More Palettes than Many

No two people can inhabit the same world. Beliefs, opinions and prejudices distort reality the way mass warps the path of light. Circumstance can mean that, though we might agree that chair is red; it’s green to someone with a specific form of colour blindness. They may concede that an absence or dysfunction of long wavelength cones in the eye causes deuteranopia; but ultimately to them, the chair is green.

I’m no philosopher and I’m certainly no scientist. I simply cannot escape the significance of an analogy like this. The chair is green in the subjective. It is only red by consensus. Let’s find an alternate dimension where deutans are in the majority – now what are you sitting on?

Colour Blind Awareness states that, globally, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women live with some form of this condition. 8% of my gender live their lives with dissonant chroma. My cousin ranks amongst them, as did my maternal grandfather. That we’re not inundated with stories of cars piling through traffic lights because of misread signals is deeply encouraging. A mutation which could dramatically impact upon the day-to-day of a great many people has become well managed and almost completely anonymous.

In 2005 researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne used multidimensional scaling (MDS) to explore ‘the colour dimension that is private to the deuteranomalous observer.’  The study emphasised an important correlation between “colour normal” and deuteranomalous observers – that they are both formally trichromatic (requiring three primary lights to ‘match all possible spectral power distributions.’) Despite the differences in colour perception, there is no inherent deficit or dysfunction:

 

MDS studies of anomalous trichromats have, however, always had a phenotypic bias: stimuli have been selected to be discriminable for the normal observer and the anomalous space has typically been found to be contracted compared to the normal. Such results reinforce the categorization of anomalous trichromats as ‘color deficient’, but this represents the viewpoint of the majority phenotype.

Interestingly the study refers to a potential evolutionary advantage gifted to anomalous/alternative trichromats. Research suggests that the efficacy of camouflage is threatened by ATs, particularly when it resembles natural foliage or terrain. Food sources and predators may become easier to clock; practical applications expressed in some primate species. Genetic drift may have allowed such individuals to make an advantageous contribution to our earliest, socialised ancestors. Hunter/gatherer parties including, though not wholly comprising ATs may have been ahead of the curve.

As expressions of the worth and wonder of re-thinking how we determine what is and isn’t a disability – as well as opening eyes to the potential benefits of any “anomaly” – discussions of colour blindness offer a delightful elegance and simplicity. Clearly, on the spectrum of what we consider disabilities, disorders, diseases…et cetera, not all animals are going to be equal. Issues will never be (ahem) black and white.

All I would say is consider the alternatives whenever you consider or encounter anyone with anomalous expressions or characteristics. Maybe you’ll find yourself ahead of the curve too.

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Until now I’ve been fortunate enough to remain ignorant about the existence of the Anti-Pickup-Artist Movement. Now the blanket coverage of Elliot Rodger’s spree killing is going to contribute to his “iconic” status, and throw searing white light onto the misogynistic subculture he slithered out of.

I’m not going to post any links to his videos or collected writings, including his interminable 141 page magnum opus “My Twisted World”. Every drain is clogged up with this; testaments to a ‘…sophisticated gentleman’ cheated by a universe in which women have minds and a mouth isn’t just another hole to fuck them in.

Friday’s brutal events have thrown Rodger into sharp relief. Nothing in his posts is particularly original – common garden self-pity, misdirected rage and blame, desperate attempts at self-aggrandisement. Finding like minds isn’t the quest it used to be, and PuaHate seems to have established quite the circle-jerk.

Its worth noting that their URL has gone 404. Pulling down the blinds – online that’s some hard shit to swallow, especially in a Rule 34 universe where one can probably find an analogous, pornographic rendition of Rodger’s spree. There’s far too much darkness clinging to this, and hopefully the oncoming debates and discussions and campaigns will offer pause to those within the seduction community, who’s language and discourse offered context for Rodger’s warped perception of the world.

The blame game always comes up short. The pick up artists didn’t kill those people. Rodger did. Some stories want to make hay of Rodger’s Asperger’s. Inevitably, mental illness has risen in the mix. Any explanation for how the moneyed son of a successful film-maker, living it up Santa Barbara way comes to murdering six people and injuring 13 more. Something you can wrap up nice and tight, something distinct. But given that Rodger’s own words barely manage a superficial insight into his motivations, any wait remains in vain.

Defaulting to cynicism and misanthropy can be counterproductive and foolish. Still, people can and will surprise you in some truly awful ways. Tragically, you’re sometimes not surprised at all.

Idiocy Unchained

Sometimes something completely outrageous occurs, provoking righteous indignation and justifiable challenges to narrow minded prejudices. A prime example of this arose last week, in the shape of Asda’s promotion of a blood-soaked “Mental Patient” Halloween costume.

After a hasty withdrawal, Asda made a tidy donation to Mind; and the story turned attentions towards similar products sold by Amazon and Tesco. An indignant mental health campaigner gave an impassioned and well reasoned response on The Today Programme, highlighting how such contorted representations simply reinforce stigmatisation of those with mental health concerns.

