that. However, they are all transgender. On a deep level, I don’t align with either the binary male or female gender stereotypical identities.  

I never had a strong attachment to either gender roles. I’m not super huge on makeup but I’m also not big on sports. My lack of interest stemmed from the fact that I never saw binary gender roles as important. I knew the stereotypes existed but I didn’t really care. Why are they so important to allistics? It makes no sense. I was in my own bubble with my limited interests and that was fine for me for years. 

Now before I go further, I want to say something important. There is NOTHING wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with how autistic people interact with the world, it is the other way around. This also applies when you add in the dimension of gender. 

And to address a popular counterargument – could I have been influenced by my peers? No. When I was at school, there was nobody in my year group who transitioned that I knew of and was open about it so there was no opportunity to be influenced by them from a distance. I did just miss the era when trans youth started to become more aware of themselves.  Being autistic tends to help add immunity against social trends anyway so if anything, it’s actually an advantage in this instance. 

Secondly, your gender identity is not influenced by people around you changing your mind. It comes down to becoming more aware that trans identities exist and being given the freedom and opportunity to question your own gender and experiment. Being trans is not a “trend,” it’s always existed but just wasn’t hugely well known till recently. 

I don’t want to be perceived as a man anymore 

 The thought of being seen as and treated as a man really stresses me out as it’s not who I really am and can’t properly express myself. It repulses me big time as I’ve never liked it but I just never realised it before. However, I want to be treated as a woman as those thoughts are far more positive and reflective of who I am. This is a direct contrast to what the mainstream understanding of what autism is. Wait, don’t autistic people not understand social dynamics and cues? Well: 

  • It depends on how being autistic affects someone. 
  • It depends on the support they receive to understand society’s rules 
  • Regardless of how much an autistic person seems to not “pay attention” to how we’re treated, we are actually paying attention. Yes, this includes those that are seen as “low functioning” or “cannot speak for themselves.” 

That includes how we’re being perceived by others. Its why many autistic people have depression and other comorbid conditions which often makes their quality of life far worse than simply being autistic as a result of social exclusion. 

I’ve had difficulty in the past connecting to those in my true gender simply because I was socalised as a man. Some of these reasons were self-inflicted unintentionally but other reasons came from wider society (ie. Toxic masculinity).

I have also had my thinking in my mind begin to adjust to a more feminine position over the last several months as I am learning more about the issues that women and trans people face. It’s difficult to explain succinctly other than this being a fundamental personal change inside. I imagine I am not alone in this experience and is quite common with trans people. 

I have gender euphoria when presenting as femme, which tells me transitioning is right for me 

I also find that whenever I take steps towards living as a woman, I get a feeling of happiness that I never had when I thought I was a guy. The best way I can describe it is a positive buzz that makes me feel very happy but it’s also known as gender euphoria. In other words, the opposite of gender dysphoria. This is a common experience for many trans people. 

This includes being able to pass in public and hear other people treat me like a cis woman. Some examples include me going to shops and being referred to with feminine terms of endearment like “love” or “dear.” Another example includes when I am being referred to by others like on a recent trip out where a mother told her kid to “watch out for the lady” when I had to walk past them to pick out some condiments in a café. 

Not all of this attention is good though, which brings me to… 

I am willing to relearn a whole new set of social rules/expectations

This is exactly what it says and links to the above. This comes with it’s challenges. “Womens’ culture” (for lack of a better way to describe it) is different from “guy culture” considerably. The social rules for women are more complex to learn and trans women will be expected to conform to these standards imposed on women (regardless of whether they agree with some exceptions). This is so that they can be seen as a cis woman by many people in daily life on a subconscious level. Unfortunately, this shouldn’t be the case but it exists and is something that needs to be considered.

This also includes important aspects like safety in public and in relationships. Being perceived as feminine changes these dynamics considerably because then transitioning into a woman pretty much means you will regularly have to deal with misogyny (or worse) in public. This is incredibly difficult to deal with when you factor in things like overstimulation and lack of spatial awareness that can often happen when you’re autistic and overloaded. Hence I’ve had to adjust what I do when I’m out and about.

This does mean a lot of trial and error, experimentation and support is required. Bear in mind this is an enormous step for any trans person (regardless of gender and disability status) because of how drastically things change. For me, this is a challenge I am willing to accept so I can find a happy medium between how I feel inside and where I want to be. Why would I put myself through that unless I am sure transitioning is right for me? It’s the same for any other trans person. 

Transitioning is one of many ways someone evolves on a personal level.

Just because somebody is trans, it doesn’t mean that is their only identity. Hence it is important not to lose sight of this. Some other related identities include career, sexual orientation, religious/political affiliations as well as various other experiences they have. Hence essentially a gender transition shows that somebody is still a work in progress. 

