Today I rallied and marched with my sweetheart for May Day: to honor workers, to end deportations and incarcerations. My heart swelled up and I cried when we stopped to watch the Mexica dancers. We have lost so much, and found so much, all the time. Borders, deportations, incarcerations–these things divide FAMILIES.

If you are white, you were NOT “here first”–THERE IS NO BLUE RIBBON FOR THEFT. You are living on stolen land, suckling the blood of the people of color who built it for you, supply your life still with an unearned ease (no matter how hard things get, your whiteness still greases the edges). You schemed across the water on the backs of those stolen into slavery. So stop acting like you were the first goddamn child to the top of the treehouse, okay?

AND if you feel like you own this place (and are not indigenous/native), that deportations and mass incarceration are just–you are failing me, you are failing those like me, you are failing the human condition. Truly.

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When it hits, you think of yourself as a smooth fist:

a spine full of knives, a shot of tetanus in a buried saber.

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What about when talking about trauma is a trigger? Even though in between I am able to be articulate, insightful. Today in seminar we are discussing a case study of a patient with a history of CSA (childhood sexual abuse), and there is just enough description of the specifics that I begin to circle back on them again and again on the page. Every time someone says the word “rape,” the wind-up key turns. On the outside I am calm, if a bit quiet, but inside my heart is racing and I can feel my hands beginning to tremor as I reach for my coffee. At break I slip half a Xanax into my mouth with coffee, and then we come back and talk about hypomania. I love psychiatric nursing, but half of the time I feel so exposed, even when we talk about all these things in abstractions.

Me: cPTSD haver, bipolar type II, ACES score of 7 or more (11? 14?). Panic attacks, social anxiety, recurring nightmares, history of estrangement from family, risky sexual behaviors from a young age, ETOH/MJ/etc use, survivor of CSA/child abuse/parental neglect/rape/intimate violence, high stress life and (sometimes) very little support.

Broke but not broken. Surviving but underwater. Sometimes I feel so acutely aware that I experience life like I am hopping from crisis to crisis, and I think to myself, “shouldn’t I be more resilient than this? it doesn’t look like other people have to work so hard at keeping themselves afloat.”

Anyhow, that’s all. Going to see new therapist today, to talk about possible sliding scale arrangement. Wish me luck that it’s actually affordable.

-RD

 

 

 

“It’s like my queerness didn’t work right until I transitioned–I had all these relationships with women that fell flat, missed the mark, were utter and unforgivable disasters–and the only common denominator was me.”

“but you like women, though?”

“I *love* women. But I couldn’t have functional relationships with them, they were too raw, too dense, too much hurt with not enough honesty.”

“…“

“every other woman that I fell for turned up straight anyways–and that says something right there, too. It was like they didn’t see me. But maybe I didn’t fully see myself, either.”

“…cis men, tho. I just can’t–”

“oh, I know. Me too, now. It was easier, tho. It felt like the fit was at least a bit closer. I was still always devouring queer lit and culture. But I had to transition to truly find my place as a queer person, that helix-universe-glittercloud.”

clunk.

02/20/2016

Hannah was a bird-boned woman, bitter to the point of cruelty, and in it not unlike my own mother, but without the insight that ushers change. clunk. A haver of violence, a maker of fists. A mother of six.

I always thought that after Hannah’s death we would be released from her curse on our family. clunk. the inventor of so many tragedies. clunk. but now all I feel is an angry and hollow kind of grief. clunk. an ice chest in mine. clunk. A hole where our collective presence as a family should have been–but isn’t. clunk. A hole dug not by a person. clunk. but the bedrock-frayed blades of a shovel and a scythe, paired. clunk. colonialism and the continuity of trauma. clunk.

Now, it ends with me. clunk. I lay you to rest. clunk. I only use bitter herbs to clean.

I commit to life, to healing, to kindness–especially to those closest to me, the home that I build every day with heart in my hands: a strung skin, a heaving drum, the point of maximal impulse.

