Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando

Yesterday I awoke and checked my email, bad habit. I already had several emails with Orlando, massacre, vigil, community, LGBT and other words in them. My first response was to cry and then I shut down, not because I didn't care but because this is too familiar and I have lost my ability to process the violence anymore. I made coffee and chatted with a good friend until I was ready. Then I open the google browser and typed in Orlando. Again with the waterfalls, then I made some sardonic comments on twitter and then let this knowledge that there were 50 people who were no longer alive set in. Fifty people whose friends and family had an empty place in their hearts. If you have never lost someone it is impossible to understand the heart-wrenching pain of never being able to see someone again. The impermanence of life flooded. Then social media, seeing my communities hearts broken, distraught. Seeing the erasure of QTPOCs, of even LGBTQ in the coverage of the story. Seeing the majority white organizations using this as leverage for whatever capitalist endeavor they have atm. Seeing people using it to justify Islamophobia. I filled with vile indignation. Do they not realize that there are 50 people who were killed and 53 wounded in that night club? Do they not realize that it was primarily QTPOC who were killed? Has our culture lost its human decency? I urge you to remember this is not an isolated event but a systematic war on the bodies and lives of QTPOCs and indigenousQTs in this country that starts with discrimination in employment and housing and ends with cold murder. Ten Trans Women (mostly women of color) have been killed in the first five month of 2016. Twenty one were killed last year. The on going statistic leave one breathless and are increasing because more cases are being recognized. I also want to mention that the worst massacre was of the indigenous peoples before this was a country. At Wounded Knee alone, estimates vary especial colonial estimates, but 300 innocent people were slaughtered.

Last night, I did not go to any vigils and watch white people stand around and talk about how sad it is. Instead I made dinner with a friend and facilitated street outreach plans so we can save some precious lives. In this time I urge allies to not open your mouth but instead open your hearts and care for those most impacted by cooking them dinner or whatever self care they need right now.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Begin with Hopelessness

This title was inspired by Pema Chondra's writings on hopelessness.

It’s was about five years ago now. It seems like yesterday. I read the email from the ex, set down my phone and proceeded to walk towards the window to jump out as if it were what I did every day. I am not sure what happened after I got about halfway across the room. I woke up on the phone, telling someone that I would come down to the health center and talk with someone. They were instructing me to text or call people in my support network. They started naming roles of people I might have in my life. I got off the phone and proceeded to do the plan I was given. The rest is grey. This all is grey. Like bad reception on a TV. A commercial for a series that I have seen before, a long time ago. The rest of the day continued to be truamatizing as I was treated like an item put away on layaway. I was put on suicide watch for the rest of the weekend. I could go into more details but they are not relevant. I don’t remember what the email said now nor have I been able to go back and reread it. It is super foggy but I think they said they the world would be a better place if I died and I would never see my dog again. I never talk about any of this.


This might sound a little shock and awe way to start a story but for me this is more or less everyday life. I have learned to never talk about. We have learned not to talk about it. I’ve been writing poem for years about not talking about it. Forty one percent according to NTSD, forty one percent of trans people have attempted suicide. A study whose sample was the more privileged portion of the trans community (who had access - this is seen in the demographics of the study versus the demographics of who is being murdered) and it is still forty one percent. When one looks more deeply into the study we find higher rates when other factors such as race, class, ability status are factored in. But this is an article about violence, not just about suicide;


The number one question that trauma survivors (any trans person I know) can never stop asking themselves, what did I do to cause this? There must be something fundamentally wrong with me for people to continue to treat me this bad. On the good days, I can remember that there is nothing wrong with me and it is not my fault. I can respect myself enough to speak up when being mistreated. I can recognize fundamental attribution errors when experiencing them. I can verbalize them. I have worked hard and studied buddhism. conflict resolution, interpersonal violence, nonviolent communication, restorative justice, etc, etc… I project into the world love and light say 95% of the time, even if it is kinda in butch way most of the time. I give myself room to be imperfect and recognize my imperfections. It is okay for me to be angry for a moment. Having the full range of emotions is natural. I can name the socialization patterns that I am replicating. On the bad days, death looks like a peaceful release from a violent life that won’t stop being less violent no matter what I do. If I am so fundamentally flawed then why should I even still be alive. I had a rule that I wouldn’t drink if I were suicidal for fear that it would make me more depressed. I have given up that rule so I can drink to forget that I am depressed.


