Going into the basement of the self.

I feel like I am in the middle of a deep and powerful therapy, but I have to be the one who asks the hard questions and gives the hard answers. Journal frantically while shutting everyone else out but for bits and spurts. Occasionally I hold out some snapshot, C. and I sit out on the porch and I tell a story but then go down, under the spell of introversion again. Slip back to the basement where it is cool and damp, my stories can filter thru the lacy frame of plants and windows.

And it feels…safe here, with the exception of how my body is unearthing all the neglect I have tolled upon it in previous weeks, months, years–coming up with all this at the same time.

Using fiction, that attentive lens, to approximate dialogues I do not trust anyone enough to have. Do not want to trust anyone else with, sifting thru the fuzz from my own asshole. That’s some introspection, yo.

This was a little bit what adolescence was like for me, a sense of having an intense inner life and very little connection to my external life. A sense that other things might exist in the future, but they were not close enough for me to really be terribly interested in them. Suddenly I wonder: if my father had not raised to me the night I left, would I ever have left at all? Yes, but it might have been by hanging rather than by the door.

I will go out of this place by the door, sword in hand. Maybe I will burn it down, too. You never know.



because this jarred you loose from the place where i carry you.


i dream you awake again, stroke your glossy black, now pink, now blue, now black again. feathers or curls, i can’t quite recall, so the dream gifts you both.

the flush rose as your eyes welled up (one blackest brown, the other plummed to coal by a fist), you said “i am no one’s now.” and i said “you are mine. you are my friend.

it’s a surprise to make it here (26), we said we would not see 25. did you even live out another year from that burning day, before your hummingbird heart (still broken) gave up and out? exhausted by so much smoke and fluttering (unwanted) from house to house.

i flew the coup (a fool), thought I could trade up on my soul, pantomime salvation in exchange for safety, practicing for later when i would trade up on my body, to no avail. all that pretending, and i still couldn’t make myself up to future housewife (anonymous)–my feathers kept shoving past the broom.

you were the first of the fey ones to my young acquaintance, wings hidden under a busted out denim jacket. i hollowed a locket-shaped nest for you beneath my breastbone, the innards made downy with years, love. i keep you there with my projections, run reels of our long and winding walks, conversations. they were too brief.

but at least there’s that home, at last, for you.


sick again. not sick like ‘i have a cold in the middle of the fucking summer’, but sick like whole body pain.

keep hoping i will find the magic bullet. some herb, some dietary change, some new exercise, or hell! even some medication–that will keep my body from doing this without introducing intolerable new symptoms in the process. tired of hearing people with “well” bodies complaining about sick and/or disabled people who ask for their bodies and needs to be accommodated occasionally. or claiming that people are just “being neurotic” and that their illnesses are not real. “prove it!” they say.


Okay, let’s start with this–not the only study of its type or the only study with similar conclusions, by any means.

In women with chronic pain, self-reported childhood maltreatment was associated with higher diurnal cortisol levels. These results add to the evidence that abuse in childhood can induce long-term changes in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical activity. They further underscore the importance of evaluating childhood maltreatment in fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

In non-sciency terms: there is growing scientific evidence that folks (esp. female-assigned folks) who experience trauma also experience significant alteration to their hormone levels that can contribute to various chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis (to name a few).

Interestingly, another recent study showed a correlation between being the child of a survivor of extreme trauma and having heightened levels of  cortisol (think of it like a stress hormone).  <waves> Yup, that’s likely folks like me, who come from extended legacies of trauma.

I find this line of research particularly fascinating when I place it in context with the anecdotal evidence that I am surrounded by in daily life. Approximately 80% of my friends, acquaintances, and family members who experience chronic pain are also survivors of some kind of abuse.  But abuse and other trauma are incredibly common experiences. Heartbreakingly common. Devastatingly common. And it’s not like we sit around confessing our struggles with chronic pain or abuse/trauma histories all the time–these are things that a lot of people are socialized to feel deep shame about, and a need to conceal. None of this is quantifiable, but it sure as hell feels like correlative evidence to me, anecdotal or not.

However. As any junior high school chemistry student can tell you, correlation is not causation! But it does give me pause, a moment to stop and say hrm, that sure is interesting.

And it also gives credence to the various theories and schools of thought that embody somatics. The most familiar concept of somatics to me is the idea that the mind uses the body to store trauma, and that those experiences can be intentionally or unintentionally unlocked later via exercise or movement. Like this, see?

What is the legacy of trauma? How does this affect my body or influence the ways that I am in pain now?


I dreamt that you had moved on but left me your apartment, paid up for the month and full of stuff you had decided not to take with you. I tried for a while to pack up the various odds and ends, the bookcases and half-empty drawers, but eventually I came to the same conclusion: there was little worth keeping. I woke up just before ripping my hard drive out of the old machine and taking the rickety elevator down to the street for the last time.

Hello reader, this is potentially triggering for discussion of the aftermath of assault. It’s potentially a very triggering subject, so please take care of yourself. But do know–this post ends on a hopeful note. Love, RD

a year ago (almost to the day) I was assaulted by a friend, a co-conspirator, a political comrade, a lover.

Since then, it has been near impossible to feel like any of my relationships are healthy or safe–even my relationship with my self.

