06/30/2011

a fine sieve, a free box, a jar of burning earth.

not the same thing you were looking for at all,

but it’s found.

healing hands, she

rolls over onto my back

exposes the star at my belly

tap three times, says

“this is your strength/weak-ness/strength.”

there are other hands

cool/warm/cool

press in

the forehead so says relief.

&

flip the bullhorn

flush conflagration

burn

everything must go.

Epilobium angustifolium is a pioneer

will grow first

where the burning has been.

before its telltale blooms

a poultice could be an appropriate measure

make sure you do not

heal too fast, cover up

too much.

(it will drain bitter green, a blood-hollowed boil)

&

steepletop soured

it’s that you think damage

when I say injury

put a fist print into the brick as tho to say

this is not the only injury I’ve ever had.

&

thanks for the hand up / now get the fuck out.

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a person i would have incubated the life of another human for (once, then–tho i’m glad i didn’t now) said in the dark:

“what the difference between friends and lovers?”

i can share sex with my friends, make meals with friends, ride bikes with friends, cuddle with friends, go on trips with friends, sit quietly and work beside friends–

“Time!” I exclaimed in the dark.

You know that thing that people say, time is money. Let’s scratch that.

Time is investment. My time is an investment, when I lavish time upon someone I am investing in our relationship, trusting that I am tending to something that will nurture us both.

I’ve done a lot of leaping before I look closer, mistaked the preliminary romance for a longer-term compatibility that wasn’t more times than I can count (and I am young yet, at 25 26). It’s easy to forget to put up boundaries when we move so fast. If we hit a roadblock it’s gone before I know it, anyways, and then I’ve spent all this time on a relationship that detracted from the other relationships that I value.

So. From now on, let’s “just” be friends is an honorific.

It means: I want to take my time with you. I want to go slow, to build this thing between us, this bridge, this affection, this kindling, and do it in a way that best serves both of us.

Society has given its permissions as such that people do their worst to their romantic partners (and children). Batter, abuse, manipulate, stifle, the list goes on–and I want none of these.

Negotiation? I can afford negotiation. No? I can hear no. Yes? I can wait until we both say yes, because we are friends, and I value the journeys we take even when they are not shared.

Let’s be whole-hearted, let’s be gracious, let’s be loving, let’s be honest, let’s be friends.

You won’t be the only one–and I won’t be the only one for you, either, and that is part of what makes our friendship great, that we have whole lives besides where we collect the gifts that we share in our time together.

And that is precious, friend, even when time is scarce, maybe even especially when it is scarce, so we fit carefully the pieces of our lives that we will share.

Love and light,

RD

ps. I believe too in the intimacy of day-to-day life, but sometimes what I really want is to know first (because setting boundaries with the people closest to me has been so steadily discouraged) is that I can trust someone with our friendship, before anything else.

A missive:

I have dismissed

admiring your complicated sweaters

for other complexities, more communitarian than geometric.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t

imagine, sometimes–

your face.

 

Hey reader! This post is about police violence, rape culture, and the international phenomenon of the Slutwalk. I consider this subject matter to be fairly triggering, so please take care of yourself and click away as needed. Consensual Xs and Ohs! -RD

Despite many misgivings, I decided to attend the Slutwalk in my city. Slutwalk started in response to a Toronto cop who in a fit of classic victim-blaming, told a group of students that if women didn’t want to get raped, “[they] should stop dressing like sluts.” It’s exciting that large-scale feminist demonstrations like this one are happening in my city. But I was utterly dismayed as I walked up to the initial rally not only to find a massive faction of cops rambling around, but also to overhear folks affirming the choice of the organizers to have cops present.

There were lots of sharp, insightful signs, but there were also questionable signs that enforced hierarchies of privilege. For the purposes of documentation, I tried to photograph signs moreso than any individual people or faces.  Being able to appear at any public protest (particularly this one) without fear of repercussions from one’s employer, religious community, family, partner(s), etc, is a privilege, and I didn’t want to diminish that for anyone, although there were copious other photographers present, most of whom appeared to be male and photographing people indiscriminately.

After the march we convened for a second rally. While there, I was a party to the following:

A skinny young white woman (let’s call her Pink Flamingo, or PF, okay?) is walking briskly after an older heavyset man in a green sweater (let’s call him Rat Bastard, or RB, okay?), calling out after RB “delete that picture! delete that picture! delete that picture!” PF blocks his path, “delete that picture. Please delete that picture.”

