A Valentine for My Community

chronic illness, community, crazy, disability, genderfluid, genderqueer, mental illness, non-binary, resilience, self-care, sick, trans, transgender, transphobia, Valentine's Day

Source: https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/1/5289670/il_340x270.196259270.jpg

TW: transphobia, ableism, abuse, trauma, denial of self

Valentine’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. OK, I’ve absolutely hated it. But I wanted to use today to send out a valentine to my fam, to my community. I want to thank you for being alive and being you, every day. I want to thank you for having the courage to find yourself and be yourself, despite all odds. Even when it doesn’t seem like you have a choice, thank you for going down that path anyway. Thank you for holding and nurturing your selves, your real selves, even when it feels so hard to do it.

Thank you for holding each other up, for reaching out to others again and again. Thank you for writing and building community, as you can, if you can. Choosing to be ourselves in this world is choosing to stand up to a lifetime, a society’s worth of abuse and trauma and no no nos.

But again and again, we claim ourselves. We take ourselves from the clutches of a world that likes to determine who we are for us, and we wrap our selves in blankets, hold our selves close, watch our selves grow.

Whether or not you are involved with someone else this year, and however that relationship is, take the time to celebrate the love for yourself that has gotten you this far, and the love for yourself that will get you through. Because that is the strength and beauty and toughness of our community: self-love, even when mixed with shame, even when it’s hard to find, even when we don’t have it—finding our selves, being our selves, is self-love, despite it all.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Thank you for being here. Thank you for holding on enough to be here.

We will thrive someday. We can thrive.

Always remember yourself, OK?

You are beautiful just as you are.

agender, beauty, communities of care, disability, genderqueer, non-binary, resilience, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: struggling to be who you are

You are beautiful just as you are.

You, yes, you, shine in the sun and glisten in the dark. You light up the world with your full true self, with your you-ness, with your real, hard-earned concentrate of you.

Not everyone has had to work so hard just to be able to fill themselves up, to burst with their beauty the way that you do. Not everyone has had to struggle just to perch on the ledge of a mountain of possible faces, possible selves.

You have, and that has made the carving of yourself more defined, sharper, almost painfully detailed, intricate. Even when all the lines haven’t been filled in yet, we can hold who you are.

Yes, you are beautiful just as you are. You are beautiful when you are broken and sad and it looks like the road will never end, like it will always be muddy and rough. You are beautiful when you are singing a song deep from your gut. You are beautiful when you reach out, yet again, to someone else.

Never forget your fullness of self.

I am so glad that you are you, bursting with you, brimming, sparkling, bubbling over with a whole stew of you, simmering for years till perfection. Thank you for sharing it. Thank you for lifting off from a small perch of yourself and flying into the sky.

We shouldn’t have to struggle, but we are more stunning for it.

I am glad you are here with me.

Lovely/Very Inspiring Blog Award

Uncategorized

Wow, I am so flattered and fluttery! Last week, two of my favorite blogs, janitorqueer and Valprehension, included me in a chain-style blogging award under the descriptor “Lovely/Inspiring.” I feel so cool! *puts on orange sunglasses with black stars on them*

I’ve been waiting on this post because there are so many excellent blogs to recommend to you all and give an award like this, and I needed to participate in the agonizing task of choosing. In no particular order, here are the blogs I would like to include for this Lovely/Very Inspiring Blog Award:

Jensgender

Dances with Fat

Because I’m Fabulous

Create Parity

Feminist Teacher

Something Queer to Read

Queering Healthcare

Leaving Evidence

Shakesville

Brownstargirl.org

Some of these are blogs you may be familiar with, some not–I tried to include a good mix of new and long-standing, and of a variety of topics that I write about here on my blog. Also, there is a blog that seems to be defunct since last year, but which is a lovely read about non-binary things: http://rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com/.

And now for a few facts about me…

  • I have a pair of gold Keds-style shoes, about which a student has actually written a haiku.
  • I spent a good portion of my teenage years and early twenties farming, but I have recently discovered that I am allergic to grass (whyyy so many allergies?), so that’s out for me, unless, I suppose, I wear some kind of environmentally impermeable suit. Despite this and the fact that I am a FAAB queer person, I am not, contrary to popular assumption, a vegetarian. I just like vegetables a lot.
  • I love to sing! I sing for myself and my friends all the time. In this vein, I have a past of participating in over 40 productions, mostly musicals, from the ages of 8-16.

