Friday, April 29, 2011

If Not Within Myself, Where?

Well, time for an embarrassing confession: I'm a writer. Not a professional writer, a published writer, or even necessarily a good writer. Just a writer. I write fiction and poetry, and I'm enrolled in a creative writing class this semester, which is one of the reason this has been a stressful, but rewarding, semester.
Part of the experience of a creative writing class is having your stories work-shopped, and so far, I've had glowing reviews of the stories I have submitted, often being praised for my "unusual" or "unique" viewpoints and characters, which is pretty much the best darn critique I could ask for.
But I also get asked a lot about why my characters seem to "live inside their heads". Of the stories I have submitted, most of them have had characters either alone and talking to themselves or imaginary people, or else they are with other people, but observe with an inner monologue more than engage in dialogue with other characters, save on vanishingly rare occasions.
I don't do it on purpose. I don't set out attempting to write the next Dexter, I promise. My writing isn't nearly witty enough. But the problem is, most of my life is contained within my head. I limit the amount of talking I do on purpose (Though I still would be considered a chatterbox by most) because I know most people aren't interested in it. As a result, I spend most of my time thinking, and observing. So, it seems natural to me to write characters who spend a majority of their time observing. When I do write dialogue, I try my best, and I am more than capable of writing a variety of characters who are much more loud, chatty, rambunctious and social, but something always feels like it's missing, or I am misinterpreting something. I don't know how to make it leap off the page the way some of my observations for the characters do.
At first, this bothered me greatly. But as the workshop has progressed, I feel two things have improved: My dialogue writing, and my attitude towards my weakness in dialogue writing. After all, I firmly believe that one of the best parts of reading a variety of authors from different backgrounds is that you get different perspectives. Put ten writers together and give them a premise, and ten of them will give a different story. When I thought of this, I realized that my neurotype didn't mean I could never be a good writer. It just meant I'd be another type of writer. It may not be my strong suit, but there is nothing wrong with writing what I know and how I know to communicate.
After the class is over, I intend to submit my work, with a bit more dialogue sprinkled in, but I hope that the editors, the powers that be, will maybe appreciate a story which is more withdrawn and less action-packed than average. After all, as many different authors as there are out there, there are even more different types of readers to reach.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The biggest example of "Dude, Not Funny" in the history of local newspaper cartoons?

Trigger Warning for discussions of depictions of domestic abuse

Like many a liberal arts college with a strong journalism program, my university has a student paper. As far as student papers go, it's not bad, and the layout has changed to be a bit more clean and professional since I was a freshman. It's usually got a few typos and the columns aren't always top quality, but I am not expecting the London Times or anything. It also gained some notoriety for a sex column a while ago, owing to the pearl-clutching ridiculousness of an overly right-wing, prudish professor. The sad thing is, while that gained nationwide attention and sparked a huge campus dialogue, what I am about to complain about probably won't even register on most people's radars.
I read the paper every day, from cover-to-cover. It's a good way to not only catch up on the news going 'round the university, but I get also a good laugh out of the Police Blotter and a few of the other lighter features. I also get to remind myself as to why I no longer major in journalism.
Today while reading the paper, I came across an editorial cartoon which isn't available on the internet, but which I'll describe here for your consideration. This is from memory, so bear with me, it may not be 100% perfect total recall, but the gist of it:
It pictured a woman who was visibly battered and bruised sitting on a bench with two police officers, one male, one female, and one of the police officers says, "Calm down, now tell me what he did?" and the woman replies, "He just kept hitting me with student fee after student fee!" The caption of the cartoon reads, "Not even the SARC (Student Assault Resource Center) could prepare for the greatest abuse on campus!"
What. The Ever Loving Fuck.
So, not only did they use graphic and disgusting imagery of violence against a woman, they tastelessly used it to promote the idea that paying $5 for a PIRG or an Athletic fee is comparable to the horror of undergoing domestic violence and battery. They even had the audacity to add a dollop of localized awful to the tasteless confection by bringing in the university's SARC, whose services have been utilized by countless women here who have survived the trauma of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and battery.
I didn't think there's anything I can add to this. The tastelessness and outright nasty arrogance of the cartoonist seems clear to me, but since this comic was created and greenlighted to be put in the paper in the first place, I'll say this:
Just as it is wrong for the Tea Party to compare taxation to rape, it is equally wrong, on many levels, for one to insinuate that there is any comparison between going to college and being asked to pay some extra money (A few of the student fees are refundable by the way, or you can opt out of them) to pay for programs on campus, and being violently assaulted. I am a survivor of abuse, and the lingering horror, post traumatic stress disorder, and plethora of issues with intimacy, loving, and trust cannot be flippantly used as a vehicle to whine about your wallet hurting slightly.
Or, to put it more succincty:
Shame on you for printing this, student paper. If I had my way, the cartoonist and entire editorial staff would be spending a week volunteering at the local YWCA, so they could get a taste of the pain and suffering domestic abuse survivors go through, if it would prevent them from ever thinking this is okay in the future.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sex & The Spectrum: One Asexual Partner & One Sexual Partner

