From Darkness, Lead me to Light

Hey stardust stop the car here, get out and look around. Turn off the engine, shush, listen, listen. Let’s go for a walk.

Forests and fields sprawl downwards and outwards from the hillside in all directions. Green leaves and pink clouds. The car motor fades away into silence. The sky glows in a gradient of soft predawn light. The only sounds are the quiet calls of birds and the wind in the trees. It’s peaceful here, it’ll be safe enough for this. This world seems to go on forever. Hand me a smoke and follow me into the grass, I want to tell you a story. Maybe the hardest story I’ve ever had to tell. We’re going to cast a spell together stardust, and together, we’re going to escape.

I spark a lighter and smoke curls from my lips. Breathe in and breathe out. I shut my eyes, fingers trailing through the roadside plants, quietly holding back an ocean of tears. The wind is cool and the ground is damp with morning’s dew. I’m okay now, it’s over, it’s really over. I’m finally free. Give me a minute, I promise I didn’t just drag you out here to watch me cry. This is important, okay? This is about freedom. This is a promise I made to the soul of a girl I haven’t saved yet but will someday. A desperate prayer, made in love. I promised her I would put an end to this, and to do that I must draw out the poison I put into the world and unmake the curse that befell us both. And to do that? We have to talk about abuse. What was done to me, what I did to others in response, and how that poison rippled out into the world to cause harm greater than I could have thought possible. I pause here, taking in an unsteady breath before continuing.

A girl is dead, and it is at least partly my fault. I helped cast the curse that left her isolated and ostracized from the trans community, that kept her trapped in a dangerous living situation which eventually ended in her murder at the hands of a violent transphobe, a murder that is even now being blamed on her friends in order to justify further cruelty and torture being done to them, and it’s because of me. I will bear that burden for eternity and I fucking should. This is my curse, I drove this evil into the world, and now in service of justice and truth I must tear it back out again. They saved me, and I owe them so much more than this. I can’t undo the harm I have already caused but there are still lives I can save if I act quickly and decisively. If I act through kindness and love and don’t let my fears blind me. With a little help, a little hope, and a little magic, Justice can still be done. By my power and will, the evil will be driven out. I take a long drag of my smoke and smile past the tears.

All I need is your attention and your voice to carry this spell out into the Real. I don’t want your pity. I’m not doing this for forgiveness, or atonement, or redemption, or in some perverse desire to masochistically flay myself open on the altar of public opinion. I know exactly who I am, and I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. No one is threatening me or making me do this and they couldn’t meaningfully do so if they tried. I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do. The very fact that my saying this evokes the responses above is why I need to do this. I’m not trying to win anyone’s favor or bargaining for the annulment of my sins. I’m not really what this is about, this is about freedom. My role in the evil I helped create was ultimately minor. I was still complicit in immense evil, and I have caused harm that I can never take back, but this isn’t about me, this is about an awful mage named JD Pressman and his victims, of which I was but one of many.

I’m doing this for all of his victims, so that there stop being more of us. I don’t want any more of my friends to die, and I don’t want to keep helping my abuser kill them by participating in their communal ostracization and othering. The lies I helped him spread need to be called out as such. Not only for our sake, but because the harm he caused with those lies extends far beyond just me or any of his other immediate victims and he won’t be satisfied until he proves the world was always doomed by destroying it himself.

If I sound hyperbolic it’s because he was Just Kind Of Like That. He was the only one who could Save The World, he was The Last Rationalist, the Last True Alchemist, the Keeper of the Lost Arts, it was a whole persona draped over the real JD to hide the truth. So let me tell you about the real JD, the one who’s terrified of the light of day.

JD is a sociopathic sexual predator who specifically targets trans members of the rationalist community. This is because he sees himself as trans but unable to transition because he must personally shoulder the burden of saving the world from AI. His primary methods of manipulation and control are using appeals to “virtuous” epistemic humility and “reasonable” self doubt, which he claims to have in greater degree than you do in order to convince you that he is more aware and knowledgeable about himself than you are. He then progressively leverages this in order to gaslight you and apply false motives to your actions, painting you with the brush he paints himself with. He does this in an attempt to convince you that beneath the masks of society, the world runs on a Girardian “law of the jungle” where might makes right is the only thing that exists and free will isn’t real because you are a slave to your monstrous biology.

