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!

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clunk.

02/20/2016

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.

Here’s one perspective on trigger warnings.

And here is my response, not just as a blogger, but as a survivor and a pretty avid reader of potentially triggering web content.

I like trigger warnings. I like having the choice to not read about rape when I’m not in an appropriate place to do so. A trigger warning is about restoring choice, it’s not about creating a safe or even a safe(r) space. I think it’s true that sometimes people get itchy about trigger warnings, and request them in unexpected situations, and that we can’t expect to anticipate peoples’ needs for trigger warnings 100% of the time. But I can prepare and be considerate of the fact that there are are a vast and ever-increasing number of people who become triggered by graphic descriptions of sexual violence and other types of violence, including transphobic violence, police violence, child abuse, etc. Do I have to include a trigger warning? Nope! This is my blog, and I choose to, in part because I want you to do the same for me.

There are days that I wake up shaking from my nightmares, not wanting to leave the house. A lot of those days are in my past, but I can’t guarantee that days of constant anxiety attacks and flashbacks won’t come again, and I know I’m not the only person who has experienced that as my “normal”, my daily reality. A friend recently compared a trigger warning to an NSFW (not safe for work) tag. If I see a trigger warning and I’m already upset for some reason (whether my ongoing PTSD related stuff or because my mom and I just got in a fight), I get to make the choice as to whether or not I can handle that subject matter at that time. Simple as that!

Do I get triggered in other situations? Hell yes! But it’s really nice to be able to pick and choose sometimes, y’know?

Trigger warning for slutshaming and radscum. ’nuff said!

Recently I volunteered to perform at a Take Back the Night rally. A friend had invited me to a feminist book club that also includes an online presence on Facebook, and someone associated with TBTN had put up a call for performers. I’ve been thinking for a few years about wanting to create space specifically for survivors of violence to share our stories and let go of some of the shame that (for me, at least) sometimes accompanies surviving violence, and so I responded to the call with a few pieces. One of the organizers responded enthusiastically and said they’d be glad to have me perform, and gosh, it was really useful to have my pieces ahead of time for the ASL interpreters. ASL interpreters! I have been performing as a hearing person for over 10 years at this point, and I have never performed with an ASL interpreter, so I was excited by the chance.

Take Back the Night has its roots in the mid-1970s second wave feminist movement, as a direct action protest against sexual violence against women. At the same time that these actions were taking place, a woman-led effort to do away with pornography was also taking hold and became closely linked with TBTN. The era of the so-called Feminist Sex Wars is of particular interest to me as a feminist, a pervert*, and a trans person. Several of my favorite writers (Dorothy Allison, Gayle Rubin, and Pat Califia among them) have written fairly extensively about this era and the various witch hunts that ensued, from the exclusion of masculine-identified people from the women’s movement (Leslie Feinburg writes about this in Stone Butch Blues) to the rise of a pro-censorship and anti-pornography faction called Women Against Pornography (WAP), the vilification of the practice of BDSM and beyond.

To be honest with you, I knew all of this history when I volunteered to perform at the rally. But I also thought to myself, “RD, it’s 2012! We’re in [liberal West Coast port city]! We’re known for our sex-positivity! Besides, this rally is supposed to be about survivors, not about political analysis.” Well. I guess I was wrong.

The first speaker to take the mic was the college president, who seemed genuinely glad to be there and said that he “look[s] forward to the day we no longer have to have these rallies, because there is no more violence!” Unrealistic, maybe, but okay. Hopeful. I like hopeful.

