Today I had the misfortune of reading Dr. Greenberg’s impoverished defense of prohibiting students from declaring a best friend.
That’s a bit harsh. Dr. Greenberg does well by demonstrating the issue with the current vernacular and suggesting a minimal change to improve the situation. Unfortunately she spends the majority of the article subverting herself through contradictions and side tracking to attack the concept of exclusion and hierarchies.
I surmised Dr. Greenberg’s real argument from two parts in the article.
…child after child comes to my therapy office distressed when their best friend has now given someone else this coveted title.
Among children and even teens, best friends shift rapidly. These shifts lead to emotional distress and would be significantly less likely if our kids spoke of close or even good friends rather than best friends.
These seem evidently true to me, and since she is speaking from experience I’ll grant her these assumptions for the sake of argument. The issue is that children and teens will change best friends, and this change causes emotional distress. She suggests a solution, which is to encourage children and teens to speak in terms of “close or even good friends rather than best friends.”
I believe this to be a reasonable solution. “Good friends” is an ambiguously ordered set; it might reduce emotional distress by allowing slight changes in relative position manifest without a subsequent change in title.
Now let’s review the garbage that this reasonable suggestion was buried in.
Many of you will suggest that our kids should toughen up and will become hardier if they learn to deal with the natural shifts in friendships that are inevitable.
Children need to grapple with challenging social problems to develop into competent adults later in life. These skills are not innate, and it is a good idea to practice them while you’re young and the consequences are small. Dr. Greenberg agrees that these shifts in friendship are inevitable when she talks about the rapid shifts in friendship that children and teens go through. I believe that it is foolish to try and protect your children from the inevitable. Instead it is better to prepare them to deal with the challenges they will have to face.
I am concerned about the bigger picture, which includes the pain associated with exclusion and the gentle comfort associated with inclusion.
Dr. Greenberg criticizes exclusionary categories and later the idea of hierarchies a few times in her article. Something I found both unnecessary to her point and, ironically, undermines her own potential solution.
The point of this crude diagram is to illustrate that by converting “Best Friend” into “Good Friends” the number of people that feel excluded from the category increases. In addition the bar for “Good Friend” is lower than the the bar for “Best Friend” so the magnitude of the rejection increases.
tl:dr; it doesn’t prevent exclusion; it might backfire.
The phrase best friend is inherently exclusionary…And, if kids have best friends, does that also imply that they have “worst friends?” A focus on having best friends certainly indicates there’s an unspoken ranking system; and where there is a ranking system, there are problems.
Virtually every word is exclusionary because it stands for what it means and not for other things. “Doctor” is an exclusionary word. It implies that some people are not doctors and therefore should be extremely reticent about proffering medical advice (and likewise for others taking it).
Again, her solution of using “Good Friends” is subject to the exact same criticism she levies against “Best Friend.” Having “Good Friends” is implies that there are friends that are not as good. Having friends at all means there are people that are not your friends. I doubt even Dr. Greenberg would claim that people should not have friends just because the vernacular is exclusionary.
Dr. Greenberg also rallies against hierarchies. It is fair to say that hierarchies have problems, and certainly add stress to those residing at the bottom. However, hierarchies are extremely useful social constructs and a fact of our social landscape. It seems dangerously counter productive to have children learn to live in an illusory social landscape.
Lastly, by substituting the word “friend” with the word “doctor” the silliness of this line of thinking becomes obvious.
The phrase doctor is inherently exclusionary. If there are top doctors, does that also imply there are worse doctors? When you’re ill, a focus on finding the best doctor certainly indicates there’s an unspoken ranking system; and where there is a ranking system, there are problems.
The word “best” encourages judgment and promotes exclusion.
So does the word “good” as they are born from the same concept. Again, the proposed solution is equally injured by the same logic.
Our lives are richer if we are closer with a few others rather than putting all of our eggs in one basket, right? This is true for children and adults. Think of all the wonderful opportunities you may have missed if you socialized exclusively with only one friend.
Sounds alright enough until you remember that the majority of adults do pair bond with a single person, with exclusive sexual congress as part of the deal. This behavior is so common across cultures that most countries have laws that grant the pair special privileges.
It also makes the false assumption that if you have a “best friend” you socialize exclusively with them. That’s as ridiculous as having a favorite band and someone assuming that you listen to only a single band’s songs.
Dr. Greenberg has a good point, but it’s buried by a low key resentment that categories exclude and that hierarchies are a feature of the social landscape. Ironically these additions only seek to undermine her proposed solution.