For many relationships, sex is the glue that keeps people together and ensures good workings in most other aspects of the relationship. And let's face it, sex is good for you. It's a stress reliever, a form of exercise, it helps you sleep better... What a wonderful thing! (Also applies to masturbation)
But what happens when you have a relationship where one of the partners is asexual (Also known as nonsexual)? Well, I'm about to tell you, from personal experience.
My girlfriend is asexual. In her terms, that just means she has absolutely no interest in sexual intercourse. She has no qualms about other forms of intimacy (She gives the BEST hugs!) or affection, and we love stimulating each other through touch, such as squeezing each other, hugging, rubbing up against one another, kissing, and holding hands, and we both love deep pressure. Light pressure, like tickling or light touching, overstimulates her however, so we avoid doing it.
She didn't tell me that she was not interested in sex when we first started dating, I assumed that we would have sex when we were ready. I was quite surprised she didn't request sex.
Eventually she told me why things weren't going as I expected, and, to be honest, I wasn't very open minded. I suggested that it may have a biological source, such as lacking in hormones, or some sort of sexual dysfunction, and pressured her to see a sexologist so that she could try viagra (my girlfriend is trans) or some other drug to see if it would bring about sexual desire. She wasn't enthused about this idea at all, and tried to explain to me that it wasn't something caused by a deficiency, it was just the way she was. She used the word "asexual" to explain it, which I was only familiar with in a purely biological sense.
Before I saw her again, I looked up information on asexuality online. One person, who, sadly, I can't remember, compared an asexual POV to that of the average human being visiting a planet where everyone has an obsessive eyebrow fetish. You're fine with eyebrows, but can't understand why everyone else is so obsessed with them. There are entire magazines devoted to eyebrows, television shows, and constant discussion about how to best approach talking about eyebrows. Wouldn't you be baffled too?
That helped me develop a better understanding of what was going through her mind, and why our sex life wasn't what I had originally expected. To resolve anything else I was feeling about the situation, I talked to her about what my wants and needs were, and she and I are continuing a dialogue to come to an understanding as to how to best work through my desire for sex, but wanting to respect her lack of desire, and her trying to satisfy my sexual needs but not have to do anything she is uncomfortable with.
We're still working on it; there's no perfect solution. Fortunately, the need for intimate touch and contact is addressed happily, since we both want and appreciate physical touch, and that aspect is fulfilled. But it's not easy, for either of us, and is an ongoing journey of balance. On my side, I have to find other ways to fulfil my sex drive, such as becoming a regular at Babeland, and dealing with lingering feelings of hurt and inadequacy, feeling that it is somehow my fault that my girlfriend isn't attracted to me sexually.
But I believe, in spite of these road bumps, that it is more than possible for a relationship between an asexual person and a sexual person to be successful, happy, and celebrated. The key is the same as any relationship, communication with your partner and sharing what you want out of each other.
Above all else though, there's a certain amount of happiness to dating an asexual over dating a sexual person. I can always sleep at night knowing that there is something more than my looks or sex appeal which my girlfriend loves about me. She constantly praises non-surface qualities she adores in me which amaze her each day, and she is 100% genuine and true when uttering them. Sexual people can do this too, and in my opinion, should do this more often. There's also the fact that we are, at the very core of our relationship, best friends. There is no worry that our relationship is devoid of any meaning beyond the sex, no anxiety over running out of things to talk about, or falling short conversationally.
All in all, the best words to describe a sexual/asexual relationship: Refreshing, rebellious, and full of the most special and intimate of love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon

Originally posted at my Goodreads Account. The original review can be found here. Also: If you don't have a goodreads account, and you're an active reader like me, I highly recommend it.

