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This the second post of my new Trope of the Week Series.

Tropes are conventions (or repeated patterns) used in storytelling. They can include themes and plot devices. Underdog characters triumphing after dedicated training is an example of a trope, as is goodness being associated with physical beauty, and villains revealing their secret plans to heroes they have just captured.

Some tropes reinforce oppressive messages, and in this series I will be going through a list harmful tropes that are used in the representation of disabled characters. Because knowing what to do is just as important as knowing what not to do, I will end each post with suggestions for ways to fix things.

This series an expansion of my list of Common Harmful Representations of Disability from my Guidelines for Game Masters page.

This picture illustrates two common tropes in the depiction of disability. On the left is a black and white photograph of an empty wheelchair on a road as a semi-transparent person walks away down the road. On the right is a life-sized plastic statue of Captain Hook.

This picture illustrates two common tropes in the depiction of disability. On the left is a black and white photograph of an empty wheelchair on a road as a semi-transparent person walks away down the road. On the right is a life-sized plastic statue of Captain Hook.

 

Bitter Disability

This is the pattern of portraying disabled characters as deeply bitter about their lives and their disabilities. Shakespeare’s Richard III is a classic example of this life-consuming bitterness. This pattern of bitterness is frequently combined with other stereotypical depictions, such as characters who are villainous, pathetic, helpless, a burden, self-defeating, or even self-destructive.

When a bitter disabled character is a villain, as is the case for Richard III, their bitterness is typically an important cause of their evil. Sometimes they are getting revenge on the world for their misfortune of being disabled (whether they were born with a disability, or they became disabled later in life). Other times the character simply decides, in a horrifying twist of logic, that because they can’t be a hero, they must be a villain.

Underneath all this bitterness is the assumption that disability is a terrible, life-destroying tragedy that prevents people from having fulfilling lives. After all, if these characters did have fulfilling lives, they would have no reason for bitterness. In addition, the idea that a disabled character would choose to be a villain simply because they inherently can’t be a hero is toxic and comes from the false idea that disabled people can’t accomplish meaningful and heroic things.

What to do instead:

Be cautious about creating a disabled character who is bitter. Think about what the purpose of the character’s bitterness is and if it is actually necessary. What does it accomplish for the story? Be particularly cautious if their bitterness is connected to any other stereotypical traits like being villainous, pathetic, helpless, a burden, or self-defeating.

If bitterness is an important part of the character, be sure that there is a clear cause for their bitterness that it is not simply the fact that they are disabled. There are a lot of things that a character could be bitter about. For example, they could be bitter about politics, or their messed up family, or even the biased way they that are treated because of stereotypes about their disability (please be sure to make this distinct from being bitter about their disability). Also, because bitterness is such a common representation of disability, I strongly recommend having other disabled characters in the story who are not bitter.

The best way to avoid sending the message that disability destroys a person’s life is to make sure that disabled characters have meaningful lives. Every disabled character should have more to their life than just their disability. What activities do they do? Do they have a hobby, job, or volunteer position? Who is in their life? Do they have a romance, caring friends, or a supportive community? Even if a character is struggling in some ways, there should be meaningful things in their life.

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New Fairy Tale Podcast!

In the fourth segment of The Wishing Dildo Series, the adventure continues as we find out more about the mysterious and regal Jewel. Then the six companions take a secret detour to the Kingdom of Waterfalls. This story is followed by a discussion about trauma in which I talk about myth, reality, resilience, healing, and community with artist, activist, disabled survivor iconoclast billie rain. This discussion goes deep places, but it also has a lot of laughter too.

At this point in the Wishing Dildo story, the effect of trauma in the lives of the characters is starting to become apparent (although still portrayed subtly), so I wanted to start a conversation about trauma and how it affects people. Far too often stories either ignore trauma or treat it as terrible thing that destroys a person’s life forever. It is my goal to portray my characters as whole people who are impacted by the things they go through, but who are also strong and capable. I’m very excited that billie rain joined me for this conversation and brought both wisdom and laughter to it.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

The story for this episode is a segment of The Wishing Dildo Part 1: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that is true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on a quest for it. As they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

Listen now!