Pass the mic, next speaker. My blood ran cold when they said that they were with WAP. It is 2012, right? I found myself frantically checking my wrist and looking around me to see if I was having a nightmare as the tirade was launched. The speech was fairly long and it felt a bit flailing, to be honest, but it certainly riled up the crowd. The first piece of rhetoric that I can recall was “If you can’t imagine pornography without sex, you’re fucked!” My friend W., who was also present, tells me that she noticed people wandering the room beforehand with stickers with the same troubling quotation on it, but I didn’t see or hear it until that moment. What?! As if fucked is the worst thing we could be? I like getting fucked. And I bet I’m not the only one in the audience who does. Next up was the tokenization of queers. The speaker continued, repeatedly checking “LGBT people,” seemingly without actually understanding that hey, we’re right over here, and we can speak for ourselves! It’s hard sometimes when being tokenized to not stand up and start yelling You don’t speak for me! in one’s big voice, but I held my ground. And then they came for the kinky ones, and began deriding “torture porn,” and spoke of being in tears upon seeing the bruises on models’ bodies. As an occasional sex worker and a person who likes bruises, likes bruising others–after all, it is the consent that makes all the difference, this was the last straw. I got up and left in an absolute quaking rage.

I don’t disagree that a significant amount of pornography is exploitive and symptomatic of a violent, misogynist society (not to mention racist, sexist, ableist, etc…class, we remember the terms kyriarchy and kyriarchical, right?) , but it’s just that, a symptom. Trying to do away with a symptom without getting to the root of the illness is simplistic, foolish, and likely to do more harm than good (Comstock Act, anyone?). I felt like the speaker was denying people their agency while making sweeping generalizations about “men” and “women” as somehow homogeneous groups, with men playing the part of the aggressor and women playing the part of the victim. This tactic denies peoples’ agency and erases people who live outside that binarism, and that’s just to start with. W. talks much more about why the arguments used were problematic here.

Overall, I was incredibly frustrated and disgusted. I spent a large portion of the day thinking about and discussing this happening with various friends who frequently act as support to me. I had really hoped to share part of my story as a survivor with others as a part of the healing process of removing shame from those experiences by bringing some of mine out into the open, telling our truths in a safe place, but it turns out the safe place was anything but safe.

Did I deserve to be sexually assaulted if I had had kinky sex with my abuser? Did my father assault me because he could see my perversion before even I knew about it? Are my experiences with violence still important/valid as a masculine-identified person? There are a lot of victim-blaming and slut-shaming narratives that start pounding in my temples when I’m feeling shitty, and I didn’t really need to hear those again. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and a lot of time doing personal healing work for myself to put those questions down like an insurrection, so to speak. I know the answers to them now. But this event made them pop up and it’s gonna feel like whack-a-mole for a few days with the bad brain voice, I think. Ugh.

Anyhow. I think I’d like to organize a speak-out about sexual violence. No politicking about banning pornography or slutshaming about sexual preference allowed. It’s the consent makes all the difference.

ps. this was pretty much all I could think all day: 1982 called and it wants its shitty second-wave analysis back. just sayin’!

None shall pass

05/29/2012

a thing i have begun doing fairly recently (within the last year or so) is explaining my background in a way that both acknowledges my mixed race heritage and (more importantly, i feel) acknowledges that i experience “hella white privilege.” a conversation with W. recently made me want to better explore my motivations for revealing* my identity in this matter.

so let’s go back in time for a bit. as a child i tried to come up with words for what i am so that it would make better sense to the uninitiated. chicano came closest, but i find most non-Californians don’t know the word–or have negative associations with it. colloquialisms about race become loaded quickly. finally in my teens i settled on using “humorous”** adaptations like whitezican and mexi-fry. i hoped the implicit sarcasm of these words would both acknowledge the complexity of race (just because it’s a social construct doesn’t mean it doesn’t deeply affect peoples lives, y’all) and ward off racist bullshit. if i served as a visible representation of the “other” so feared and hated by white folks, maybe they would let go of the racism they harbored, not tell that beaner joke, or look at someone with browner skin than both of ours more closely, as a human being rather than a grievance. i know you’re wondering, “well, did it work?” yes and no, but mostly: no. the effect was so low as to be mostly imperceptible, and if anything at times my attempt at humor appeared to open up the floodgates for other peoples’ racist jokes: anti-racist fail, anyone?