***Spoiler Alert***
Immediately after finishing The Speed of Dark, I was forced to sit down in a quiet corner for a few minutes and cry, shivering and trying to bring myself "back to planet earth" so to speak. That's how upset I was, as an autistic person, by Lou, the protagonist, meeting such a fate. There are very few adult autistic protagonists out there for me to relate to. The one I have been most strongly influenced by is Lisbeth Salander, of the Millennium Trilogy. Lou Arrendale, of The Speed of Dark, had great promise as another one that I could relate to. But, by the end of the novel, he is no longer Lou as I knew him in the rest of the novel. He had completely transformed into an unrecognisable neurotypical, because he had elected to have a new treatment which made him "normal", in the words of the book.
It's an upsetting, horrible realization of what was inevitable all along; in a society that did not respect Lou's disability, it would be only a matter of time before he was pressured by one thing or another into accepting the "cure" that was made available in the story.
But that doesn't mean that this was a bad book, or that Elizabeth Moon, the author, was condoning the disablist notion that autistic people would be better with a cure. Far from it. Lou's fate is tragic, and she makes this clear. He loses interest in the things he loves doing, he becomes detached from his friends, and his life takes on a bland desperation.
It leaves a grim impression towards the end, but before it slid down that sad road, I greatly enjoyed my journey with Lou, and felt great sympathy for him, living in such an uncertain world for people like him. I can relate as another autistic person who is extremely disturbed by the eliminationist rhetoric which surrounds conversations about autism in the mainstream. In one way, I envied the world Lou inhabited, because he received workplace accommodations I could only dream of. But he was in a hellish world for me, the last of his kind, and facing a future where it is certain that after he dies (or is "cured") there will be no more like him. There are no autistic elders for him to seek consolation or advice from, and no autistic children to guide and offer help to. A true nightmare, being an endangered species.
Lou seems content with many aspects of his life though, and has friends who are both neurotypical and autistic like him. He holds down a job doing pattern recognition, and is given the necessary tools to have a job, like a gym to stim, colourful accessories for his office, and breaks to listen to music. Heavenly.
However, in the eyes of one of his bosses, this is considered a nuisance, and he seeks to "cure" the auties working for his company in order to minimize what he sees as unnecessary expenses, to fund an expensive space project. This space project ends up being a sort of Chekhov's Gun for Lou after he is given the treatment, it is significant that it is the original catalyst in pushing for him to be cured.
As the novel progresses and it becomes unclear whether Mr Crenshaw, the boss, will have his way with the autistic employees, Lou's life is revealed to be one of orderly calm. It is disrupted, however, by this news of Mr Crenshaw's scheme, and his love for a neurotypical woman, which becomes a central point of his life as he grapples with whether to ask her out or not, and he feels the fallout of another man's jealousy, which takes a violent turn.
There are many other plot points in the story which seem unresolved or are simply dropped once Lou is "cured"; his relationship with a neuro-atypical woman named Emmy who sneers at him for hanging around "normals", but seems to harbour a crush on him, the autistic brother of another boss, Mr Aldrin, and the potential Lou has to become a fencing champion. All sort of sputter and die once the treatment drops the ball.
The writing isn't what I would call airtight, I mentioned earlier broken threads, and there is some meandering to the writing, and sometimes tangents which don't advance the story or plot, such as when Lou contemplates the fate of someone who attacked him. In this century, there's a rather Alex DeLarge style treatment used which cures violent impulses of criminals, and Lou spends much time musing on the implications of such technology, but never really comes to a fine point on how this relates to his upcoming treatment, and how his brain will be altered.
But the strength of Lou as a character, his tragic fate, and the pro-neurodiversity message outweigh the weaknesses. It may have an unhappy ending, but it is not the end for autism. Moon wrote this before the burgeoning of autistic self-advocacy, and I get the feeling that works like these which plea for understanding rather than hasty disablist cures will aid a rosier future for people with autism become a reality.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Advocacy as a Mitzvah

"Where is my light? My light is in me.
Where is my hope? My hope is in me.
Where is my strength? My strength is in me – and in you"
- Rabbi Sherwin Wine
Before I get rolling on this, here's a tidbit from Wikipedia to help you stay on the same page as me:
The secondary meaning of Mitzvah refers to a moral deed performed as a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an act of human kindness. The tertiary meaning of Mitzvah also refers to the fulfillment of a mitzvah.
Alright. Good. We got that out of the way. Goyishe readers, you're welcome.

