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
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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?

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.

excerpt from journal entry

hella: missing the company of dating ladies but every time i think about it more than “hey pretty lady!” i think about all the times i have been used as the “lez sexperiment” date and i get really skittish really fast. also still super-burnt from ending things with A. (:/)

*subset of that feeling: is that internalized misogyny, assuming that all ladies will fuck me over? yes. yes, i think it is. don’t date ladies for a while, RD, until you can trust yourself not to take that shit out on them. wakka wakka.

i like this whole having crushes but not pursuing them thing. having friends who i have never ever slept with, would probably never. i feel like sometimes having a crush on someone is a way of distancing myself from actually trying to be friends with them, and somehow that feels more risky because i don’t know why but it does. yay boundaries!

cut the string

05/21/2012

we went down to the lake in the twilight, telling stories, comparing notes on loves and friendships gone awry, gone missing. i’d spent nearly the whole afternoon writing and writing, pages upon pages of letters to grief, people who are still in my heart but the mutual injuries i need to let go of. they add up and become leaden–a school of gray-dappled sorrows drawing me into the muck. there’s life there, too, but if i don’t surface i will suffocate.
so i cut the string and set them adrift to the bottom. it will take some time yet for them to settle, become a part of the landscape of waving fronds and scaled bodies, splintered wood slathered soft in algae.
maybe you’d be surprised at how much heat a paper fire can generate (maybe not).
and yet. how slow it takes a cord to sever.

 

confidential to F.: IT’S WORKING.

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/

sometimes i feel like screaming from the top of a very very far mountain “I WANT MY LIFE BACK!!!” from radical goings-on, the constant work that is never done.

talking with one of my fellow students from Spanish class, zie says, “me and activism are taking some time off from one another right now.” lord, do i understand.

after the three steps forward, i try to take two steps back and go back to the people and places dearest to me, press my exhausted body into the mattress after nights with so little sleep, sleep in. sometimes if i’m lucky there are welcoming arms, someone whose face i can hold in my two hands and get close enough to see how perfect they are. push my face against theirs, the air so cold our deep breaths are visible. we drink in the silence by the river (autumn-going-on-winter, here). that is what i feel most nourished by when it all comes down, not just my introversion (though sometimes that is so so good!) but also that closeness, 1 on 1, late night conversation and its late night lapse. the press of palms that makes me forget all about cops and violence and somuchworktodo for a whole hour or more at a time.

this past weekend travelled to another city to teach (a big daunting task). the whole time felt hard-pressed to connect mind and body, hurting all over (stress + injury aggravation + sleep deprivation are a bad combination, no surprise), but often in the quiet places all i could think was: i would really like a hug right now. i wish there was someone to hold hands with. all of us should just make a cuddle puddle!

it seems silly, counter-intuitive to my overall introversion of late, even–but lord, i thrive on touch, and in an alien environment where almost everyone is practically a stranger i start to crave it. i love* (and have been missing!): dancing, long hugs, cuddling, holding hands, walking with arms linked, sitting with thighs touching, being patted affectionately, so many things.

being quiet together.

i can not tell you how nice it was to come home yesterday, press myself into familiar arms (combustion, combustion, joy!), sit under the lamp and read and read, while that familiar brain and that familiar body read and read nearby. to recharge by osmosis, like one of those newfangled thing-a-ma-wogs where you just set the device atop and the batteries recharge.

3 steps forward for that big work, 2 steps back to recharge.

hugging: now with 10% more revolutionary action!

*with people i want to touch/be touched by. other people touching me tends to lead to me triggering out badly, as one might expect, yeh?

Heart-shaped box

10/31/2011

At the angry part of grief. In the middle of a radical reimagining of a relationship that I think will look something like “let’s stay friends! …and uh, break up.” Maybe when the grief is not so fresh, playing together occasionally, but with less emotional commitment. Let’s give it plenty of space before that.

I should have seen this coming. For a while now, I think. Maybe the whole while?

What I was most surprised by was hurting so badly after the news crossed the line to understanding, acceptance beyond the bargaining. You know when grief becomes physical, and the heart beats arhythmically and hands shake? Oh yes, that.

