Archive for August, 2009

looking at my scars

a little over a month ago i became a sang donor. i’d been intending to be a sang donor from the very beginning, when i first knocked on the doors of the vampire community. but as things go, even after i met (online) the vampire whose sang donor i was to become we couldn’t meet up for almost half a year, as opposed to the ten days i had hoped for when i started this blog.

it was during this waiting time that i became a psi-donor, and there’s a considerable number of posts detailing my experience as such. it was interesting and good while it lasted, but in the end it wound down. when it became obvious that my sang vamp became very upset with my donating to other vampires i was not unhappy to stop.

i was unable to write properly about my first experiences donating sang, which i regret. i wish now that i had a fresh memory of it to look back on. what i can do, and do often, is look at the scars i carry. i think i’m not healing as fast as i might, because even the needle-mark from the third donation* is still faintly visible on the back of my hand. maybe that’s just in my head though, because for some reason it seems like all the old scars (which are three to ten years old) have become more visible this month.

i think off and look at the other scars much more often. there’s two of them. one on the inside of my left elbow, from the first donation. it has two small blobs, which change colour from purple to red. a few very small patches have a different surface, where the teeth ripped away the very top layer of the skin. i remember them now, leaning down over the arm, cutting. i remember feeling a little scared, but wanting them to do it. i remember the pain which wasn’t pain. the amazement and wonder, actually being fed from, being consumed, being consumed by the other, becoming part of them. it was like nothing i’ve ever known, and i still don’t have the right words to describe it. but i want to go back to that, experience it again.

the other is on the outside of my right shoulder. there’s two marks running diagonally down to the right, another to the left, all less than an inch long, which are quite red. and interleaved with those, a dozen or more very fine lines in both directions, about two inches long. i look at it, and i remember unwrapping the blade, handing it to the vampire, i remember the first tentative cut, testing the blade, then the rapid careful slicing, like a tiny little line of ice/fire being drawn over the skin. then the blood pearling out, red beads on my skin, joining up, flowing down my arm. the look on the vampires face, the concentration, the fierce intent in their eyes. licking up my blood, drinking it down, sucking at it, squeezing it to make it bleed more, licking that off.

i do not think i have ever shared as intimate a moment with anybody in my life.

and now i’ve got the scars. i cherish them, they carry precious memories. i am proud that i may carry them. but still, i (and you, if you become a sang donor) must carry them publicly. i actually have no problem at all with the one in the elbow; i have not once tried to hide or disguise it.

the other scar is more complicated. i mentioned the old scars earlier; my left arm is covered in scars, a few hundred of them. they are self-inflicted, from self-injury. and the scar on the shoulder looks quite similar. so when i’m around parents, i cover it. what answer could i give to their question? that it’s self-injury? it’d be a lie, and make them worry. that i let myself be fed on by a vampire? i am ashamed of myself that i do not have the courage to brave this, that i hide the scar so. because i love the scar, it is beautiful to me.

*i described that donation earlier.

Advertisements

Laycock for the fourth

so i’m posting about Laycock again*, the fourth time actually, and somehow i think not the last. i finally ordered the book at the end of july; they said three weeks, but it hadn’t yet arrived in the store when i checked by today. they said they would text me when it arrived, “by the end of the months” – not much time, guys, that’s monday. i hope to have it, and have it read, by the time i visit my sang again, and i will certainly post a critical review of it here.

coincidentally yesterday also saw the publication of another interview with Laycock. i continue to be impressed by the lucid style of his writing, and really hope that will also be present in the book.

as i was also in chat, we talked a little bit about what the book might or might not bring. one thing which was regretted was that Laycock totally avoids the ontological question (or at least that is the very strong impression one gets). i’m not sure that is a bad thing; he is concentrating on that which he knows how to do – ethnography – and leaving aside that which he can’t say anything about, which is both the metaphysical and the biological aspects of vampirism. on the other hand, to really understand vampirism one would have to include those two aspects.

a possible analogy is gender and sex. if we write about gender we can write an awful lot about the social construction of gender, about identity politics, can do anthropological and ethnographic work, psychological studies. but sooner or later we are going to be confronted by biology. and for all that it was popular (for a while) to say that it was all social construction, that the only difference was gender, and sex was negligible, we’ve had to accept that biological sex is complicated and powerful and can not be dismissed. not only that, if we presume that it’s simple, or use ideologically tainted ideas of sex, our work on gender will be falsified and corrupted. consequently, we either have to very carefully delineate what we can write about – and stay conscious of that during our whole writing – or we have to study medicine and biology in some detail as well.**

when it comes to vampirism, we have that problem writ large. we have an identity of vampire, but then we have sanguinarian blood-drinking and the strong claim by many sangs that it is a physical, biological need. this issue would be open research – if vampirism were taken seriously by the medical community. even more intractable are the metaphysical questions about psi-feeding – we currently don’t have any scientific tools with which to examine the question, and are left with mystical or religious explanations.