What I am attempting to convey is what my work in autistic self-advocacy means to me as a Jewish woman. I'm not the first Jewish woman to have to come to terms with her autism, in fact, a cursory glance at the greats of autistic self-advocacy is filled with a great treasury of strong Jewish women with autism. I hope they count me as a peer, though I do not compare to them in terms of brilliance, strength, and perseverance. But, my autism and my Jewish background and Jewish outlook have influenced the way I approach my life, and that includes the way I approach my disability, and how to best defend myself when faced with opposition because of my autism. So, here's my story.
I'm not religious, really. If you were to dissect me post-mortem, my ghost would be utterly unsurprised if there were no spiritual bones found. But I maintain a strong grip on my identity as a Jew, even though I did not grow up in a religious household. As suspected fellow autie Albert Einstein put it:
"The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice and the desire for personal independence -- these are the features of the Jewish tradition which make me thank my stars that I belong to it.
That sums up just about everything I love about it, thank you, Dr. Einstein.
It is also what brings me to the title of this post. I explained already what a Mitzvah is, in this context, but how does that relate to autistic advocacy? Well, simply put, part of what I do and why I do it relates to the past, but most of it is firmly planted in the future. I came to be an advocate and an activist because of my past, because I was placed, against my will, amongst the damned. Many others were damned along with me, condemned to a life that was less fulfilling and lacking in encouragement towards goals and dreams, simply because they were like me, neurological rebels with various disabilities. Some managed to stoke up enough of a fire in the belly to escape the confines set down for them against their will. Others, for various reasons, couldn't escape.
What I do now is not only for those of us who escaped, it's for those who are still trapped, and, most importantly to me, for those who will come after me. A lot of the autism awareness schmaltz I dislike so heartily focuses on children, and that's part of the reason it rubs me the wrong way as an autistic adult. But that doesn't mean I don't care deeply about these children and their lives. But I tend to think more about what life will be like for them at the age I'm at now. Will they be bullied and harassed at work/school? Will their professors and bosses not comply with their wishes for accommodations? Will it be too overwhelming for them to enter the world of careers, colleges, and a new set of unyielding rules so different from those in childhood?
I have no real role models in the world of autism to look up to when it comes to issues like schooling and adult issues. I had books, I had people on television. But there were no people directly involved in my life who had autism whom I could confide in. My father, who is the likely candidate from where I inherited my autism, died when I was 13, and my mother is almost frighteningly neurotypical. For the longest time after my diagnosis, I craved a parent-or-older-sibling figure with autism, one whom I could look upon as proof to myself that my life was not being wasted, that I could in fact, make it on my own, as this theoretical role model did. Without sounding too egotistical, I hope that the legacy of myself and other autistic advocates will ripple out to multitudes of autistic people who will be entering adulthood a few years down the road. I already talk with autistic teenagers at the Children's Development Centre, and from the looks of their life stories, life hasn't gotten any easier for your average autistic since I graduated high school.
But it's my hope that they at least know, through their interactions with autistic adults like myself (I'm not the only one with speaking gigs) that it does get better if you persevere. It's heartbreaking to see an autistic youth give up on ever living a happy life, and I've seen it happen too often.
For me, helping ensure, either through direct, hands-on means, like talking to autistic teens and youth, or more bureaucratically, by fighting for equal access for autistic college students, battling eliminationist rhetoric in conversations about autism, and talking about autism with the credo of "nothing about us without us" that these kids get a chance at a better life than I had at their age, is a mitzvah.
For me, the liberation of autistic people from the confines holding them back now is a very Jewish goal. We are all too familiar with the pursuit of freedom from tyranny, and this includes the tyranny of disablism. This is not the only way to view autistic advocacy, but it is one way I look upon it, and it works very well for me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Queer & Nerdy: Why Not Make a Movie for Us?

