I wear black because I am in mourning. I am in mourning for the country I thought I lived in. The country that is most certainly dead. My privilege allowed me to believe that Hillary would win by a landslide. It was beyond my comprehension to think there were enough United States citizens who aligned with Drumpf’s values of hatred to elect him president. I was so wrong.
In the past year, Drumpf has said the following:
Mexican immigrants are rapists
He will kill the families of “terrorists”
He wants Hillary assassinated
Muslims should be banned from the USA
Women should not have reproductive rights
Marriage is for straight people only
It’s OK to perpetrate non-consensual sexual acts (i.e.: Nothin’ wrong with rape)
He is narcissistic. He is a pathological liar.
He is selfish, self-centered, inarticulate, incites hate, preaches hate.
He does not understand how to run an ethical business, let alone a country.
The subtext for the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is “Make America Hate Again.” Or, as the electoral college just informed us, “Bring Forth America’s White Supremacist Values Again.”
Drumpf is not my president. Drumpf will never be my president. I do not acknowledge his position because I do not believe in hate.
I do not acknowledge his position but I do acknowledge my racial privilege. I acknowledge the ideological, institutional, and systemic racism upon which this country was built. I acknowledge the implicit and explicit sexist values upheld by Drumpf and his supporters. I acknowledge the extreme violence perpetrated against trans people. I acknowledge the high rates of alcoholism and suicide of Native Americans.
I have been saying for years that this country is ill. I see the symptoms of its illness manifest as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and PTSD in the children and teenagers to whom I offer therapeutic support. The election of Drumpf to the presidency of this country is proof of this illness.
I hear some of my fellow writers and activists calling for strength and action. I wish I could say that I am in a place to offer such things, but I am not. I am afraid for my life and my liberty.
We just elected a man to the highest office in the world who admitted to molesting women and denied any wrongdoing in doing so.
I support everyone who holds enough privilege to face this embodiment of hatred head on. As of now, that’s not me.
To all the people who voted for Drumpf: You can have this country. I will take my brilliance elsewhere.
Trigger Warning: This post contains violent and graphic content. Read at your discretion and take good care of yourselves. I decided to end my silence.
It is time Time to reclaim this body This body that sits naked on the earth crying out to come home This body that has been beaten, punched, slapped, shoved, hair pulled bitten (yes bitten) This body that has been raped and raped I do not coat that word in something sweet so as not to offend your ears I say it the way it was done to me rape This body that was used as another person's reason for power another person's blocked rage and need for torment This body an outlet for your self-loathing a starved skeleton of my own This body has a right to say ENOUGH I'm done I quit Yet here it is not quitting This body danced and sang and rolled with the punches Call me an idiot I still love Call me a whore, a dyke, thing, stupid, fucked up I still love Tell me I'm worthless, I'm crazy, I don't belong I still love In fact, I'm a big mother fucking love bomb ready to explode To tell the earth I love you To tell my mother I love you and when I tell you I love you and you can't handle it cause you have issues that's OK I'll still love you anyway And I love me too I love this body that was broken and starving and twisted and survived to thrive and dance on the side of a mountain This body with a bunny heart Like holding a butterfly But butterflies are stronger than you think And don't they know it
but i’m going to try
what can we say in the wake of a massacre?
how much pain must one person be in to commit such a crime? to inflict such pain? it’s unfathomable. yet it happens all the time. happens more and more
our country is ill. when are we going to talk about it?
our country is ill and the symptoms are manifesting in our children. anxious and depressed kindergarteners. teenagers making suicide plans
our country is ill and the symptoms are manifesting in people with guns shooting up movie theaters. schools. dance clubs
the legalization of gay marriage did not eradicate hate. i don’t have to read the comments to feel it. to breathe it
today, a parent asked for their child to be moved to another clinician because of my “indeterminate gender.” they hadn’t even met me. but they hate me because i am not she/her or he/him. because i refuse to assimilate
my heart feels like a sponge, turned black from soaking up hate and discrimination
my lungs are full of the fear that is pumped into the air by our media, by our politicians
no wonder the kids are sick. our worst toxins are not bisphenol A, asbestos
our worst toxins are fear, hate, and ignorance
which goes in all directions…
if we are going to stop the hate, we all have to stop the hate
asking to stop the hate for one group while hating another group doesn’t make any amount of sense
right-wing evangelical christians have a right to their opinions. if i hate them, i am no better than people who hate me
if we are going to stop the hate, we all have to stop the hate
why can’t we just agree that different people think different things?