When I was a child, I was brutally picked on. I/we tried everything. Ignoring the bullies. Standing up to them. Running away from them. Moving me to a different school. Nothing would make them stop. Nothing makes them stop now. Now, the difference is that I know that when I stand up to them, I keep my self respect.


But these are all lived experiences. These can be easily explained away by being isolated events and gas lighting. The question in my mind for years is how can I explain the system that traps me and despite how hard I work, how hard I try, how much I do everything that everyone tells me, that I will still come to face with the same outcomes. The other question then becomes, should I even try. Should I even try to explain this but moreover should I even try to fight this? I am still not sure if my fighting, my vocalizing, my standing up to the patriarchy that claims ownership over my body… has had any impact.


I have a cunt. When I was younger I thought all people with cunts have been raped. I thought it was a universal experience of owning a cunt. I was molested and rape throughout my childhood. Mostly by my cousins. I am foggy about other people and situations. Most of my life is like that, a bad dream that you can’t remember when you wake up but makes you want to take a hot clean shower. Maybe I remember the cousins better because they tried to rape me again when I was fourteen. They were staying with us, their mother was in the midst of another divorce. They chased me around the house until I locked myself in my room and told them if they came at me again I would hurt them. They retaliated by telling another one of my cousins something because the next day he came at me calling me disgusting and saying I know what you did. I did not tell my father who I was living with nor any other adults that they had tried to rape me. I did not tell of all the times in the past they had been successful. I didn’t talk about the things they said things like play like when we were kids and you liked it back then. I don’t remember liking it. I remember not being sure why this game was suppose to be fun but it was the only attention I got so I went along with it. I remember it being a secret game that we can’t tell the adults about.  Maybe I was not actively punching and kicking at them when I was younger like I was in that moment. Not that it would matter since punching and kicking did not equate to no, that I did not consent. My power with consent became a locked door.


Fourteen, my best friend had just moved to my small town from Tacoma and she played me Babes in Toyland and we smashed baseball bats into telephone poles while we screamed at the injustices of the world in the middle of an apple orchard. We stole cigarettes and alcohol from our fathers and their women. She would make out with boys while I would play their video games. Maybe it was her, maybe I would have fought back that day anyway. Maybe after they moved away and stopped raping me all the time, I liked having control over my own body. Maybe it was because she was the first person to tell me I had any value.


After twenty years, I broke up with my best friend last winter because she stopped fighting back against the system and became another voice of violence in my life. I think she’d always been a little mean but she would say something and then realize she had hurt me and even if she never apologized she would be super nice to me. She told me I was a flower coming out of a crack in the pavement. She told me I was a survivor. She told me I would survive. I don’t know when she stopped loving me. Maybe it was that day, the day I saw the heartbreak in her eyes and woke up realizing I was in an abusive relationship and my best friend no longer respected me because I... just... kept... staying. Six years she had been trying to get me to leave, six years - since the beginning. But it wasn’t until that day I knew I had to leave. I knew I had to get out. But I think it was too late, best friendship was already broken.


Or maybe it was when I transitioned. She told me, I will always love you for who you are. Then she said something about needing to give her time to grief losing her only girl friend. I hadn’t thought about it much until that point since my friends had too always been boys but since on the scale I am more of a boy, that might make sense. For her -as butch as she may be, make all the lesbians scream - she is definitely not boy, she is definitely all heterosexual cisgendered woman. And in that moment, she had lost the only women she had ever been able to get close to.


When I transitioned, I thought it would make everything easier. I thought that it would make the microaggressions go away. But it didn’t. I am pretty sure it actually got worse. Now I cannot fly on an airplane without my boobs being felt up by a cis man. Every time I have to show my id to anyone, I hold my breathe. Doctors treat me like a medical abnormality. I cannot just hide. I cannot just pretend I am not trans. I also made the decision to be out when I transitioned. I cannot even apply for a job without outing myself as all the work I have done is related to my identity.