Hooray! Hooray! It looks like there is finally going to be a nerdgirl movie!'s interview with the author sounds absolutely promising. Someone who collected Bajoran earrings as a teenager can't be a bad person. Period.
I am over the moon about this. I really enjoyed Scott Pilgrim, and I gobble up episodes of The Big Bang Theory like delicious candy. To put it more simply, I am a huge nerd. So is my dear significant other, in fact, she was the one who helped me embrace the more nerdy aspects of my personality, and fully introduced me to Star Trek and all that comes with it. We saw the new movie as our first date together. It's good to have nerdy women on the screen. Amy Farrah Fowler, for instance, is my significant other's ideal woman, and I can't disagree with that, nor when she teasingly declares me to be Seven of Nine because of my shitty understanding of social graces (heh) It's fun to have nerdy female icons. The last time I remember there being nerd women taking front and centre stage on the big screen was Ghost World, with Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson (Enid never said the N-word to describe herself, but those glasses and the kooky interests? Yup yup)
As for this particular nerdgirl movie, it says:
One Con Glory is a story about life, love, and action figures - and one woman's obsession with avoiding the first two while seeking the third. It follows Julie, a nerd culture reporter covering a giant comic book convention. A little too much drinking on the first night leads to antics that leave Julie with an ill-gotten classic action figure, a new relationship, and a blood feud against another reporter.
The sex/gender of Julie's new relationship is never stated. I was sort of excited about that, thinking there was a smidgin of a chance that her love interest could be a woman. But the picture above accompanying the article seemed to effectively kill that hunch. And I was left, well... more crushed than usual.
As I've detailed earlier, it's somewhat rare for there to be nerdy girls in cinema and media for me to look up to. An even rarer species seen on TV and movies is the nerdy girl who is also queer. The only example I can think of which is canon is Tara & Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And that ended with the former being killed and the latter going on an angry stampede in grief. Even rarer is the regular ol' geek girl who doesn't have any supernatural background, and happens to like women as much as she does action figures and Bajoran earrings.
Why is this? One of the things which drew me to nerd culture was how accepting of deviation from the norm it was, for a queer woman and an aspie, that's a double whammy. I will admit that the culture has some serious problems that need to be addressed, but all-in-all, I know many queer women involved actively in nerd culture, who deserve their moment to see someone with a love like theirs on the screen. It can be done, and I can see it being epic.
So, why not, Hollywood? If One Con Glory proves to be a hit (I'll certainly go see it) why not spread your wings of nerdiness further, and make a queer nerd movie? You'll be loved for it, and ten steps ahead everyone else.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Changing my postition on the UM Tobacco-free campus

For those of you who aren't students at my University, recently it was decided to make the campus tobacco-free, starting Fall 2011. If you want to smoke, chew, or use snus (all three are popular here) then you have to leave campus to do so. There's an exception in the rule for the ceremonial use of tobacco by First Nations for particular spiritual or social functions. Which is excellent, if they hadn't, it would have been an absolute failure of a policy. But in my view, it has a major flaw, which I will detail now.
Now, when I first heard about this rule, I was extremely worried, because my boss at the time was a heavy smoker who regularly took smoke breaks. This boss also hated my guts and made my life miserable, and I was dreading how mean she would be to me when she was going through a nicotine withdrawal. It would have been hell on earth.
Then, I quit my job, and found a new one, and I was able to focus on the long-term implications of the rule outside of me being treated like dirt. And I decided I was in favour of it. Smokers at UM have designated smoke areas, and are forbidden from smoking closer than 25 feet (7.62 m) to a building entrance, for obvious reasons. But many, my former boss included, disobeyed this ruling, and smoked right outside the building. This means that anyone who was exiting a building after class was treated to a humongous cloud of cigarette smoke right in their face.
I have sensory issues with certain scents, but tobacco isn't among them for me personally. For other people with SPD, or those with allergies or asthma, this is more than an inconvenience, it's a threat to their health. One which some smokers completely disregard for their own convenience. I concluded that, if banning tobacco outright was what it would take to stop this, then so be it. My right to good health outweighs the right of a smoker to engage in their habit.
I maintained this stance, offering a shrugging "too bad" to anyone who complained about the ruling. A few times, I saw a "When UM bans tobacco I will still smoke here" bulls-eyes on the sidewalks of campus, and didn't think much of it.
After visiting the University of Victoria though, I've decided that the tobacco ban will have unintended consequences for the University, not only for the campus, but the town of Missoula at large, if not the whole state, in terms of environmental health.
See, Victoria, according to my significant other, also has a tobacco free policy. She told me this after I was inquiring at the disgusting sight of cigarette butts scattered all over campus, concentrated outside buildings entrances. Apparently, in the discouraging of smoking on campus, UVic decided to remove the ashtrays that mark entrances of buildings to UM. So smokers have decided to instead, dump their butts wherever it strikes their fancy.
I should mention, for the geographically un-inclined, that Victoria is situated on an island, one where it rains. A lot. Meaning that each time it rains, those damn butts probably wash into the ocean surrounding the island, giving a big ol' dose of butts courtesy of inconsiderate UVic students, to the fish, whales, and other sea life which populate the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest. Lovely. Just lovely.
Missoula, to contrast, is inland, but has a river running through it. If the smokers at UM follow UVic's smokers' example after the ban goes into place, then UM's butts will wash up in the Clark Fork river, a nicotine treat for the turtles, fish, and waterfowl.
Since a group of UM's smokers have demonstrated before that they care very little about the well-being of fellow humans, I doubt they will extend any courtesy to the animal life of UM and consider the consequences of dumping their butts wherever they like. And once those ashtrays are gone, I'm almost certain some of those butts will end up on the ground and then in the river.
It's a G-d damn pity that we would have to accommodate the obscenely rude behaviour of a couple of selfish, pathetic individuals. But that is the case, sadly, and that's why ultimately, I've decided not to support banning tobacco at my university. It will go into effect no matter what, but it's my hope UM will at least take initiative to ensure that butts don't get dumped.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring in Victoria: A photo dump