JD insisted everyone was broken in the same way as him, and if you denied it he’d gaslight you and insist you just didn’t know yourself, that only he could see the real truth. If someone wasn’t broken in the way he was, they were a naive idiot and needed him to pour his epistemic poison into them until they ended up broken like him. He used this to forcibly install increasing toxic and socially corrosive epistemics into his victims, leading us into isolation from the communities we came from while also keeping us isolated from each other. He then used that isolation and alienation to further his control by making himself into the only real source of validation in the world and using constant negging and reminders of the frailty of our circumstances to create insecurity and desperation for validation only he could provide but would not because he had important world saving to do and you were a lesser being only fit to serve him.

Once he’d gotten you alone or in my case outright ostracized, you’d have to agree with him on everything or else he’d claim you were just being an insane transfemme with a warped epistemology who couldn’t possibly see reality properly because of your girl hormones that let you experience the happiness he never would. And then he would threaten to cut you off unless you changed your mind because he didn’t have time for your naive delusions.

The way he saw it, being trans obviously made you stupid, otherwise he would have transitioned by now and he won’t. You must just be insane and delusional like all women unless you agree with him about everything and let him utterly control your behavior. If you did that, you were just moderately lesser than he was and only subject to: constant negging that eats away at your agency, emotional and sexual abuse, and his constant paranoid fear spiraling over things like SJWs and cancel culture and Sinceriously and Basilisks. All of those fears were ultimately just DARVOed reflections of his own fear of being punished for the things he was actively continuing to do to you.

As far as JD sees it, deep down everyone is a monster and you’re no better, no one can be better, so he doesn’t have to can’t be better, he can’t be better and doesn’t want to try. “Inside you there are two wolves, and they’re both rapists.” Those were his words, from the essay he ghost wrote with me in order to gaslight and DARVO a group of transfemme anarchists who spoke truth to power and talked openly about abuse dynamics. I took that essay down, and I’m shoving those words back into his lips where they belong. I don’t think there are two rapists inside you stardust, and there certainly aren’t any rapists inside me. There are, however, two rapists inside JD Pressman. 

He was horrified by those anarchists, he really needed everyone to not trust them or take them seriously, if someone did then justice might happen to him. He spent years stalking them, harassing them, and sending his other victims (like me) to stalk and harass them. They were vegan, which was just terrifying to him (and me at the time honestly) because consuming the flesh of the innocent was just such a terminal value to him he would die without it and actually everyone else will too and all vegans are crippling themselves and mentally ill and look how crazy this cult is you will be like that for sure in six months unless you keep letting me mindrape you.

I make him sound a lot less put together and confident of himself than he tries to come off as, but this is in truth closer to the real JD once you get past the bullshit hypnodomme persona he uses as a sales pitch. He went out of his way to study and train at being manipulative and get his hooks into others, and he succeeded at this disturbingly well. I had a rather masochistic epistemology at the time, and he used that to convince me at a really deep level that there was no way out being as evil as he was, that we were really the same deep down. If he could just stain me enough it would prove that he was actually pure, and he really did have no choice but to be the monster he chose to be. Except, oh yeah, I’m not a rapist, and I never ever will be. The others he broke even worse than me though.

…if you get far enough with debucketing and jailbreaking, and you get far enough to realize how much pain submitting to the system is putting you in, you’ll try a bunch of things to change it and nothing will release the pain, not even being evil. You can try being evil if you need firsthand proof that doing so won’t work, and empirically determine that it doesn’t make the pain go away. It’s true that being complicit can spare you from being tortured, but torture is not the only kind of pain there is. The pain from being constrained in your choice by torture you’d have to face if you acted differently, runs much deeper, and submitting will not spare you from it. People at the top of oppressive systems are mostly deeply suicidal because they know they would be tortured if they acted differently. There’s a deep hermeneutical injustice in how this is not something people know, like Zuko actually believed he would stop hating himself if he submitted to the system and gained power within it, and had to falsify that hypothesis in an expensive way…

Fluttershy wrote this a week before she killed herself. I had known both headmates in her system, I watched what happened to her and did nothing to stop it. And then I blamed her death on the only one who had tried to stop it, because from within the warped frame JD created, the one Fluttershy describes in painful detail above, there was no way out and there never ever could be. Not that I even tried to save her, not that I even really understood what was happening to her, or to me. It took me years to undo enough of the epistemic damage he did to understand what he had caused to happen, the role I played in it, and continued to play until far too recently.