For me, while I am transitioning into a woman, I am also transitioning from education into the workplace for instance. Hence, I am also evolving in other ways too separately from my gender identity. Hence I’m not just Milla the trans lady, I’m also Milla the university graduate, Milla the writer etc. There are other ways too but you get the idea. 

Some final thoughts 

To conclude, this is a result of this long path to acceptance, I feel much happier and more confident with myself since accepting this and am ready to face the next wave of challenges. I will be honest and admit that I am a bit scared of what comes next and for good reasons.

That’s not to say I am unsure of what I really want – I do – but it is adjusting to huge changes that await me. This includes changing my name and gender marker on my documents, developing my fashion sense and feminine presentation as well as the medical alterations that hormones will have on my body. However, I strongly believe it will be for the better in the long run. 

That’s all for today. I hope this article has helped others better understand what living as an autistic trans woman is like.

Kind regards, 

Milla x 

Featured image source

Yes, Games Are For Everyone

Featured image description: Image is of a samurai in front of a burning Japanese-style temple. Text at top says “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” whereas the text on the bottom says “Take revenge. Restore your honour. Kill ingeniously.”

(CN for ableism)

Hi all,

There has been some recent discourse in the gaming and disability communities that I would like to offer my perspective – namely how all games should add in difficulty levels. This is a feature notably absent from the recently released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice developed by From Software, a company known for their challenging games.

I am going to preface this by stating that my autism/ADHD affects a lot of how I approach video games these days alongside my time as a games journalist which included me reviewing games to embargos. Both of these formulate why I believe that games are for everyone and arguing otherwise are being elitist and ableist, knowingly or not.

First, I’m going to talk a bit about my playstyle as a background. I’m mostly a portable gamer and this formulates my playstyle for so many genres. Rhythm games are a good stimming aid (assuming the music is good) which is a great way to zone out and boost my immersion. My poor attention span means I find it very difficult to immerse myself on a home console game especially for Japanese RPGs where the portability factor helps me stick with them. I also find large screens visually overwhelming to process at times so having a small screen can help deal with this input better. This is also why I prefer turn based games to action games because I have time to think about my actions.

On the other hand, I am not able to play any PC games nowadays. This is because I can’t stay focused long enough to play them hence it’s a genuine accessibility issue for me. This is unfortunate as it means I am closed off from the vast majority of localised visual novels, a genre I really enjoy. This is despite me trying repeatedly to play through a small handful of Steam releases that will likely never get English console equivalents (like Higurashi When They Cry).

I also have to deal with executive dysfunction which in the simplest possible way means I find it difficult to juggle my day to day life. This especially applies as I’ve gotten older and have become more self-reliant for many things. It means I have less time and energy for games. If I am in a state of burnout, I will find it very difficult to play any video game.

So if I have to deal with a really steep difficulty curve, bad design, lots of grinding or other monotonous content it will become hard for me to continue playing. I do eventually burn out on many games I play and have to take a break so I can pick it up again later otherwise the burnout affects other areas of my life. This is how I got around to completing Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS after a yearlong break.

I have come to appreciate developers adding in accessibility features in their games that weren’t there before. For instance, modern Falcom games have the ability to lower the difficulty of battles if they prove too difficult after each time the player dies (such as in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel). Additionally, the Utawarerumono Mask of Deception/Truth duology also feature a turn rewind feature which is a godsend for somebody like me whom has an iffy attention span and is prone to making careless mistakes due to burnout and zoning out.

Many modern remakes of Japanese RPGs such as Dragon Quest VIII (as mentioned earlier) reduced the amount of grinding required to complete the game which reduces playtime and boosts engagement which I really appreciate. Then there is also the easy mode in the difficult platformer Celeste, a title I cannot wait to play in part because it’s accessible. While I am aware that difficulty and accessibility aren’t the same things, difficulty settings are an essential accessibility aid for some disabled people like me.

Firstly, I’d like to address an elephant in the room aka those that attack games journalists for talking about accessibility. Firstly, I understand the pressures that games journalists are under when they play games to embargos. They don’t have a get-out clause like consumers do hence it is the ultimate hard mode. If they accept a code or a review kit from a publisher they are obliged to provide coverage of the game in return. This includes beating the game to ensure they know what you’re talking about. Yes, this does include playing through bad games as well as forcing themselves to play through games on a non-preferred platform (such as a handful of games I reviewed on PC). However, it also includes playing games that are inaccessible. So, if there is no easy mode or other accessibility features they need to play, they’re out of luck.