and then dance
this all feels very connected to consent and the fact that people have a difficult time adhering to boundaries set by other people because we all want what we want and don’t want to have to let others have what they want
jesus. we’re all still in preschool
dear pulse, your dance floor, once full of memories of joyous feet, now slippery with the blood of the slain. what must your walls still hear? terrified screams and gunshots. a space dedicated to providing a semblance of safety for the marginalized; a space where people forget to be vigilant, now raped by hatred with access to firearms. to be gunned down while connecting to community through the sacred practice of dance is indeed terror. a concept deliberately planted in our psyches to keep our attention on the “other.” this was not an “other.” this was you. me. there is no “other”
there is no “other.” the sooner we learn that, the sooner we can start a revolution. a peaceful one. a revolution to stop the hate
if we are going to stop the hate, we all have to stop the hate
dear pulse, i never met you but i feel inextricably entwined in your soul. the loss of my fellow queers = loss of my own heart. a friend just texted, “we are unstoppable, though. our queer family is so vibrant, so resilient”
yes we are. what other marginalized group poops rainbows?
and cries rainbows? for even though i know we are unstoppable, i still need to mourn the loss of 49 souls who were murdered in rage. i still need to mourn the world that created a person so full of self-loathing he had to open fire on his brothers. sisters. non-binary siblings.
i need to mourn. and then i will pick up, stand up, recalibrate, dust off, step forward, link arms, choose life, choose peace, and stop the hate.
In my recent explorations of Queer! with a capital Q, I have discovered that my artist-self and my queer-self might be conflated…or even more than that, they are most certainly deeply intertwined.
If Queer! simply referred to my sexual orientation or gender identity, it could be separated from other aspects of “I,” but my definition of Queer! pertains more to non-normative values than social identity. I am Queer! with a capital Q because I subvert normativity; because I am a rebel, an edgewalker, a trailblazer. As I was dancing my grief in my apartment the other night, followed by some angry splattering of paint on canvas, it suddenly occurred to me that my artist-self is also subversive and rebellious. My artist-self cannot sit still. My artist-self communicates in movement better than words and believes in the use of dance and theater to give voice to the voiceless; to scream about injustices and the soporific effects of capitalism. Or is that my Queer! self?
The above image is what I am calling an “embodied, artistic, reality check.” My therapist asked me, “What do you want? What do you need? What is true? What is not true?” My response in her office was a collapse in my body with a shrug of my shoulders and a huge exhalation (I don’t know what the fuck I want!). Luckily, I work with a brilliant art therapist so out came the paper and oil sticks and I created a foundation upon which I could later build. This piece of “art” is stuck to the wall of my rather stark apartment and as you can see, I have been adding sticky notes to the four quadrants as I come up with answers to the questions. Rebellion and subversion? You betcha!
TRUE = I have a body
TRUE = Most things don’t matter
NOT TRUE = I am defined by addiction
NOT TRUE = I am defined by trauma
To all the people who want to tell me (who DO tell me) that I am too traumatized to be in relationship, that a history of disordered eating and drug addiction means my brain is “fucked up,” to those people I say NOT TRUE so piss off. Those things do not define me; they are a part of my history and I personally think give me superpowers because I lived a nightmare but woke up and am now here to share what I learned from that dream with my fellow travelers.
I want to mention that I do not identify as a visual artist. I am a dancer and sometimes actor. However, I use visual art quite a bit in my personal life to process emotions, to identify needs and wants, and sometimes just to externalize the cacophony of my inner voices. And then I dance my art. And then I write about my dance. And then I paint my writing. And then I dance my painting… and on and on it goes. One does not need to have years of training and earn their living as an artist to engage in this type of artistic reflection and expression. It is our birthright to dance; to create art that reflects our inner lives and outer worlds.
