Protect Drunk Girls

Women have always been regarded as the sole source of all their suffering, and no one more than the drunk girl.

In her stumbling and fumbling, through her tears, and in spite of her laughter, we know her to be immoral and gross. We know that whatever should befall her on this “ladies night,” this “birthday celebration,” this “newly single,” “newly engaged,” “newly employed” or “just glad the week is over” night, is exactly what she deserves.

Can you imagine, having done no legal or moral wrong, but upon having bad things happen any way you are now made to be the villain in your own trauma?

This is the great shame of society, among which there are many more, but what do we do? Do we seek to rectify, to apologize, or to make the next time right? No, we persist in the belief that a woman looking for fun finds what she seeks and a woman without reserve and modesty gets what she needs I suppose. It’s easier that way, to go on as we have and let the harmed fade away, or be put away by force if need be. The best among us try, but even in us, the way we find is wrong.

“Where are the men!”, we cry, “to keep us surrounded and safe?”

Where are the women I say! To keep us safe but more than that to keep us sure of our right to live, and drink, and be merry. Why can’t we be loud and a little too much from time to time without humiliation and pain? Where are the women to tell us it is okay? Where are the women who would see us safely home? Where are the women who would cry out to the men of their sin instead of always inventing and enforcing new ones for us all to suffer under?

Summer is coming, with warm night, open rooftops, and cold drinks and signs screaming “ladies drink free ’til midnight.” Drunk girls will be let loose in the world, and I feel for them knowing many won’t make it through what should be a time of joy but many will come through changed forever and with that will come shame and blame because no one will protect them.

If you see a pedestrian on the ground, hurt, bleeding, not breathing, do you help them? Or do you assume that they brought their injuries on themselves and leave them? Do you feel annoyed at the inconvenience, huff, and leave them to their fate?

Imagine you saw an intoxicated person getting into the driver seat of a car, would you say something? Would you call a cab or summon an Uber from your phone? Whatever you would do, I bet you know what you should do. If you saw a drunk woman walking alone on the street would you do the same? If you saw her surrounded by a group of men would you walk away?

Too often I have been out with others who have lost track of their friends or allowed them to leave with strange men. I try to speak up but all I hear is so and so is going to do what they want, and I’ve felt powerless.

I’ve even, I’ll admit, fallen into the trap of judging, ridiculing, and turning a blind eye out of annoyance and frustration. It’s hard to keep caring after you warn them and warn them, and still, they don’t listen, but I have to wonder about the consequences. I wonder how much of the world’s suffering do I carry because I didn’t protect a woman in need?

Many of us have made the same mistake. We’ve had too much, done too much, and ended up in dangerous situations. Some of us walked away unscathed? Did we deserve a consequence? Did we deserve to be groped and raped? Could you look yourself in the mirror, remember a time when you went out of a wild night with a friend, and tell yourself you deserved the same as the countless women you’ve seen in the news who are now missing, assaulted, or dead?

Of course not. You made a mistake, or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all, and that is yet another idea we have to rid ourselves of too. I hope when it happened to you had someone to look after you. I hope you know how lucky you were.

But I want the world to change. I want all women to feel protected, and I want all women to protect drunk girls at all cost. From those who would take advantage of them, hurt them, or abandon them.

Drinking or not, every woman is worthy of care and comfort. Drinking or not, we all want the same thing, some time to let loose and feel a part of a place and time where there is only joy and love. There is no sin, no shouldn’t have, there is only the safest way, and we all have to help each other to that.

Protect carefree girls. Protect girls who do too much and take it too far. Protect young girls who are learning their limits and those of the world. Protect girls trying to have the night of their lives. Protect girls having a bad night too.

In a perfect world, you would never have to worry but this world is far from that, and something else must be done. We can appeal to the men. Love us, respect us, protect us, some will and some won’t but how can you know the difference? And anyway it is hard to trust the same ones who ridicule and abuse you.

I say we look to ourselves, to women, all women, to have the understanding and the courage to lead the way to safety, love, and a sense of freedom. Help your sisters find nights of fun and release without fear, or guilt, or pain.

Protect drunk girls, wherever you go, the night of and every night after, for as long as they need you.

***

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Inspired by the Instagram account @ProtectDrunkGirls

Featured image via Unsplash

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More Women of Color for 2017

“Two friends and I set up a rule — no more white women for 2017. We are not accepting friend requests online or in real life. We don’t have the energy required to vet people and then wait for the other shoe to drop.”