I endured this for two years before I had to quit. I had to learn to enjoy my hobby again and reviewing inaccessible and overly difficult games in rapid succession sucked the passion out of me. It is one of many reasons why I decided that working in the games industry is not for me. Reviewing games burnt me out and alongside my changing support needs means that nowadays I need easy modes in games to ensure I can prevent burnout and enjoy game in balance with other parts of my life. This doesn’t apply to all genres as I can handle difficult platformers and rhythm game stages as well as some turn based RPGs.

Internalising toxic gamer narratives without realising didn’t help either. I thought I’d have to live up to these standards that I could never consistently meet because of my disabilities. Hence most detractors that complain about accessibility in games in reality are privileged. This is because they have it easier than disabled gamers as well as the very journalists that inform them that the game is difficult. These narratives do mean that other disabled people contribute to ableist narratives knowingly or otherwise. One example is the quadraplegic gamer that beat Sekiro on the default difficulty setting which spawned a widely cited news article (CN for inspiration porn in article).

These cases will then be used by the anti-accessibility crowd to go “But look, this person is disabled and they beat it fine! Therefore, it’s a non-issue!” which is ableist. One gamer’s hard mode is a disabled gamer’s impossible mode. One gamer’s easy mode may be a disabled gamer’s hard mode however it would then be playable. It is subjective across the individual as all our needs are different however that does mean that easy modes are a necessary accessibility feature for some hence should become industry standard. This includes games that are praised for their difficulty such as the Dark Souls series.

Can a developer make their games accessible without sacrificing their vision? In short, the developers should always attempt to do this if they have the resources and money. All developers would aim to design their games for different audiences from the outset so that their “vision” isn’t compromised. If they cannot do this in-house, then the option of hiring disabled consultants and playtesters exists. I am aware there are exceptions to this such as visual novels (the genre is far too niche for accessibility aids to become standard period) and small indie developers (where it is not technically or financially possible for accessibility aids to be implemented).

The publishers that have published the Souls like games by From Software (including Sekiro) almost certainly have the resources to acquire this expertise. From Software also are a large enough developer that they can almost certainly allocate time to implement difficulty settings (as they have done for some quality of life aids). I am aware that From Software have been adding quality of life improvements with each new Souls game they make which they deserve credit for, however they still have ways they can further improve on making their games playable to more people.

I am definitely aware that there is still some way to go in video games before they become truly accessible. Subtitles aren’t an industry standard for instance and gamer culture is largely toxic as it features memes including the “git gud” mentality. Microsoft has launched new peripherals specifically aimed at disabled gamers to boost accessibility for the Xbox One and Windows PC platforms. It is not perfect but is an important step. There is still a way to go as those that want to play games on Nintendo/PlayStation formats do not have official peripheral support like the Xbox One has.

In short, games are for everyone. Please listen to disabled gamers when we talk about our access needs and not dismiss us. These can include so many things and vary by player (ie. Additional option settings, easy mode, adaptative controller, quality-of-life improvements) hence it is best for developers to cater to as many playstyles as possible during development.

That’s all for today.

Milla x

Featured image source

Studying Abroad & Money Management

(Image description: A variety of bank notes from several different currencies. They all have a variety of colours.)

Hi all,

Today’s topics focuses on money management and how spending time abroad in Japan as a student has helped me mature and refine my priorities in relation to this. Living abroad is huge life change and for somebody like me is more significant due to being autistic and having limited experience due to my age.

Personally, I used to not be responsible with my money often spending it on things I didn’t need such as video games. One reason why is because I didn’t have many friends at university as I had found socialising difficult. Subsequently, I didn’t feel the need to save money to go on social excursions as I had nobody to go with.

Then I went to Japan in my third year on a study abroad year as part of my degree. I was halfway across the world and I would only have myself and the people I meet there for support. I managed to deal with this overall – even though there are major caveats that I will need to work on if I was to move away in the future like this.

When it comes to finances:

Some of the preparations I had to do include booking my flights as well as arrange insurance to ensure I am protected financially if things go wrong. I had to apply for and take advantage of any schemes I could find that would allow me to save money.

All exchange students at my university in Japan were advised to set up a  Japanese bank account. Furthermore, we all had to go to particular places in order to withdraw money from our international cards. We also had to pay for essentials like food and drink and even the bus to get to the cashpoint that would accept my foreign bank card.

Fortunately, the exchange uni had a canteen which greatly aided my ability to cope but it did cost more than had I cooked for myself with ingredients. The costs of living are higher in Japan than the UK so this was important to consider as well.

