Today is the Transgender Day of Rage (though some may call it a day of remembrance): Today I rage on behalf of my people, who have been murdered, raped, and incarcerated in the name of cis-normativity, who are still regularly portrayed in media not as people, but as commodities and objects for homophobic violence, and who are routinely discriminated in housing, healthcare, employment, immigration, education, and many other arenas.

Today I rage for Leslie Feinberg, who died this week of multiple chronic illnesses, who (in the words of one friend) had been writing for 20 years about not being able to access healthcare as a transgender person–and that lack of access finally killed hir.

Today I rage on behalf of the myriad young women, many of them women of color, who have either been incarcerated for defending themselves against transphobic attackers like Cece Mcdonald, or who have not survived these racist and transphobic attacks, as Islan Nettles, whose absences in the lives of friends, families, loved ones, lovers, and fellow activists and community members are deeply felt, as we await another sunrise without their incredible spark beside us.

Today I rage for gender variant teenagers and adults who will not live to see another day because the stigma of being gender variant in a world that sees gender solely as a binary became too much, and they succumbed to suicide, or were murdered by a friend or family member that they thought they could trust with their difference.

Today I rage on behalf of trans* and queer youth and adults who are faced with homelessness and poverty, many of whom can not even sleep in shelters when they are available, because there is no shelter I know of that has had a truly trans* sensitive policy–they are all stopgaps, and it is never safe enough.

Today I rage on behalf of those who in their disability live lives of interdependence, whose identities may be kept close for fear of retribution by their caregivers. I see you, I am waiting for you in the reaches of the internet and beyond. We are building bridges that no one can burn. We are all interdependent.

Tonight I will light no candles and I will not be silent–silence can not quell my fury, my fury is the truest expression of my grief. We must rise up against those who would try to silence us, we must exercise solidarity on behalf of one another. Rather than a moment of silence, I envision a world where as part of a continual course of action, we have set fire to the prisons, banished borders, restored sovereignty to indigenous communities, and opened the millions of foreclosed homes stolen by bankers’ greed and dishonesty to those disenfranchised by the wages of late capitalism.

I will not be satiated by the pink-washing of gentrification, political campaigns, and products or gay marriage. I will stop for nothing short of full-fledged revolution that wrests power from the sullied hands of the state and restores it to the people.

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trigger warning for: aftermath of sexual assault and childhood abuse.

9/2/12 journal entry (1st page of this journal, edited for clarity)

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

He could be in heaven, but I doubt it. I think I’d have gotten a phone call, maybe a letter. I’d like to think there would be a letter. But that seems unlikely, too, come to think of it. What I want is the money. I want an apology, too, even more–but the money might better make up for the way his bullshi8t derailed my dreams. I mean, “interesting” things happened when I went off the college track, to be sure, but it’s just so hard to get back on.

[I pause in between typing and wonder if I was ever on that track to begin with, or if my mental “illness” would have stopped me then.]

After he got out of the navy, he let all of his hair grow, even his scraggly beard and a clumsy mustache. [my mother used to say: “looks like he’s gonna rob a 7-eleven.”] He was a mass of coffee-stained flannel, tangled dark hair, cigarette smoke residue. I can feel him in my bones sometimes, when I walk purposefully, heel-toe, heel-toe, over a hardwood floor in my boots.

Daddy is a powerful word. I started calling him Papi or Pops when I was a teenager–I was trying to take some of the power back. It only worked sometimes, and even then I was quaking inside when I had it, riding fight or flight and expecting the next thump to be my father’s hand on my shoulder, turning me around. [at night] Turning me over.

It didn’t have to happen in this world for it to happen. As it turns out, if your father leers at you and touches you just this side of inappropriate right around the same time you are raped several times over by one of the neighborhood predators, your brain will have a hard time distinguishing the difference. Especially when you’re dreaming.

shine a light

03/12/2012

sub·ver·sive/səbˈvərsiv/

Adjective:
Seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.
Noun:
A person with such aims.
Synonyms:
ruinous – destructive