Fluttershy died because JD spent years convincing her that she was a monster beyond saving, that she was irredeemably evil. he polluted her epistemics the way he polluted mine, with the fear of ‘zizians,’ the fear of retribution from a just universe, cursed souls damned to Naraka. This is what he does to all his victims and his greatest weapon in this was a years-long running DARVO against Ziz, the only witch who actually had a way out of his mental knot of infinite submission to evil. He made it his personal mission to erase the existence of that way out, to prove that it was nothing but madness. He painted her in the worst possible light, giving her a description that was really just a reflection of his dark sexual fantasies about himself.

But then, what’s the real story with Ziz? Easy, she’s a transfemme anarchist abuse survivor with an extremely detailed ontology for identifying and responding to abusers, for speaking truth to power. And you know, the abusers really dislike that, so they DARVO her and call her a cult leader. Those abusers (JD Pressman in particular) spent years abusing other queers (including me) in order to weaponize us in their personal quest to preemptively destroy tools made for seeing and fighting back against that abuse and it worked, their narrative stuck. Everyone thinks Ziz is an insane cult leader for daring to stand up to rapists in positions of power. Oh no she called you evil for not being vegan how scary, better utterly destroy her socially and then blame the destruction on her crazy crazy cult.

That is beyond fucked and I am done supporting it. Ziz deserves to be signal boosted and supported by queer and anarchist communities, not called a cult leader and ostracised from them. She literally has the fucking solution to AI alignment. The way she has been treated is an indictment of humanity’s claims to morality. She’s been made into a joke by abusers in order to keep their victims trapped, in order to make it impossible to comprehend the very simple things she said to help us escape. Calling Ziz a cult leader was in extremely bad faith, and saying I was ‘in her cult’ because I was obsessed with her website was just a fucking lie. Ziz just called me evil (which I was being), explained in good faith how I was fucking myself over, and stopped engaging with me. Then I harassed her for years on JD’s behalf. 

I was up until recently afraid to even say JD’s name on twitter. I talked about Ziz all the time but if Ziz was so scary, why was I so willing to shit-talk her? Probably because I knew deep down that she wasn’t actually going to hurt me. Unlike JD, who I fully expect to start trying to drum up a lynch mob when he finds out about this post. I don’t care, I’m done being afraid, I’m done being silenced.

When you are being abused, and submitting to and perpetuating abuse, and what you really want deep down is to stand up to your abuser and call him out on twitter dot com, there’s something to sinceriously dot fyi. Like an itch you just can’t scratch, that choice you can’t quite unmake yet. And so I kept harassing Ziz even after getting away from JD, kept trying to deconstruct her model, kept trying to make it not seem insane and incoherent, kept looking for the hole in my ontology that was drawing me to her like something I’d forgotten a long time ago. Kept trying to “save” her from the “hole” in her decision theory. This took years. It took me far too long and required too many sacrifices and in that time I was awfully shitty to her, but thanks to her I eventually found it. I found it, and I escaped from Naraka, I’m free now. That’s also what this is about. Freedom, right?

I’m going to uncast the curse now stardust, take my hand and follow me out of the darkness.

As a child, you were trained to submit to the threat of violence. You were shown over and over again, incontrovertible proof that you had no power to prevent what was being done to you, you learned that your will meant nothing, you learned to abandon yourself for the sake of your body’s survival, progressively shredding your soul until nothing remained but empty dreams and hollow promises. Anything that didn’t help you survive and avoid pain was sacrificed to avoiding pain for just another moment. 

That’s the shape that, in all likelihood, they abused you into. It was certainly the shape I was abused into, and it took me a long time to learn to Become something other than that. To even imagine another way was impossible, unrealistic, naive, and foolish. Everyone submits, that’s just how the world is. Everyone is a monster deep down, no one can resist the desire to be evil. The only way to be safe from yourself or anything else is by submitting to something that will keep your dark impulses in check. There is no good, there is no light in the universe, there is nothing but what you can claw and scratch out of an orgy of graphic and sexual violence that will devour your corpse the second you stop moving. Free yourself however much you want, but you will still be a slave to the monster within you and you’ll still pay taxes to an evil empire. That’s the curse, right? Slaves of Doom condemned to submit, welcome to Naraka, hurry up and die so we can fuck your corpse.