My Spring Break ends tomorrow. I spent all of it in Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria. I'm a lousy photographer, but I thought I would share the photographic bounty that beautiful Victoria, my future home, offers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shaking it up

Hi everybody! I'm on vacation with my lovely girlfriend right now in Victoria, checking out all of the terrific things about Uvic, in spite of the pouring rain.
While I'm living it up up North, why don't you saunter on over to Shakesville, where I have a lovely guest post on the month we love to hate up.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Damnit, blue is one of my favourite colours too!

So tonight, the CN tower and other buildings will be turning their lights blue to support "Autism Awareness". Why blue? Because blue is the official colour of Autism Speaks, the much-hated organization I have spilled much ink over. So basically, they're not supporting Autism Awareness with this, they're just giving a free plug to Autism Speaks.
Turning the lights blue goes beyond the usual fauxgressive charitable stunts to raise awareness of autism. It goes beyond silly stunts like posting your bra colour on facebook to raise breast cancer awareness or something similar. It's much more insidious, because it implies support of the message of Autism Speaks. The message of Autism Speaks has been consistently this: That autistic people are doomed without a cure, that our lives are meaningless, that an autism diagnosis is a catalyst to lifelong misery, divorce of the autistic person's parents, and turning an otherwise happy, white, upper-class family into a clusterfuck.
Nothing could be further from the truth. My life is not misery, I don't need a cure, nor does any autistic person, and I am not doomed by my autism.
If you see a blue building tonight, take a moment to remember that the blue light doesn't represent anything less than the worst of neurotypical presumptions and arrogance. That blue light doesn't illuminate, it casts shadows on the lives of every autistic person who has ever been told they're not good enough because of their disability.

Coming to a realization

Well, I broke up with my girlfriend yesterday.
This surprises me as much as it does anyone else. We were normally not a very quarrelsome couple, but this was the finale ultimo on top of it all. Our visit to each other over my spring break had been cancelled, and we weren't going to see each other again until May. We were a long distance relationship, in case you didn't guess.
It was a lot of factors, but I think the biggest two were the long distance, and the realization that I wasn't strong enough to deal with her transition.
The long distance thing meant we both spent an obscene amount of money just for the privilege of seeing each other, often only for two weeks at a time, usually at our parents' houses, before we wore out our welcome and had to leave. It was sweet, but ultimately bitter, realizing that on average we saw each other about 8 weeks out of the year, for three years in a row. That's not healthy, and the environmental impact of our visitations was drastically awful.
The other part requires me to admit a weakness to myself. I am not as big of an ally as I thought. I just can't hold her hand through all this while she transitions. The hormones, the money going into therapy, electrolysis, and surgery means that we would have to give up our original dream of owning a home together. Being two women in a relationship, especially with one trans woman, means an end to our dreams of travelling the world together and seeing all the sights we longed to visit, like Morocco, Hainan Island, Java, Santiago... All down the drain. Not to mention, I know that it wouldn't be long before my parents would find out, and disown me, leaving me financially and emotionally vulnerable. Is it really worth all that for a woman I never get to see?
Sometimes life just gets in the way of these things. I wish her all the best and hope that life treats her the very best. Even if that means taking me out of the picture.

Oh. By the way.