Trigger warning for: response to events in Orlando/Pulse, trauma within queer communities. Hold yourself (and eachother) tenderly in the coming months, my loves.
(written directly following Orlando/Pulse shooting):
Alone in the basement my ma and I are staying at in Portland and watching NBC coverage on Orlando, feeling chest deep in grief like a granite mudslide, pressure on my heart and lungs like heart failure, the loss of my first queer chosen family member to meth-self hatred-family estrangement, the loss of a nearly a whole generation and a whole way of life to the AIDS epidemic, loss of so many incredibly vibrant trans women (most black and brown) to bashings-murders-imprisonment-deportations-suicide, the loss of those forced into the closet by the forced vulnerability of interdependence (very young-very old-living with illness or disability—why it is so important that those who do care work support the autonomy of those they care for).
And I am crushed by silence. I have had ONE straight friend touch base with me to ask if I am ok, how they can support me/other latinx queers/queers of color right now. You waved your rainbow flags for marriage because you thought it the best thing, that we finally win the right to be just like you. But we’re not! I’m not, anyway. I am devoutly and proudly culturally queer: a culture that grew in direct opposition to compulsory heterosexuality. How could I be the same as that rigidity? I am the same as you most in my difference, in the diversity of experience and belief in my communities.
But please, move up for me! I need you now. We need you. We need you to speak and vote against transphobic laws like HB2 and 1515, to talk to your family and friends about hatred (and moving beyond acceptance or tolerance to embrace, to RESPECT), to lift up our voices beyond the walls of our communities, to escort us into the bathroom so we can pee safely, to fight against the criminalization of homelessness, poverty, black and brown bodies.
Please don’t just wave a rainbow flag for a single victory, light one lavender candle in silent lip service to grief, and call it good. You have not served change if decoration is your only demonstration. There is so much more change to be won. And I’ve seen you—you have a lot of light in you, are capable of so much.
Move with me, take this grief as an invitation to dance!
Today I rallied and marched with my sweetheart for May Day: to honor workers, to end deportations and incarcerations. My heart swelled up and I cried when we stopped to watch the Mexica dancers. We have lost so much, and found so much, all the time. Borders, deportations, incarcerations–these things divide FAMILIES.
If you are white, you were NOT “here first”–THERE IS NO BLUE RIBBON FOR THEFT. You are living on stolen land, suckling the blood of the people of color who built it for you, supply your life still with an unearned ease (no matter how hard things get, your whiteness still greases the edges). You schemed across the water on the backs of those stolen into slavery. So stop acting like you were the first goddamn child to the top of the treehouse, okay?
AND if you feel like you own this place (and are not indigenous/native), that deportations and mass incarceration are just–you are failing me, you are failing those like me, you are failing the human condition. Truly.
When it hits, you think of yourself as a smooth fist:
a spine full of knives, a shot of tetanus in a buried saber.
What about when talking about trauma is a trigger? Even though in between I am able to be articulate, insightful. Today in seminar we are discussing a case study of a patient with a history of CSA (childhood sexual abuse), and there is just enough description of the specifics that I begin to circle back on them again and again on the page. Every time someone says the word “rape,” the wind-up key turns. On the outside I am calm, if a bit quiet, but inside my heart is racing and I can feel my hands beginning to tremor as I reach for my coffee. At break I slip half a Xanax into my mouth with coffee, and then we come back and talk about hypomania. I love psychiatric nursing, but half of the time I feel so exposed, even when we talk about all these things in abstractions.
Me: cPTSD haver, bipolar type II, ACES score of 7 or more (11? 14?). Panic attacks, social anxiety, recurring nightmares, history of estrangement from family, risky sexual behaviors from a young age, ETOH/MJ/etc use, survivor of CSA/child abuse/parental neglect/rape/intimate violence, high stress life and (sometimes) very little support.
Broke but not broken. Surviving but underwater. Sometimes I feel so acutely aware that I experience life like I am hopping from crisis to crisis, and I think to myself, “shouldn’t I be more resilient than this? it doesn’t look like other people have to work so hard at keeping themselves afloat.”
Anyhow, that’s all. Going to see new therapist today, to talk about possible sliding scale arrangement. Wish me luck that it’s actually affordable.
Trigger warning for sexy bits:
Bird song, bus motor, traffic.
What am I to do? Everything I taste reminds me of your cunt.
Phantom scent that catches me around a corner, imagining your press into me as I lean against a wall.
I hear you in my ears,
husky whispering dirty while you touch me, crying out as you come.
–When the only sound is bird song, bus motor, traffic:
dust, settling in the heat.