— Graeme Seabrook

Earlier this year, at work, I overheard a coworker, a white woman, complaining about her family’s struggle to pay for her eldest child’s college education. They had applied for many scholarships, but either hadn’t received enough or any at all. This woman, in her frustration, and with no shame at all, told a room full of people, “If my child’s last name had been Gonzalez, things would be easier.”

Sigh.

This woman didn’t understand that when it comes to private scholarships, white kids tend to get them more, and public ones, like the Pell Grant, are need-based, and minorities tend to be poorer. So, it has nothing at all to do with race and more to do with income. The fact is, this woman makes too much money, and her kid didn’t meet merit-based requirements, that is why she didn’t qualify. None of this is the fault of anyone named Gonzalez.

Now, I already didn’t like this particular woman, but what killed me was all the other white women around her nodding along. Women I’ve known for years who swear they are not racist, who swear that they don’t see color, who swear that times have changed and we all need to come together in love and cooperation. White women nodding along to a racist statement like that are in fact racist themselves or cowardly. Neither type of woman is one I want, need, or have time for in my life anymore.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Things like this happen around me all the time, and no amount of running to HR or speaking up stops it. They never stop thinking people of color are lazy, or getting something they aren’t. They never stop assuming darker skin means you don’t belong here, or that you are guilty, or stupid. They never stop blaming everyone else when a little of the suffering and hardship of the world touches their lives lightly and for the briefest moment. I am tired.

There have been so many white women I counted as friends, women I thought of as open-minded, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate. I never knew they were racist until it was too late. That is, not until after I’ve become emotionally invested in the relationship I had—and subsequently lost—when they expressed their true feelings. I don’t mean to say this is everyone’s experience, or even that it is typical, only that it is mine and many others and that it is hard.

My anger has been bubbling, I will admit it. It was on a slow burn before but this last election cycle has left me angry, bitter, and even more than that, exhausted. And now, between the hate I hear on the news, the voting demographic breakdown, and the kind of crap I hear and see from white people on a daily basis, I can’t take much more. I just can’t.

This is anger, not hatred. I do not hate white people, I do not blame all white people, but I am exhausted by white people, even the allies, at times.

It’s been bubbling for a while, and I am trying to find a way to care for myself without saying or doing things I will regret later. I am weighing what is best for me against what people will think of me, and I realized the latter shouldn’t matter. I am the one who has to live with me, and I am the one who has to carry the pain of my past and the anxiety of my future in this country, alone. I have to do what feels right, for me.

Last week I read a story on Medium by Graeme Seabrook about her own anger and exhaustion and her need to do what was best for her regardless of the feelings of white women in her life. She, like me, isn’t full of hate, she just hurt and tired. She said something in that story that has stuck with me, she said her and her friends have a rule: “No more white women for 2017”. I read the story, and I couldn’t get those words out of my head.

Those words frightened me. This is not how we are supposed to react. This is not how we are supposed to think or feel. This is not the “right thing.” We are supposed to be bigger and better than that, right? But the more I mulled it over, the more I understood it. It wasn’t about hate, it wasn’t about exclusion or racism, it was about prioritizing. It was about the kinds of people, connections, and even media that we seek out and demand. It was about who we let take up space in our lives and minds. It’s about diversifying your life for a while.

I have many white friends I adore. Friendships I would never give up because they add value to my life. Hell, I am half white myself. I was raised by a white woman. I am engaged to another half white woman who was raised by a white mother too. I couldn’t exclude or hate whiteness without hating myself, my loved ones, and where I come from too. It’s possible but it’s not me. Instead, what I aim to do, is to stop making whiteness and white voices the default, the norm, the prized, and the protected, in my life.

In 2017, I am not entertaining white questions, concerns, or criticisms especially on the subjects of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or religion. I am not letting them think it’s okay to be ignorant anymore and I am not letting them force me to educate them in exchange for their compassion. I am not letting them slid by doing the bare minimum or nothing at all. I am not accepting ignorance, fragility, or innocence as excuses. I am not accepting apologies so easily anymore.

This year I’m looking for new friends and new connections with women of color, from all cultures. I want to read more from women of color. I want to donate money to and buy more from women of color. I want opinions, advice, and stories from women of color. I want to follow, reblog, retweet, and reply to more women of color. I want to be among more people who look the way I do, feel the way I do, live the way I do, and suffer the way I do too. I want to help people who need me.

I think all of us should seek these voices, regardless of our own race, gender, or sexual orientation. Let’s make women of color a priority in our lives and see what we learn about ourselves and the world.

