Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.

In Which I Grope for a Linear Path from Beginning to End, But Real Life Is Too Technically and Brilliantly Complicated for That

Oh my dear lord. It just hit me. I am in the midst of my periodic madness. I used to deny that my hormones could have such an effect on me. I saw it as a sign of immense weakness to admit that my physical self could have such power over me mentally. As women, we are being indoctrinated with the idea that any lack of absolute control over our own bodies, hearts, and minds represents great weakness.

This kind of thinking has started to royally piss me off.

When I was a little girl, I was told to keep all my sadness, fear, anger, and depression behind the door to my bedroom. Not just figuratively, but right out loud and in these words, I was told: Nobody likes a girl who isn't happy. Girls who aren't smiling in public will be lonely, because no one likes a girl who isn't smiling. Little girls who aren't smiling are ugly. Now, go to your room and don't come out until you can show a happy face. Frankly, if you don't think that's demented, fuck you and the sociopathic horse you rode in on.

This incident, which was repeated occasionally throughout my growing years and even a handful of times in my adulthood so far, taught me a few unsavoury and life-altering things, the first of which was that not only should I hide my true emotions publicly but also that I should hide them from those closest to me (at the time, by default, it was my family). It was not only a matter of others not being interested in anything more passionate than my accommodating smile, but it was also a matter of inconvenience. It was inconvenient for others to even have knowledge of what I held behind my smile. To impress upon a girl that anything she feels just left of positive is no more than an inconvenience to others and should be stifled is idiotic.

I spent years, and still find myself battling, this idea that it is essentially me who is not wanted. Even at that young age, I knew that there was a vast difference between the me that the outside world experienced and the me that I experienced internally. The idea that the one I knew most intimately was wrong in some way, out of place, unwanted, inconvenient, and shameful led me to see myself, all of me, as being less than desirable. Inside and out, both mentally and physically, I was essentially unwanted. Knowing what I knew about how even those closest to me preferred to not have to see any other face than the one they had ordered, I began to believe that others could never love me or even like me. I, meaning the real me, the internal me, was essentially wrong.

I also learned that it was expected that I exert a fanatical level of control over my own emotional and psychological states to keep them in check and that damn smile wrestled into position. I learned to keep not only my feelings but also my thoughts and ideas to myself. These things often overlapped in a messy fashion, and I did not want to experience the Frown of Disapproval™, which later became the even less desirable Frown of Concern™ when my cracks started to show. My body became a prison. It ferried me from place to place and housed the me that had been relegated to the nether reaches of my internal world. It gave forth smiles and fought back my true desires.

(Do not let me lead you to believe that this is all it took for my body to become a prison. Other abuses helped that along to greater and lesser extents, as well).

As much as I tried to keep myself hidden, bits kept escaping. Poetry and fiction that I had written were left out on a table, which were then passed around to several others without my consent. On the one hand, I was supposed to hide everything but my smile, but on the other hand, I was supposed to know when I was supposed to let something out into the open. I felt like I should either let everything out or keep everything in, because I didn't know how to discern anymore between acceptable and unacceptable. I chose to keep to my already well-worn path, because the older I became, the more things I had inside that I felt no one would want to see.

Originally, I kept things to myself and screamed alone into pillows or wrote awful poetry or escaped into novels or hid out on the roof of my house. I had not yet married together my effort to hide with a deep and personal sense of shame about the things I was hiding. The shame happened when what I could and could not show was no longer being edited by the outside world but was being edited by me. A slow shift happened, and once I took over the reins, I knew instinctively which things to keep to myself.

At just the point where I was learning what I could do creatively and what my personality was really like and how it felt to gain some independence, I was working overtime to bury the things that I now saw as unacceptable, too. So many things became signs of personal failure when I was unable to properly suppress them: my long-time depression, my drive to write out my heart, my burgeoning ambi-sexuality, my inability to feel essentially female (what a trial that was), my falling out with Christianity, and whatever other pre- to just post-pubescent troubles I was suffering through. I did not seem capable of this control that I was supposed to be able to exert, the smiling face that should have been so well-practiced as to be second-nature by then.

Finding myself feeling, if not exactly out of control, then controlled by what I felt were emotional vices, I sought power over myself elsewhere. It's an old story. I went through periods of starvation. I went through periods of overeating. I ate vitamins in place of food and food in place of squashed emotion and burned myself when the squashed emotion wouldn't stay squashed. I was diagnosed at various times a paranoid schizophrenic, a manic depressive, and a schizoid affective. I went on medication to stop feeling bad and then went off medication so that I could feel.

And then, I just got so sick of it all. As time moved on, I couldn't help but let more and more of myself show. I had my first public girlfriend. I talked about my problems with friends. I took to wearing combat boots and shaving my head. I stopped letting my mother guilt me into going to church. I was taking my first steps away from being an emotional and psychological shut-in.

All of that was seven to ten years ago, but I am still shadowed and occasionally plagued by this feeling that the me I am and have always been is somehow essentially wrong. That I should hide. That I should never open my mouth to speak. That I am ugly to the eye. That no one wants to know me, no matter how much I want to know them. This thinking is what is wrong, and I know that, but it is a tough weed to ferret out and destroy.

But back to my original beef... Females in this culture are taught that it is weakness to let our emotions or our bodies play the active roles in our lives that they are meant to play. Fighting ourselves in this way serves to undermine so much of who we are, and it takes its toll. When parts of ourselves become personal adversaries, we learn to dislike those parts, even when those parts are as essential to who we are as the minds we use to wage these battles.

So, I admit it. I am a raging ball of hormonal confliction at the moment, but this is not a confession of weakness. Along with the wilder emotions and a raised level of social paranoia, it has its perks. Women aren't told what the perks are, because the perks might actually lead us to enjoy the condition of being female. I am mentally sharper, wittier; I am more clear and less apologetic about what I like, need, or want; my orgasms are more powerful; my sense of smell is finer; my dreams are brighter and louder and longer; I am more distinctly aware of my body and its functions; I hide less and say fuck more. To deny that the workings of my body and my mind affect me is to deny their power to enlighten me, to change me, to move me. To deny them is to accept the predominant misogynist ideology that the very things that differentiate me from the male sex are weaknesses to at least be denied if not overcome.

To all the people who gave me the message that being a girl meant smiling and being accommodating and socially convenient, stuck in a permanent state of self-denial for the sake of everyone else: FUCK YOU. No kidding. I mean it.

This week, I'm a wildly dreaming, witty, unapologetic bitch. And I love it.


The Principia Discordia, because why not stroll through something that has nothing to do with you.

Learn about your idioms.

Andrew Sullivan says that iPods are another step in the narrowing of our lives.

I've linked to this before, but I do so like BookCrossing.

If you do not already know about Project Gutenberg, then you should go there.

The creepy images always hook me.

The Psychedelic Library.

A Visit to Cosmopolis as Seen from Inside a String of Restaurants (and Some Pinter)

Tulips, The Full Moon, Still Withholding, Me All Me, and Some Collins