After writing this article I took a look at the sidebar and noticed the recommended links.
I probably wasted my time on getting upset at a meme-tier website. Exploring some of the author’s other works she seems to talk about subjects with more obvious scholastic merit than “Why You Should Stop Drinking Hand Sanitizer.” That said her articles do seem a bit shallow. For example, her article 5 Ways Parents of Transgender Teens Can Help Their Children has only one non generic tip and it is the shortest tip.
Keep in mind that teens are more than their gender identity. Let your children know that they are not simply defined by their gender identity.
Dr. Greenberg presents a reasonable solution, requiring a small vernacular change that has the potential to reduce emotional distress among children and teens. However, an experiment should be run because her change might have the opposite intended effect for the reasons stated above. In addition, I’m not sure how a school would enforce not having “best friends.” It seems to me that the school would have to resort to authoritarian and privacy invading tactics to effectively enforce such a rule. These tactics might cause more distress than not being someone’s best friend.
So, what do I, as a psychologist, think of this trend where schools are banning best friends? I have thought about it long and hard, and I say bring it on.
This makes me more confident applying to grad school for psychology. Receiving your Ph.D. doesn’t seem to require thinking all that hard or for all that long.
This post would be more accurately titled “High school students prohibited from calling another student their ‘best friend’ but that is considerably less catchy, and far more verbose.
I figured out I was transgender by watching a video series “Are You Transgender.” Specifically the following video series at the 4:08 mark of the second video:
I was working on a mobile app and I usually listen to lectures on YouTube to keep me company and maybe teach me a thing or two. So, like a normal cis-het-boy I queued up the “Are You Transgender” playlist.
I have a distinct memory of when I heard the speaker say:
If you are watching this video for yourself, or researching what transgender is online, then you are likely transgender.
After hearing this improper implication, I alt-tabbed back to YouTube and smugly paused the video. It’s true, just because you’re asking the question “Am I transgender?” definitely doesn’t imply you are transgender.
I resumed the video and the next line hit me like a truck:
Because cis-gender people do not ask this question, “Am I transgender?”
Why was I listening to to this playlist? This wasn’t the first time I had watched a video on this, or taken a stupid quiz about it, or read blog articles similar to the one I’m writing now or asked myself “am I transgender?”
Laughably I recall thinking;
Yeah just because I frequently wish I was a girl doesn’t mean I’m transgender.
It wasn’t as funny of a revelation at the time. I remember my heart stopping, my eyes widening and my blood turning cold as I realized, “Oh shit, that’s exactly what that word means.”
I spent the next six hours recontextualizing my life and eventually pulled myself together enough to walk down the street and come out to my friend.
If you read my other post about All These Things That I’ve Done or are familiar with the standard narrative of “I’ve known since I was 3 years old” you might be confused as to why it took me 24 years to figure it out. This is the difference between knowing things and being unable (or unwilling) to articulate things.
If you asked me straight up and pressed me I would have confessed to wanting to be female. I knew that’s what I wanted but I hadn’t yet articulated to myself that meant I should transition and therefore I was transgender. Once I was able to articulate the concept of being transgender I was able to act because I had a framework to work within. Until I did that I just thought I was weird (albeit in specific ways stable across time) and being weird doesn’t explain what you are supposed to do, if anything.
So why was I unable to connect the dots? I think it is mostly from ignorance and a tiny bit from internalized cis-sexism. I sincerely believe had I known a trans person growing up I would have come out much earlier. I would have confided in them some of my thoughts and proclivities, laughed nervously and said something to the effect of “but that’s not like you at all, right?” and gotten hit like a hammer when I learned my experience is fairly typical. I didn’t believe I was”trans enough” to be transgender, I thought everyone knew with certainty since they were small children. Sure I wanted to be female, but I didn’t know if I should transition. To be fair, transition is very intimidating. It is long, painful, expensive, time consuming and the results are not guaranteed. In addition, I knew I wanted to be female, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be trans. There was probably a little bit of cis-sexism that held me back from exploring the possibility of living as a trans woman.
I think everyone questioning their gender identity should understand that you will never be 100% certain about transition. There is no way to know before you do it that such a radically life altering event will be for the better. It is a supremely non-trivial commitment to transition. It is an act of faith that will require many sacrifices.
