In the midst of all this rise of fascism and overt racism in the world, I have been waging my own personal battle of love with my mom, who is the last blood family member that I keep in touch with–before this summer the last time I had seen my half brother was at least 5 years previous.
 
Both of my parents struggled with mental illness throughout my childhood, and I have inherited that legacy from my mom as well as intergenerational trauma. Recently she stopped responding to my text messages and suggested it might be better if SHE were the parent I was estranged from, rather than my father, whose danger to my life and limb was cause for my departure over 13 years ago. I feel so scared of losing my mom as well, but I feel like in order for our love and respect for one another to thrive I also need to assert some boundaries, and especially limit her ability to use my father as a reminder of how deeply she can wound me.
 
On Tuesday I started attending a 10-week Generative Somatics group oriented towards QTPOC survivorship. I am feeling really good and also really challenged by it. I feel like in being estranged from my blood family I am also cut off from parts of myself, including my body and allowing myself to own my feelings about being a mixed race kid whose family is divided by racism and trauma.
Each day my homework is to spend time centering myself, feeling my connection to the ground, the connections between each part of my body and the others, to feel myself in the world, eyes wide open, a part of the past, present, and future. I do not know what this holds for me, but I am willing to find out.
-RD
Advertisements

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!

Heading deeper into my season of grief, and yet feeling permeated with light, beaming from every pore.

January the year I turned 18 I “ran away” for the last time. That time I made it to safety, after so many tries, so many threats, so many terrors.

It was not very safe, but it was safer there than I ever had been, even walking late nights with my sharpest key between my knuckles, meth addicts in place of zombies, because Snohomish County is a place that I came from.

I still have running away dreams, so many of my dreams involve being chased, having to go into hiding. Waypoints on the two highways that segmented the town we lived in, bus stops and routes that ought to overlaps but don’t, the precarious nature of navigating between them. Bike paths that end in train stations with seven stacked labyrinths and no elevator. Waiting behind a door to fool those who might open it into believing the room is empty.

But I open a new door this year, and I want to stand in the middle of the room, under the brightest light. It is terrifying, and I am alive. It is dangerous, and I am living.

I did not kill myself by the time I turned 25. I am 30 years old now, and that is a fucking miracle. He didn’t kill me, either.

Sometimes safe is just the place where he isn’t, and sometimes I make it myself, thumb prints in clay. And I did. I got me here, fists and boots and traveling spoon, spoked wheels and determination, a hard no and a hard yes. Heart in red marker on my sleeve, because I am not afraid of caring (anymore).

It is in winter that we dig up the old roots, and plant new bulbs.

trigger warning for IV drug use. take care of yerself!

We’re talking about syringes in class, the different types, their uses, the basic components: barrel, plunger, tip. I slip in and out of focus. I remember watching her cook and shoot up. She ground up the tablets first, then mixed them carefully with bottled water (Evian, like the model she could have been), put a lighter under the spoon, stirred till it all cohesed and bubbled. Maybe there was more. The shag carpet smells like the inside of a vacuum bag, like home. Aaron* ties her off and his mom comes in. “Are you using the bent spoon? Don’t burn all my nice spoons.”

He isn’t, but insists he is. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. He taps her vein until it bulges, an army drab river under alabaster pale. I can’t watch the needle piercing flesh, the flush of blood before push. Ulric reaches out and grabs my hand, as much for comfort as to break the spell. “I can’t do it either. I’d rather drink a beer, anyways,” he says.

We lay facedown on the crusty carpet. As Aaron ties off for his shot, Ulric noses over to me, puts an arm around my back, and presses his lips behind my ear. He grazes the flesh and makes for my mouth, misses. Ell sighs and my head shoots up. “How do you feel?” I ask, curious as much as wary.

“Good.” Her eyes are big, sparkly-manic, ice blue fascination. I press Ulric’s hand and get up. Aaron staunches his clumsy shot with a rag.

“C’mon, let’s go. We should get some beer,” I pretend to know exactly how we would go about it.

