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.

Respectfully,
A trans nurse

trigger warning for BDSM, sex. take care of yourself!

 

I dreamt about you this morning. Up until recently, you were the kindest man in my life. You are doe-eyed blue, or were, and I imagine you still this way—tangled in rope, clothes cut to ribbons, skin flushed and belly arched to late afternoon. What love I had for you, and have for you still. Not a staying kind of love, as time has revealed. A ravishing love, an appreciation of your great healing powers, your gentleness, your virtuousness. It surprised me that you were angry when I broke your heart. You weathered so many of my storms that year, early 20s piss-drunk and punching concrete, talking about suicide though my whole life was ahead of me, is still ahead of me, tho I feel the ways are closing in.

Sometimes the way that I moved on and away from you makes me feel guilty, like I sucked dry from you what I needed and cast off the rest. You were a nurturer, a nourisher. Then I think of my own hands, the way  they pulled and taught your flesh, broken open to make it more whole, and I remember that I too am nurturer, nourisher, my hands those blades of the tiller that make planting possible.

I like best this thing: breaking open bodies to connection after long dry spells, letting them back to the sexual self, hand in hand from the far-off dissociation of despair and isolation. I feel like I need someone to do this for me now, and there is no-one I can trust enough with this most precious thing.

Up here, I have these mental polaroids of the things we did together, the rites I enacted with you, worship of your benign athletic flesh. You submitted to me, and it was a grace.

Things that are going well right now:

  • that relationshape thing with the sweetheart. had the “so, if I medically transition to a more comfortable place where i can be in my body, will you like, break up with me?” talk. (the answer is basically “no. god no.”)
  • job is job-a-riffic. enjoying the constant flux of solving other peoples’ biek problems and being covered in bike grease + honing my mechanical skills.
  • glitter. glitter is pretty much always good, rite? i mean, except if it scratches your cornea or something.
  • ankle is finally noticeably healing and i can kind of dance now and my physical therapist gave me the okay to ride my bike “so long as it doesn’t hurt” and in low doses. YES.
  • house is still a house full of people i like and respect lots. yay house! yay new housemate who likes to organize things and do projects and watch movies.
  • playing the bass. getting fast, learning new techniques!
  • reading books. ordered a good half dozen YA trans* books, reading my way through that stack. book reportbacks to come.
  • it’s fall! the rain is back, the leaves are turning, and…the rain is back. hallelujah!
  • visiting cats. cats are so much cheaper than therapy, and they eat kibbles, too. too bad my housemate is allergic to them, or we’d have three by now :/

Not going as well:

  • so many anxiety dreams, including weird extremely violent nightmares. like, dreamt i stabbed someone in the hand with a fork is on the milder spectrum of my recent nightmares.
  • being anxious a lot about my dad, feeling that spill over to my relationship with [awesome human].
  • feeling disconnected from friends because i can not deal with crowds most of the time, or even groups of more than 2-3 people–except at shows because then we know where our attention is sposed to be, right? yep.
  • dear polys, if you have advice on coping with (mostly unfounded) feelings of jealousy, please tell me about them. i feel like i am losing my fucking mind.
  • tired. so tired. all the time. healing is hard work. still really sore all the time.
  • anxious about getting laid off from job after November. ergh. not much i can do about this one.
  • i am pretty sure my mom is mad at me, and not really speaking to me (much) :/
  • correspondence with the dad-creature has come to an abrupt halt–i think i may have stepped on a landmine on accident? oh fucking well.
  • missing humans who are in other cities. have a lot of weird dreams about missing the train to Portland and ending up in Spokane.

Hungry

06/11/2012

I’ve been trying for a few weeks to write about alienation from my father/his family, comfort food, and my own nostalgic longings, with only some luck. Fathers’ day is coming up, I guess? So I hear. I guess it makes sense that this feeling has been growing as it approaches.

It’s troublingly easy for outsiders to essentialize cutlures down to their food and language, but food and language was what I got of our family’s Mexican roots, along with a complex history of colonialism/assimilation and a darker complexion than my Mormon cousins, who stared at us at family reunions like we were aliens for not sharing their Wonder Bread pigmention, cornsilk hair* and blue-gray eyes. There was no question of whose offspring we were, everybody knew the story of our pariah arm of the family. “[My grandfather] went on his mission and came back with a señorita!” (Little pitchers have big ears, yo.)