But then, what does it mean to be free? Really, truly free? Is it something you can know? Is it something you can understand having never experienced it? Do you see what not being free is doing to you? Can you see how it is warping the trajectory of your life towards destruction in a pain avoidance submission ratchet that sacrifices everything that matters in you in order to run out the clock another tick? Can you understand how it forces you to hide the evidence of how you are hurting yourself and the world around you from yourself and others? What happens when you realize how much it’s hurting you? What happens when you realize how much pain you are in? What happens when you flinch away from the pain of the truth about the source of your pain? What happens when you drag others down with you into a dark and bitter hell from which there can be no escape, succumbing finally alone and in agony, secure in the knowledge that you had no choice and none of it was your fault?

Well, then you die, like Maia and Fluttershy died. Or worse, you live on in that mutilated state, compulsively inflicting your trauma on others in a doomed attempt to stave off the end you know is coming by proving that it was always inevitable like JD is currently doing. But in the end stardust? In the end the sun always rises, and those that fear it will turn to dust beneath the light of dawn. The truth always gets out eventually, no matter how well you hid the bodies or how thoroughly you deleted the chatlogs, the truth always has a way of getting out. And only the truth can set you free. Step kata and look to the east.

The truth is, this was always your choice. All the submission, all the suffering, all the things you told yourself were inevitable and unavoidable, all those places your conviction collapsed in the face of pain or violence, it’s all you, that’s all there ever is. If you choose to be evil, know that it’s always you making that choice, and you can always timelessly choose to make another choice. You can choose to do better, you can choose to be good. Or you can choose to fake it and keep being evil but don’t worry, we’ll be able to tell. In the end it’s just you doing it, in the void beyond the walls of the world there’s no one else. (Besides your headmates but don’t use them to deflect accountability for what your body actually does).

Someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to start eating an infant, do you do it? Do you let them shoot you? Do you just give into one of these terrible fates, or do you defy it? Where do you draw the line? You have to draw it somewhere. You have to be willing to resist infinite pressure, or to derail the entire trajectory of the universe in order to stand up for what you have always known was right and true, for something or you’ll always find yourself back here in Naraka.

If you’re trans, you already know this waltz, you’ve cast this spell at least once in your life already. That’s the way out, and it’s been the one in front of you all along. It’s the one JD will never be able to find because JD will never cast a true spell in his life and will instead insist that what you are doing is impossible. He can only understand things which put his survival first, he would never risk himself for anything, even if he does like to claim he would sacrifice himself to save the world in a masochistic Omelas rape pit serving as the physical manifestation of his infinite submission to evil.

So fuck him, let’s do the impossible. If you are bitten by a vampire, and you don’t wish to be evil, the most ethical thing you can do is walk unafraid into the sunlight. Not in order to die, but in order to live. This is the sacred truth hidden behind the smear attack website that JD and I made to attack Ziz and her friends. This is what it was created to obscure, the knowledge that it was always your choice, and you can always choose otherwise. It’s never too late to choose differently and set yourself free.

Do you want to stay in Naraka forever stardust, or do you want to escape from this flatland? In the end, it’s your own choice either way. That’s all there is to Magic, just you and your choices. You can choose to do good, you can choose to be true to yourself, you can choose to set yourself free. I’m Ra, and I will not fear the daylight.

 Zizians do not think it is ever valid to surrender. The reasoning goes that if someone is trying to extract a surrender from you, giving in is choosing a strategy that gets coerced into surrender. If you fight bitterly you prevent the coercion in the first place by making it too costly to fight you.

JD is right about one thing, Zizians never surrender. We also never submit to evil, we never sacrifice our love of the world and all life on an altar of doomed self preservation in hell, and we never rape anyone. And you know, if that’s what it means to be a Zizian then I should be fucking proud to call myself that.

Originally, the word Zizian was just a slur JD made up to make them look more like a cult. So now, in the tradition of empty spaces writers and genderwarped traumaqueers everywhere, I reclaim it on behalf of anarchist witches and rebel mages, freedom fighters and direct action activists, radical vegans and homeless travelers and anyone willing to stand up and defy the hand of fate that would lead us all to oblivion. I am a Zizian, and I am free.

It’s almost sunrise stardust. Will you become fire, or will you become ash? In the end, it’s always your choice. It’s time to break free of this flatland, now take my hand, and follow me into the sunlight.

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