The thing that happened didn’t physically injure me in any way other than a couple of small bruises and aggravating a pre-existing injury in my shoulder, but it fucked up my life in so many ways that would be impossible to quantify. I left my home (and with it my chosen family) because while they were supportive, I couldn’t find safe space there–every corner held a new piece of my trauma. I struck out in search of a new space and new friendships, both of which have had their own strengths and follies. I’m still re-building relationships that broke down under the stress, and praising my fucking lucky stars for those that strengthened in the fire. I am grateful for my collective, who rallied round me immediately and supported and backed up the boundaries that I set, despite the fact that _____ had far more experience in the work that we do, as well as a longer history (and more ties) within the radical community. I don’t know if I would have survived that period of time if not for the safe haven of my then-lover’s couch, who put up with me crying myself to sleep on it more times than I could possibly count. Although I have often felt very isolated through this experience, my network of support is incredibly strong. My friends and other community members agreed to hold ___ accountable for his behavior, rather than brushing it off as another drunken “incident”. But they also didn’t abandon ___, he has had access to the support that he needs to address his behavior and make real changes in his life. And he has respected the boundaries that I set after the assault, without question, something many abusers do not do.

Experiencing relationship violence within the radical community has strengthened my convictions both as an anti-authoritarian and a feminist. I recognize that the criminal justice system works for some people*, but it would not have worked in my situation–and instead it probably would have made things worse. So. I am most grateful for folks who are doing work around transformative justice and somatics today, because without their work I would not be sitting here, writing, feeling anxious but hopeful. Slightly stuffy from crying, exhausted from emotional turmoil, but grateful for the communities that surround me.


If I were to summarize my way of relating to the world it would be this: caretaker, martyr, clown. I have a lot of bad habits when it comes to self-care and boundary setting. I was never good at setting boundaries with people close to me, in large part due to the weird codependent/abusive dynamics at work in my childhood, but when I am experiencing emotional turbulence it’s even worse. I would work my hands to the bone for someone else before I would take care of my own needs, it’s true. Because I do care-taking work in the radical community, it’s extremely important for me to be aware of this at all times lest I burn out and not be there when I am needed most. Care-taking/martyr behaviour is  a way of being in control when other elements of my life (usually the painful ones) are not under my control. I am working on learning to cede control sometimes. BDSM is a healthy part of that, although sometimes it can be very triggering–I have used my safeword to end almost every scene as of late. I miss topping immensely, but I don’t have the emotional energy for it the way I used to. Hopefully that will return.

Medical texts will tell you that bipolar people do not get anxiety, but I do (and fuck medical texts, this is my lived experience!). My manic highs are replaced with anxiousness when I am unsupported/triggered/not practicing good self-care. My mind and heart race. Every phrase of a conversation triggers some new worry.

The face of a friend whose companionship I had to bail on last night in order to practice better self-care swirls around my brain, circling like a shark fin. I’m hunted by their disappointment, even as I recall that they’ve told me to take care of myself first. Bad brains, take care of me first and the rest will follow.

I take care of myself by writing. I take care of myself by documenting this transformation, from trauma to hope. I will make time for this. I will make time for my self.


*and fails so many others.

Hello, this is potentially triggering for discussion of BDSM, racism, and state violence. Take care! -RD


In between. Not quite girl, not quite boy. Too dark to be white, too white to be recognizable as latin@, unless we’re at church or crossing the border. “Tell us your name, miss. Where did you come here from? What for?”

Some day, we’ll paint this interaction into a scene and film it. But in my scene, the undocumented (call me sir) pins the ass of la migra, and not the other way around. I’ll spill the only water cooler for miles into the sand, make them lick it from my freshly-shined boots after a good beating. And it’ll be all thank you sir, and sir, may I? No, no you may not. If I can’t pass, then you won’t, either. I’m tired of being alienated from all sides (as many sides to this intersectionality as a rubiks cube), so I’ll take it into my own hands and then discipline you with them, both my oft-missed identities as mixed/trans/top* as well as the ways I am often misidentified as girl/dyke/submissive.

I get off on this abuse of authority, true, tho that scene is but a farce. I was born this far north, make no mistake. It’s northern latitude that has blanched my skin, more sure than my mother’s mother’s line of Wyoming ranchers and Mayflower puritans.

*okay, maybe more like switch–i’ve discovered the joys of truly bottoming since writing this.

help me unpack.


“if you come help me unpack, i’ll show you my dresses! i tried so hard to be a girl!” almost hysterical with sadness while trying to bolt it down with humor. each object is a salt mine, testament to the laborious ways i tried to perform acceptable femininity: swooping necklines and painted lips, high heels and a-line skirts. all for show, but i was trying to emphasize a body i could recognize as beautiful, but not as my own.

how will i make my self fit this body, or this body fit my self? the medical industry rolls fat checks off of people like me, cutting and stitching us back together as creatures. calls us not-men, not-women. other. i am an other, sure, but it’s…so much more than that. and oh, people always want to know if i’ll get the surgery. “what fucking difference does it make to you?” i ever-always want to ask.

i began the slow drag of transition by accident. picked up another bike and followed it, but when i looked down a year later my entire body had changed, herded into sinew and taut muscle. mine, i thought, pushing my thumb into the crescent ring that underlies my navel. mine, i thought, his mouth on my cock and my hands in his hair. mine, i thought, looking into the mirror after successfully binding my chest to almost-not-noticeable for the first time.

it feels less like performance, more like living, but i’m not sure i’ll ever want to pass for any reason other than safety’s sake.

my body: small hands and big questions.