In the parking lot of the Safeway downtown, two twenty-something guys with greasy scalps and patchy beards sway, leering at Ell and I, clearly resenting our companions. “Twenty bucks, Black Label. All the way from Canada to your underage hands.” Ell slapps the money into an open palm.

“High alcohol content,” offers Ulric approvingly. “Like a lager.”

The beer tastes tinny and sweet, worse warm than cold, and we only drink it warm. I don’t drink more than two, more anxious to hold my own than to prove my capacity. The night air seems like enough, the novelty of roaming streets less rural than my own. 3 years ago when I moved here I thought it such a small town, but I’ve up and moved to an even smaller one, and now I can observe this town as a novelty, an adventure.

Somehow Ulric and I end up in his bed, messy limbs and malt liquor sweat. We have sex but neither of us comes. I am unconcerned, the sex is more perfunctory than interesting, at least for me. He offers to go down on me, but seems relieved when I decline. We sleep, toss and turn unfamiliarly. In the morning we go again. At least it doesn’t hurt. It’s over fast, and he’s happy to use a condom before sheepishly confessing he can’t really keep it up right now, either.

Ulric and I, we keep in touch for a while, long enough for a few phone calls, halfhearted and awkward. We meet Ell in Seattle for a show, drink malt liquor in the alley, chain smoke and make small talk, but I can’t convince myself that we are either of us interested in picking up where we left off. His mohawk is up, a foot and a half of soft brown fan dividing the scalp above his baby face. He has the chunky build of a toddler. A driver honks and calls out, “Sweet hawk!” as we share a cigarette.

He turns to face traffic and his hair lingers on my face. I touch my cheek in wonder. “It’s so soft,” I marvel. “How do you get it to stay up?”

“Egg whites, mostly. A little glue and Aquanet. It takes me two hours!” he reveals proudly. This boy who has already dropped out of high school at 15, relegated to a lifetime of work at his father’s dog grooming shop, cares that much about his own hair. Between his bondage pants, patched vest, and studded jacket, it is the one feature of his ensemble that is made from his body, an accomplishment he has both grown and crafted. He’s a nice boy, I think, momentarily tender. He catches my eye and half-grins, half-snarls. “C’mon, let’s get into the pit.”

The tiny venue can scarcely afford the band space for bodies and instruments, let alone audience members, but somehow we fall all together in sweat and stink. The bassist leans into us and is held up, then knocked into the drums, knocks over half the kit, and still they play on. It’s a good night.

I hear from Ell that he got back together with his ex and she gave him the itch**. I ask Ulric about it and he laughs. “Fuck. Well, I deserved that one, didn’t I? Stupid shit, got what was coming to me. Thinking I was so mighty with Ell and Aaron all the time.”

*all names changed

*gonorrhea, thank god for small favors

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.

more here and here for folks outta the loop d’loop.

Trigger warning for: suicidal ideation.

I know I’m not the only one
whose confidence gets mowed down at odd moments
whose sense of deserving is skewed by doubt
who believes their claims to accomplishments or identities to be
somehow less.

Dear impostor in the mirror: I’m here to tell you
you are not an actor
you didn’t get the role in the play for looks
you’re living the story.

It’s yours, whatever you make of it–
exposition, conflict, resolution, and
if you don’t get it right every time
that’s what adds interest to the narrative.

I overheard someone giving writing advice today,
and I’d like you to live it out:
“…it’s not that your character achieves the goal they set out for,
it’s the things that happen along the way.”

I know it’s scary out there and sometimes
you think about just couch camping forever
or jumping off the Aurora Bridge
but don’t you know
they built a fence around that bridge
and don’t you know that
there’s more for you, outside the door.

It might be more struggle
I can’t guarantee it will be all
sunshine and roses or
cafe au lait and croissants
especially since right now all you can really afford is
intermittent sunshine and drip coffee.

Yet I think you know:
this conflict just adds interest to the story and
overcoming the impostor is your first assignment.

Dedicated those living in the margins.

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’!