At this point, the overt violence I can deal with. It is the covert aggressions that are really painful. The subtle isolation. The exclusions, from jobs and research on and about trans people. In the end we are not even deemed worthy to tell our own experiences. Jobs that I do not get because someone else is more experienced, more suitable when in reality they are not. They are just not transsexuals. The bullies of my childhood now determine my ability to keep my job, my ability to gain experience and opportunities to grow in my career. Yet we all know that discrimination although illegal is a hard, if not impossible, case to win. Maybe in Australia or somewhere in this world, people have rights but not in the USA. Maybe if it was once or twice that I had to face bullies in the workplace, I might scoff it off but the number of times I, personal, have been targeted and the various outcomes that I have had. The biggest determining factor for me was the support I received during the event from administration, supervisors and/or my fellow coworkers. When I have had support, I have been able to stand up for myself -the bully backed down. When the work environment has been toxic, when people are afraid to speak up, when jobs and community are being threatened, when people are being pressured to stay late or come in early, when covert aggression is the cultural norm, in these situations I have not found any solace from the violence. These situations have not ended well. I am a survivor. I have survived. When backed into a corner, I am the ravenous feral dog that knows it is you or me. It is you or me because your self is not so trampled, so fragile that it will break under the covert manipulation of power and control that is claimed to be natural or just doing their job. My life, a petri dish in a lab of patriarchs that have dehumanized me so I do not challenge their fragile masculinity. I thought taking on this identity would give me power and privilege that I would need to insure didn’t over take my feminist morals. Instead, I find my feminism stronger, more refined. Yet, my power and privilege, my manhood, a slippery slope (pun intended) to a burning at the stake.


Over 1800 words, almost 10,000 characters and we haven’t even gotten past my basic needs for safety, for food and housing aka a job that will prove those things. What about other health outcomes? Let us talk about drinking, drugs, making poor safer sex decisions. I often call these behaviors passive aggressive suicidal behaviors. Let’s talk about who cares if I am HIV positive if I don’t expect to live another seven years. Let’s talk about not being able to find providers who look like us because we are not allowed past the gates to get there. Let’s talk about going back into the closet in order to pass through gates. Let’s talk about backup plans that are simply ‘well, I can always just kill myself’. If I have not imparted anything yet please let it be how important it is to talk about all these things and everything in this article. When we can talk about our experiences, it validates them. It is crazy making to see significant difference in the way you are treated when you are out. Especially by members of your own community. ‘There is no cis/sexism here.’ ‘It’s not like you have to worry about misogyny or even trans misogyny since you are a dude.’ Except that: 1.  I am not a dude and have never identified as one. 2. I am out so I am announcing to the world that I was born and socialized as a female. This means that men will talk down to me, talk to me like I am stupid, incapable, etc… but only if they know I was assigned female at birth. Their sexism glaringly annoying, even compared to their cissexism/transphobia. Most people who do not know I am trans, give me that male privilege which is the holy grail of transitioning into brodom… until I have to show them my license or any other signifier that I am trans. I am continually told that I am too sensitive; that I am making it up; that I am looking for attention; that it is not really that bad; that I would get along better if I could just keep my mouth shut. … and let us not forget my favorite, I am the problem. This is why we hide in closets, why we internalize, why we don’t speak.


I really hate depressing articles especially about trans folks. I live it, I breathe it and I have read more around the subject of being trans and everything that impacts us as trans people than any trans (or cis) person I know. What I noticed was that there was rarely solutions. I didn’t have solutions so I went out and interviewed 20 people who were active in providing medical services to trans people, mostly around HIV and sexual health and/or researching trans people and/or were trans individuals (trying to) access services. The solution that evolved was called Rad Care. It’s foundations was based in Trauma Informed Care, feminism, trans feminism, anti-oppression, interpersonal violence, co-counseling, nonviolent communication, motivational interview and inclusive organizing. It is a fluid organizational theory based in embodied meta praxic, another solution that evolved from the research. More simple then Rad Care this was a research theory framework cultivated from Community Based Participatory Research. EMP is centered in the principle that research needs to come from and be guided by those for whom it impacts. We have been labrats too long.


Rad Care looks to empower individuals to create systems that help individuals meet their basic needs. As well as mechanism that enable individuals to participate more in guiding and structuring Rad Care. One of the components being worked on is in collaboration with SWOP Seattle. We are working on a street outreach project (with Van) that can provide competent care, services and resources to street based sex workers, drug users and anyone who need our services. We know that homelessness and street based economies improportionally affect the trans community especially trans people of color. We are working on building a curriculum with representatives from different communities being serviced to create a groundwork for anti-oppressive, trauma informed culturally competent services such as resources: safer sex supplies, needle exchange, crack pipes, hygiene supplies, etc as well as basic health care such as draining abscesses, harm reduction counseling and connection to other competent service providers.


One of the core competencies I call TACT which stands for Timing, Accountability, Consent, & Transparency. First we must consider timing, is the timing good for the person? Also what is this person’s timing, are they processing fast or slow? The amount of gaslighting and crazymaking trans people have gone through, safety comes through accountability, if we say we’ll do something - we have to do it- or if they are upset by something -we have to suck it up and acknowledge their suffering no matter what. Consent is the basis for autonomy and empowerment. Trans people rarely get to have consent about what happens to their bodies and in their lives. Most important Transparency, who, what, where, why and how(s) of a situation without anything being withheld or twist to frame the story. All facts should be available and transparent to everyone they impact.

