Catching Hell and Making Lemonade

Confessions of an Urban Shaman

(Black Mirror, season 2, episode 2)

“Help me please! I’m a human being!”

This then is the mistake we make, affording ones self the illusion of humanity.

No doubt I’m not the only person to watch this episode and draw some disturbing parallels. I immediately fell back on an episode of Prison Break, the scene where Adina Porter’s character Leticia is murdered by an FBI agent (of state). I couldn’t watch another minute afterwards, but was instead propelled further towards dissecting how anti-blackness is subtly rubbed into our wounds at every turn.

Consider also how not so subtly our efforts at moving towards spiritual, economic and physical liberation is placed on a similar plane as facism. In particular when there are so many black women on the front lines, making strides, building networks, bringing down statues, visibly not giving two fucks about Eurocentric ideals surrounding decorum. So anytime I gain…

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An Alien Bearing Witness

I was going to write an article today about Trans and disability Ally credit and Ally cookies, but right now it is more important to me to boost IBPOC voices regarding what is going on in Charlottesville and the country at large.

Confessions of an Urban Shaman

I gather stones from the river, rejoin the protesters at the corner of Reason and Futility. We stand transfigured as inmates scream for cool water, mothers file civil suits in hopes of reclaiming the bones of their children. Dreamers reach tired fingers through the gate, seeking human touch. Humanity pleas for a return to normalcy. In the heat of morning we disavow the hatred attempting to supplant sanity.

The dead gather often in my dreams, or after an evening sip from my chalice, reaffirming my purpose. Not human, unspoken, seeking a place outside of the house, embraced by the storm, loved by self.

Across the way the machinations of Euro nationalist leadership and the media are used in tangent thus unreason becomes the norm. Every small distraction verifies the lie and angles us away from a solution, solidarity or a truth. Foot soldiers protected and coddled by the State advance…

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A Different Sort of Debilitating

I have anxiety. 

Often my anxiety is situational, because of concerns about money or lack thereof, my health, the kids, the world, the well-being and safety of my partners and friends, my ptsd being triggered, or one of a million other things in response to real life stress. Sometimes it seems likely to be hormonal and/or dysphoria related, and sometimes it is from sensory overload or Autistic burn out. 

When I was younger I was ashamed of and overwhelmed by my anxiety, as it resulted in my being afraid of anything and everything. Truly everything as far as I could understand it. As I have gotten older I have gotten more self confident, more emotionally stable, and more content with who I am as a person. Anxiety doesn’t cause me to shame spiral anymore but it is still pretty debilitating pretty often. 

During times that my anxiety takes hold, no matter the reason, my fight or flight fear response flares so hard I am frozen. Any sort of activity would usually help me break free, but literally any choice sends me down an anxiety loop of what ifs and escalated fear so deep even my brain freezes up. 

knock knock

who’s there? 

nobody.nothing.despair.


So here I sit, trying to soothe away the hammering of my heart,the adrenaline burn in my joints. Reminding myself that everything is currently as ok as it ever is, and there isn’t actually a saber tooth tiger over that next ridge waiting to pounce on me. 

everything is fine. everything is fine. 
I force one foot in front of the other if I am able, or rest if that is all that is possible, ride the storm out so that I may survive as intact as possible, to move freely on another day, maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. I remind myself it is ok to conserve my energy if it is needed, that I can rest before I am pulverized, that I don’t have to be bleeding to be worthy of rest, help, or healing. 

You don’t have to be bleeding to deserve rest, help, or healing either. Your struggle is real. Your hardship isn’t imagined just because it isn’t the narrative of the easy majority. 

We are both real, both valid, you and I. 

ground to the bone but existing. 

I am always learning to love me better, more sincerely. To embrace myself and let this flow over and around me in honesty and acceptance. Whatever that means on that day, in that moment.

 I love you too my friend, I can’t promise that it will all be ok, but I can promise I am here to listen if you need an ear. I am here to support you if you need a familiar hand to hold. 