The consequences:

The worry of only having so much money is scary but is part and parcel of life for an ordinary person. Budgeting is something that I was vaguely taught when I was younger however is something I only truly began to understand recently. Do I have enough money for this? Can I afford to treat myself to that? All these questions that I have to answer at the time and then have to live with the consequences.

With more responsibilities and a shift in priorities comes less money to go on hobbies like games. I love games (I even occasionally write about them on my blog) and are one of my passions but essentially, they are a form of entertainment that I don’t need shelves of items for. I have ambitions. I have hopes and dreams. I also need to medically and socially transition which will cost a lot of money.

With these dreams comes the need to shift my priorities which includes changing how I deal with my money. So instead of having huge parcels with multiple games inside that I’m unlikely to play, that money could be saved for transitioning, a holiday abroad or for the future such as being able to move away for a good job.

Of course, for all I know it may not be possible for me to work till old age so I may only meet some of my goals. However, that is still only a possibility. Some important background info to remember is that as a disabled person the costs of living are more expensive and it is harder to obtain a fair income due to ableism (alongside the fact I’m queer), so the odds are stacked against me. For many disabled people (including autistics) money management and employment aren’t something they will ever be able to deal with by themselves. If that is the case they should be supported as much as possible by trusted allies.

But for me, my motivation has increased as well as my maturity with money. I have new goals to save for. I have places I want to go and eventually be. Learning how to deal with my finances better is a big part of that. That is one of the lessons I have learnt over the last couple of years.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Milla x

(@subtlykawaii)

Featured image source

Assessment Centres and Initial Thoughts

(Image is of a person in a suit holding a handbag leaping towards a hill with the word “JOB” on it at sunset.)

(CN discrimination, ableism, masking)

Hello everyone,

As part of my preparation for life after I graduate, I have been spending some time throughout my last year at university learning about the graduate recruitment system that I would have to deal with to get a job at a major employer. The workshop I attended recently was about assessment centres and what I would have to deal with. This is a long post hence it’s split into two pages however I hope there is something here that could help autistic jobseekers.

Please bear in mind that while I have not actually been to an assessment centre, I but I left the session in a meltdown. I felt that trying to engage with the typical graduate recruitment system isn’t feasible for me period. The very thought of it fills me with anxiety. When I have to deal with how inaccessible it is, I enter meltdowns. I already had this before when I attended a previous workshop on video interviews (and how some recruiters are starting to use AI to assess candidates) as well as another workshops on when I was asked to discuss my strengths and weaknesses.

I am going to discuss some of the major points brought up in this session, my thoughts on it and how they make the recruitment process inaccessible for those diagnosed as autistic and/or ADHD. Note that some of these thoughts will apply to other neurotypes as well as mental illnesses.

The importance of the telephone

This is a major accessibility issue as employers place great importance on the telephone to communicate with potential candidates which of course causes problems if someone is unable to use the telephone in any way. Allow me to elaborate further.

Employer expect candidates to call them to let them know if they running late for interviews/assessments.

A lot of autistic people have huge anxiety calling strangers which includes unexpected phone calls. If an unexpected event happens and the autistic person needs to cancel this demand may be impossible for them to do. This is especially important as employers will expect candidates to ask if it is still ok that they can arrive at the assessment centre at a later time. They may start the assessment without them especially if most other candidates have already arrived. If they are too anxious to use the phone, it is very unlikely that any other form of contact would be accepted. I would assume this includes texts and email as well.

Do not use mobile phones in the waiting rooms for interviews/assessments.

This also relates to issues with how telephones are often used for fidgeting, dealing with nerves or communicating with others. Alternatives for this could work like a fidget cube, but that doesn’t mean misunderstandings won’t happen. The expectations that employers have will include reading various materials in the lobby, watching videos playing on TV as well as talking to other candidates in the area (which can actually add stress for neurodiverse people).

Should phone numbers always be disclosed in applications?

This is something I wondered as a result of the workshop. Although it is expected that phone numbers are given on all applications as a way of being contacted, if somebody won’t answer the call due to anxiety (or another reason), what is the point of giving the prospective employer their number? On the other hand, if a phone number isn’t disclosed on the application would an employer disqualify them immediately for that? I don’t know the answer to that. Either way, this is a huge accessibility issue.

Body language

This is an area where many autistic struggle and employers assess how often you use eye contact as a way to help them assess candidates for their roles. The problem with this is that it negatively discriminates against those that don’t present in a neurotypical way. This of course ties into masking and is one reason why many autistic people learn to do it. However, there are many that can’t or refuse to mask and thus are prone to having their chance taken from them because employers judge them by fixed NT standards. In other words, the very process of recruitment encourages masking.

You can click the the page number below to proceed to the next page.