But even as I write this, even as I feel so sure this is what is right for me, I feel that familiar guilt. I am making assumptions. I am not giving the benefit of the doubt. I am dividing people. I am accusing people of feeling things they don’t. I am judging books by their covers. Except, I don’t think all white women are racist, but I know some of them are and I just don’t have the energy to wait around to find out who is who.

I know it may sound harsh, and I may be hurting some feelings, but I’m only working out what I need. I want to try something new. I want to change the way I see and experience the world and the people around me. I want to find safer spaces, different spaces, and hear new points of view. I want to know what the world might be like if whiteness didn’t command so much of my time and attention.

So, sometimes when someone is hurt, vulnerable, and maybe even a little afraid, or at the very least just tired and in need of a little space, we should give it to them, even if it hurts us to do it. I’m, not cutting anyone out, I’m just cutting different people in. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or hate anyone, I’m just trying something different, for me!

And I am not apologizing for it.

I do not have the time or energy to accept you now and wait for you to hurt me. I have chosen to put myself and my emotional safety first. I have chosen to center women of color in my life in every way.

I do this BECAUSE I have been judged by the color of my skin every day. Suffering does not automatically make me a bigger person. It just hurts.

— Graeme Seabrook

P.S. I am sure many of you will have thoughts on this post, and I do welcome them, but please remember this is a place for me to express my feelings. I am under no obligation to reply to hatred or harshness. I reserve the right to delete and block, and you have the right to create your own internet spaces to write how you feel too. Thank you for reading.

***

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The Modern Witch

“Womanhood
is learning how to witch yourself
in slow motion.
When they say your name
like a curse,
say it back to them
like an incantation.
When they call you cold,
show them how you conjure fire.”

— Brenna Twohy

Every girl goes through a period of flirtation with witchcraft. Some more intense than others. Some only a passing curiosity, some a full-blown obsession. At some point, we all yearn for the ritual and religion, a place for women alone, and a promise of control.

I do not, nor have I ever, subscribed to any religion, but it has been a temptation in my more vulnerable years. I was never more vulnerable than when I was 17 years old. I was on the verge of the abyss of womanhood, barely understanding what that meant or where it might take me. In short, I was a typical teen. I was feeling and fearing the same as every other girl and so, found myself drawn to the mystical and the romantic.

My girlfriend and I would take buses to out-of-the-way stores where we browsed incense, herbs, tarot cards, and candles. We bought boxes covered in the images of the moon to hold all our trinkets and charms. We read books about goddesses and gemstones, the equinoxes, and planets falling into retrograde.

We never really wanted to cast spells or invoke the Gods, we just wanted some control. We wanted to banish all the things in life that were hurtful, stressful, confusing. We hope if we carried the right stones, quieted our minds, and asked the universe—at the right time and in just the right way—to find favor with us, everything would turn out ok.

We wanted to believe we weren’t such fragile things. We wanted to believe there was someone greater than us that we could call help. We wanted to believe there were great and beautiful goddesses, who understood our bodies, our struggles, looking down on us and smiling.

Approaching such possibility and power was scary, though. What we were searching for was tightly connected to our womanhood, our blood, and our ability to bring life. All of the parts of ourselves we feared. All the parts of us we knew men feared too. This country has a well-documented history of controlling women when it could and killing them when it couldn’t. Women seeking or exhibiting power outside of what could easily be explained, suppressed, or directed by men must be courting the devil and asking for death.

From Joan of Arc, to Margaret Jones, to Marie Laveau I wanted to be everything these women were accused of being. I wanted to be strong within myself, for myself, and I wanted to gain strength from other women who found power and peace with who they were too.

I wanted to have a place among nature and to feel the universe living through me.

That isn’t quite what I found.

I lost my love for witchcraft when I realized no amount of casting this or that spell during any time of the month or year, could stop the world from hating me for being a woman. It couldn’t even stop me from hating myself for the same reason.

I grew up and entered a workplace where I heard women put down and saw them isolated and shamed for being sluts or bitches. I saw women working against each other, accusing another of what she must know was in her too. I saw women working harder than the men and the men making just as much. I saw what I had always seen everywhere I looked and went, women living without any control over how they were seen, treated, or perceived. I saw women who had no control over what happened to their bodies or what went on in their minds. I saw women who were less than human in the eye of men and the eyes of one another. There was no great and powerful goddess looking down on all of us and finding favor.