While coming out I was complicit in perpetuating the ultra-confident, I’ve always known meme. You sort of have to; there’s no “proof” you’re trans besides your own confidence. It took me 24 years to understand and I lived it, I can’t just hope that other people will “just get it” based on my own new, limited and unconfident expression. I think this narrative is dangerous because I delayed transition because I didn’t think I was “trans enough.” Please don’t make the same mistake I did.
I would like to share a quote from Julia Serano’s book, Whipping Girl that I think explains the feeling I had pre-transition:
Trying to translate these subconscious experiences into conscious thought is a messy business. All of the words available in the English language completely fail to accurately capture or convey my personal understanding of these events. For example, if I were to say that I “saw” myself as female, or “knew” myself to a girl, I would be denying the fact that I was consciously aware of my physical maleness at all times. And saying that I “wished” or “wanted” to be a girl erases how much being female made sense to me, how it felt right on the deepest, most profound level of my being. I could say that I “felt” like a girl, but that give the false impression that I knew how other girls (and other boys) felt. And if I were to say that I was “supposed to be” a girl, or that I “should have been born” female, it would imply that I had some sort of cosmic insight into the grand scheme of the universe, which I most certainly did not.
Julia later elaborates on about “feeling” like a woman:
Speaking for myself, I can honestly say that I have never “felt like a woman” before my transition. Even as a preteen struggling with the inexplicable and persistent desire to be female, I understood how problematic that popular cliché was. After all, how can anyone know what it’s like to “feel like a woman” or “feel like a man” when we can never really know how anybody else feels on the inside?
All emphasis mine.
I definitely fell into the trap that I didn’t feel like a woman, so I wasn’t TruTrans™ (even though I had an “inexplicable and persistent desire” to be female). It was only in self reflection I realized how foolish it was to use this reason to keep myself from transition. If you’re considering transition I sincerely hope this post helps you avoid making the same mistake I did.
I’m writing this post to document everything that hinted at my later transition. This is a living list; I’ll add to it as I remember new things.
This post is about all the weird stuff I did growing up prior to transitioning. Needless to say, some of it is sexual; so if that’s not your cup of tea then it’s time to leave.
It is my hope that someone who is questioning themselves can find some comfort and courage by reading this. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t measure up to my level of madness or idiocy. My friend didn’t act strangely at all and she’s thrilled with her transition.
If you have questions you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on the dying micro blogging site Twitter@missamyjie
Girlfriends is as a good as any place to start. A lot of my peculiarities came out around them and they help provide a context to some of my other stories. Looking back I noticed that I almost never initiated a relationship. I would hang around even them until the awkwardness was so unbearable they’d ask me out of frustration. Most of my girl friends were convinced I was gay until I accepted their propositions. So close and yet so far 😛
I was anti-thesis of the boy that just wants sex. I wanted to be “really good friends” that spent all their time together. That cooked and cleaned together. That lived together. I didn’t mind sex, but preferred if she lead.
In 8th grade, my first “girlfriend” would invite me over to her house. We’d go into the basement and watch movies. Her mom was a “cool mom” because she’d just give a knowing smile and leave us be. Despite all this, I always left a space between us and more focused on the movie than her. She moved to a different town and broke up with me.
It’s not that I didn’t like her, or that she wasn’t pretty. It was like we were friends, not boyfriend and girlfriend.
Middle school is stupid anyways so this barely counts. It does corroborate the pattern though.
My next girlfriend was part of my robotics team friend group. She constantly tried to get me to have sex with her in ways I found painfully embarrassing. I never did have sex with her although she did get me to do some sexual things with her. I think she ended up cheating on me, but I never bothered to confirm. I did, however, find out she had dated most boys I knew for brief periods. I was the only one to resist her siren’s call and I think that threw her through quite a loop.
I remember sitting on the couch with her and she came on to me, as strongly as ever, and asked me what I’d like to do. Like a total weirdo I blurted, “We could switch clothes.” She was briefly taken aback by the suggestion but then followed up with “Oh? And why is that?” Obviously, I wanted her to facilitate my crossdressing. For better of for worse I replied, “To see you naked” instead. She seemed content with this but I was so upset that I couldn’t feign interest and went home.
Holly was the first and only girl that I made a move on. To be fair, I did sit next to her in the school hallway for an hour each morning for an entire year before asking her to prom. She refused to go with on account of having a boyfriend, but we ended up dancing in the school parking lot after prom had ended and dating shortly thereafter.