I recently read that the Balinese have a saying, “we have no art, everything we do is art.” That short phrase sums up my entire existence and makes me wonder if “I am not queer, everything I do is Queer!” Although really, I think “everything I AM is Queer!”
Us Queers! make good artists because we are used to life on the outside; life looking back in. When you’re constantly looking in and constantly told you’re wrong or freaky, you end up with a massive amount of Feelz and those Feelz need somewhere to go. For me, the Feelz either go into artistic expression or self-sabotage. These days I’m choosing the former over the latter, but that wasn’t always the case. I know it’s not always the case with my fellow Queers! Drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, unemployment, harassment, violence, isolation, bullying, suicide…so many of us internalize the hate that permeates the air we breathe and it destroys us. And just because Caitlyn Jenner was on the cover of Vanity Fair doesn’t mean the hate is dissipating. Just saying…
I’m getting more real in these blog posts. I read Jamie Ray’s post on A Boy and Her Dog titled, “For Ryan,” and my heart broke into a million pieces. Ryan, I never met you but I will dance your name. I will dance your journey as it chooses to come through my body and I will create a work of art for you. I’m so sorry your body had to be a vehicle for the illness of our country.
I don’t know if I’m an artist because I’m Queer! or if I’m Queer! because I’m an artist. I don’t know if I make queer art or artistic queers (there’s a fun thought!). I do know I’m tired of being told my artistic life is unacceptable and my Queer! identity should be punished. If my stories serve to link us together and offer even a small amount of healing, then I will keep telling them in any way my Queer! artist self wants.
*Shout out to my photographer friend who taught me how to queer up a self-portrait. xoxox
I am angry. Again. I am angry because I have heard numerous stories in the last couple of weeks about people serving in the helping professions (therapists, doctors, health coaches etc…) who have no idea what it means to be queer* or marginalized and are HARMING their clients because of this ignorance.
The first rule of therapy is “Do no harm.” Rule #1 is not “help others,” precisely because one person’s idea of helping could actually harm the object of the help.
Example: I see an elderly person crossing the street and I assume they are not super mobile and decide I am going to be a hero and help them. I dash to their side, grab their elbow, and support them as we both cross the street. I do not hear the elder person’s quiet protests because I am so focused on getting them to the other side. Once we have “safely” landed on the opposite curb, I release their elbow and feel proud of myself for serving my elders. Only at this point do I make eye contact and truly connect with the person. I see fear and confusion in their eyes. They say something to me in another language and hug their arm to their side, tears in their eyes. How can I know that this person is the survivor of a war and terrified of strangers? Did I ever consider the fact that my spiky hair and tattoos, which are benign enough in my social circle, scream “thug” to this elder? The elder person did not think I was helping them, they thought I was after their wallet! Now they are terrified and confused and worried I am going to harm them further.
I could give more examples about therapists who question the validity of a queer* teenager’s identity; supporting the parents in thinking it might be a phase or the result of a trauma. Or leaders of a therapeutic organization who discriminate against a trans* employee then act contrite, claiming they could never discriminate against anyone because, after all, they are part of a helping profession.
WAKE UP PEOPLE!
I can forgive this extreme ignorance in people who are not helping professionals. I am happy to support the education of the human race and speak out again and again about the queer* experience and queer* rights. But I cannot forgive those of us who have advanced training in psychology, who are supposed to be offering support and healing to others. We are supposed to educate ourselves on a regular basis, for crying out loud! We have to pay attention to current research and take continuing education credits supposedly so we do not harm the people with whom we work. We should be seeking out the voices of marginalized groups and not just listening to cisgender, heterosexual, white people. There is no excuse for trained professionals to allow an unlicensed, unregistered “therapist” to work with young girls, touching them unnecessarily and showing blatant favoritism for the slender white girls.