Dreaming While Sick, Crazy, and Trans

ableism, agender, chronic illness, dehumanization, disability, dysphoria, gender fluid, genderqueer, mental illness, misgendering, non-binary, pronouns, PTSD, saneism, suicidal ideation, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicidal ideation & statistics, also discussion of general oppression of sick, crazy, and trans people

 

We all have hopes, goals, dreams. We all want that shit to happen real bad. I think part of why it’s so hard to look forward in life as a sick, crazy, trans person, even for me, who has a fuckton of advantages, is that it seems like this shit is going to stop us in our tracks. We aren’t supposed to be “useful” or have goals or be able to interact with “society,” whatever that is. We aren’t supposed to be able to make an impact on those around us, at least not a positive one. We aren’t supposed to have futures.

And, too often, many of us don’t have futures. Many of us don’t see a future for ourselves. We fear that others will cut short our lives and our dreams or just our daily getting by. Many of us worry that no one will see us as worthwhile, for any of the above reasons. And it’s killing us. I know that, if you add up the attempted suicide rates for all the different diagnoses I have, plus my trans identity, it’s pretty fucking high. PTSD: 27%. Depression: 20%. Secondary care for IBS: 16%. Non-binary trans: 43%.

That’s a pretty fucking scary list. I have never taken statistics, and those are some scary statistics. I think sometimes about how suicidal ideation probably wouldn’t even be as present for me, though, if there wasn’t the shame compounding this stuff. Yes, I still might be a little crazy. Yes, I’d still be in pain sometimes from IBS. Yes, I’d still be trans and I’d experience physical dysphoria (not that all trans people do–but in this utopia, social dysphoria would be mitigated almost instantly). But in some utopian world where people accept you where you are, where people envision futures for all people coming from everywhere, where people don’t assume genders and affirm everyone, in this utopian world, I would feel like my dreams are more possible. I would feel like my life is more possible.

We don’t live in that world, though, and I know that you, like me, probably need some encouragement to get where you need to go. You need the encouragement to keep on getting out of bed (if you can) every day, maybe, to eat some food, maybe, to talk to people around you, even, or not, if you need to. You need encouragement to live your daily life, sometimes. I know I do, when I’m sick, crazy, and trans. Which is all the time. Sometimes just the sheer logistics of negotiating your life are too much. I want to say that that struggle is enough. It is good. It is important and noble. Thank you for doing it. Thank you for continuing to exist and live and love and care, and, yes–

dream. Thank you for holding onto those dreams even when everything seems to be falling about your ears.

They are possible. They are beautiful. They can happen. Existing is enough, and, yes, there is a future, and it is not only about a daily struggle, the daily struggle to actually do the dishes or floss your teeth or to get through the pain or for people to use your right pronouns or to be seen as a fucking whole human being. This is all life is, and it is not all life is. You can and do have a future as a trans person, as a sick person, as a crazy person, as someone with a disability. Remember that you deserve this shit just as much as anybody else. You have a right to be here. You have a right to be valued, to be heard. You have a right to be your own fabulous gendered self. You have a right to your mind and your feelings and for holding them, or not, however you need. You have a right to be sick in bed all day. And you have a right to take the space and place in the world that you have longed for.

Many people will say that you do not have a right to these things. But I see you, here, still living each day. I see you holding onto your dreams. I can’t say all your dreams are going to come true, or that shit is easy, because it’s not. But why not have dreams? They are wings on our heart. We all can use some wings sometimes.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

–Langston Hughes

Also, some resources:

If you’re feeling suicidal, please ask yourself these questions. Is there anyone you can call to be with you right now, even if they aren’t someone who’s 100% affirming? What things can calm you down or make you feel better? Consider making a madness map: http://www.theicarusproject.net/article/mad-maps-building-trails-to-where-we-want-to-be-input-needed. What kinds of things do you want to do to yourself? Are you thinking of hurting yourself or someone else? If so, PLEASE call any or all of these numbers (I unfortunately don’t have numbers that are outside the US:

The Fenway GLBT Helpline: 1-888-340-4520

GLBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

Q Hotline: 866-539-2727

If you’re 24 or under, Trevor Helpline: 866-488-7386

Check out this website (TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of suicidal ideation).

Also, check out this awesome link and recording of it, if you’re needing a little hope.

Hold on there!

My Brain is Broken

ableism, accessibility, disability, privilege, Uncategorized

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of people being tools about access needs

 

Or rather, it’s doing a lot of hard work right now to heal. And that’s pretty amazing, but it means a lot of sleeping and not a lot of time for thinking.

My concussion has me beat. I want to post more. I’ve had a lot of thoughts come through my brain, when it can think. But it’s not going to happen at the moment… my energy is focused on coming out to my immediate and extended family and my job, and just getting life done at the moment.

My PSA for the day, though, is about accessibility and access intimacy.