We dated until I was suspended from college. I crossdressed in her room a lot, shared my nascent trans thoughts with her and even convinced her to peg me twice. I have a sliver of a memory of her intimating I should “get help at an LGBT center” and me quickly shooting that idea down. I’m just weird I’m not TruTrans™ Haha.
I was super clingy and she was wisely more interested in studying than having sex with me. I also think she stopped thinking my crossdressing was worth enabling and decided it was time to move on. Move on with my friend 😒 but move on all the same.
I met Sasha when I returned from my suspension. She caught my eye in the computer science class I was taking at the time (for reasons detailed below 😏) and, in desperate need of new friends, I sat next to her.
She eventually warmed to me and I would come over to her house everyday to talk with her. She started intimating that I should spend the night and I took the hint and slept on the couch. Then she said I should sleep in her room on a spare mattress. Then she dragged the mattress next to hers. Then one night she rolled onto my bed. I figured it out eventually and we dated briefly before she broke contact for another guy. We got back together at some point and we friends to this day.
Nina went much the same way. We met at a party and eventually started hanging out. Night after night I would visit her, drink wine (first time I started drinking) and Netflix and (actually) chill on her couch. We were like a couple without ever saying it, or consummating it. This charade would have gone on forever had she not climbed over me on the couch and kissed me. I kissed back and when we parted a wave of relief passed over her face as she exclaimed “Oh thank god, I thought you were gay!” I quickly laughed it off, “You’re not the first girl to say that.”
One night, while lying in bed, I confessed that I often thought about being a woman. She was understandably confused and cautiously probed me further. I got flustered and went to sleep.
Much, much later, near my coming out time she asked me The Button Question over dinner. I forget what prompted her to ask, but I do remember pausing for about thirty seconds before answering I wouldn’t press it. I knew what it meant to say “yes” and I wasn’t ready for that.
There was some occasional crossdressing with her as well, bringing us to our next topic.
I started to crossdress around the 6th grade. I did it mostly in private, and occasionally in public when I could get away with it. I “borrowed” clothes from my mom, sister and girlfriends, bought my own online, rummaged through clothing drives in my dormitory, and of course, purged my collection when I felt ashamed or thought I’d be discovered.
Crossdressing was a mixed bag. I felt compelled to do it. It was an extreme version of the hopefulness and disillusionment you may have experienced buying clothes. While shopping you imagine that you will look as good as the model if you bought that top or those shorts. Instead you realize that it wasn’t the clothing, it was the model’s body. Almost anything would look nice on her. Once dressed, I’d usually feel bitter disappointment. Nothing would fit right; instead it seemed to call attention to all the ways I was not a woman.
Nevada, by Imogen Binnie described it best through her character James (who is an egg).
After she came over that night, and after they had sex, and then after she went home, he did try it on. It looked like a skirt and a jacket, but it was actually only one piece, a dress. Maybe because he’d already come once that night, or because the dress was so ugly and stupid, or maybe because his ribs were all full of disappointment and helium, whatever it was, he didn’t even get turned on when he tried it on. He had expected to. The whole point of actually getting his first dress was to satisfy this impulse that was supposed to be all sexual.
He didn’t have a full-length mirror or anything, but he could barely figure out how to get his shoulders into it, and then it tangled around his ribs and armpits and he was worrying that he was going to stretch it out and ruin it— wouldn’t it be a tragedy, to ruin such a beautiful thing—but eventually he got into it and felt probably dumber than he had ever felt. There was tons of room and drape in the hips. His stomach, even though it barely even exists, bulged out against the front of the dress. He realized that he hadn’t known what he’d expected to feel when he tried this dress on, but it certainly wasn’t this emptiness verging on boredom butting up against wanting to die.
A painfully familiar feeling. There was nothing fun or sexual about crossdressing for me. It was wishful thinking that if I dressed like a woman maybe I’d look like one to (and then people would regard me as one and wouldn’t that be lovely).
Bras to Bed
While I lived at my parents house I frequently wore bras to bed. I would fold two boxers into squares for light padding. There was something right about sleeping with the weight on my chest. I was usually the first person awake in my house so the risk of discovery was minimal. As a backup I would move my night table over an inch to block the door. This way, if someone came to wake me it would buy me the seconds needed to recover my wits and avoid an awkward discovery.
I had a dream that my dad had woken up extra early one morning and knocked on my door. Bleary eyed, I climbed out of bed and opened the door and listened to my dad tell me he had to go into work early so he needed me to take care of the dogs. I nodded in ascension, he said good and then with a condescending smirk snapped a bra strap and left. My bowels turned to ice and I awoke with a start. It was so vivid that I wasn’t sure if it had happened or not. I was able to confirm after coming out that it was just a dream.