“It’s like my queerness didn’t work right until I transitioned–I had all these relationships with women that fell flat, missed the mark, were utter and unforgivable disasters–and the only common denominator was me.”
“but you like women, though?”
“I *love* women. But I couldn’t have functional relationships with them, they were too raw, too dense, too much hurt with not enough honesty.”
“every other woman that I fell for turned up straight anyways–and that says something right there, too. It was like they didn’t see me. But maybe I didn’t fully see myself, either.”
“…cis men, tho. I just can’t–”
“oh, I know. Me too, now. It was easier, tho. It felt like the fit was at least a bit closer. I was still always devouring queer lit and culture. But I had to transition to truly find my place as a queer person, that helix-universe-glittercloud.”
Hannah was a bird-boned woman, bitter to the point of cruelty, and in it not unlike my own mother, but without the insight that ushers change. clunk. A haver of violence, a maker of fists. A mother of six.
I always thought that after Hannah’s death we would be released from her curse on our family. clunk. the inventor of so many tragedies. clunk. but now all I feel is an angry and hollow kind of grief. clunk. an ice chest in mine. clunk. A hole where our collective presence as a family should have been–but isn’t. clunk. A hole dug not by a person. clunk. but the bedrock-frayed blades of a shovel and a scythe, paired. clunk. colonialism and the continuity of trauma. clunk.
Now, it ends with me. clunk. I lay you to rest. clunk. I only use bitter herbs to clean.
I commit to life, to healing, to kindness–especially to those closest to me, the home that I build every day with heart in my hands: a strung skin, a heaving drum, the point of maximal impulse.
Dear Healthcare Provider:
I just wanted to thank you for being kind and generous with me today, your difficult patient who didn’t want to talk much and tried to dictate their own care and frowned during the entire appointment, feeling exposed, hurt, scared, worried about cost and humiliation.
See for me, being sick or injured, as a trans person, as a person underinsured by medicaid, as a person living under the dead limb of student debt in an economic storm–sick or injured is the most vulnerable place I can be. The scariest place I know is up on that examining table, every inch of skin I expose to you during our medical encounter a mile of inroads I have given you. I am weary, I am wary. I am taut to snap back if you show yourself a trap, a bully with a stethoscope, a critic on call.
Thank you for intuiting that I was not grumpy for the sake of grumpy, but worried about cost, slipping me a much-needed supply for my healing that would have been a squeeze in my budget, a budget already stretched thin on imagined money, loans and credit cards. I am up to the neck in debt and forever climbing, even while knowing that some day soon there are medical expenses coming that should be (but won’t be) covered by insurance, and that those things will cost me more than a whole year of college, more than a third of my annual income in my yet-to-entered field, my yet-to-be-gotten job.
Thank you for intuiting that I was not being stoic for machismo, but stoic because the masculinity I was socialized to does not go to the doctor til that dying breath, and while I am working on cowboying down and learning that having my masculinity recognized in the world does not mean self-neglect, I live with my father in my head calling every injury and illness overreacting, so if I am unprepared to tell you how and when I hurt, it is because there is a devil on my shoulder telling me self doubt is the best reaction to somatic pain. It is a long road, and my heart is only beginning to learn how to listen to the rest of my body.
I work in healthcare because of how hard it is for me to access it. So thank you for taking down the gate for an hour, so I too might have that thing we all need, care for the carer.
A trans nurse
Trigger warning: aftermath of sexual/child abuse
Honk if questions like “What is a secret that almost no one knows about you?” on dating websites trigger memories of trauma and you can never think of anything else to say, and you think that maybe deactivating your profile and never having sex with anyone else for the rest of your life might not be the worst thing, so long as you don’t have to pull THE BIG REVEAL moment (”surprise, I don’t just have CPTSD, my trauma history is so exhaustive it might give you PTSD if I talk tooo much about it! woo!”) out for someone you’re dating ever EVER again.
Honk if your abuser never got arrested because they never do, and because even when there was a small chance that they might, the authorities in question either didn’t take it seriously, didn’t ask the right questions, or failed to follow up at crucial points (ie. taking pictures of injuries, calling you back in <2 weeks, etc).
Honk if you were a queer/genderqueer/trans teen runaway and know as a matter of FACT that you can not ever “go home” safely, and your skin recoils in frustration and disgust when your friends tell you they “know what that’s like” because they like, fight with their parents sooo much since they dropped out of the liberal arts college their family was paying for.
Honk if your sexuality is always/has always been/will always be at least partially rooted in your response to the sexual abuse and exploitation you experienced as a child/teenager/adult at the hands of your family/family friend/friend/lover.