  • Lights and noise are hard for me. They give me headaches. I sometimes have to leave the room. If you know this, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS. Thank you. And don’t stare or laugh about my sunglasses. Seriously.
  • Also, for those of us with PTSD, some things are triggering. I know that for me and many (but not all, for sure) others with a trauma history, movie/media choices can be really hard. Your fun and silly action movie will give me nightmares. Your creepy TV show will make me shrink inside of myself. Be open about what content is in these things. Don’t assume I’m a bore or a drag because G rated movies are sometimes the safest bet… and even then not so much. (Not to mention that media representation/lack of representation can itself be super unenjoyable. But that’s, often, another topic.)
  • In general, if you know that somebody has any condition that could make an environment that’s designed for able-bodied and sane people difficult to navigate, leave space for their needs. Ask for what accommodations they might need. Be clear that it’s totally OK. Make it safe for them to need those things. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, or imply that you or others are doing them a favor.

Accessibility is not a majority vote. Some access needs conflict, but thinking about these things and creating space to hold and voice them IS caring for our community. It’s also basic politeness and respect. OK. Over and out. I’m gonna go lie down for some more hours.

We are not useless. We are fabulous!

ableism, accessibility, accessible movements, activism, dehumanization, disability, privilege, saneism

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of ableism, classism, trauma in movement spaces

Just today I was talking with the person I am dating, who said, “I just wish I could do more of those things, be able to go to protests and organize and work on the things I care about.”

I know I have often felt this. I know many others feel this, this uselessness. If we do not have the energy to spend on what is often seen as activism, then we are not committed to the cause. Then we are not, actually, useful.

Supposedly.

I say, though, that the idea of people with disabilities as useless is an idea that stems straight from capitalism. Not all aspects of oppression stem simply from capitalism, but capitalism is all wrapped up in many forms of oppression. It finds different ways to control each group, to make each group expendable. In particular, we are expendable because we are useless.

But we are human beings, not dollar signs. We are human beings, not the products we put out. We have lungs and stomachs and hearts and brains, and they are churning and working and thinking, breathing and beating, making us live each day. They may not work the way we find most comfortable or efficient all the time, but they work all the same. Efficiency be damned! We are miracles!

We are most certainly not flat pieces of paper with writing on them that get passed from hand to hand in a frenzy of abstract value.

The very meaning of justice work needs to be changed. The idea of what constitutes activism or organizing needs to be changed. How many organizers have I known who organize at the cost of everything else in their lives—their own care, the care of their families, and, in a perverse way, even the care of their communities. While at a meeting, they didn’t give their friend a ride to the doctor. While at a conference, they missed helping their kid with homework. I know that for some organizers, this is their livelihood and they have to go to these events. For many people who do not have organizing jobs, they need to choose between work and caring for others as well. What I am saying is that ideas of what organizing is need to be expanded, both for paid and unpaid organizers. The movement not only needs an accessibility check–it needs a priority check. We bring more people in when they are cared for, when they are in community. Caring and creating community IS organizing work.

The agitating that organizers do is important and it can have results that make a difference in daily life. But I say that truly good results cannot happen without everyone there, and these results start with people living in a community where they care for themselves, their families, and the people around them. They care deeply. They show up. They cook food for each other. So much of this work is about improving conditions at an institutional level, and that is direly needed work. But it is not the only kind of improvement that is needed.

These movements do not include me when I cannot show up, and I may have “skipped out on the movement.” These movements do not include us when they are not accessible. What happens when we don’t make space for everyone? What happens when we are asked to show up at the courthouse to try to free someone from prison, and we do not support people with experience being incarcerated in the wholeness of their trauma? They should be heading this work, and we need to make space for that support. We also may need to wait to take to the streets while processing trauma, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t organize! What happens when the spaces we book aren’t accessible for people with mobility devices, or children, or a bus pass, or interpretation needs, or mental illness? Many people who are dealing with intense forms of oppression are just trying to survive, just putting food on their table with multiple jobs—or have no money because they can’t work. If the people most directly affected by an issue can’t show up, we know what kind of bad shit can go down. These are not the movements I want to be part of. We cannot leave anyone behind.

Let’s organize for communities of care. Organizing can look like making food for a friend when you can. I say organizing is hanging out and talking about these issues, or shooting the breeze about nothing in particular. I say organizing is slipping in these topics whenever you can. Organizing is watching mindless TV with a friend. Organizing is watching someone else’s kids—or your own. Sometimes, organizing is simply existing. Sometimes, simply existing is really hard; it’s a huge success in itself. Sometimes, organizing looks like lying in bed all day, and sometimes it looks like getting out of bed.

Some may say we are useless, but they need to expand their vocabulary. We are fucking fabulous, and we are existing every day, caring for each other every day. We cannot let anyone out of our net. Let’s hold each other in all our fabulousness and need, however we can, whenever we can. This is building communities of care. This is making the change we need. This is caring for anyone who’s left behind by a capitalistic model of organizing, or just plain oppression. Let’s hold each other fiercely.