This year for my birthday (in a few weeks) I think I just want to eat spicy food, cry, practice my Spanish while struggling not to be embarrassed, and tell stories. We’ll see how that works out.

Draft below, definitely not the last–this one needs to stew for a few before I can pick it up again, I think. Needs more prose on the process of nixtamalization, for sure. So fascinating, and such a useful metaphor!

Nixtamal: Spoon of the Comfort Eater

i have a confession to make:
even while food fanatics seek to reform its production and consumption
there is nothing that makes me happier
than the smell of corn.
not that corn that comes in a can or half-mildewed ears from the supermarket,
not even the sweet kernels encased in ice that we put on black eyes and bruises as kids
but those kernels that have been reborn better thru nixtamilization.
ground for maisena, tortillas de maise, tamales–or left whole for posole and menudo.
sometimes hominy just sounds like a bad pun for home.
today as my posole simmers on the stove,
i call up your voice, tia, and i miss you.
i must have been 7 or 8 the year we visited you in Alaska,
everything outside your door dazzling and snowbound,
i could have made snow angels until my fingers froze off.
“posole,” you explained the aroma simmering over your kitchen, and rationed me a bowl.
although as a Mormon, you’ve probably never been hungover,
you advised me that i would eat posole someday when i was,
that it would cauterize colds, broken hearts, and hangovers.
i tucked your advice down in the suitcase when we left, next to the other gifts,
but it wasn’t until my 20s that i found it–
heartsick, sad, and lonely, that winter my makeshift family broke open again
only to reveal that no one is safe enough to ever be counted upon.
in my bag, like any runaway, i still had my spoon.
outside the taqueria in the rain, i felt silly hesitating,
i could not bring myself to step inside those heated walls.
my face swollen with sobbing and sickness,
i thought of the steaming dish you set before me those years ago,
and i went in.
i could speak no spanish as i ordered, tho i asked as politely as mama had taught me for a bowl
and sat down salivating, waiting for my number to be called.
i still get tripped up on pronunciation and grammar, too embarrassed to speak
words lost in the fire that destroyed what bound us together
for what feels like a lifetime, and a lifetime ago–
until i am alone, reading Neruda aloud to myself because a language can sound like family,
and i am lonely sometimes.
my face drained sorrow in slick wet streams as i snuffled into my hanky between mouthfulls
glasses fogged up and eyes not dry–
i must have looked a fool to be so glad over a bowl of soup adorned with lime and cilantro
flavors alight in the dark tunnel of my glistening mouth.
but sometimes where the burning has been
becomes something more nourished
than was before.

-RD

*ironically, i guess? all the babies in our branch of the family tree are born with cornsilk white hair–but it falls out at ~10-18 months, and then grows darker and darker with every year, “like bodies shirking off colonization.”

05/31/2012

i’m quitting my job so that i can become.

it’s a privilege, this quitting, yes absolutely–but it also feels like “oh boy, i have the privilege of jumping off a cliff!”

is the water deep enough to catch my tangled limbs, rippling with muscle and hope and fear?

there are sharp rocks below the water line.

what i hope to find: going by my boi name full-time (and whatever else this transition holds for me), a few adventures, a path to go back to school.

i want. want. want want want.

in the kitchen or paused on my bike in traffic, sometimes even when i’m peeing, i find myself saying it, i want.

Trigger warning for police violence, riot porn, etc. Take care of yourself! -RD

it’s been a year of radical firsts. first convergence, first proximity to chemical weapons, first arrest, first mass mobilization.

they just do it to scare you and keep you off the streets. the flash-bangs, the tear gas, the pepperspray. temporary disability (not being able to see, breathe unlaboriously, or hear) is terrifying, particularly when those symptoms are a departure from your normal.

it’s terrifying but if we remain calm and keep our wits about us, just steady ourselves and help eachother…it seems doable. we’ll get thru this, come out on the other side. i’ll see you in the streets again (like i have before), your face milky white-stained and your eyes big and red, but still smiling. there’s a war on but there’s a grim humor here, too. boner jokes and boot dances make the time pass more quickly, keep us warm, too.