what did work, what does work, is to hold people accountable: name the behavior, state the narrative, explain how it makes you feel. sometimes my background comes into play in those explanations, as in, “…it particularly makes me feel that way because racism is not just abstract to me–it is something that affects my family deeply, and that has repercussions in my own life/personal politic,” but i find that’s not always necessary. accountability feels like the most effective tool i have in working against individual acts that perpetuate white supremacy, but i will be the first to confess it’s all a work in progress. there are times when i swallow my tongue out of fear or anxiety. and i am still theorizing on how to fight against the broader ways in which oppression plays out, tho i feel like prison abolition is an important part (and oh god, how to do that?)

what are my other motivations for identifying myself as mixed race when i could otherwise “pass”? i feel like when people make assumptions about my race , they are whitewashing the complex legacy of colonialism, even tho it still affects my life and the lives of my family members on the daily. we are divided by the border, U.S. policy, institutional violence, white imperialism, and other legacies of violence. it is not as simple narratives about skin, although brownness is still treated as unequal to whiteness in the world. i want people (white and otherwise) to understand that i am both an “us” and a “them”, and that the fact that i feel the need to say anything like that is part of why the social construct of race is so shitty.

is it effective to essentially other myself in order to make this experience more visible? well dude, i dunno. how shall we gauge for efficacy, a scale of 1 to 10? the range of frequency with which i have to choose between holding someone accountable or weathering their racist shit? i don’t know. all i know is, fighting white supremacy culture is important–and i am deeply invested in doing so, despite or because of the ways in which it terrifies and challenges me. i will remain vigilant. i will remain critical. i will remain accountable. i will remain engaged, with a constant eye for new tools and sharpening existing ones.

More reading:

 

*vs. “passing,” a term i find super loaded and assumptive, but also pretty well explains my experience if i don’t speak up.

**oh, how my sense of humor has changed over time. geez. i am still embarrassed about this! don’t ever call me those names. evarrr.

trigger warning for sexual assault, rape “jokes”, nightmares, PTSD stuff, getting triggered.

she thought it was funny. apparently the whole internet thought the video of a puppy trying to rape a chicken was hi-lar-i-ous.

except for me. call it my shitty sense of humor, call it being a rape survivor, call it the nightmares i’ve been having about rape and sexual assault that leave me wondering if someone is sneaking into my bedroom and doing things to me (the physical sensations are so real!). call me suspicious, call me crazy. call it feminist oversharing. call it being bored by talking about rape. whatever the fuck you want to call it.

she turned it off as soon as she saw that i had gone to stone and i said, “can we turn it off now, please?”

i think she really hoped to make me laugh, is the sad thing. she kept apologizing but every time she apologized she would mention the contents of the video (“a puppy trying to sexually assault a chicken”).

the whole thing was violent and graphic and it reminded me too much of places i’ve been. god, it made me feel crazy to be able to anthropomorphize the whole situation, but it’s too close for comfort, too recent even to events now years and years gone.

it’s not my sense of humor, it’s that rape jokes aren’t funny. i’ve got a good sense of humor. i gotta remind myself of that. pull up out of my pocket the time when M. looked at me, blue eyes so blue and said “you’re silly,” as if out of wonderment or joy or both. oh, look at the absurdity we had found in eachother.

ughhhhhhhhhhhhh.