with a masters in theological studies Laycock ought to be very aware of how far he can take the ethnographic approach, and where he has to admit that he doesn’t have the tools to talk about things. it is one of the most important lessons one learns when studying religion scientifically.

so yeah, i’m hopeful that the book will be good at what it’s supposed to be, i.e. vampire community and vampire identity, and will carefully acknowledge the questions it can’t deal with. and i promise that this is my last major post about Laycock’s book until i’ve read it.

*for those who don’t remember or are new to my blog/the vampire community, Joseph Laycock wrote “Vampires Today: the truth about modern vampirism“, an ethnographic study about real vampires. i’ve mentioned him in at least three previous posts.

**the same problem presents itself to people studying sex instead of gender, they too come to a point where they have to include gender in their studies.

the importance of community

i was hanging out in chat last night when a new person showed up. they were rather shy, wanting to talk with people about vampirism, not really daring to ask what was on their mind. we coaxed it out of them, with questions, jokes, links, snake feet*, opinions, guesses… in friendly chat fashion, as it were. they found that they were able to open up, to talk about their deep desire to drink another human’s blood, about the apparent impossibility of finding somebody who might let them do so; fairly common issues which most young blood-drinkers go through.

of course we couldn’t tell them that they are or are not a vampire; it is really only oneself who can decide what one is, after careful and prolonged introspection, and possibly some experiments with consuming blood and observing the effects it has on one. but i think the important element came much later, when they said what an incredible relief it was to be able to speak with people about wanting to drink blood and not to be seen as some kind of monster.

that, to me, is an incredibly important point. we, almost all of us, including a good number of donors, grew up different. what exactly the difference was varies. how exactly we experienced our difference varies too. but most of us got confronted with the idea that we are somehow wrong, we’ve been called sinful, and abominations, we’ve been told we are impossible, that we can’t exist, that we’re insane. many of us have experienced violence and live in fear because of our difference, and at the same time have been told or made to believe that we are dangerous, that we are monsters.

almost everybody who is different enough goes through this kind of experience; depending on where you live even a fairly small difference is enough to make you an outcast. for vampires with their need for blood (and to a lesser degree energy) the difference is huge, it confronts their surrounding society with some deeply embedded taboos. i know very few vampires who have not assimilated at least in part their social prohibitions against blood, who do not think themselves at least in part evil for what they do.

what the vampire community does is provide a space where it is okay for us, vampires and donors, to be what we are. where we can talk openly about our desires and needs, or at least where we can learn to be more free about what we say. it allows us a space to carefully examine what is going on with us, where our experiences aren’t just rejected with a blanket “that is bad” attitude. perhaps this sounds incredibly cliché, but it gives us a place where we can be ourselves. within the vampire community, we are normal, our experiences are shared and common. it gives us a space where we aren’t defined by our difference from everybody else, but where we can become self-defined and differentiated individuals.***

of course for a community to function this way it must be at least partially out. there’s going to have to be some – probably self-selected – spokes-people, some groups are going to have to take the brunt of being publicly different from the rest of society. these people and groups are often reviled, they are perceived as rocking the boat, of disturbing the peace, of making it more dangerous for everybody else who shares their difference. i can honestly understand that attitude; you’ve carefully figured out a way to fit in with society as best as you can, of minimizing the apparent difference, of appearing normal. and suddenly a sensationalist news report highlights exactly those differences which you’ve been trying to minimise. it can be a real danger, you might not be able to stand being outed, the consequences might well be unsupportable, be they economic or social or psychological.

but i still believe that having a visible community, that having places where people like our new friend in chat can go, that having spaces where we can openly explore who we are, that those things are such an advantage to so many people that they are worth the consequences of making some people a bit more visible who would have preferred not to be visible.

some people may take offence at my use of “we” in this post – i am after all not a vampire, i have a choice about being here. but i use the “we” as a full member of the vampire community. i also use “we” as a member of any other community which is significantly different from society – as a gay person, a trans person, a person dealing with mental illness; all of them situations and conditions which carry that same weight of being different which vampirism does, all of which are fighting their own struggles for acceptance, together with many other different people, all at different places in their progress. i believe that, in the current circumstances, both of those arguments allow me to use “we”.