06/05/2012

Dear reader, like most folks these days, I’m pretty dubious of online petitions, but just in case I hope you’ll sign this, read this, and read the following. -RD

ps. oh, do you have money? neat! you could donate it here. being in prison is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E.

 

PRESS RELEASE Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald & Leslie Feinberg 6-5-12

by FreeCece Mcdonald on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 6:49am ·

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 5, 2012

Leslie Feinberg Arrested in Solidarity with Chrishaun McDonald

Hundreds Take to Street in Protest

Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network, transyouthsupportnetwork@gmail.com, (612) 363-7574; and Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, mntranspr@gmail.com, (612) 823-1152

Leslie Feinberg was arrested last night amidst hundreds of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald supporters protesting outside of the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. Feinberg is being held at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and is facing charges of property damage. The protest was held on the eve of McDonald’s transfer to the state prison system, where she will serve out a sentence of 41 months for defending herself against racist and transphobic attackers. Although McDonald initially faced two charges of second degree murder, earlier this month she accepted a plea agreement to a reduced charge of second degree manslaughter due to negligence.  Outraged supporters took to the streets, blocking traffic for over an hour in protest of the violent abuses McDonald has faced at the hands of our legal system.  Feinberg joined demonstrators in making noise loud enough to be heard within the facility McDonald is currently being held at, and marching through the streets in a show of love and solidarity with CeCe McDonald and with all incarcerated individuals.  Feinberg was the only person arrested, and is excited to draw more attention to McDonald’s story and to the prevalent racism and transphobia within the criminal system.

Feinberg has given the following statement:

Many people across the United States and around the world are watching, and history will record what happens on June 4, 2012.  CeCe McDonald survived a fascist hate crime; now she’s sentenced as she struggles to survive an ongoing state hate crime. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues! I know from the lessons of histories what is means when the state—in a period of capitalist economic crisis—enacts apartheid passbook laws, bounds up and deports immigrant works, and gives a green light to e white supremacists, fascist attacks on Black peoples—from Sanford, Florida, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The prosecutor and the judge are upholding the intent of the infamous white supremacist Dred Scott ruling of 1857.

The same year Fredrick Douglass concluded: “Without struggle, there is no progress!”

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth:  celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation—the formal Abolitionist of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defense against racist violence.

Yet, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jailers are continuing the violent and bigoted hate crimes begun by the group of white supremacists who carried out a fascist attack on CeCe McDonald and her friends.

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison in June—the month when the Stonewall Rebellion ignited in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. From the Compton’s Uprising to the Stonewall Rebellion, defense against oppression is a law of survival.

This is Pride month, and will be bringing the demand: “Free CeCe—now!” to the regional Pride march where I live. I believe many other individuals, groups, and contingents will thunder that demand in Pride marches and rallies all over the world—informing millions who take part, and millions more who support.

The prosecution hopes this struggle is over. But it is not over: Free CeCe—now! An injury to one is an injury to all! Come out against racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and sexist wars at home and abroad!

Feinberg’s arrest is symptomatic of growing anger and frustration at the disproportionate targeting and abuse of young transgender women of color in our society.  The actions Feinberg took last night were in solidarity with McDonald and all prisoners to let them know they are not alone.  Feinberg is excited to garner attention to how McDonald is treated today as McDonald is transferred to the prison intake facility in St. Cloud, MN.

McDonald’s case does not reflect an isolated aberration in the functioning of the U.S. legal system, but rather business as usual within a society that has, for hundreds of years, profited from the incarceration and exploitation of people of color and trans/gender non-conforming people.  McDonald’s sentencing sends a very clear message to all those following her case across the country: transphobia and racism are alive and well, both in the violent verbal and physical attacks on trans youth of color in the night as well as in the legal system which makes surviving this violence a crime punishable by years of incarceration.  Nevertheless, we look forward to joining all of McDonald’s supporters in continuing to fight against these systems of power, for CeCe and for all transgender women of color targeted by the prison-industrial complex.

With love and rage,

The CeCe McDonald Support Committee

For more information on McDonald’s case, visit http://www.supportcece.wordpress.com.

###