I only crossdressed in public twice. Once in high school and once in college. Always in the dead of night as to not run into anyone. I’d spend the entire time terrified until I made it to an empty public place with long lines of site where I could enjoy being out of my room.
I would occasionally trap it up and go on Omegle’s video roulette. I never said anything. I just wanted to figure out if I had a chance at passing.
A year and half after coming out I was at my family’s cottage on the lake. I still didn’t have a swimsuit, so my mom let me borrow hers. I went upstairs to put it on and halfway through dressing myself a wave of déjù vu passed over me, causing me to pause. I laughingly recalled how this was not the first time I “borrowed” my mother’s swimsuit. When I was younger, I would stay at the cottage when the family went to town and so I could try them on. The good news was that I looked much less ridiculous this time.
During my freshman year of college I convinced my poor girlfriend, among other things, to let me dress up in her room and use some of her clothes (the ones that I wouldn’t immediately break in half at least).
While going through my Google Photos backup I found a short video of myself dressed up in her apartment that had apparently been spared during my purges. It’s very embarrassing. What am I wearing >__<;; (probably whatever I could find that fit).
Literally kill me.
She was also the girlfriend I was with during the end of the semester clothes collection. I surreptitiously went from bin to bin and floor to floor to see if there was anything in my size I could pilfer for my wardrobe.
My next girlfriend would not enable my crossdressing. Instead I had to goad her friends into suggesting it as a source of amusement. Eventually they’d drag a reluctant agreement out of me 😏
For Halloween I planted the idea that I should crossdress and dance with a slightly homophobic housemate of mine once he was sufficiently drunk. I went shopping with my girlfriend and tried on lots of clothes. I even found heels in my size and made up some lie how I came in possession of breast forms. The plan was a success. I passed well enough to give my plastered housemate a surprise greeting. Afterwards I went upstairs with my girlfriend. I was hopeful I’d get to wear the outfit, or at least the bra and breast forms but she insisted otherwise. Not her cup of tea.
As for the breast forms; I would wear them to sleep or while working alone in my room. Something about it just felt right.
The cycle of starting a secret wardrobe and then purging it continued until I transitioned. I’m still not a fan of drag or crossdressing. I almost snapped my spine in half cringing at the above video of myself. I’ve not watched RuPaul’s and I’m not going to your local drag event so stop asking 😛 It’s not my cup of tea.
Growing up I was very into a very specific subset of porn. Namely porn and erotica describing men becoming women. This is so niche that it is almost universally terrible. The writing is terrible, the art is terrible. You have to search a long time to find something worth reading or whacking off to.
If this is what you consider “porn” you might want to talk to a gender therapist.
To this end, there were a couple of content aggregators dedicated to sorting through this smut so that you could feast on the cream of the crop (so that you could harvest your own crop of cream). They invariably disappeared and someone would setup another one.
At one point there were no suitable aggregators for so long that I took it upon myself to build the next one. I learned Linux, how to administer servers, structuring databases, LAMP, front end and design. I built a truly terrible website. Content must really be king because lots of people liked it anyways though. I ended up rebuilding it much better a second time (although still awful). It got so popular that I ended up taking a computer science class to learn better software engineering techniques.
In summary, the reason I discovered I loved computer science, received a degree in it, got my first job and met Sasha was due to my interest in porn. Thanks porn =^__^;;=
Eventually, my site mysteriously disappeared as well. I decided to put this weird fetish behind me and move on with my life (and failed miserably). Until read Nevada I had always assumed I was a deviant. Again, Imogen Binnie’s character James proves uncannily accurate:
It’s not like James is proud of the porn that he looks at, but what are you supposed to do? Will yourself not to be a pervert? He’s tried. He’s still trying. He tries most nights…He knows how this is going to end, though. He’s going to try to watch men fuck women for about half an hour, get depressed, not be able to even get hard, and then look at blogs of pictures of women with captions that turn the pictures into weird and absurd erotic transvestite scenarios.
It’s like, this is no longer a dumb picture from a fashion magazine or a porn shoot or a Halloween costume advertisement, subtitled with a stupid scenario. Suddenly this shit is functioning in your reptile brain the way that pussy is supposed to function.