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 up: Honk

01/05/2016

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Trigger warning: aftermath of sexual/child abuse

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Honk if questions like “What is a secret that almost no one knows about you?” on dating websites trigger memories of trauma and you can never think of anything else to say, and you think that maybe deactivating your profile and never having sex with anyone else for the rest of your life might not be the worst thing, so long as you don’t have to pull THE BIG REVEAL moment (”surprise, I don’t just have CPTSD, my trauma history is so exhaustive it might give you PTSD if I talk tooo much about it! woo!”) out for someone you’re dating ever EVER again.

Honk if your abuser never got arrested because they never do, and because even when there was a small chance that they might, the authorities in question either didn’t take it seriously, didn’t ask the right questions, or failed to follow up at crucial points (ie. taking pictures of injuries, calling you back in <2 weeks, etc).

Honk if you were a queer/genderqueer/trans teen runaway and know as a matter of FACT that you can not ever “go home” safely, and your skin recoils in frustration and disgust when your friends tell you they “know what that’s like” because they like, fight with their parents sooo much since they dropped out of the liberal arts college their family was paying for.

Honk if your sexuality is always/has always been/will always be at least partially rooted in your response to the sexual abuse and exploitation you experienced as a child/teenager/adult at the hands of your family/family friend/friend/lover.

Honk if you never know whether or not your romantic/sexual relationships are normal, and if you constantly second guess yourself, because you’re not sure if you’re projecting your trauma onto your lover, or if things really are *that* terrible.

Honk if you forget to eat because food restriction and physical violence from your abusers taught you how to dissociate so well that you forget about this whole body thing sometimes.

Honk if depersonalization makes almost every moment seem surreal, almost all of the time.

Honk if you’re working on it, but sometimes you just want to sleep forever.

Honk if you’re scared of going to sleep some nights because your nightmares are just as exhausting/even more exhausting than your waking life.

Honk if you have at least one chronic pain/chronic health condition that appears to be a direct result of sexual assault.

Honk if you’ve lost track of the number of times that you had sex you didn’t really want, or that hurt, or both.

Honk if you’ve had a partner tell you, after you explained that the sex you were having hurt, “just a little bit longer, I’m almost there.” and never thought of this as a kind of sexual abuse until you were almost 30.

Honk if your trauma history is so extensive that even healthcare professionals splutter when they try to talk to you about it.

-RD

Trigger warning: aftermath of sexual assault
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When was the first time in it happened? I know I spent a lot of my teenage years dissociated. The first time I remember really being aware that the way I had sex was different from how a lot of people do I was 16 or 17, I remember squeezing my eyes tight and pretending I was alone. As I came I had this exquisite vision of solitude and a cityscape made up of obsidian obelisks. I remember searching for that moment later, when I would need to stop sex and my then-partner would say ‘wait, just let me finish, I’m almost there,’ and so I would check out, slip out of my body like an article of clothing, watch the shadows in the garden as the leaves shifted outside the window.

*TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault and accountability in communities
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Friday night I was talking with some friends about the prevalence of rapists/people who commit various types of sexual assault (groping, etc) in our various communities (punk scene, activist circle, anarchist milieu, blues/fusion dance community, etc). What I really want people to remember is this: SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. People who commit sexual assault typically know that their actions are unwanted and/or not consented to—they just don’t care. And they do it over and over again***.

Stranger rape is not a myth, but it is astonishingly uncommon. Most survivors know the person who sexually assaulted them—and all too often, we know others who have been sexually assaulted by the same person. So what can we do, as people with common interests, including stopping sexual assault? The most effective thing I have seen is stopping shady interactions and calling out specific behaviors PUBLICLY. Is this going to stop rape? I don’t think so. I think that there are certain people who grow up believing that their desires are more important than another individual’s consent. I believe that these people are disproportionately white, straight, cisgender, ablebodied, and often of a certain class privilege, as well, because the media and other institutions constantly tell us* that their desires are the most important. They are taught entitlement, not just to people’s bodies, but to land, to wealth, to what we might define as autonomy. But of course, people from all demographics perpetuate sexual assault, the real key is undermining their entitlement to the bodies of others—unfortunately many people are taught this kind of entitlement via constant exposure to rape culture. We have many societal institutions that keep rape culture intact (prisons, colonization, socioeconomic inequalities, sexism, racism, etc).