It is NOT OK to hire a queer* employee then tell them that even though they identify as third gender, the company will need to refer to them as “woman” because they only have two gender boxes. It is even more NOT OK to ask the queer* employee to solve this problem! SOLVE IT YOURSELVES! This is why you have a human resources department… or do they have their heads up their asses too? Judging from the situation, I can make an educated guess that the answer is yes.
My heart is racing, my muscles are tense, and tears threaten to spill from my eyes. If I could turn this post into a “howler” so that it shrieked at everyone on the internet, I would do it. I am so sick of people refusing to do their work. We all have to examine our biases and blind spots or else we are doomed to repeat the same stupid mistakes for all eternity.
I am no exception. In an effort to be transparent and walk the talk, I will show you mine.
What are my biases?
I struggle with finding compassion for people who insist that anyone’s personal expression of identity is wrong. I am biased towards freedom of choice and independence in young people. I tend to feel overwhelming and disproportionate compassion and benevolence towards people of color (I am rather ashamed of this one and try to bring awareness to my unconscious actions when possible). I am prone to racial biases and recently caught myself wondering if the only black man in a group was a thief (the group was discussing stolen property). I am not proud of this, but I look at it. I take the ugly parts of myself out of the shadow bag that I carry around with me and I shine a light on them. Through this process, I learn where I need to grow and I learn that I need to ask lots of questions and not operate under assumptions.
I remember that first and foremost, I do no harm.
If you haven’t read my post, “Oh, So Discrimination Is OK As Long As It Is About Gender and Not Race. Got It,” then you should check it out. It was my first post about a pending gender discrimination lawsuit in Oregon, involving my spouse. The defendants at New Vision Wilderness currently maintain that they did not discriminate against anyone. In fact, they keep describing everything that they feel did occur including disorganization within the company, miscommunication, and oh yeah, discrimination. They do not get it. The owners of the company maintain that one of their policies requires transgender people to hide their gender from clients and that they couldn’t hire my spouse because xe “refused” to hide xyr gender (which also isn’t true, but they have told so many falsehoods at this point I no longer get bogged down by them).
Let me break this down for you.
Company A has a policy stating that employees will not reveal any personal information about themselves to clients. This is a therapeutic modality, ostensibly designed to support clients in therapy to overcome their challenges without being influenced by their therapist’s interests or personality.
OK. I think that’s kind of a bogus therapy model but I will allow Company A the freedom to incorporate it.
So cisgender Sara is hired as a therapist. She starts working in the field and clients refer to Sara with feminine pronouns (she/her). Because she has long hair, wears clothes styled for women, and speaks in a higher pitch than men, clients assume she is female and identifies as a woman. Her gender is known despite the “non-disclosure policy” of Company A.
Then cisgender Stan is hired as a therapist. He starts working in the field and clients refer to Stan with masculine pronouns (he/his/him). Because he has short hair, a beard, wears clothes styled for men, and speaks in a lower pitch then women, clients assume he is male and identifies as a man. His gender is known despite the “non-disclosure policy” of Company A.
Then transgender Tornado is hired. Before xe starts working in the field, xe is told xe cannot use xyr pronouns because clients might be confused and besides it goes against Company A’s “non-disclosure policy.” Xe is only allowed to work if xe allows clients and staff to erroneously refer to xem with feminine pronouns and be misgendered as female even though xe has a shaved head, wears clothes styled for men and women, and speaks in a pitch that is… well, xyr pitch. Unfortunately, transgender Tornado didn’t even get this far because the job offer was rescinded after xe came out as trans*.
So it’s OK for cisgender Sara and cisgender Stan to be “out” as cisgender, but it’s not OK for transgender Tornado to be “out” as transgender.
THAT IS DISCRIMINATION, MY FRIENDS! And it should not be excused by ignorance.
Here’s the thing: Human beings are not perfect. We screw up. We have biases and judgments and we hurt each other. But one would hope that when such biases, judgments, and hurts are pointed out; when a mirror is held up to our actions and reflects discrimination, we can see how we screwed up and we atone for our actions. When we are unable to do this, we perpetuate inequality. We perpetuate hate.
Stop the hate. Spread the love.