I grew up, entered the real world, and learned that witches weren’t real. No women were loving themselves and connecting with the forces around them. I never saw a woman make a change in her life, or embrace any version of magic in herself.

I learned there was no place in this world where women are appreciated for being women and not condemned for not being men. I learned there was no place where women seek out the power and understanding of the company of other women. I learned we were all happy to go along, reenacting a subtle version of ever witch trial forever and ever.

I forgot about the moon, the equinoxes, the herbs, and charms and set about learning to navigate in a world that believed I was evil, or dirty, and told me so every day. I buried my need for connection to nature and forgot all about the practice that offered me a feeling of safety and possibility.

But I never gave up on the idea that there was something bigger in me, something beautiful and strong. I changed my world through hard work, observation, and persistence. I decided I would not be condemned for my stubbornness, my strangeness, or my sexuality. I decided that if I were accused, I would own it, and if they tried to drown me, I’d swim like hell and let them think what they wanted

I looked back and realized I had could fulfill the needs I had then, of a community, and strength, and acceptance through other means. It took faith, yes, and acceptance and humility in the face of what I could never understand and of what I could never defeat.

I learned a new kind of magic.

I became a modern witch.

I think all women have it in them to do and become the same. I think most have without realizing what they are.

There are new rituals, centered around self-care, creativity, and getting shit done. There are new spells we cast; we call them affirmations, and we say them to ourselves every morning when we rise and repeat them at night before we drift to sleep. We write manifestos and to-do list and have no doubt what we say will come to be. We spill our hearts in journals, poetry, and blog posts, and bare our souls to the universe and one another.

We demand space and the right to express our power without the control or guidance of men or masculinity. We find reasons for seeing ourselves as beautiful, not just for our bodies, but for our minds and spirits too. We use our strengths to work miracles and turn the world into a place where we are valued, represented, and listened to. A place we no longer have to feel afraid, confused, or hurt.

The modern girl takes note of who she is and makes no apologies for putting the internal first. She rejects consumerism for consumerism sake and only buys what helps her express herself and makes her feel powerful. She knows that ritual has its place in this world. She embraces routine and meditation because she knows they work. She remembers the stories of the women who came before her, she learns from them and honors them too.

She looks to the future, marks the changing season around her and inside herself too and makes the most of both. She is mindful and grateful for the world around her and is awed by the trees, the wind, the clouds and the life she takes the time to notice around her.

She holds bits of earth and rock and metal and knows that while may not bring about any good or bad energy they serve to connect her to what has deep under her feet, the Earth, mother to us all, who has existed long before any of us and will long after we are gone.

She remembers where she comes from, where she is going, and what can be accomplished with time and the power that exists in this world, and somewhere deep inside of her.

“Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Some are made of witchcraft and wolf and a little bit of vice.”

— Nikita Gill

***

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Privacy’s Place in the Presidential Election

“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

— David Axelrod

Harsh words, but true. For those of us living in fear that Trump and his “basket of deplorables” are going to be running this country for the next four ears Clintons lack of transparency can be frustrating. It seems simple to us. If she would just be open, honest, and forthcoming with all the details of her life, this election will be a breeze.

She’s been caught deleting emails her and her team deemed private. When asked about it, she only says she’s provided what she needed to provide and reminds us that no one would want their personal emails read. End of story. She been asked to release transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches, but she blows it off and assures us it is fine. When American’s question her health she says nothing. Then when it comes out she has pneumonia, she says she didn’t think it was a big deal.

Each of these incidents and much more besides have only raised suspicions, inflated conspiracy theories, and cost her votes. The media continues to focus on these issues rather than her policies, or Trump’s very real, very shady dealings. The American people continue to call for transparency from her, and she continues to fight it.

I’ve started to wonder why she does this. I’ve wondered because any other candidate—if they are working to deceive the American people—would work harder to spin and cloak the lie when the truth comes out. Clinton instead acts as if she really does not understand what the big deal is. She explains her answer again but offers very little apologies. She doesn’t want to waste time on it, and she is annoyed you are asking again.

“My sense of privacy — because I do feel like I’ve always been a fairly private person leading a public life — led me to perhaps be less understanding than I needed to of both the press and the public’s interest as well as right to know things about my husband and me.”

Hillary Clinton

I am not here to tell you there is nothing at all to see behind the curtain. I believe Clinton, like all people, probably has some dirty secrets. What I am trying to figure out is whether she is as calculating and dishonest as her critics say. I don’t think she is; I think she is just the kind of person who decides for you whether something is important enough to talk about. She’s the kind who will give you a direct answer if you confront her with it, but that is all. She won’t apologize, and she will consider the issue closed afterward.