Someday I will be able to breathe again

Taboo

I know society says I am not supposed to talk about my pain, anxiety, and struggle. It is only appropriate to suffer gracefully and in silence. 

conveniently. 

prettily if possible.

I should be inspiring or invisible. 

But I am not very good at either, so here we go. 

Let’s talk. 
I have chronic pain and fatigue. I have acute asthma/AERD. I have anxiety and depression, that could be situational. it’s hard to say….there are other things that impact my ability to cope but that is a long and tedious list so I will forgo that. 

It has become increasingly difficult for me to do anything at all over the last few years….and I do mean anything. Right now I am having an asthma attack because I got up off the couch, walked into the bedroom, sat down on the bed, and plugged my kindle in to charge and write. 

People tell me I am resilient these days, strong. It’s my most received compliment. But I am not strong, or resilient, or inspiring. I’m just a person struggling through this life. I get up every morning and do what I have to do, because it is what I have to do, not because I am stronger than anyone else…certainly not to inspire you. 

Those of us stuck in the trenches of chronic illness and disability don’t feel super human strong, resilient, or inspiring. We don’t want to be your lesson in fortitude. When we receive compliments for merely existing* it feels at the very least well intended but patronizing, and sometimes downright hurtful, tokenizing, or harmful.** 

Sometimes empty compliments like these seem to communicate “oh my, I find your life unimaginably horrible, I am so glad I do not have to live it. whooo.” As you can well imagine, that can be painful to hear. 

Chronically ill and Disabled people are all different, complex, talented, damaged, beautiful…we all have different gifts and weaknesses. Many, if not most of us would much rather be complimented for our work or skills, for the people we are, than for simply not believing death would be better then the lives we have. 

*h/t to Jena Gong for the verbiage 

** there are some types of invisible or mental illness in which it may be appropriate to tell a person that they are strong and resilient for continuing to be alive, and they should not be discounted or erased either. 

I’m Not Your Exception

CN: discussion of microaggressions, gendered expectations, transphobia, transmisogyny

There is a thing cis people often do when trans people come out to them. They say something like, “I just love you for you” which might sound good in theory, but allows the cis person in question to not have to confront any of their ideas about gender identity and presentation. This glossing over often becomes the order of business anytime the trans person is interacted with, so the cis person never has to do the work to realign any of their perceptions or ideas about that particular person’s identity or gender on a larger scale, at all. 
 “you are just you” they tell us, or “I don’t even see gender” thinking that this is the peak of acceptance and allyship. 

But gendered thinking is programmed into our culture, and if we aren’t actively breaking those subconsciously held ideas about what makes men, women, nonbinary people, and anyone else who they are, down, than we are indeed treating people in a gendered and potentially problematic way no matter how hard we try to ignore it. These implicit biases do negatively impact cis people as well, but are more directly harmful to trans people, especially multiply marginalized trans people, such as black trans women and femmes who are being murdered at terrifying rates because of the dangerous combination of transphobia, racism, and transmisogyny/femmephobia. 

The end result of this can and does play out even with our allies, who possibly subconsciously categorize us by how they as cis people view our adherence to binary gender rules that they haven’t done the work of examining. This means that the only trans people who get implicitly and correctly gendered with any consistency are binary trans people who “pass”. That when allies haven’t done the work of examining what “man” and “woman” mean to them, they may use the right pronouns, they might even use the correct labels but their gender coded treatment of us will still show that cognitive dissonance. 

For example, I have seen repeatedly, nonpassing transmasculine folks being automatically lumped into women only space, or allowed and encouraged to behave in a very misogynistic way that is only accepted specifically because they are still basically perceived as non threatening “woman”…which will suddenly change and no longer be encouraged when and if they begin “passing”. Inevitably if we trans folks say something about how uncomfortable we are with this implicit gendering, we are usually told, “oh I don’t mean you, you’re fine!” 

 That exception made for us, never feels like a compliment, it feels like the cis person in question doesn’t really take our gender seriously, it’s a verbal head pat. Now for me as a white, transmasculine person, this type of behavior is frustrating and hurtful, it means I get dismissed as cute, snoodly, funny aderble boy lite™. 