James isn’t gay or anything. He’s not that into the ones where there are dicks. The ones with lesbians, sure, but he’s not into dudes or anything. Like, being a pervert would probably even be easier if he was gay…If you’re a straight guy who’s into the idea of being turned into a girl there’s not a lot of girls who are interested in being involved in that, probably.
It’s supposed to be called autogynephilia. It’s like a thing. That’s the name of the fetish. If it’s a fetish? James doesn’t know what it is. Being sexually attracted to oneself as female. Hot! Who wouldn’t be hot for that? Gross.
It’s the sort of thing you can never tell anyone. A secret you carry with you like an albatross stapled to your neck that you take with you to your grave.
Lots of other fetishes or whatever, like, you can frame them as cool…But wanting to be a girl? Not even like, I have known my whole life, man trapped in the body of a woman, whatever. Anyone can tell you that James is not a woman. James knows who Jennifer Finney Boylan is, and he is no Jennifer Finney Boylan. He’s just some fucking dude who wishes he was allowed to wear dresses.
He’s looking at a picture of a girl in a French maid Halloween costume: Philip’s girlfriend was furious! It seems he couldn’t be bothered to get a costume for her big party so she got one for him—and it was a dress! It’s absurd and he can’t even focus on it. He’s a million miles away, imagining how ridiculous he would look in that dress, working out scenarios for ways that he could ever connect with another human being about this stupid.
What kind of twenty-year-old guy has a lot of trouble coming unless his girlfriend is sucking his dick so he can think about the evil ice sorceress turning Brave Samson into a demure maiden?
Ugh. Fucking End Me.
If you’re “greatest fantasy” is to be turned into a woman you should probably see a gender therapist.
My dad set up a proxy server between the LAN and the wider internet. I was tech savvy enough to avoid leaving a log of where I visited but I still made mistakes from time to time. Well, my dad must have been checking the logs because one day he came to talk to me about porn. Every kid’s nightmare made manifest. I thought I was going to be asked to explain what I couldn’t even explain to myself.
He told me not to watch anymore porn and nodded silently in agreement. He then handed me a book on LGB subjects and told me I could ask him if I had any questions. I flipped through the book scanning for the word “transgender.” It appeared only in a footnote. I distinctly remember thinking “This book has nothing for me” and throwing it under my bed.
In a horrifyingly ironic way I was considered to be very secure in my masculinity. Disparaging my status as a “man” universally failed to register as an insult. Probably because I didn’t think much about being a man.
On the other hand, on the infrequent times I was mis-misgendered (referred to as a girl before I came out) my heart always soared.
I remember eating dinner with Nina and her mother. When the check came, they offered to pay for it since they had jobs and I was still in school. Her mom facetiously asked me “how I liked being the woman” and with a dumb grin on my face I said it felt great.
I’m still not sure how I rationalized these things to myself. I knew what I meant by that statement. I knew it made me feel good. I repressed connecting the dots.
Like this ancient photo:
I knew why I wanted a pic of my head in the cutout. So that I could go home and try to visualize what I might look like had I been born female. Never daring to ask “why” I would want to do something like that.
In the same way I wore a bra to bed most nights, I would lie in bed imagining being a girl. Trying to figure it out if it was better, if it would be worth the trouble.
Sometimes I would listen to these audio recordings that would hypnotize you into becoming a girl. Even as a middle school student I knew it was impossible. Most of them were fairly erotic and weird, but you could find a few vanilla ones. I suppose I’d take whatever had a chance at working.
I also had lucid dream in which I was in a hot tub on wooden balcony overlooking a snowy mountain side. A party was going on and there was a bunch of other teens milling about and having a good time. After sitting for a while I realized that I was dreaming and remembered the concept of lucid dreaming. No sooner than I remembered, a magic lamp appeared in my hands (apparently my way of making anything happen). I rubbed it an was granted one wish. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted so I wished for something dumb. So dumb I don’t even remember. I do remember my eyes opening in panic as I realized I could have wish for that.
Fortunately, the exiting genie acquiesced and granted my new wish. I was female! I sat back in the hot tub with a stupid grin on my face and enjoyed watching the fresh snow blanket the mountainside until I woke up.
Tests, Quizzes and Such
I spent a lot of time taking quizzes that purported to tell you if you were transgender or if you were more like a boy or a girl. I was also cognizant of the answer I wanted to see at the end of the quiz. I told myself the quizzes were meaningless but never stopped to think why I acted like they had meaning to me.