How do we undermine rape culture and the rapist’s sense of entitlement? By fighting for the self-determination of all people. It’s a big task, no doubt. But you can start by questioning the entitlement of the people around you, especially when some dudebro starts cornering the drunk new kid in town at a party, who has that look like they don’t wanna be there. You can start by calling out people who habitually and knowingly cross the boundaries of others. You can tell them what it looks like when their inappropriate behavior occurs, and tell them that it will not be tolerated any longer. You can work to abolish prisons, where people are routinely disenfranchised and treated as slaves, and experience high rates of sexual assault at the hands of the overseers. You can start by being accountable for your actions if somebody tells you they have crossed your boundaries. You can start by connecting the dots between large coercive institutions and individual coercive actions.

You can also start by providing support to people WHENEVER they confide in you that they have been sexually assaulted. ALWAYS trust the survivor, first and foremost. They might not have as much social capital as the person who assaulted them (a popular community leader, a teacher, a sibling, a musician, etc), and so this is where the spiral of isolation following sexual assault can begin in communities. DON’T let this happen. DO support the survivor in getting the support they need, and ASK what that means to them, whether it means creating a safer space policy (ie. so and so who has a history of inappropriate/rapey behavior is not allowed here, such and such specific behaviors are not allowed here, etc), or just letting them talk through their feelings at a given moment of crisis, or helping them find safe, affordable crisis support resources such as counseling or a crisis line.

And remember: it is not okay to expect survivors to just “get over it” after a certain period of time. Speaking from my own experiences, the memories of the sexual assaults that I have survived will be with me for a lifetime, and they intrude at very inopportune times, in nightmares when I’m stressed out about school, etc, or even worse, when I’m trying to be sexually intimate with somebody I care about or, hell, just want to have fun with! So don’t ever ask: “aren’t you over that now?” Some people have that ability, but many of us don’t.

This is just a start. How do we move forward? That’s for us to decide, as communities.

*us: I am speaking as a survivor and a light-skinned privilege experiencing latinx, a queer/transmasculine neuroatypical person with chronic pain who is ablebodied, living long-term in the violently occupied territories known as the United States. I have experience providing survivor support and holding aggressors accountable.

***Go read this if you don’t believe me: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/…/meet-the-predators/
BAM, SCIENCE!

Border Politics

04/28/2013

when you are 27 years old, you will be sitting in the bookshop you sometimes work at (tho business is floundering at best most days, and despite everyone’s best efforts) and she will not look at you while laughing and say that her partner thinks she was Mexican in another life because she can cook it so good as if that were any proof, as if your family’s whole muddle of cultures and experiences can be boiled down to posole and refried beans, spanish rice, and you’d bet ten dollars she’s never even tasted a fried plantain.

you will keep quiet, you will not say anything, not even huh even though it feels like you have been hit in the gut by her feckless white privilege, not even knowing how such carelessness can chuck you even months later. you still think about it, sitting on the same stool, next to the same person who still does not know she did anything wrong at all. may never know, because who are you to tell her, you are so tired all the time of being angry, anyways—and how would you explain the vivisection of the border, the division of family lines with more and less privilege.

we can not even divide ourselves neatly into before immigration and after, or colonizer and colonized, or those resisting assimilation and those already assimilated, or those who pass and those who can’t. who would choose, who would be the judge, anyways? some academic in some ivory tower who teaches feminist “thought” some place say?

there are words for the way you have and haven’t assimilated, you learn this a few months later in your “culturally relevant” lifespan psychology course at community college, where all the white students take up so much space and bring with them their constant cultural baggage of that us and them culture, the same culture that writes news headlines about dark-skinned terrorists and those other countries to bomb, filling in for readers provocation and cause with religion and race as if difference were a kind of violence itself.