trigger warning for transphobia and racism, both external/internalized, as well as some mention of sexual assault/rape/shitty community responses to harm.
let me tell you this: i fucking hate talking with cis people about gender some times. i hate having to bring it up. i hate having to say ‘actually, i’m going by this name now,’ or explain what i mean when i correct someone about pronouns. when i correct a cisgendered friend/acquaintance about pronoun useage, it’s often not even in relation to myself, but in relation to other trans/genderqueer folx. i hate having to go ‘it’s okay’ when someone fucks up. i hate having to swallow it when someone excuses their actions and uses a transperson’s previous name to excuse it (like: “well, i’ve known them since they were ___, it’s hard for me.” REALLY?).
i love and hate getting tokenized, getting called out for certain discussions about gender and pronouns on…yes, Facebook. i feel like the token mixed race trans/genderqueer person for some of my old friends, and sometimes it’s okay but sometimes it gets tiring. Y’ALL I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR MYSELF. most people get that, i think?
i hate that R, a person i used to regard like a brother still refuses to use my preferred pronouns and regularly calls me by the wrong name, and that i only feel brave enough to call him out when i’ve had a beer or two. last time i called him out i just left after he said “i’ve just been waiting for you to decide.” what?! preferences are allowed to change, yo, but also–i decided years ago about pronouns, dude. fucking get with it or get out of my life.
i hate that that doesn’t even feel possible, because i’d have to not attend things (like brunch at W/S’s, the neighborhood bar we both frequent, etc) in order to avoid him. and he’s friends with many of my friends now, in part because i introduced him to those people, including my former partner. i suppose he is an easier friend to have and to keep–i expect accountability from my friendships and other relationships, which seems to be a continual breaking point of late.
i hate postulating if my cisgendered sweetheart of 6+ months has not introduced me to his family (who he is incredibly close to) because of my gender presentation or because it is painful/hard/stressful/etc enough that his father is approaching the end of his life. i hate imagining in my head how to talk to him about it, how to ask–is it selfish to want to meet the people who raised the person you adore? i want to offer to fly under the radar in that situation, but i also know how i look–i may pass for cis sometimes, but i sure don’t pass for “not queer,” have never been able to.
i hate that the only people i’ve seen/heard talking about Cece Mcdonald are other trans/genderqueer/queer people. i hate feeling like i should be talking more about her plight and the plight of other transwomen of color in the PIC, in the streets, and not feeling like i have the words, and feeling like i should, should, should. i feel like living in the position of privilege that i do, it is my responsibility to speak out and talk about how this stuff happens every day (because it does, and it is so fucking messed up), but i am still formulating how to talk about it. can this picture (I DARE YOU NOT TO CRY) be the start**?
i hate the way that i get itchy when a fellow rad feminist/fellow latin@ who i respect/admire is talking about how “we need solidarity with other women” and includes me in her broad gesture, calls me by the wrong pronouns. it feels as if me being honest and open about my gender identity is being forced as one that somehow undermines my feminism. it doesn’t, no matter how many times i worry (hey internalized shit!) that it does.i hate that i didn’t speak up. i hate that i didn’t speak up.
i hate the way that i feel beholden to lovers who have been able to “see” and understand (sometimes) my gender. i hate the compromises i have made at times in order to be with people with whom i did not feel invisible or washed over. i hate the parts of my identity that i let them make invisible or made invisible in order to be with them.
i hate having to use a different name at work, it feels schizophrenic and i am constantly terrified i will use the wrong name for myself, or that my co-worker who is friends with another (trans) friend of mine will ask me about name/gender stuff, either when we are alone or in front of someone. i hate worrying about trying to get a job using my preferred name.
i hate worrying about being policed by cis/trans people for “not being trans enough” in some way–clothes, behaviors, transition choices, “outness”, “passing”, etc.
i hate binding. i hate the awkwardness of struggling in and out of my binder. i hate that it is the most comfortable i have felt with my body since i…i can not remember when.
i hate being terrified that if i choose some type of medical transition (if i can even find a way to access that…?) that my lover will be too alienated to continue dating me.
i hate being scared that if i continue my transition i will lose more friends. i am so scared i will lose my mother, who is my only parent, and the only bio-family member i really keep in touch with, or know at all, these days.
i hate being scared i will turn out to be like my father, or that i already am.
i hate that if i decide to become a parent, my child(ren) could be taken away from me by the state because of my gender/sexuality.
i hate that some of my white friends make light of my chosen name (it’s spanish) because they think anything mexican/other-than-white is hilarious, for some inexplicable reason. i hate not being comfortable enough to speak up about this.
i hate that (most of) my white friends can not pronounce my name correctly and that i have to shorten it or anglicize it. i hate that i anglicize it even when i’m talking to other spanish speakers, because being mixed race with passing privilege makes me feel like i will get accused of “not being Mexican enough” to use my own fucking name. i hate that even ___ feels too assimilated, “not brown enough.” i hate my longing for other latin@s, as if there were some sameness about us all (das racist!) or something. i hate not feeling like i can touch that stuff because my family is so far away and because my experience is as a pretty assimilated latin@. i hate that even if i did find my bio-family they might not accept me because of my gender/queerness.
i hate feeling like i have so much internalized misogyny that it’s may be a long time before i can date women again.
i hate feeling erased when i date cis-dudes. i hate the way they are so unaware of their fucking privilege. i hate being slutshamed. i hate having to rebuild my life/sexuality/ideas of consent after being assaulted–again. i hate that i have survived more than one sexual assault, and that no one can ever guarantee me i will not be raped/assaulted again, and that the odds are in favor that it will happen again. i hate that i had some of the best sex i have ever had with the person who assaulted me. i hate that asking for what i want makes me feel so vulnerable that i rarely (esp. these days) feel comfortable asking for what i need to get me off fully, if ever. or can even get to that place, mentally/physically/emotionally, so that it’s even possible.
i hate that i question my own identity, that i am trans as a result of my trauma history, that i have internalized femaleness = unsafeness so hard that i have decided i am not. smells like bullshit to me.
i hate that ~e has not called me back or given any indication that he received my message–it feels like he is choosing to side with the person who assaulted me, and it is fucking unbelievable…but i guess i should get used to it? i feel like my friendships have fractured to “before the assault” and “after the assault”. i used to think i had so much support, but actually starting to ask for support after that giving that devastating survivor support workshop earlier this year (which made me realize how much i had needed and not asked for/received/etc) has also forced me to come to terms with how false that is. people care, but they don’t know how to support or they can’t because they receive so little support for their shit. dammit.
i hate the way that these things make my stomach hurt and my back/shoulders ache. i hate the way that i feel like crying or pounding my fists, but i’m at work and can’t do any of those things.