In middle school and possibly earlier, I was very well learned in chromosomal disorders, sex hormones and gender reassignment surgeries. I was particularly amazed how much hormone replacement therapy could change a person’s body. I was always scouring the internet for a case of someone very young transitioning. I frequently wondered what would happen if someone my age was started on HRT and if there were any countries that did it that early. Not that I would have wanted it done to myself, I was just really curious what would happen if someone my age did it. That’s all. I swear.
Growing up I was a big fan of the Animorph series; where teenagers gained the abilities to shape shift into any living thing they touched. I’m not quite sure when I first encountered them but it must have been between the ages of 4-8 given the series’ publication.
I remember seeing the fourth installment of the series upon walking into my school library. There was a girl changing into a dolphin into the cover and knew I had to read it. “I wonder if any boys change into girls in this series.” was my first thought upon finishing the book and I quickly read the entire series. I found out that a gender-morph does indeed happen. In book 43 Tobias morphs from a hawk into a woman. I always identified most strongly with Tobias while reading. Which was funny because we had nothing in common. Unless you count being stuck in the wrong body ¯_(ツ)_/¯
That’s all I could remember. I’ll add to this as I think of more tranny bullshit I went through before I came out.
If you found this piece unreasonably engrossing, you’re probably an egg 😉
I met Makiko at Yahoo Japan and she generously helped a co-worked set up a series of meetings and was our stellar guide to the city after work.
A few weeks after we left she sent an email with questions from her engineers. I thought I’d share them for posterity’s sake (and for vanity metrics that sustain my husk).
Team vs. Individual Evaluation
How to set and measure a team vs. an individual contribution?
Teams are easier than individuals to measure. You set a goal with a timeline and measure yourself against the goal. This is as much of a test of execution as it prognostication, but a good leader needs both to get things done.
It’s your leader’s job to inform you if your goal is not ambitious enough.
I prefer not to rank individual team members because it leads to two forms of waste.
Team members optimize for the metric and not achieving the goal
You waste a lot of time trying to “objectively” measure and rank people
Instead I take a satisficing approach to individual management. There isn’t much use in rank ordering individuals. It’s way more likely to cause issues instead of fix anything.
Instead I periodically hold individual meetings with team members to listen to their issues and establish a rapport. This way there is an established communication channel for them to come to me with issues. In addition, it provides a periodic forum to let them know that all is well or to discuss a perceived performance issue in private.
The lack of objective standards does open you up to the risk of favoritism/nepotism and other issues. Personally I’d rather air on the side of “unfair” than risk having the wrong performance model.
Open Source Software
When deciding if you release a project as open source or keeping it closed source, which aspects are important to you in order to make that decision?
If the project is a tool I would make it open source.
If the project is a product I would keep it closed source.
Your product is your team’s business. If giving your product’s source away for free isn’t part of the business strategy then there is no reason to do so.
When you develop a new tool, by making it open source you gain the benefit of free improvements through contribution (and a source of potential new hires. If your company is large enough, you may also set the industry standard for how to do X which also benefits you.
Project & Task Management
In either launching or revamping a product, what is a normal procedure to put into a task and assignment?
We hold a weekly meeting to discuss the priority for this week, explain to the team why we believe it is the priority and how we will measure success. This gives the team a chance for discussion and to voluntarily adopt the requirements.
The engineering manager and I then break up the new feature into actionable tasks for the engineers and place them in Trello so we can track their progress.
We do daily standups to make sure we are making progress towards the goal.
How did you make an ideal goal to a realistic outcome? How did your priorities and compromise the requirements? Any challenges?
Ideal goals should be used to orient the team, not to measure the team. Ideals are unachieveable and if you measure yourself against them you will always come up short and this will damage your morale.
Instead you make smaller goals that are specific, measurable and have a success/failure criteria. Use the ideal to make sure your smaller goal is aligned with the direction you want to go.
Ideals are important because it helps you prioritize features. Providing clarity on the ideal is part of being an effective leader. The ideal is your vision for the product.
“Product” manager’s skill requirements
We are still absolutely shocked that Yahoo! JAPAN don’t hold the same function of US defined “product manager”.
We want to know more details about what product manager takes in Yahoo! or US in general.
Do you have any examples or reference to define a PM’s role and skill requirements? So, we can use this for our skill development and the organization design in the future.
When we recruit for the APM program at YahooOath, we look for several things:
Technical ability. Although not all companies require their PMs to be technical, at Yahoo we believe that PMs that are also engineers build better products and can interact with their engineering team better.