These are small steps but they are steps forward, radical steps that Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were doing with STAR before anyone threw a shoe, before the LGBT alphabet soup was taken over by cis white mostly men. Now those who appropriated our movement want to put our beautiful Black, Brown, Red and QT bodies on display so they can feel a little less guilt, so they can continue to capitalize off of us.. We are their ethnic museum of artifacts that belonged to our ancestors. They are this era’s VIle Maxium. Yet our voice continues to rise- in protest, together, to end the violence against us. We are being heard asking for more than visibility, we want equality and nothing less.

Embodiment or Abandon Hope

*This title was inspired by Pema Chondra's writings on hopelessness.


Shall we pretend for a moment that this body
That this body is
Normal


wait what is normal


Normal
Able
Cis
White
Beautiful
Privileged


Wait what does privilege look like


Entitled
Ease


This is my body


Home
Home is nothing
This body is not my home
I have no home


This is my body


I thought it would be easier to be seen as a man.


This is my body


I learned to not go to the doctors unless I was dying. One day I was dying, I kept losing consciousness due to a lack of oxygen because my bronchitis was so bad. I remember going in and out of consciousness as my partner at the time explained to (read argued with) the front desk person that I was actually the person we said I was and what trans meant. They finally decided to see me. I spent the next hour listening to the doctors talk about the medical anomaly they had here and what to do with it, meaning me. Discussing whether they should give me the female dose of steroids or the male dose. I am still confounded by why gender even matters here. In the end it was decided that I was not male and therefore was given the female dose.  


This is my body


This is not even a bad story. I am lucky. I am sick and disabled but not so sick and disabled that most people know. I hide it well. I do not talk about the days when I cannot get out of bed. The days I call in sick but do not say it is because my whole body hurts too much to move. I do not talk about the anxiety that is so overwhelming I cannot stir. I do not talk about my nebulous autoimmunity disorder. I do not talk about my past. When people ask me why I am involved in HIV research, I never say that I see no difference between those living with HIV and myself except perhaps they are receiving treatment for their illness and the doctors do not know what is wrong with me.


This is my body


People do not understand the effects of trauma. They say there is no treatment for trauma. The opiate addicts know better. They know that the opiates stimulate the dopamine production in our brains and for a moment we feel like a human. My doctor allows me to be human four days a month. She is concerned that I will get addicted if I take oxy more often. I had several complications to my conditions come up and I accidently took all my meds before refill. I had to go in and prove to her that I had actually re-injured my back and wasn’t taking them recreationally. Now my pill bottle says “MUST LAST THREE MONTHS!” I wish the oxy would do something for me and was fun recreationally but my dosage barely relieves the pain.


This is my body


I was also lucky that both my doctors when I first started testosterone were trans. My psychologist didn’t force me to pretend I had gender dysphoria. We instead spoke about how testosterone could help with emotional regulation and mental health. I have watched friends have to live the “real life test.” Now the Harry Benjamin standards are a forgotten part of our history. Considered archaic, those who lived through these times are also forgotten. The foundations of being trans were built upon our backs yet we are invisible.


This is my body


We are seen as disposable with our mental health issues for the new version of trans, one that is social acceptable. A trans that is fashionable. A sort of ghetto chic. Not that ghetto is part of my vocabulary. Ghetto chic is speaking about appropriation, it is speaking about slumming it to be cool. When we speak, we use it to denote how insulting that is to those of us who have no choice. Ghetto is not a word that any of us use to speak of the cardboard boxes they stacked atop each other and called public housing nor do we use it to define the areas of towns and cities that black, brown, red and jewish bodies are segregated to; that are toxic waste dumps with led contamination. None of us would use the word ghetto to refer to Flint. No ghetto is a word that we do not use because it has been appropriated to refer to dive bars in Portland Oregon.


But Ghetto chic is a word that spirals off our tongues, cutting, angry. The violence that is enacted by taking something that we have been shamed for, that we have no choice and no control over but then appropriating it for enjoyment, capitalism.


What is suitable?


Must be white, no red, no brown, no black skins allowed. Must be able bodied without modification... for our own good. Must also be able to tolerate abuse such as crazy making, gas lighting on top of verbal and emotional abuse aimed to deconstruct humanity because, because we are simply not human.