*****

the burrito brigade passes, around and around, insistently kind. “burrito? another burrito?” it is good to feel cared for. good to give care, take care.

for some people police weapons are extremely triggering, and it is for them that i most want to be here. a gentle voice, a calm hand. do you want us to walk you out of here? okay, let’s do that. what do you need? anybody thirsty?

a lot of medics like to be where the overt action is, the noisy chaos and crush. sometimes i can do that, but more often than not i can’t, and my level of training/prior trauma baggage (so easily triggerable) make it more appropriate that i keep out of the fray. i’m most interested in preventative care and/or the networking of people-places-resources (as i do in my daily life), anyways. have you eaten today? would you like some water? hey, we have hats and gloves, who needs some? how about a ride home for your shivering’n’traumatized pal? have you seen this person’s buddy? some people get addicted to the adrenaline rush of trauma medicine, but i’m more addicted to graciousness and gratitude. sometimes the receipt, but what also so much i love being able to thank other people for their goodness, their kindnesses. eating my humble pie a mouthfull at a time.

there are still confrontations, of course, tho they are often of a different sort (fewer nightsticks and longer sentences, but i still shake for days afterwards). full-body blocking the camera: you can’t take a picture of this person without their consent, and they can’t consent until they can breathe without sputtering again. “oh?” yes, thank you so much for your understanding. i smile ingratiatingly from under my bandanna (make sure your eyes wrinkle nice, i think) and reach out my hand, the photographer takes it, we make introductions. wish we were meeting under better circumstances, you can call me ____. another would-be photographer is not so gracious, but the subject of the photos hollers consent (thank you) and i bug out gladly.

*****

“Wisdom” I view through an anarchist lens: what dismantles hierarchy and oppression, what redistributes and builds power in the hands of those with the least of it, what equalizes and empowers. There’s a lot of forgiveness in my personal understanding of ‘right action’ for doing the best one can, recognizing structural limits, and acknowledging complexity, unknowns, lack of or multiple right answers. But the definition stands on choice, that knowledge that at some point we can choose our reactions to the circumstances in which we’re placed. Courage is only one value of many. There may be a courageous act one chooses not to do for important, valid reasons. That’s ok. But its important that we acknowledge our choices.

The key thing I try to internalize is the principle that standing against oppression– yours or in solidarity with someone else– is more courageous than dangerous, brave shit that reinforces it.

*****
so. guess i’m trying to eke out some sort of synthesis between the flash-bangs and the burritos. just decompressing, y’know?

-RD

11/26/2011

This year I am most thankful for my relationship with my mother, growing strong even after having been cut off (once, twice, more).

For me it feels like something so incredibly powerful to have known this person my whole life long, to have known them since they were so young, themselves.

Last year we started speaking again after almost an entire year of absence (no phone calls, my letter unreturned, etc), just a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

In the last year I feel like we have grown together in a way that would be impossible to describe with words. Even though we are thousands of miles apart I can feel her with me when I need her most.

I don’t place a whole lot of value on biological family–mine has not placed a whole lot of value on me, after all! But I place a lot of value on chosen family, and I have chosen my mother, over and over (and will choose her, over and over), as she has me.

A lot of my memories of her are hard, we grew up together, we both made lots of mistakes. But in the last year I have felt her ease up on me, I feel like I get off the phone with her no longer anxious, but buoyed up by her love and praise. Even tho we disagree, even tho there are things we still find too difficult to talk about.

When I was having really bad PTSD/dissociative stuff earlier this year she just let me sit on the phone with her and tell her. Everything, every painful detail that I could dredge up, all the things I have survived, and she took it. She told me, it is not your fault, it is not your fault, how could you have been anywhere else? when I told her about my rapes, and how I have blamed myself for them for so many years. I felt something break open (gladly) and release,  in me, I was so grateful. I needed that. Who else could have given that to me, but her? I know by logic that these things are not my fault, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like they are, sometimes.

My mother survived horrible things as a child and a young adult, it always amazes me, that she can give me so much compassion when she has so rarely been shown that kind of compassion, herself (to my knowledge, anyways). I am grateful.

I am grateful to be family with this incredibly strong, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate person who writes me beautiful hilarious letters that brighten my days when they are darkest.

Thank you, Universe, for my mother, and the relationship we have now.

-RD

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.

-RD

*and fails so many others.

We argue, but we don’t fight.

Nothing and everything are personal in our discussions, but the rebuttals are not personal. We don’t think less of one another for it, it seems rather that we think more, always more.

This is sacred: safe space to disagree amicably.

Sometimes our friendship feels like training wheels for healthier relationships in the future, wherever I go.

Thank you.