For transfeminine people, especially nonpassing or non traditionally pretty (by European standards) transfeminine folks this is down right dangerous. It is why trans women and femmes are often/usually considered potential threats or predators. It is why even supposed allies say they “understand why terfs feel that way though it’s wrong”, or think that trans women benefit from male privilege. These implicit biases play out in ways that directly result in the villainization and murder of trans feminine folks.

Instead of making their trans friends exceptions to their internalized rules of what gender identity and presentation is, allies need to be working harder to rewrite those internalized rules entirely, in the mean time working harder to pay attention to how they think of and treat the trans people in their lives, what the subtext of their treatment really means, and the impact they have both with their direct friendships and in the wider world. 

Liminal

​I’m not doing well right now. 
I worry about dying, asthma or an infected tooth. 

I worry about leaving my family alone.
I worry about being a burden-dragging people down

im so tired of fighting so hard to repeatedly have it come to nothing

I worry I’m giving up,  burning out, or burning up
I worry about not being able to work for weeks because the kids and I are sick, because it’s dangerously hot, because I have a toothache
no margin for error 
my hands only hold errors and despair

.
I have intrusive thoughts and don’t know who I’m supppsed to reach out to. 
I am to tired to figure it out. 
to tired to find the right words, pay the proper respects
to tired to find the bridge 
to tired to be the bridge 

maybe next week I will be inspiring 
maybe next week I will be educational 
maybe next week I will be productive 
maybe next week I will be worthy 
maybe next week I will be proud

today all I have is survival
today all I have is grinding step after step after step 
today all I have is that I am here and I wrote this 
today that will have to be enough

Blake, the Up and Coming Artist

                        portrait of me, doing a breathing treatment

Recently in one of my support groups for trans folks, a young artist had posted examples of their work and was offering to do portraits of other members. By the time I got to the thread they already had at least fifty responses, or so it seemed. I didn’t really have any expectations, because so many portraits would be an overwhelming amount of work.  I hesitated but have been struggling with seeing myself in a positive light lately so I went ahead and dropped that selfie and let them know that I thought they were quite talented, and would love to feature them here on my blog. 

They said yes obviously because here we are, and to my great delight offered to do a portrait for me as well. Oh gosh. I was a little nervous, I won’t lie. What would I look like through someone else’s eyes?  The answer to that question ended up being, completely awesome. It was powerful and moving when I saw that picture of myself for the first time. A picture without the filter of my personal baggage. Wow. 

But that’s enough about me, and my experience. Let’s talk about Blake. Blake is a passionate, young, queer artist of color living in Florida. Some of the reoccurring themes in their art work include explorations of gender fluidity, self expression, and realism versus  surrealism. Blake, who is clearly an artist on several different levels is also a jazz vocalist, choreographer, and is passionate about social justice. 

When I spoke to Blake they were drawing my portrait and attempting to explain this stranger’s face to their ever curious toddler age cousins. The tenderness and good humor with which they related the conversation immediately won me over. (I’m a sucker for a cute toddler story) 

 “Hi my little cousins keep asking about you (2 and 6) what pronouns should I use?” they asked, “They keep looking at your picture, they are very interested in you… I just said that’s a person and they said, like me? I said yes, and they said, oh ok…. I love little kids”*

One thing they said that really resonated with me so strongly, that I find myself thinking about still was their saying,”…That’s one of the reasons I posted asking if people wanted pics, people deserve to be drawn! Nobody draws people like us and we’re BEAUTIFUL!!!”

 Thanks for the reminder Blake, sometimes I forget how true that is. We are beautiful, and we deserve to feel that way. 

Powerful. 

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If you would like to follow or support Blake in their artistic endeavors you can follow them on Instagram @fromasterflex, Tumblr: thefromasterflex.tumblr.com, or become a patron via Patreon

You can also support them by donating PayPal with the note “for Blake”
*messenger dialog edited for clarity and minor typos