i hate not feeling like there is anyone i can talk to* because i know everyone else is dealing with stuff like this or other stuff.
i hate being silent, but i feel like words are not enough.

*there are people i can talk to, i guess? but all our plates=SO FULL right now, and not necessarily in groovy ways.

**OH, DO YOU NOT KNOW WHO CECE IS? do your reading, class: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/

fumbling over talking about race and urbanism with L, i explain how uncomfortable the homogeneity of my friendships and acquaintances in [other city] made me, how i felt like in almost any given situation i was the closest person to a PoC in the room, and i’m fairly translucent (by which i mean: i pass, whether unintentionally or not, and experience white privilege in my daily life). it felt telling. i feel like that occurrence given as a recurring situation is evidence of underlying problems, the way that race and racism are but aren’t a part of the dialogue in those rooms, the way that homogeneity in [other city] felt palpable.

how did you learn to talk about race?

i feel like my parents each had a distinct way of conveying discourse about race and racism. my father’s tack was to ignore racism by pretending to be colorblind (“we’re all just people!”), and essentialising our own heritage down to food and language without exploring colonialism beyond military history, primarily that written by (what i would consider to be) the oppressor. my mother’s strategy was in policing identities and behaviours, making broad stroke generalisations and racist jokes in poor taste.

i feel like for a long time it was easier for me to see racism in individual circumstances, and glossed over in the way it creates and strengthens structural and institutional inequalities.

i’m still working on all of it, the language in which i understand concepts, the concepts themselves.

i feel like the most brain-opening thing that happened to me was at some point i started hearing people calling out racism as white supremacy culture. something clicked there, “aha!” and i began to do a lot more concerned reading. i would say that this is where my anarchism comes from, but it’s not. my anarchism comes from a whole host of observations and experiences, based on what some anarchists would dismiss as identity politics. (guess i’ll never be a member of the (A) team now?)

it seems like a lot of the time when people talk about white supremacy outside of activist/radical contexts, people are thinking of racist skinhead punks or neo-nazis. but when i talk about white supremacy culture i am talking about white supremacy as a

historically-based, institutionally-perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of establishing, maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

definition from here.

i am talking about white supremacy culture as the culture the perpetuates those systems, either overtly (through imprisonment, economic/educational discrimination, etc) or with the assumption that whiteness is “normal,” the assumptions that other, well…everyone who has not been assimilated. and so on.