Dear ____,
My friend A and I had dinner the last time she was in town. As we sat across the table from one another, she asked me, “How would you describe your sexuality?”
Not skipping a beat, I responded, “Subversive as fuck.”
She smiled. “Can you tell me more about that?”
I made allusion to some of my sexual exploits of the last few years (fisting boys, sucking cock, loving all of it) and we moved on to talking about her recent experiences, and then on to gender (“How’s your gender feeling lately?”).
By definition, subversive means seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution. That sure rings true for my life, my gender, my sexuality.
Most cultures throughout history have had a more complex understanding of gender than the dominant culture you and I are immersed in (see this map for an introduction: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/two-spirits/map.html). For instance, indigenous peoples of the Americas had a variety of genders, and recently native folks sometimes refer to being gay/lesbian/trans/queer/etc as being ‘two-spirit.’ I like this term a lot, though it’s not one I use for myself (y’know, I try to avoid cultural appropriation and all), because I feel like it conveys the complexity of a gendered life that colors outside the boxes of male and female, as well as the duality of my own identity. My friend F sometimes explains their gender identity as ‘a scraggly boy holding hands with a disheveled girl.’ I am like this but not like this, there are different characters but the duality is similar.
I think of my gender identity as oppositional, subversive, constantly pushing. I am part of the new guard of western culture, carving out space (and with it, slowly, safety!) for the other. The gender binary does no one any favors, it excludes the lives, bodies, and experiences of so many people. It excludes me and mine, for sure. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier if I would sit down and shut up, pass. Check the M box or the F box. But ultimately I would be perpetuating a whole host of things I don’t believe in, from the gender binary to the notion that trans people are somehow a shame and must pass. I have been and am all of these things: stone butch, nelly fag, femme boi, drag queen, faggot. Think of me as that crossdressing boy in a sequined dress, all limp wrists and sassy swagger, glitter intermingled with stubble. But think too of the Amazon who removed her left breast with a sword blade so as to better fit her body to her bow, a taut rod arched to defiance. Or sweaty bike boy, grease streaked across the cheek and creased under my nails, grinning and pungent after climbing yet another hill. I am all of these things; look at me not through a box but through a prism.
Gender is dynamic and infinite. What is acceptable now will have changed vastly by the time you or I die, hopefully of old age. It seems my generation is set on deconstructing the gender binary a bite at a time, and I am glad to be a part of that. We make ourselves safe by making others safe, too. You can be a man who cries at films, I can be a boi with bound breasts.
On one of our first dates you asked about my relationship with M and said something to the effect of, “I just kept seeing him treat you like a woman.” I tried then (and try still) to imagine what you meant. How does one treat a woman, specifically? The only things I can imagine are the grossest of things, the purchasing of affection by rings and chocolate, or the domineering of ones partner, all things that would never have even occurred to M. M treated me simply as myself, beloved co-conspirator, hotly desired lover, fellow purveyor of absurdity. And he trusted me with my strength, whether that be my fist inside of him as he came or my strength to weather my life’s trials and tribulations (and there were so many at the time). Thus, I can’t imagine any other way for he and I to have met but as individuals.
It seems you know already that reconciling what you’re seeing is up to you. I am writing this in part because these are things I have needed to put words to for quite some time, but also in part because I want to try to make it easier for you to somehow expand your world’s vastness to include mine. If you are having a hard time seeing me, break out the prism and shine a light–not on either/or but AND.

With warm and fond regard,
RD

Canned Tomatoes

10/12/2011

My mother and I are very close; we grew up together. I recall holding her hand as her ears were pierced for the first time (I was 3, she was 26–the age I am now). While we do not talk all that frequently (once every few weeks or every month), we both write letters when we can and I feel her with me everyday. I carry her here (imagine my fist pressed to my chest). Not as a weight, but as a buoy.

I don’t want to talk too much about my mother’s life, reveal too much without her permission, but I will say that she has survived a fair amount of trauma, and bears the marks of that in the form of PTSD and other (for lack of a better word) quirks. As children, my baby brother and I were discouraged from making sudden loud noises lest we trigger her. As a concession we were given time to scream. We’d all pile into the car and she’d start to drive and then yell “Okay, one, two, THREE, SCREAM!” And we would, voices raised in joy and rage. Life with my mother was never dull. My mother raised me with the same kind of constant anxiety that she herself experienced. She raised me on caution, suspiciousness, anxiety, double-checking locked doors, looking over my shoulder at the sound of approaching footsteps. I don’t think she meant to–she was just trying her best to keep me safe from a dangerous world.

My mother talks in code when we talk on the phone, as if someone might be listening at some point and interject, protest, punish either one of us for the secrets we share, as parent and child. She calls trauma ‘canned tomatoes.’ My mother has a specific palate for using metaphor to confront even the most difficult of subjects, something I learned well–we are both writers.

I was raised on canned tomatoes, stocked and stewed for years. It’s taken me a long time to stop taking on other peoples’ tomatoes when they share them with me. For years it physically hurt to hear my friends and loved one’s stories, and I would find myself dragging them around with me and being hurt by their trauma over and over, how could these horrible things happen to these people I love? I’d better be careful… My pantry was over-full. I had enough canned tomatoes that I might not ever want to leave the house again, were that possible.