Maybe it is not so much this relationship that I am grieving, as all the relationships that I have ‘radically reimagined’ in the last few years. My heart is sore and worn, not fading around the edges but a little frayed from stretching and contracting as it do. From a less than optimistic place, I can tell you: being polyamorous gives you not just more opportunity for love, but for heartache, too. (sounds so melodramatic, but fuck-all, it’s true!)

But at least all this experience is useful for something. I know how to get myself thru this, seeing as how I’m at least a level 6 at that great skill, surviving heartache and getting the fuck on with my life. It takes time, putting energy into other things, but also giving myself space in which to grieve.

I’ve put up my tent. Here, self, you can grieve, in this notebook or that cluttered room. Listen to melancholy love songs until your eyes bleed if you want, it’s fine. The best strategy I’ve found is working on easy tasks that upon completion will make me feel accomplished. Working on bikes, cooking, painting. Lavishing that most precious resource, time, upon my introversion.

Tomorrow is a new day, and with it brings the dawn.

Step up, step up

10/13/2011

editorial note: please excuse the uneven editing structure/increased swears for the next few weeks–en’t been sleeping enough, and there’s a whole lotta writing i gotta get done (and a whole lotta other things, too!). xo, RD

god fucking dammit. you know, this week, it was turning out pretty nicely. it was chugging along, i felt like i was balancing getting stuff done, self care, and occasionally having fun pretty well. AND THEN THE EMAIL CAME.

The email was basically like: HEY I AM SO GLAD TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR COLLECTIVE WE HAVE [THESE VERY SERIOUS PROBLEMS THAT ARE BEYOND THE SCOPE THAT YOUR COLLECTIVE OR YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES TO DEAL WITH] AND REALLY NEED HELP! PLEASE CONTACT ME ASAP [DID I MENTION WE HAVE SOME VERY SERIOUS PROBLEMS THAT REQUIRE IMMEDIATE ATTENTION BEYOND THE SCOPE OF RESOURCES YOU HAVE TO GIVE?] SIGNED, TRYING TO ORGANIZE A MIDDLE-CLASS REVOLUTION

ugh. one of the particularly problematic quirks of my personality is that i am a control freak. not because i like being in control, exactly, it’s more like that i have noticed that folks are not real fast about picking up leadership roles, and i’ve figured out that if i want things done “right” (oh dear, you see what i mean?), then i might as well do them myself. this basically summarizes most of my career as an activist: well, i really didn’t want to get involved–but no one else was stepping up, so i did it anyways!

among the perks of my day job (other than health insurance and getting paid decently) is that i receive emails throughout the day. this is real useful sometimes, but it also means that when i receive an email like the above stressbomb, i have the WHOLE REST OF THE DAY to worry about it before i can do anything about it. A friend of mine who also does a variety of support work for others (including working IT for many years) has developed what zie calls the SEP field. “Oh really?” zie will say, “I seem to be encountering an SEP field!” Zie doesn’t say this to everyone, in fact zie is usually one of the kindest, most compassionate individuals I have ever known. But let’s be honest, sometimes we do encounter problems that must be let go of without solving them, and they must be deflected by the Someone Else’s Problem field.

I’m not saying I’m going to deflect the request we received today, but I’ve got to be honest: it is someone else’s problem(s) that I am being asked to deal with, not my own, and not a personal affront to my own incapability as a human being to be all places, at all times, doing all the things. See? When I place that in print it seems so ridiculous that I have tried, at times, to be so much more than human! To strive for superhuman capabilities sets me up to fail, and then I don’t just disappoint my self, I also deprive others, sometimes in a very real sense. It is possible that their needs can get met elsewhere–I just have to leave enough space for someone else to step up.

Sometimes during workshops/skillshares/etc we use this phrase, step up, step up, to encourage people who usually take up a lot of space or participate very actively to step up their listening, and to encourage people who usually sit back and let the group swirl around them to step up their participation. I’m gonna remember that, for this situation. Step up, step up. For me, in this situation, that’s a reminder to step up my boundary setting.

Also, I am thinking about getting 10 deep breaths, 10 steps back tattooed on my hand. Or maybe henna? Hopefully I will have better developed my values around self-care within the next, uh…5 or 10 years? ugh, it’s gonna be a lifetime thing. Don’t ever forget: this livin’ shit takes a lifetime.