RB responds “No,” and tries to keep walking and to enter a store. One of my comrades and I follow, comrade calmly says something to the effect of “what’s going on here?”. PF tries to block RB’s path again and RB grabs her as PF says “I just want you to delete that picture.”

“Hey! keep your hands OFF OF HER!” I yell. I was upset before, but now I’m absolutely fucking livid.

An employee of the store keeps saying “this is a business, this is a business,” and another employee is getting a cop from just outside the doors. Everything happens so fast, and I am shaking, worried that PF will be arrested, or all of us.

The cops separate everyone out and talk to RB and PF. I can’t here what they’re saying to PF, but I do hear what the pig is saying to RB: “If they’re in public, you can take a picture of whoever you want.”

I wish I could think in words when I’m mad, but I can’t. If I could, I would have yelled this is what rape culture is, pig! This is why we’re here! The appearance of one’s body in public is not consent.

But this is not an isolated instance. Cops enforce rape culture every day. It’s more visible when they enforce rape culture on young, white cis-gendered people, but just as sinister (or even moreso) is the effect of police violence and rape culture on people who are marginalized by mainstream pro-cop, pro-state, pro-PIC organizing.

Some tuff bitches said:

It is not enough to ask for reform from a system that disappears people through the construction of borders and jails, while affirming cultural values about rape, gender, race and straightness. The only people who should be in the business of articulating and setting boundaries for how they experience their bodies are people themselves, NOT the State, NOT the police, and certainly not industries hellbent on manifesting insecurities that keep us tied to mythical protectors. Instead, let us consider other ways of affirming our own agency and dismantling the apparatus of the State and all of its constituents.

As anarchists, we want the extinction of police and prison culture. As survivors, we want to set the boundaries for how and when we fight back against sexual violence.

All mixed up

06/22/2011

Last night at @mia:

me:   man, i am rambling. my point was! being mixed race but passing is a weird position of privilege and it has affected my analysis of cops in weird ways. like, pretty much all of my experiences with cops have been crappy, but i also am not forced to interact with them very frequently because i pass. it’s only pretty recently that i even began an active critique of the police.

rad dude/POC:   yeah, i like to summarize the process of my analysis of cops like this: 0-7 years cops are good!, 7-11 years some cops are bad, 11-21 years there are a few good cops, 21+ years ALL COPS ARE BAD.

me:   YEAH.

[conversation follows critiquing Slutwalk + discussing the yes means yes model of consent + talking about personal experiences of consent, sex, and non-consent + white privilege and queerness]

Having come from an island of liberal politicks and white privilege, it sure is interesting to be ‘waking up’. Some days I feel late to the party, others like I’m the only one here. Just depends upon the company I’m keeping that day, I guess.

Recently read a quote that was to the effect of: if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not creating real change.

Challenging the kyriarchy, challenging ones self, challenging ones peers, and challenging society–all of these things can be incredibly lonely, uncomfortable work.

It gives me blisters, but my blisters grow to callouses and they make me strong.

But gawd. I am so glad that I can find solidarity sometimes. The late-night kitchen conversation venting about the patriarchy and notions of queer separatism, the unexpected discussion of white supremacy and consent at a community barbecue, even just the neighbor kids finally braving to survey the garden and talk to us. These moments where I can feel solidarity are like a cool glass of water, refreshment before I go back out into the world and the intense heat of its struggles.

I am trying to learn how to take risks: say hi to strangers, openly disagree, engage in political discourse even when my foundation feels shaky, apologize when I am wrong, have boundaries without becoming impenetrable, give invitations without pressure, go out alone (and sober!), be singular but not solitary, call people on their shit without feeling like it’s an imposition, seek solidarity with others without compromising my self.

I leave you with this.

Love and light,

RD

06/17/2011

Updated.

Wake up to my alarm, the irritating cell phone boogie. Everything is stiff and my face feels kind of swollen like I’ve been crying in my sleep again. Have I? Hope not. My sinuses are swollen but it’s probably just the dregs of that cold, summer-spring allergies, dust.

The neighbors woke me up like they usually do, just as I was getting to sleep, so I slept downstairs with my housemate/sweetheart. I think: I love living in a neighborhood with 24/7 streetlife because it makes it feel safer, but I hate living in a neighborhood with 24/7 streetlife because it makes it loud when I want it quiet. I think: do these people have jobs? If they do, they obviously are not jobs like mine (that require early mornings and early nights). Then I think: I live in a neighborhood that is predominantly people of color, and people of color are experiencing unemployment at a significantly higher rate than the “general” (this is the word the news uses, why?) aka “white” population. I am glad to hear them laughing, whatever the case.