It can be frustrating for sure, but I don’t think it is malicious.

I happen to be very much in love with another woman who is uncompromising in her demands for privacy. My girlfriend hates to have to answer for or explain something when she knows she is either not at al wrong, that she may have made a mistake but obviously did not have bad tent ions, or if she thinks it is simply none of your business. She also hates to be forced to divulge information before she is ready. To talk about things like that are exhausting to her and after awhile become annoying.

If I ask her a direct question, she will no doubt give me a direct and honest answer, but it is up to me to figure out what questions to ask.

I never know if I’ve gotten the full story but I always know that if something is really bad, she will tell me, so I trust her, I let go, and I let her have her privacy. Not because she hasn’t ever made a mistake, or lied, we all have, but to push her only makes her cling to her privacy tighter. She lives in a world where to give up her privacy leaves her vulnerable in a way she cannot cope with.

I wonder if Hillary Clinton feels the same. Especially after decades of the public hounding her and making the most awful assumptions and jokes about her, her family, and her character. I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same.

“The cumulative effect of that is a perception not unfounded in the public that there’s always a part of the Clintons that they’re holding back from you, that there’s always a more complicated reality than what they’re really telling you,”

Matt Bai

She asks for privacy, she asks for understanding, but is she asking for too much?

I do fear that whatever Clinton does, whether she is transparent or not, she will be demonized. If she had told us she was sick, we would have accused her of being weak or unhealthy and therefore unfit, so she powered through it. I certainly don’t blame her. She may have been thinking about the American public’s tendency to overreact.

Does she deserve privacy?

I think so.

Some might argue that she knew what she was getting into and has no excuse for holding back. To that, I say Clinton seems very much like the type who believes she can do the job without having to give in and live up to the same expectations of those who came before her. I can’t say I don’t admire that.

With each elections cycle we ask more and more from our candidates, but is it because we need to know, or because we have a sick fascination with consuming as much of our candidates as we can. They are not potential leaders of our country, not to us. To us, they are players in a reality game show and the more entertained we are, the more votes they get. The player with the most votes wins the grand prize.

For a candidate taking the job seriously, the rules may be a little confusing. A candidate taking the job seriously may refuse to play by the rules

I am not sure if she is right or wrong, and I am sure, like all of us, Clinton has her secrets but is it right to press her so? I don’t have the answer; I just want more of us to be asking ourselves where the lines lie. What areas do we not have a right to force our way into? We should examine why we need to know something. We should examine how we might feel if it were us.

We should also ask ourselves how much of this comes down to gender? How much of this is about a woman who should have nothing to hide? How much of this is about our access to women, their bodies, their minds, and everything they do? We should ask ourselves why Clinton must tell us more about her health when she has released more tax information, more health information, and who we have a complete history of.

We should ask ourselves whether we are being unreasonable before accusing our candidates of the same.

We should ask ourselves what these elections really mean, and what is important to pursue and what is only filling time and satisfying a sick addiction the American people have with knowing every intimate detail of our politicians and celebrities.

Think about what kind of people we are electing when we are making that the criteria.

“I’ve always believed in a zone of privacy and I told a friend the other day that I feel after resisting for a long time, I’ve been re-zoned.”

Hillary Clinton

 

 

They Can’t Hurt Me Anymore

“The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.”

— Rachel Maddow

When you’re growing up queer there exists some time between when you realize you are different, when other people realize you are different, and when you are comfortable in your differentness.

For some of us, it is a short time, for some of us it can be nearly a lifetime.

During that in-between time there will be people around who will react to who we are in the wrong way, and almost always the result is we become ashamed of who we are and a lot of permanent damage is done.

***

I remember in 4th-grade year, there was a girl who lived in my apartment building, rode the same bus as me, and shared my classroom. She was my default friend and at recess, would sometimes play with her and her other friends. Playing with the girls meant standing around talking or doing quiet activities that wouldn’t result in injury or dirty clothes.

I thought that was boring so sometimes I played with the boys. I ran around, jumped off the swings, and played with action figures. I got dirty, I got hurt, and I had a great time.

The next year, in 5th grade, my default friend told me that she and the other girls didn’t want to play with me anymore. I was honestly so surprised I just stood there, staring, and asked her why. She said I was too different, too weird, too much like a boy, and that was the end of it.

I felt shame right away. I was different, and that was bad. I didn’t want to be different.