Product Sense. This is more vague, but we look for the ability to intuitively understand and articulate what is good or bad about a product.
Initiative. No one will tell you what to do as a PM. So you must be able to create a vision for yourself. We look for hackathon participants, people that build their own projects on the side or are entrepreneurs.
Communication. Most of the job is meeting with other people and talking. If you can’t articulate your vision then your team can’t execute it, no matter how good it might be.
Analytical ability. Products are complex and a good PM must be able to break them down into smaller tasks and prioritize these tasks for their team.
That’s all folks. Time to turn this into LinkedIn click bait and see how that goes.
The first passage I’d like to talk about is Book 2, Chapter 4: A Lady of Little Faith.
In which a lady has travelled to visit the Elder Zosima and confess to him that she is having a crisis of faith. She recently learned of the idea that there is no afterlife, but only the void after death and it troubles her greatly.
She asks the Elder “How can it be proved? How can one be convinced?” to which Zosima replies “No doubt it is devastating. One cannot prove anything here, but it is possible to be convinced.”
This response reminds me of Jordan Peterson’s lectures where he talks about how the meaningless of life is a rational conclusion and ironclad in logic. But so what? That ‘fact’ is not very useful to living, in fact it is often very detrimental and sends people into existential depression or crisis like the lady in the passage. In this way the meaningless of life is not ‘true’ although one cannot write a ‘proof’ that meaning is possible, one can become convinced that life is meaningful.
Skipping ahead, in the Elder’s chambers we see a repeat of this idea in Zosima and Ivan’s
Skipping ahead, in the Elder’s chambers we see a small repeat of this conversation, this time between Zosima and Ivan.
“Can it be that you really hold this conviction about the consequences of the exhaustion of men’s faith in their immortality of their souls?” the elder suddenly asked Ivan Fyodorovich.
“Yes, it was my contention. There is no virtue if there is no immortality.”
You are blessed if you believe so, or else most unhappy.”
Why unhappy?” Ivan Fyodorovich smiled.
Here Dostoevsky reveals what a great character writer he is. The elder asserts that being freed of all moral responsibility must be a great thing for Ivan, or the complete opposite, and Ivan smiles at the latter.
This is brilliantly done; as I have personal experience with this smile as I suspect many others do. Imagine two strangers standing at a rainy street. Both without umbrellas commenting how the rain makes being outside awful. Then one turns to the other and remarks about his closed umbrella they smile knowingly.
“Because in all likelihood you yourself do not believe in either in the immortality of your soul or even in what you have written about the Church and the Church question.”
“Maybe you’re right…! But still, I wasn’t quite joking either…,” Ivan Fyodorovich said suddenly and strangely confessed – by the way, with a quick blush.
“You weren’t quite joking, that is true. This idea is not yet resolved in your heart and torments it. But a martyr, too, sometimes likes to toy with his despair, also from despair as it were. For the time being you, too, are toying, out of despair, with your magazine articles and drawing-room discussions, without believing in your own dialectics and smirking at them with your heart aching inside you…The question is not resolved in you, and there lies your great grief, for it urgently demands resolution…”
But can it be resolved in myself? Resolved in a positive way? Ivan Fyodorovich continued asking strangely, still looking at the elder with a certain inexplicable smile.
Here is the echo of the Lady of Little Faith’s question, this time asked by Ivan the genius atheist. Can one become convinced that their life has meaning?
“Even if it cannot be resolved in a positive way, it will never be resolved in the negative way either-you yourself know this property of your heart, and therein lies the whole of its torment…”
This last part by Zosima struck me as very profound; if the conclusion that life is bereft of meaning is so true, so iron clad in logic and cemented in reason, then why do we resist the conclusion in our hearts? Even Ivan, a rational, extremely smart atheist wrestle with it in his heart?
Zosima says, like he said to the lady, that it cannot be proven (in the positive way, that life has meaning) but now goes further to also assert it cannot be proven in the negative way. If it could, our minds would resolve this fact like any other and not be tormented by it. No one is tormented by the fact the sky is blue although the sun is white.
So perhaps one can be convinced of their being meaning in life, and that is a lovely thought.
For completeness, here is the rest of what Zosima says:
…But thank the Creator that he has given you a lofty heart, capabale of being tormented by such a torment, ‘to set your mind on things that are above, for our true homeland is in heaven.’ May God grant that your heart’s decision overtake you still on earth, and may God bless your path!”