whiteness as the Borg, anyone?

anyhow. there are a lot of shitty narratives that contribute to white supremacy culture, and i’m trying to work on calling them out, both internally and externally. accountability is (of course) uncomfortable–but it also gives me a lot of hope.

this piece, Challenging White Supremacy Culture in Organizations by Tema Okun, is a worthwhile stop along the way.

more reading, more thinking, more work to do.

trigger warning for racist jokes and the craptitude of white supremacy culture.

de nada

I have very mixed feelings about this meme.

dear A:

let me proffer you my more immediate reaction when you posted the above.

it was Thanksgiving and we were all a little bit drunk. one of my best friends in the entire world (one i claim as brother, not blood but chosen) is laid back on the couch, tossing their head back emphatically as they speak.

do i even remember what they said? i don’t. not the whole thing, but the part that still triggers me a little.

“‘chu,” i can’t even remember the sentence it was strung in, and oh, that put-on accent, the el campesino mock-up, the one no white person should ever put on because it grazes so close to the n-word or lynching jokes.

how could they ever really get it?

i don’t even know if i could even explain, because in my privilege and my place of hiding i laughed uneasily and said, “ugh, stop it! you sound like one of my uncles!”

what i didn’t explain was, you sound like one of my uncles as he dismisses those other Mexicans, the ones we are supposed to be better than, the ones who replaced the Japanese as strawberry-pickers when they were interned into camps, the ones whose backs (and those of other undocumented laborers) carry the weight of this agrarian soon-to-be wasteland, tilling the earth to waste with forced abundance that doesn’t even get distributed but rots in silos like so many dollars in a Swiss bank account (so much waste, waste, waste). the ones whose lives are not even legitimized by the state to live in the US, despite USians’ dependency on their bodies for sustenance (blood, sweat, and toil, toil, toil).

every once in a while i replay this failure of mine to speak up, think of it as the mark of my privilege, passing as white most of the time except when i deem it the right time to call it.

race always comes to the table at Thanksgiving, it’s never forgotten. i keep my family’s many-hued faces in my pocket, rub them like a stone that pricks me with so much hidden.

sometimes i think that the real plague that wiped out so many lives was not smallpox but whitewashing, passing quietly shame that bleeds forgetfulness, pretend we’re better than them because we pass, achieved some measure of economic privilege beyond that of our peers born to other lives with different choices, or because our subset of the family tree has married into legitimacy in the eyes of the state. shame that kills me softly. it’s not true, but it feels sometimes, it feels.

i must do better next time, that’s all. no more blankets of convenience, no more letting  us to ignorance or carelessness.

-RD

Hello reader, this writing is triggering for me to write, let alone read, so I can only imagine what it would be like for someone else. But I need some place to put this stuff, and this bottle is the only place I got. So read with care, and click away as needed. Trigger warning for: childhood abuse, rape, childhood neglect, I don’t even know what all.

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking so much about the tiered tracks of colonialism and patriarchy in our lives. You spent so much of the years I lived with you reading military histories deep into the night, your bedside lamp burning until dawn. Often I would find you in the morning before I left for work, light still on, book collapsed and glasses still astride your face. You and I did not talk about the ethos of those narratives, only the events, the ways that wars are won–we talked about them like they were games of chess, not wages of terror visited upon brown bodies. Bodies not entirely unlike ours, in shade or feature. How funny that you kept your dark hair long and shining, defiantly, even while claiming not to see color. Perhaps you were just too tired of being seen for yours. I remember you in a rare snappish moment with a stranger (usually you reserved your brute force for those closest you). We were near your office and an elderly native man spare changed you, tried to call you cousin. You sucked your teeth haughtily (or I imagine you did) and snapped back, “I am not your cousin.” I remember being shocked a little that my father, usually so over-generous, could be so cold to someone so obviously in need. But then I remember, too, the summer when you got too dark watching us kids poolside at the apartment and you were stopped 3 times in 2 days for the same busted taillight. Was it a speed trap, or were they out to get you? There were other times, I don’t remember them all. You were always being asked if you were Indian, and you were always saying no. And to be fair, we’re the sum of our parts, not just that fraction, and so I don’t call myself native in any sense but that I grew up in this state. People didn’t start to ask me what I was until my hair came in as dark as it is now–each year successively darker, like my body is shirking off colonization.