This is my body (said with power)


We are not men so we are to be submissive. We are all not men so we are to be subservient. The etymology of the word transgender was to designate from transsexuals who were mentally ill with their need to “deform”  their bodies. Transgender was created to say that anyone can be any gender. I use to identify as transgender. I use to think that transsexuals mutilate their bodies. I am now a transsexual. I feel good about it. I can never go back. I can never be a women again. I can never pass.


This is my body


A voice whispers
There will be a new
Scapegoat
There always is


This is my body


The NSA, that is the National Security Association, the one that has the word security in it as its rhetoric is to keep people safe and secure while we, the general public, do things such as fly on airplanes. Well the NSA also thinks I am an abomination. When I fly I get stopped and frisked (read felt up). My baggage is rifled through. On the way back from Detroit, I asked if I could just lift up my shirt (instead of being groped). I was denied. They told me it is policy. I went to the internet and read all the other horror stories of my trans siblings being harassed by NSA in an attempt to thwart the crazy making.


This is my body


So if I come off a bit “You can’t sit at our table” it is not because I do not want you to identify outside of the gender dichotomy. I do, very much! I want to deconstruct gender with you! I want to dismantle the patriarchy holding your hand. I also want to have space to hold around my embodied lived transsexual struggle that will never be empirical to you. I do not want to have to assert what my experience is and argue with someone who has never experienced it.


This is my body


I am through being a lab rat studied by those who hold power. Those who are cis or well meaning queers who sit outside of gender norms. I am tired of being passed up for jobs for cis heterosexuals or someone who is a more socially acceptable version of the “queer-trans” spectrum (read not transsexual). I am just done sitting in a room full of cis people talking about what trans people need while I stand there not being heard, not even being called on to state what my needs are. I am tired of not having autonomy. It is paternal for cis people to define my identity. It is disempowering, dehumanizing and it is violence. It is killing people, slowly, covertly.


This is my body not yours so I ask that you stop defining it.
This is my body not yours so i ask that you stop telling me what it is like to live in it.
This is my body not yours so i ask that you stop pretending you own it.
This is my body.
I use to think wherever there was my body
That was home.
Now i know that there is no niche.
There is only birth and death
And always done
alone.

This piece was written for an event and here is my submission verbage.
I will create a multi-genre (spoken word and movement) piece that reflects the violence trans people face in daily life. What does it mean to be a trans person in a time when it is fashionable to be trans? What does it feel like to have your identity appropriated? What it feels like to be othered by cis people who see you as a subject to be studied and incapable of researching ourselves? Paternalism is dehumanizing. Accessing healthcare is dehumanizing. It is dehumanizing for cis people to study us and tell us what we need to access healthcare. We fight for equal right. We ask for equity. We are told we need to prove that their bias is wrong. We need to prove that trans people are not crazy. Add to this colonized heritage, add to this disability and the world see us as a lost cause. We are victim blamed and gaslite when we advocate for ourselves. Nothing about us without us.

My audience is trans people who need catharsis as well as cis people for whom I will be using art to help create a better understanding of trans people’s lives and struggles. This will be a stories of microagressions, macroagressions, interpersonal violence, etc.

Maculus

masculus

my flower bed is calling your name…
but you are not listening
this is what your privilege means

it means that i have to work twice as hard to get your attention
but then i am still

...
disposable
...

this is the life of a queer trans guy
never a place
never a community

i do not fit in here
i do not fit in there
i do not fit in anywhere


disposable
...

you don’t let me forget this either
i look at the unreplied text
the unanswered

i feel pathic
i am pathetic

i mostly date women
for this reason
even if people think i am straight
even if i tend to like masculine folks more

men
are complex
singular
in complexity

during the day i test men for hiv
day after day
i hear about another man
who has cheated

once a guy said
can you blame him
he is just a man
...
he is just a man
...
“but you still need love 'cause you’re
just a man,
this ain't love, it's clear to see”
 

....
disposable


men innately more likely
to cheat
to stray

no ...

men are socialized to think
their actions have no
recourse

men are socialized to believe
they can do
whatever they want
without

discourse

this is privilege
this is patriarchy

this is the space i was
suppose to have access to
when i
chemically
altered
my body
this body
this skin

they told me
i was now a man
that i had privilege
that i was the patriarchy
but the truth is
i am
not man
and i am no longer
woman
etymology of woman
is
not man

i am not a
woman
and i am not
a man

“Yo sé quien yo soy
Una flor bajo el sol”

in the end
this is why

this is why
you do not respond
 


but if i were a man?