One thing I found strange about all this was my reaction. This sort of thing lacks any justification, but any anger I felt wasn’t born of the imagery itself, rather the astonishing levels of incompetence which allowed the product to exist in the first place. Numerous departments had to sign off on this, and at no point did anyone think ‘Wait a minute, some people may find this offensive.’ They wouldn’t have given the green light to some kind of Bongo Bongo tribal outfit, nor any kind of weird stereotypical, inflatable “gay best friend.”

Oh wait, they absolutely did.

Treating “g*y” like a swear word is just the cherry on top.

 

I try not to dwell on it too much, but as time passes and I gain new insights about who and what I am – and the places in the world they’ll take me – I find increasing validity in the notion that the “normal” world is what’s actually insane. I’m not even sure anger is the right word for how I feel about this. Disbelief, incredulity are perhaps more accurate.

This level of casual sanism has to be challenged and excised from our culture. One thing that might help is if people open their eyes and think for one goddamn minute. There is no single part of this story which couldn’t have been avoided, had those concerned engaged the critical faculties gifted to sturgeon.

Transitions

Today’s Daily Mirror features a two page story on a British transgender couple who are waiting to receive confirmation of their respective transitions before getting married. The Huffington Post also carried this story back in July, as part of a thoughtful and insightful feature published on Gay Voices.

My friend “A” recently completed her transition. We first met nearly two years ago when she was still a he, and had come into the store looking for books on gender identity and sexuality. Previously I’d only ever met one other transgender person: the recently reassigned husband of a man I was in hospital with. Given the strife this had put on the latter’s marriage I was (and remain) impressed with the confidence and candour with which A is able to discuss her experiences.

It would be idiotic of me to claim any expertise on this subject. For any true insights into the lives of transgender people and their loved ones, I heartily recommend gendermom – a mother’s blog about life with a trans daughter. For my part I have to wonder about my comfort with this issue. I come from a working class background lacking what you’d call progressive ideas around status, race, identity and sexuality. I’m confident that my family members who denounced blacks and faggots would struggle to even grasp the concept of someone born into the wrong body, even struggle to devise suitably offensive epithets.

Unfamiliarity breeds contempt. Contempt, suspicion, fear…a whole litany of negative responses. As kids we’d belittle and tease one another by calling each other gay. Its a cultural thing, and as with prejudicial attitudes towards the mentally ill, its likely to stem from a lack of contact with, and questions raised by, people of certain dispositions.

The Brothers Hitchens queried the validity of the term ‘homophobia’ on several occasions – stressing that a more literal reading of the word’s etymology is “fear of the same” as opposed to fear of homosexuals and homosexuality. Dear departed Christopher would run with this theme, noting how often homophobia rises from a doubt and disgust within the homophobe. Spectrally such doubt and disgust is common in transphobia and psychophobia – if their gender identity could be misaligned, what about mine? Could I hear voices too?

I often come back to a long ago conversation with my aunt. Mass immigration is a hot potato in these parts, and she was bemoaning the number of african families moving into the area. ‘I want ’em out’ she told me, ignoring one particular irony – one of my families’ best friends since my uncle’s 70s childhood is “Black Tony.” I pointed this out to my aunt. ‘Oh that’s different. That’s Tony.’

How would things be if we had  “Gay Tony” or “Trans Tony” or indeed “Schizophrenic Tony” in our lives? Everyone in my family knows  my story and diagnosis, and yet its all wary eyes and awkward shuffles when the topic comes up. Even as a simple statement; a matter of fact in a conversation, with all the emphasis and drama of someone announcing their transition from full fat to semi-skimmed milk.

Perhaps some would argument that because mental illness can have fewer, conspicuous traits (for example mincing or removing your dress and becoming a bricklayer), its harder to get a handle on, and know how you’re “supposed” to respond. Everyone gets depressed, but not everyone dresses like Freddie Mercury, so demarcation is complicated.

An obvious solution to this is to treat us like people. Easier said than done, but once the step is made positives aren’t hard to find. Young couples like Jamie Eagle and Louis Davies, Arin Andrews and Katie Hill are cases in point. These news stories don’t invoke the spirit of the freak show – sure they’re curiosities, but the emphasis is on people finding themselves and young love.

‘In May 2010, Jamie was diagnosed as transgender.’ This was the only part of the Mirror story which made me wince. The ‘D’ word. I’ll admit I have developed a particular sensitivity to clinical terms used in certain contexts – maybe Miss Eagle’s eyelids wouldn’t bat at all. Language assails us in different ways, and I immediately recalled how the Blessed APA no longer consider being transgender a mental disorder.

Curiously another part of this story drew my attention – the couple are from Bridgend County in South Wales; a part of the country regrettably known for its high suicide rates. I’m not drawing any connection here. I mention it because, as part of my own particular disposition, I see patterns and peculiar associations everywhere. Bridgend was a place I used to pay special attention to.

That this was the only negative I could find in the piece – one drawn from the quagmire of I – is a source of something approaching optimism and reassurance for me. Some kind of signal that our culture isn’t collapsing in on itself; folding into something rancid and inherently dismissive of the rights, needs and simple truths of the individual and those important to them.