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This the first post of my Trope of the Week Series.

Tropes are conventions (or repeated patterns) used in storytelling. They can include themes and plot devices. Underdog characters triumphing after dedicated training is an example of a trope, as is goodness being associated with physical beauty, and villains revealing their secret plans to heroes they have just captured.

Some tropes reinforce oppressive messages, and in this series I will be going through a list harmful tropes that are used in the representation of disabled characters. Because knowing what to do is just as important as knowing what not to do, I will end each post with suggestions for ways to fix things.

This series an expansion of my list of Common Harmful Representations of Disability from my Guidelines for Game Masters page.

This picture illustrates two common tropes in the depiction of disability. On the left a toy Darth Vader points at the audience. On the right a silhouetted person stands, raising two crutches over their head in a triumph pose.

This picture illustrates two common tropes in the depiction of disability. On the left a toy Darth Vader points at the audience. On the right a silhouetted person stands, raising two crutches over their head in a triumph pose.

 

Villainous Disability

A disproportionate number of disabled characters are villains. Including prominent examples like Darth Vader and Captain Hook, the disabilities of these villains are used to make them more sinister and intimidating. Usually this is done by emphasizing the character’s disability in a way that draws on the idea that disabled bodies are broken, deformed, or less human, something that is exemplified in Obi Wan Kenobi’s description of Darth Vader as, “more machine now than man, twisted and evil.”

Another version of villainous disability is the mentally ill villain so often used in horror films and thrillers. Here mental illness is used to make the villain seem more threatening. This pattern is harmful because it perpetuates the idea that mental illness is inherently dangerous.

What to do instead:

If you want to create a villain with a disability, it is important to recognize that people with disabilities are over represented as villains. This by itself can be harmful, so the first thing to do is make sure that the villain isn’t the only character with a disability in the story.

Also, think carefully about why the villain has a disability and what role that disability plays in the story. The disability should in no way be used to represent the villain’s evil nature or to otherwise make them appear more sinister and intimidating. Instead, I recommend that the disability simply be a fact of the villain’s life that they live with; their disability affects them but is neither the cause of their evil nor a symbol of it.

 

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This is the sixth and final bite-size chapter of “The Wishing Dildo Part 1!”

Summary: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that is true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on a quest for it. As they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

Note: This story contains some sexual humor.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

The Wishing Dildo Part 1: Six Companions

Chapter 6

This story is continuing from Chapter 5, which you can read here.

Soon the climate became warmer and wetter. Lush growth was everywhere, and the fields were full of fruit, corn, rice, and beans, as well as market crops like sugar cane, coffee, and cocoa. Here the houses were made of wood and stone, with steep roofs to shed rain. Naturally, the people here wore fewer layers, though they did favor bright colors and bold patterns.

It rapidly became clear that this was a culture that valued respect, particularly for elders and those of high status. Respect also played an important role in decision making, and it was customary for the whole community to be consulted before any decisions were made. Consequently, decisions took longer to make, but they were usually good ones that met the needs of the entire community. Despite this formality, or perhaps because of it, the people were very friendly with those they considered equals and could often be seen exchanging hugs and talking animatedly.

As they traveled, Min rode constantly by Jewel’s side, asking questions, making comments, and showering her with enthusiastic attention in an attempt to help Jewel feel at ease. Unfortunately, Min’s efforts had the opposite effect. What’s more, Jewel was too worried about hurting Min’s feelings to say anything to her about it.

Thus the uncomfortable situation continued until Tomás decided to intervene. He said, “Tala, I don’t believe that Min has heard your story about the time you rode a flying trunk up to an enchanted garden in the sky.”