*”snake feet” are a concept from John Crowley’s novel “Engine Summer”, they refer to dead ends in the labyrinthine structure of Little BelAir, leading from “Path” which goes all the way to its centre, but not going anywhere, but also to apparently significant parts of a story which, for the character the story is being told about, don’t go anywhere. Crowley** writes wonderful novels combining sci-fi, fables, and fairy-tales.

**J. Crowley, not to be confused with A. Crowley.

***of course within the community there will also be pressure to conform, but it is combined with an automatic lesson that one doesn’t need to conform.

donors aren’t “nice”

hey, another post immediately after the previous one! look below if you missed reading updates here.

today somebody called me “nice” and “kind” for being a donor. they were trying to express their appreciation of donors; donors in general more likely than of me specifically, as i have no intention of donating to that vampire. somehow that got me riled up.

for starters, donors aren’t “nice”. “nice”, in my mind, means “exact” and “precise”, one could add “neat” (as in “tidily finished up). the more general meaning of “good”, “pleasant”, “agreeable” which “nice” has acquired reflects the value which was put on exactitude and precision.

donoring is almost never exact and precise, not to mention neat. there is blood and blades and lips and tongues and teeth and violence and injury and scabs and scars and dirty bandages and disease and accidents and just generally a huge mess. and that’s not even starting to get involved in the feelings and motivations of both the vamp and the donor involved.

because a heck of a lot of donors aren’t exactly doing it out of kindness either. some donors are doing it out of kindness; in an earlier post i called them compassionate donors, a vampire i spoke with called them “damn pity donors”. but many, i would even hazard a guess and say the majority of donors who are actually active in the community* have much more complex motivations behind their donoring than simple kindness. i might even add that the ones who claim to do it out of pure altruistic kindness weird me out.

i might not be able to say why exactly i’m a donor, but i know that it’s damn well not out of simple kindness.

*that remains to be shown, it’s a project i’m planning

shifting

here’s a new subject, after having been away from here for some time. i’ve not been in the mood for writing about vampires and donoring.

as some of you who know me already know, i am therian (i’ll find a few links about the concept soon). therian is short for therianthrope, i.e. an animal (greek: therios) in a human (greek: anthropos) body. most of the time i function as a normal human. but often i feel my other body, or at least i feel sensations which would correspond to my animal body. amongst therians we call that a phantom-shift, possibly in allusion to phantom-limbs experienced by amputees. every so often i experience a mental shift; i lose a large part of my capacity for human thoughts and feelings, which are replaced by the very different feelings and thoughts which belong to my theriotype (the type of animal i am). sometimes these are fleeting moments, sometimes they last longer; sometimes they are shallow and i might barely be aware of being shifted, at other times they’re so deep that hardly any vestiges of human-ness remain. the worst shifts i’ve experienced have left me incapable of any kind of human interaction – not even basic speech – for hours.

when reading this you might think that this sounds pretty cool. i and others like me get to experience what it’s like to be something other than human. we’re almost like were-wolves and other such shape-shifters. but it’s really not that fun. on one level it’s very frustrating; imagine waking up every day and finding yourself in the “wrong” body, imagine being able to feel your huge wings, to feel the wind playing in them, but still not being able to jump from the roof of a building. even walking upright on two legs can be terribly frustrating when your senses tell you that you ought to be sprinting on four legs.

it gets worse. shifts can be very pleasant and self-affirming experiences. but rather more often they hit you out of the blue, often in situations where you really don’t want to shift (in the middle of a conversation, while out doing the shopping…). they take you over completely, tear you out of whatever you were doing, throw you into this other world. very often you’ll need to excuse yourself, or you’ll upset the people you were with. there’s very few people outside of the therian community you can even talk to about it, let alone seek understanding from. yet you need those people, because shifting can be very demanding both emotionally and intellectually.

and i haven’t even talked about the physical effects. i’m not talking about physical shifts – pretty much all sane members of the community agree that they are impossible (we all dream about what if they actually were possible). but when i experience a phantom shift, my body tenses up; it tries to move and behave in a way to conform to how the mind it hosts believes it should. this happens even more strongly when phantom and mental shifts happen together. i get massively sore shoulders from trying to support my wings, my fingers curl into rigid claws which make it difficult to manipulate even simple objects (try typing with your fingers locked into claw-shape) which are painful on the joints and lead to cramps in the arms.

if i could be just human or just dragon it would certainly be easier. yet this is what i and most other therians have to deal with. sometimes it leads us to being a bit agressive about who and what we are when we’re questionned or the reality of our experience is put into doubt. because frankly it’s a pain in the ass. yet it is what i am, what we are. so we deal with it.

p.s. no, it’s not always as terrible as i describe. sometimes being therian is pretty awesome. but i’ve just come out of a very unpleasant mental and phantom shift, and that’s my current feelings.