You believed that my body was a colony unto itself and that you were the sovereign power. You taxed me with forced affection, even after I ceased to welcome your touch. “You act like I abuse you!” you exclaimed after I cowered under your embrace, which at a moment’s notice could have turned to a slap across the face. When you found out that I had been raped, you never asked me if I was okay–instead you yelled for hours about how wrong it was to engage in pre-marital sex while I cried myself thick and swollen shut with mucous, trying to tell you about my rapes. Later, when you found out it wasn’t consensual you apologized offhandedly with no feeling: “Sorry. I didn’t know.” How could you not know, how could it not occur to you? I was fourteen years old. Maybe in some distant place and time sex with a fourteen year old girl who has been abandoned by both parents can be consensual, but not where we lived, not how we lived. And you never thought to ask if I was okay! This broke my heart, and like a bad shoulder mended but never healed it still hurts when the weather turns stormy. The nightmares that used to wake me up screaming were not about my rapist–they were about you, in his place.

The last time I saw you it was as I broke free from your grip, bruises in the shape of your hands already rising on the back of my neck, welts that later bloomed black swelling the cartilage of my ears. I went to job interviews like that, covered my bruises with thrift store finds and a thin veil of hair. Did I leave off my earrings, so as not to draw too much attention to any discolored flesh still exposed? I remember thinking of it, but I can’t remember what I did. No one asked. No one said, you should leave him, girl, for which I was grateful because being forced to the awkward response that I already had and that it was my father who was responsible, not just any man, but that man, would have been almost too much to bear. In between job interviews and panic attacks and struggling to finish school we photographed my injuries and I moved my things into a tent in a friend’s backyard. The cops didn’t call me back for two weeks, and by then I had too much on my plate to even think about pressing charges (which probably would not have stuck, anyways). I wish I had wheatpasted your office, but what would the posters have said? “This man beats children” might have been sufficient. After all, I wasn’t the only one you raised a fist to, and I probably won’t be the last. I was 18 and I was legally an adult but I was still a child, tho I had already dealt with the vagaries of bills, rent, budgets. I was probably more responsible then at 18 than I am now at 26, second adolescence or something. Remember how you used to forget the bills, and the water would get shut off? I started to remind you, and you resented it. But you were the adult, you were the parent, these things were your responsibilities, and if you couldn’t claim that responsibility then you should never have laid claim to it at all.

I am learning Spanish again, this time in a classroom and not the backseat of your dirty beat-up car. I can hardly say it: I am learning Spanish so that I can speak to my father’s family in Mexico. But not to you. I do not want to speak to you, and don’t imagine that will change in this lifetime, tho life is long enough to allow for it. What I come up against more than anything is not what you did (tho I miss rock’n’roll jeopardy and browsing bookshops, I do), it is what you didn’t do, the places you should have stepped in, been present, where you instead stepped off, disappeared altogether. You let them, your wives. Threaten me, starve me, demean me. It’s not the physical starving that gets to me–I went hungry but not emaciated, not eating-out-the-garbage, just dizzy and achy. No, it was the starving for support, for love, for recognition of my individuation. They saw me as part of my mother, the woman you still loved and hated, and they were jealous of me in turn. You let your wife threaten me, “if you don’t come home now you can never come home again!” mere minutes after you assaulted me, as if it were simply a matter of differing opinions and not escaping the brutality of your violence. She would have watched while you killed me, I know this. She would have burned my body for you. I don’t know why she held you in such high regard and me in so little, but she would have allowed you to take my life before her very eyes. How could anyone? She could. You let these women into my life. You put your hands on my throat and tried to wring the life from me. I can not hate them, I can not even hate you–but I can close the door. No more. I will not allow you and your inability to set boundaries or respect boundaries invade my life anymore. I am no longer your child, I am an adult.

With love and respect for myself,

RD