Continue Reading »

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The talented Caitlin Scannell has created this amazing cover image for “The Wishing Dildo” story depicting the characters Jewel and Min each using their magical powers. I am so excited to be finally sharing this image with you!

Curious about the story behind this image, check out “The Wishing Dildo Part 1: Six Companions.”

This full-color illustration depicts the characters Jewel and Min standing back to back. Jewel, a tall black woman wearing elegant purple clothing embroidered with gold, stands on the left as she tosses a handful of gemstones into the air. Min, a short tan Chinese woman wearing simple green and brown clothing, stands on the right as she blowing a swirling gust of air. The words "The Wishing Dildo" are written in ornamental golden letters. Illustration by Caitlin Scannell.

This full-color illustration depicts the characters Jewel and Min standing back to back. Jewel, a tall black woman wearing elegant purple clothing embroidered with gold, stands on the left as she tosses a handful of gemstones into the air. Min, a short tan Chinese woman wearing simple green and brown clothing, stands on the right as she blowing a swirling gust of air. The words “The Wishing Dildo” are written in ornamental golden letters. Illustration by Caitlin Scannell.

 

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Today’s discussion with spiritual atheist Kathleen Lamothe is a deep and far ranging Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) inspired conversation about music, addiction, anger, health, diverse minds, psychology, and happiness.

This was such a great conversation and it covered so many important topics connected to mental and emotional health. This episode also includes a demo track of a new song, “No Self,” by Kathleen’s band, Screaming Queens. I am really excited to share this with all of you!

This graphic is a two-dimensional depiction of a brain created out of a varied group of pictorial emoticons. These emoticons vary in size and include: hearts, spirals, fire, diamonds, dragons, the sun, the earth, the moon, snowflakes, foot prints, skulls, and water droplets.

This graphic is a two-dimensional depiction of a brain created out of a varied group of pictorial emoticons. These emoticons vary in size and include: hearts, spirals, fire, diamonds, dragons, the sun, the earth, the moon, snowflakes, foot prints, skulls, and water droplets.

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This is the fifth bite-size chapter of The Wishing Dildo series!

Summary: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that is true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on a quest for it. As they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

Note: This story contains some sexual humor.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

The Wishing Dildo Part 1: Six Companions

Chapter 5

This story is continuing from Chapter 4, which you can read here.

The day was hot and sunny, so, at midday, they decided to stop and eat their meal in the shade of a dense clump of trees a short distance from a crossroads, which, not so coincidentally, would also serve to block their magical tent from view. However, when they entered the grove of trees, they were surprised to find a regal, fat, onyx-skinned woman with smooth features, high cheekbones, and a crown of ebony braids sitting on a stump, bandaging her feet. She was wearing sturdy but ill-fitting clothing, and next to her was a stiff pair of boots that was clearly far too big for her.

When she saw the five of them, the woman gasped and dropped the bandages she had been holding onto the ground.

Well, the moment that Min saw the regal stranger, she was instantly smitten with her, and no sooner had the woman dropped the bandages than Min had leapt off her horse to run over and help pick them up. “Let me help you with those! Oh dear, some of these need to be washed. These three should be all right, though—they didn’t touch the ground! And, oh! This one too! Not this one though, or these two…”

“I’m fine, thank you,” the woman said firmly. “I can get the rest myself.”

“It’s no trouble!” Min said cheerfully, and she continued picking up bandages despite the woman’s attempts to block her. “I’m happy to—Oh my! Are those rubies?!”

Continue Reading »

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I’m a Sexual Asexual

Note that this article contains frank talk about sexuality.

This picture is a flag that is based on the asexuality flag (which is four stripes with black at the top, then gray, white, and purple on the bottom), but which has a large triangle in the middle where the color order is reversed (purple on the top and black on the bottom). This is the aegosexual/autochorissexual flag. I am using it here because I think the flag looks awesome and because there aren’t any other flags out there that are a better fit for me.