But. I am learning how to be present, to sit with other peoples’ stories of trauma (with my own) without taking on the weight. This thing happened to you, you did not deserve it, it was awful–and it is okay. I am not responsible for it and I can’t take it away, but I can be present long enough to listen, to hear you, and sometimes that is enough. Sometimes that is more than enough.

My pantry shelves are getting lighter. There’s finally room for the fruits (and vegetables!) of liberation, too–and not just the fruit of our sorrows.

-RD

In my culture(s)*, this is considered the ideal relationship. I consider marriage to be an institution of the patriarchy, built to oppress women. In addition to Twisty’s scathing critique of marriage, I would add that I believe that The State (tm & co) uses marriage to confer privilege upon individuals that I believe should be considered human rights–things that The State ™ shouldn’t be able to touch in the goddamned first place! Reasons I have considered getting married: conferring medical power-of-attorney to someone I trust, access to quasi-affordable education, shared health insurance, access to citizenship, spousal privilege…you see where we’re headed here. Fuck The State ™ and fuck Marriage (turn down the defensiveness–not your experience of marriage**, but Marriage As An Institution). Forcing people to get married in order to access these privileges gives The State ™ ever more ways to enforce the kyriarchy.

I was pretty small (~ 10 years old) when I announced that I would never marry. I’ve wavered since then in various capacities, trying to negotiate with the cultural concept of The Ideal Relationship: a committed (state-approved, static, lifelong) monogamous heterosexual patriarchal relationship, homogeneous in race, class, ability, etc. I think it’s been relatively easy to reject the notion of homogeneity in my relationships because I am the by-product of a mixed marriage myself, although I still feel like my parents used marriage as a tool for assimilation to whiteness, class privilege, heteronormativity, etc. Personally, I’m still working on unpacking the rest of my internalized shit about relationships.

Establishment Gays (as I like to call them) have been pushing marriage as a big gay agenda item hard for ~10 years, after HIV infection rates began to fall (nevermind that they’re on the rise again). Notable tag lines of these arguments: ‘we’re just like them, but gay!’ I find this rhetoric to be patronizing and false. Because queerness has evolved in direct opposition to (and under direct fire from) the patriarchy and the State ™, I see many of our relationships (both in history and currently) do not conform to the ideals of marriage or monogamy. Additionally, I feel like this kind of rhetoric marginalizes people who don’t fit whatever the USian “normal” is supposed to look like.

For me, to say that I am a queer is not just to say that my desires do not conform to those predicated by the patriarchy, I mean that my desires act in direct resistance to the patriarchy. Some of those ways: being a CAFAB person who fucks other CAFAB people, being a masculine-identified person who fucks other masculine-identified people, engaging in enthusiastic consent, having multiple ongoing sexual relationships, committing to non-romantic or non-sexual relationships and prioritizing those over sexual/romantic ones, practicing BDSM, doing sex work, challenging notions of what constitute ‘primary’ sex acts, redefining and/or doing away with the concept of virginity, engaging in mixed (class, race, ability, generation, etc) relationships…the list goes on and on.

In identifying and actualizing upon my desires I spend a lot of time thinking: is this what I really want, or what I’ve been told to want? It’s harder for me to undo what I think of as The Monogamy Myth, that we can just pair off and close off our world from others and be completely fulfilled. I find this a) tacitly false b) unhealthy as hell c) undesirable because it undermines the health of communities d) to put that another way: it reinforces capitalism. If I put all of my resources (emotional, physical, and financial) into a single relationship, I don’t have any resources left for anything else. Even for people who prefer monogamy to other models of relationships, outside relationships provide important tools and support! If I already have someone(s) to care for me when I’m old and sick, what do I need a spouse for? If through our joint efforts we can provide for ourselves with fewer means (i.e. as a collective household or thru a pantry), we don’t have to justify the Wage Gap, and we certainly don’t have to fuck, date, or marry people who perpetuate fucked up abusive shit.

I think that a very real argument for marriage as a tool exists in terms of conferring privileges that people would not otherwise have access to, thanks to the oppressive nature of The State ™, but I also want to keep working to combat the notion that marriage is the end-all be-all of a politickal agenda that represents ‘the best interests of all queers’. Because it’s not. Marriage is not a solution to the patriarchy. Marriage is not a solution to the medical-industrial complex’s monopoly over access to healthcare. Marriage is not a solution to homophobia. Marriage is not a solution to white supremacy culture. Marriage is not a solution to abusive relationship dynamics. Marriage is not a solution to the State ™ having acquired legal purview over one’s residency.  I could go on but hey, let’s leave you some room for creative extrapolation! Putting forth marriage as The Big Gay Agenda Item legitimizes the State ™, and is used as an excuse to justify all sorts of fucked up shit, marginalizing the experiences and very real oppression of others.