These are the things I am thinking as I hobble up the stairs, trying to go easy on my bad hip. Most people don’t know that I’m sick. I don’t like telling them. But I have noticed a pattern to my friendships lately, that the people I am closest to are also people with chronic ailments or long-term injuries or mental illness diagnoses or trauma or (more likely) some combination of this thing. I sometimes think that truly able-bodied, well-adjusted, 100% healthy people free of trauma or other long-term injuries are a myth, that each of us (our bodies, our selves) have these individual quirks that make us us, and sometimes make living in our bodies all the time a challenge.

I have this weird pseudo-privilege of looking well, appearing well, being well–except for when I’m not. I look socially acceptable: slender, tan but not readily apparent as a person of mixed race, etc. Okay, I’m not gender-conforming, but in my city that is still pretty normal and because I’m “pretty” people tend to overlook that. I’m lucky to have this amount of body privilege, and I know that.

But. Looking well doesn’t mean I am well, which leads to problems in various places: the bus, the doctor’s office, friendships, work. My mother has had this problem her whole life, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but it took me a long time to figure out why she had had so much trouble getting a diagnosis, or getting people around her to acknowledge her illnesses and accommodate her. Like, can’t you see that she’s sick? She can’t eat anything unless she wants to risk spending hours in the bathroom and has to use a cane, for chrissakes! Nope. She’s too pretty, too female (did you know that all women are hypochondriacs and couldn’t possibly know anything about their bodies?!), too capable, too much of a well-rounded human being–to be sick.

Because people with chronic ailments and disabilities are apparently supposed to fade into the background and become one-dimensional. We are not supposed to inflict our challenges upon anyone else unless they specifically offer to “be there” for us (you know, the “support friend”, aka Fucking Rad Allies). Like, how dare you ask if this event is accessible? Accessibility is haaaard! You’re right, it is! Why is that? Ask yourself: what does a sick/disabled/injured person look like? What are their needs? What are they capable of?

I am a mainstay of the bike community. I frequently put on >75 miles a week. On Saturday I placed 6th in a race where I competed with 45 other people. Today I barely made it to work because the inflammation was so bad. Tomorrow I will probably be back in the saddle because staying still makes the inflammation worse.

The next time you see me (or the next person you see) I want you to try this on for size: this is what a sick person looks like. this is what a disabled person looks like. this is what a survivor of trauma looks like. Because you can’t tell just by looking at us, who we are, what we are or aren’t capable of.

Love and light,

RD

Hey reader! This rant is potentially triggering for frank and frustrated discussion of rape culture and trauma. Please take care of yourself! XO, RD

Ps. gratefully I somehow avoided encountering that which lies below for quite a while since moving in with a bunch of other rad queer feminists. separatism, what? wheee!

There are two categories of rape jokes in the world, and they’re both pretty fucking insensitive and prickly. The category of rape joke I can tolerate, nay, even sometimes make (in a fit of bitter sarcasm) is the nuanced kind. The unnuanced kind, where you joke about rape like it’s a mythical beast that you and no one you know will ever meet, a dour invention of some feminist with their trousers on backwards–that kind? Well, it makes me want to hit you in the face, honestly, although I generally refrain.

Nuanced rape jokes at least acknowledge the bitter pill that is: the fact that as survivors we are forced to live in, confront, sometimes even pretend to be pals with, a world that is rife with rape culture and trauma. Rape jokes with nuance acknowledge any one or many of the following: sexual assault/community response to sexual assault can be deeply traumatizing, sexual assault is really pervasive, sexual assault can happen to anyone, no one ever deserves to be raped, sexual violence and talking about sexual violence are deeply stigmatized, rape is sex without consent (i.e. unconsciousness/severe intoxication do not equal consent), etc. Insert queasy depressed chuckles here because it’s more socially acceptable to laugh together than to cry together (sigh).

A rape joke is never sensitive (seriously, don’t even try me on this one), but the most insensitive of all treat rape either as a Gorgon or a thing that would never happen to “Us”. “Us” is also a mythical beast, but “Us” is formed out of a clay made of your privilege, and molded to the needs of the wearer at any given moment, may also go as “We”. Guess what? Rape happens to people you know. It may have happened to you. It may have happened to the people closest to you, and if they haven’t told you, it may be because: they don’t trust you (or don’t trust you enough), they can’t acknowledge what happened to them, or because you raped them. That’s right, I just called you a rapist. Potentially.