This picture is a flag that is based on the asexuality flag (which is four stripes with black at the top, then gray, white, and purple on the bottom), but which has a large triangle in the middle where the color order is reversed (purple on the top and black on the bottom). This is the aegosexual/autochorissexual flag. I am using it here because I think the flag looks awesome and because there aren’t any other flags out there that are a better fit for me.

I am in my mid thirties and it was only in the past couple of years that I figured out that I’m asexual. Knowing this, finally, a lot of things make sense. Like, for example, how I spent almost a decade in queer inclusive communities before I figured out that I am queer. Or why receiving sexual stimulation never really worked for me.

My earliest memory of my sexual orientation comes from high school. I was part of a Gay Straight Alliance and I remember publicly identifying as straight while privately feeling that straight didn’t really fit me. (This was before I realized that I am genderqueer, so at the time I thought that I was a woman even though that label didn’t fit right either.) I remember telling myself that my discomfort with the term straight was probably just privilege. After all, becoming aware of one’s privilege can be seriously uncomfortable and I was attracted to men (mildly and on rare occasions).

The thing was that at the time I couldn’t tell I was attracted to women because in USA culture everyone is trained to look at women and appreciate how they look. That’s how mild my attractions are; when I was a teenager I couldn’t tell that I was attracted to women because the culture had trained me to look at and notice women.

And while it would seem like my experience of almost nonexistent sexual attraction combined with exposure to the LGBTQIA+ umbrella would have lead me down the road to discovering my asexuality in college, what I actually discovered in college was my deep connection to sexuality.

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In this third podcast segment of The Wishing Dildo Series, the adventure continues as we get to know Anissa, and then the five companions visit the temperamental rulers of the Gilded Kingdom. The story is followed by a discussion about brain diversity, mental health, and the gifts and struggles of ADHD with spiritual atheist Kathleen Lamothe.

I wanted to have a discussion about ADHD when the character Min was first introduced in the previous podcast, but that was also the episode where Anissa was introduced and it was important for me to address myths about sex work in that episode. That is why I saved the discussion about Min’s ADHD for this episode and I think it worked out perfectly because Min plays a really prominent role in this episode and there was a lot to talk about!

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

The story for this episode is a segment of The Wishing Dildo Part 1: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that is true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on a quest for it. As they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

Listen now!

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This is the fourth bite-size chapter of The Wishing Dildo series!

Summary: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that is true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on a quest for it. As they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

Note: This story contains some sexual humor.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

The Wishing Dildo Part 1: Six Companions

Chapter 4

This story is continuing from Chapter 3, which you can read here.

That evening, they reached the bank of the Placid River, where they made camp. The following morning, they hired a barge to take them south, then west down the river to the capital.

Once they had boarded, gotten the horses settled, and cast off, there was nothing for the passengers to do but watch the scenery as they glided south through the bustling countryside. This was a big challenge for Min, because, without the immediacy of horseback riding, there wasn’t anything to take her mind off her curiosity about Anissa. And Min’s mind was bursting with questions—questions that she held back because Anissa didn’t seem to like being questioned and Min didn’t want to be rude.

So Min tried to focus on the scenery, and as she did so, the barge passed through a field of people with their heads bent, hard at work with their weeding hooks. Before the rest of her mind had caught up with her, Min asked, “Do you ever wonder why they call it ‘planting the parsnip’ when people don’t even plant parsnip roots? I mean, they sow seeds, right? AND parsnip roots don’t look that much like penises. They are all wide at the base and super pointy at the tip. Carrots are more like it, but you don’t plant grown carrots either, so maybe it should be something like ‘washing the carrot?’ Except that you wash carrots with your hands, which is a different kind of action, so maybe something like ‘baking the carrot’ or ‘stuffing the carrot into the roast?’”

Anissa laughed and said, “I don’t think there’s much logic to euphemisms.”

Min gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh no! I’m not supposed to ask you questions, am I?”

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