So. I probably won’t marry unless I decide that it represents my best interests, because I prefer that The State ™ stays the fuck out of my relationships and my bedroom, but if I have to in order to access privileges I/the people I care about need, I’ll do it. But I sure as hell don’t want to.

No gods, no masters, no marriage.

additional suggested reading:

*when I say “my culture” I mean middle-class (ish?), white-assimilationist/supremacist USian. not the culture I strive for, but the culture(s) I was raised in.

**some of my best friends are married! No, really. Some of my favorite people in committed relationships are also married. To eachother! And I love the way that they are partners to one another–it is an immense joy to be a part of their lives as a friend, to bear witness to them growing and loving and supporting one another thru the years. But it’s the health of their partnership that I toast to, not the seal on their marriage certificate, when I toast to them. You know who you are.

And you who can not marry: I love y’all, too. And I toast to your partnership just as high (or higher), tho I know sometimes it’s a bitter fucking pill not to be able to sanction your partnership with the privileges that marriage could afford it, from shared ownership to health insurance to visitation in perilous situations.

Let’s keep fighting while acknowledging that these are rights that should be afforded to everyone.

Awkward Both

05/24/2011

In the dream we are trapped underneath the coffee table. A party swirls around us: clinking glass, high laughter and distant voices. One of us starts awake and the motion forces us to consciousness.

“Hey.”

“Oh, hey.”

Neither of us is sure how we got here, yet we both want to remain casual. We’re pressed chest to chest in the dark breathing heavily, trying to touch as little as possible. You know that yoga pose where you lie on your stomach and arch your limbs upward from your core? It’s like that. I can already feel the exhausted burn, ATP depleting from the muscles, and I know soon I’ll begin to shake and sweat.

I feel as awkward as a gay high school wrestler, so close to the salty skin I crave, but context deeming anything of the sort unacceptable, no matter how involuntary.

I’ve wanted to touch you. And we are touching, yes, but the physical and emotional constraints are nothing like I expected. I had imagined there would be some sort of spark, a moistening of the lips that would tell me the way to lean in for the kiss. Instead I am nauseous. My palms sweat but my mouth is dry and my lips are like parchment peels rustling against eachother.

“No, no. This is all wrong,” I want to explain. It was supposed to be different. I was gonna have my shoulders pulled back and my eyes bright. I was gonna be sure–we both were. We were both gonna be so sure.

Of course we’re not, tho. Maybe we’re missing key details. I stutter, “S-so, where were you born?”

I can feel you rolling your eyes as your lids snap shut against the gleaming black pupils. But still, you drawl nasally, “Long Island,” East Coast and matter-of-fact.

“Oh,” I say. “Well, that uh, explains…”

“The accent?” you finish. I can’t tell if you’re grimacing or smiling. We’re both struggling not to go limp. Straining not to touch despite the indisputable, given the facts of our entombment. We are indeed, touching, and may well have no choice but to do so until we engineer some sort of escape.

You surprise me as I’m trying to figure on how we got here, how we’re gonna get out. “It’s okay, I think. If you want to…” you shift your weight from side to side. “Relax. I mean, I don’t think we have much choice.”

I nod slightly, knocking the back of my skull against the wood of the table in agreement. “Yes, yes I suppose that’s so. Is it okay–would it be alright if I laid my head here, in the hollow above your left shoulder?”

“Yeh, that works. Better we’re not breathing the same air back and forth, yeh?”

I exhale as I ease myself into you, urging my body to relax despite the immense awkwardness, and feel my breath as it reflects off of your neck, blows a stray curl into my face. All the hairs on the back of my neck stand up again and my stomach tightens menacingly. Like someone has drawn up a string, my spine tightens into the shoulders and they contract. Suddenly my crotch is warm. Burning, even. I roll my gaze into your collar bone. Libido, you have some poor timing.

Cheeks flushed, I whisper into the ear I am so close to, “You sure this is okay?” and you shrug silently, snake a hand to my hip and press comfortingly.

Something in me releases. We drift in and out of sleep, alternately drowsing and jarring awake. One time I wake up and I swear, you’ve worked your hand up beneath my shirt. You’re stroking the skin of my back softly and pressing the pads of your fingers into the flesh one at a time like you’re typing a letter. But there are no words for this.

Next time I wake, you pull your hand away quickly. “Sorry. Sorry. I–”

“It’s okay,” I reassure you, not yet sure if I mean it. There’s no room in this space for that kind of discomfort, tho, so I put the sensation aside.

It’s okay, I tell myself.

“It’s okay,” I tell you, and wake up.