For a long time I’ve struggled with how to deal with rape jokes in sensitive situations, places where I feel my social standing would be damaged if I spoke up. Many times I have left a social gathering or a social group because of the pervasive misogyny apparent in the dominant members of that community. But when you come into my home, to my party, and you make a rape joke without acknowledging that you are standing next to a survivor, sharing social space with people who might be survivors, that you have any history with confronting sexual violence at all, and you just treat rape like it’s hilarious and gosh, isn’t your sense of humor daring! I am going to start asking you to stop. I don’t care how awkward it is, how the room swirls around us as all other conversations halt, I don’t even care if I get a reputation for being no fun, a bitchy feminist, or too sensitive. My home is meant to be safe space for everyone, and I expect you to respect other people and their experiences within it.

And if you can’t? Don’t come.

**Dude-bro: often a male-identified person who is utterly and completely heteronormative, perfectly masculine, usually white, able-bodied, and middle-class, completely unaware of their own privilege and often misogynist, either overtly or inadvertently.

Love and…oh fuck it. I am so tired of the dude-bros of the world.

-RD

got into an incredibly exhausted spiraling conversation with housemate last night about class and economics and misfortune. per usual felt incredibly uneloquent, vapid, unclear in speaking–but maybe better as i write about it? as ever, i’m a writer, not a talker. couldn’t sleep for the manic anxiousness in my bones, chewing on notions and noises and trying not to gnaw too hard at a toothache.

***

working to un-still the notions i was instilled with as a child by the kyriarchy. move, notions, get out the way! i have new notions flooding in.

the value train i was instilled with:

  1. if you are determined enough, you can get a job.
  2. if job, then $$
  3. if $$, then FREEEEDOM!!!!

so, let’s hastily approximate that, shall we?

Work shall make you free.

oh, is that also the rough translation of the phrase emblazoned on the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau? well! what a striking coincidence, Protestant values!

for a brief (seriously, it was brief!) interlude of my adulthood, it really did seem that if you were privileged enough, all venues were open to you. that sense fell on its face in 2008 when the market crashed, but i know a lot of folks who are still operating on that myth, that they deserve things because they are white, able-bodied, middle class, college-educated–especially if they work hard enough on capitalist society’s terms. it is heartbreaking to watch them coming to terms with a very personal analysis of capitalism, a system they had previously thought maybe-not-sooo-terrible because it still benefited them.

and yet. the tables have turned. not turned like poor people are the new rich people (haaaa), but now everything is even more polarized, and the previously middle-class are now clinging to its vestiges (hey debt!) while living as working poor, accounts frozen by creditors, food bank meals, etc.

these are the people that i want to self organize, take that sense of ‘deserving’ and apply it to humanity at large. we all deserve: food, shelter, safety, healthcare, support.

***

how can we provide for eachother without capitalism? i can think of so many ways, but the state makes it so fucking hard by regulating (and co-opting) each and every movement. if we want healthcare, we must $$. if we want a place to live without getting thrown in jail, we must $$. if we want food we must $$.

this job owns me now, not i it. what to do about that?

Tired of the career-track, I quit my job mid-2008 to try to find some way out of capitalism. I travelled the West Coast, dumpster-dove, toiled in the garden, made all sorts of things from scratch, continued organizing with a grassroots advocacy group I had helped start, and was surprised to fall into my approximate dream job as a campaign organizer during the 2008 general elections with a statewide lobbying/advocacy NPO.

Did I say dream job? I meant nightmare. All my worst fears about electoral politics were realized: the game really is about money, power, and thinly veiled threats, chess played by rich powerful white men of a certain age. Don’t get me wrong, my boss was incredibly impassioned about our goals, but the means by which we were forced to achieve them (or attempt to achieve them) were GROSS, and the compromises we made were grievous and many. Nowhere was this more striking when we were forced to endorse the local fatcat mayoral incumbent over his squeaky wheel challenger because the incumbent had more $$, and was therefore considered ‘more electable.’ Greased pockets and constant contact aside, the squeaky wheel challenger made it through by popular vote.

I made it through the election season by a similarly narrow margin. Electoral politics disgusted me, and I burned out and faded away from liberal organizing. The work I had been doing with the NPO really only stood to benefit an upper privileged crust of the population, anyways. Everyone else might receive some fringe benefit, but I doubted (and still doubt) that such an intensely capitalist system stood to benefit anyone else in a particularly meaningful way.