Honk if you never know whether or not your romantic/sexual relationships are normal, and if you constantly second guess yourself, because you’re not sure if you’re projecting your trauma onto your lover, or if things really are *that* terrible.
Honk if you forget to eat because food restriction and physical violence from your abusers taught you how to dissociate so well that you forget about this whole body thing sometimes.
Honk if depersonalization makes almost every moment seem surreal, almost all of the time.
Honk if you’re working on it, but sometimes you just want to sleep forever.
Honk if you’re scared of going to sleep some nights because your nightmares are just as exhausting/even more exhausting than your waking life.
Honk if you have at least one chronic pain/chronic health condition that appears to be a direct result of sexual assault.
Honk if you’ve lost track of the number of times that you had sex you didn’t really want, or that hurt, or both.
Honk if you’ve had a partner tell you, after you explained that the sex you were having hurt, “just a little bit longer, I’m almost there.” and never thought of this as a kind of sexual abuse until you were almost 30.
Honk if your trauma history is so extensive that even healthcare professionals splutter when they try to talk to you about it.
Heading deeper into my season of grief, and yet feeling permeated with light, beaming from every pore.
January the year I turned 18 I “ran away” for the last time. That time I made it to safety, after so many tries, so many threats, so many terrors.
It was not very safe, but it was safer there than I ever had been, even walking late nights with my sharpest key between my knuckles, meth addicts in place of zombies, because Snohomish County is a place that I came from.
I still have running away dreams, so many of my dreams involve being chased, having to go into hiding. Waypoints on the two highways that segmented the town we lived in, bus stops and routes that ought to overlaps but don’t, the precarious nature of navigating between them. Bike paths that end in train stations with seven stacked labyrinths and no elevator. Waiting behind a door to fool those who might open it into believing the room is empty.
But I open a new door this year, and I want to stand in the middle of the room, under the brightest light. It is terrifying, and I am alive. It is dangerous, and I am living.
I did not kill myself by the time I turned 25. I am 30 years old now, and that is a fucking miracle. He didn’t kill me, either.
Sometimes safe is just the place where he isn’t, and sometimes I make it myself, thumb prints in clay. And I did. I got me here, fists and boots and traveling spoon, spoked wheels and determination, a hard no and a hard yes. Heart in red marker on my sleeve, because I am not afraid of caring (anymore).
It is in winter that we dig up the old roots, and plant new bulbs.
Today is the Transgender Day of Rage (though some may call it a day of remembrance): Today I rage on behalf of my people, who have been murdered, raped, and incarcerated in the name of cis-normativity, who are still regularly portrayed in media not as people, but as commodities and objects for homophobic violence, and who are routinely discriminated in housing, healthcare, employment, immigration, education, and many other arenas.
Today I rage for Leslie Feinberg, who died this week of multiple chronic illnesses, who (in the words of one friend) had been writing for 20 years about not being able to access healthcare as a transgender person–and that lack of access finally killed hir.
Today I rage on behalf of the myriad young women, many of them women of color, who have either been incarcerated for defending themselves against transphobic attackers like Cece Mcdonald, or who have not survived these racist and transphobic attacks, as Islan Nettles, whose absences in the lives of friends, families, loved ones, lovers, and fellow activists and community members are deeply felt, as we await another sunrise without their incredible spark beside us.
Today I rage for gender variant teenagers and adults who will not live to see another day because the stigma of being gender variant in a world that sees gender solely as a binary became too much, and they succumbed to suicide, or were murdered by a friend or family member that they thought they could trust with their difference.
Today I rage on behalf of trans* and queer youth and adults who are faced with homelessness and poverty, many of whom can not even sleep in shelters when they are available, because there is no shelter I know of that has had a truly trans* sensitive policy–they are all stopgaps, and it is never safe enough.
Today I rage on behalf of those who in their disability live lives of interdependence, whose identities may be kept close for fear of retribution by their caregivers. I see you, I am waiting for you in the reaches of the internet and beyond. We are building bridges that no one can burn. We are all interdependent.
Tonight I will light no candles and I will not be silent–silence can not quell my fury, my fury is the truest expression of my grief. We must rise up against those who would try to silence us, we must exercise solidarity on behalf of one another. Rather than a moment of silence, I envision a world where as part of a continual course of action, we have set fire to the prisons, banished borders, restored sovereignty to indigenous communities, and opened the millions of foreclosed homes stolen by bankers’ greed and dishonesty to those disenfranchised by the wages of late capitalism.
I will not be satiated by the pink-washing of gentrification, political campaigns, and products or gay marriage. I will stop for nothing short of full-fledged revolution that wrests power from the sullied hands of the state and restores it to the people.