you are resistant but your father and mother were not given the choice, for them it was to assimilate or die trying, and so you speak only a few words of your abuela’s tongue, and you are learning how to cook dishes she never fed you before cancer ate her body. you are painfully conscious of life on la frontera. you feel hungry every time you catch wind of another queer latin@ person, sometimes you want to reach out and grab them by the wrist so you won’t feel so washed ashore, so left behind, because all you have is your father’s macho masculinity and colonization of your body (the nightmares that has wrought on you, still) and your mother’s admonishments to wear sunscreen, stop lisping, casual identity policing that you still hear in the back of your head. she just wanted the best for you, and she thought it best that you should pass.

you look in the mirror every day and wonder if you do pass. some days you do, forced to swallow your peers’ casual racism that you try to diminish with clumsy callouts that probably reveal the anger of your internal workings anyways; some days you don’t pass, loaded conversations at the bus stop about where your family is really from, or your partner’s mother’s comments about your hair and skin that will never wash away. it’s not that you’re looking for passing, it’s that you’re looking for your self amidst all the adjectives: queer-as-fuck anti-capitalist hyphen mixed race survivor transgender latin@/-o/-a boi bipolar slash switch anarchist-who-can’t-stand-most-other-anarchists brother-AND-sister. you are your mother’s son and your father’s daughter, your own worst enemy, the bad brain critical voice in the back of your head, and your best ally, the voluminous rapture that rings between your ears in manic frenzy as your hands write, write, write, floundering for some understanding.

trigger warning for BDSM.

(sung)”the minor fall and the major lift/ the baffled king composing hallelujah / hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!”
(speaking) back in college, i liked her best when she was my boi friend. face not stubbly but smooth, she bound her chest and called herself Nick, swept her short blonde hair up beneath a baseball cap and stealthed her hourglass figure with a navy blue hoody. one night after i’d sung us thru the dark winding drive like a torch

(sung) “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!”

(speaking) she handcuffed me to her coffee table and beat me, her family upstairs sleeping or reading or whatever they were doing, so i kept silent while she left violent pinch marks, a ringing in my ears as my mouth gawped at the inexpressible. i thought i might choke on my own half-swallowed wails. they were not terrible, those screams. they came from a well of gladness. my heart beat electric blue in my chest and the edges of my vision went black, though i did not faint. after, she brought down a collar from her wall and fastened it, tho after that night i needed no accessory to find myself enchained. she, still becoming familiar with the rituals of BDSM culture, did not take it seriously as i think i did, though she vowed to protect me. when the time came, she was nowhere to be found and the only scorched earth was that under the rain of my father’s open-handed blows. but that came later. it was not long after that evening with her that i was cornered in a dressing room at a mall in plano with my mother. she saw the black and blue eyed marks and her own eyes widened in terror. “don’t worry, it’s consensual. don’t ‘let’s talk about this,'” i begged. she quieted herself and went back to attempting to convert me to floral prints and feminine pastels, forced on me an outfit meant to quell my bizarreness with its normalcy. it felt like putting on a doll’s costume, the colors, shape, and conveyance all wrong. i think of this now when i see Nikki, sculpted and femmed, subtle lipstick and silky henna locks, little black dress cut to reveal her sturdy, curvaceous limbs and intricate scars. it was Nikki, not Nick, who shared a bench with my mother at graduation. in these later years i am amused that when asked, my mother’s opinion of the lady in question was too small town for you. But Nikki was the first and among the only to cast me off in favor of other turns, first as a farflung traveller, now as a military wife and mother, tho still as kinky and non-monogamous as ever. she pops up again, at a party i’m throwing or a performance, and always manages some mutedly grand gesture to let me know how much she still thinks of me. the summer before last she memorized and sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and emailed me the video for my birthday. my housemates watched with me as tears welled up and my heart clenched in my chest. i thought to myself, the first girl i ever really fell in love with, tho it was the boi, Nick, that I love(d) best and most of all. we failed one another in various ways as teenagers so often do. it was not just her untimely departure that unraveled our romance. i find her now too altered by time to wrap myself up in our inevitable contradictions again, though a year or two ago i fell in love with the bruising force of someone for whom she might have been the prototype: freckles, relentless sparkle, masculine femininity, and all.