That was the last time I felt comfortable with my gender identity and expression. Before that, there was just me, just Lisa, I wasn’t a girly girl, and I wasn’t a tomboy, I just did what felt right for me. It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment that the things I did not only put me into a category of boy or girl but also dictated the way other people would treat me and whether or not they liked me.

For the next 20 or 25 years of my life, I would think I had to be either a girl or a boy. I would go through phases where I swung wildly from masculine to feminine and deep down I would not feel comfortable in the mask of either one. I would think there was no option to say I was both, or neither, or one day one and one day another. I didn’t know that feeling the way I did wasn’t exactly uncommon.

And one day I heard the term “Genderqueer” and a whole new world opened up for me. I could once again be just me, just Lisa, and never again will anyone hurt me by labeling me or rejecting me based on my sex or gender.

***

Later, in high school, after the girl crushes had come but I still hung on to the hope that my attraction to women was a phase there were a series of friends who would try to get me alone to ask me once and for all if I was gay or not.

I ducked and dodged these questions, and I grew to believe that just like my gender people would judge and reject me based on the feelings I had for girls. I was terrified of coming out.

After I finally did come out, I came out as a lesbian. I went completely to the other side of the spectrum; I was ashamed of my attraction to men. After some time I denied even to myself that I was attracted to men. In the world of lesbians, the bisexual girl is frowned upon and shunned. I even shunned other bisexual girls and warned against dating them. I was awful.

Since I have been dating a woman for the past 14 years of my life, I thought the distinction didn’t matter for me anymore. Whether or not I was a lesbian didn’t matter because I was only sleeping with my girlfriend. I let the issue go.

It took a long time, but I finally came to terms with the fact that I was exactly exclusively attracted to women and over the years I have found that being honest allows me to engage in conversations with my straight female friends that I wouldn’t have before. It may seem small but this kind of banter between women can help form bonds, and I am glad to be able to engage in it authentically. I also feel freer. I feel more me. I feel like there are no parts of me that are hidden anymore.

I try to educate people about what it means to either gay or bisexual. I try to tell people that some of the ideas they have about the ways people can be attracted to people and what that has to do with—or how it has nothing at all to do with—their gender identity and expression, or whether or not they are capable of a monogamous relationship. I try to tell people my story and let them know that we are all different but not so different after all.

I do still identify as a lesbian since after much introspection I have found I am after all much more attracted to women than I am men. Which is just another example of how the labels we come up with rarely describe the reality of our feelings.

***

Throughout my life I have been called various names, dyke, fag, and even “rug doctor,” not to mention gay and queer, which shouldn’t be offensive but were said to me in a tone that let me know they were being used as insults.

I’ve been told I need to dress differently, that I am confused, that me, and people like me who are attracted to both men and women, and identify with both genders, just don’t exist. I’ve been told I am choosing to feel the way I do and that one day I will regret it.

I’ve been rejected, condemned, and fetishized by both men and women for who I am, who they think I am, and who they think they can make me into. I have been ashamed, afraid, and—most often—confused by how I feel inside. I’ve wanted to hide from myself and wished more than anything I could be someone else. I’ve been hurt by people, a lot, but all of that has changed.

I continue to grow and change and discover myself, but I won’t let myself feel afraid, or ashamed, or hurt. No one can do that too me again. I am who I am, and I know now that whoever that is, she is loved and will always be because I love myself and at the end of the day that is all that matters.

***

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Tired of Being Polite

“This is literally what it’s like to be part of a marginalized group. Politeness is met with refusal to listen, and anger is met with demands for politeness.”

— A. M. Leibowitz

There are certain people, certain situations I have been conditioned to keep silent about. I have been told that when it comes to politics and religion. I’m told not to cause any problems. I have been told to treat everyone’s opinion with the utmost respect. Don’t make a scene. I can tell anyone they are acting like an asshole. That would make everyone uncomfortable. I have to shut up and listen to their hate and ignorance. I have to protect everyone’s fragile feelings.

I have to be polite.

I hate being polite. I hate respecting opinions and ideas that are hurtful. I hate putting my headphones in rather than risking getting too angry and losing control. I hate clenching my jaw shut. I hate texting my girlfriend the words I should be saying out loud. I hate worrying I will be the one to lose their job if I engage. I hate that some people get to say whatever they want, and I have to keep quiet.

I hate being polite.

“The language of civility… limits the type of expression people can use, often forcing them to express in neutral or less-impactful terms what they experience in very sharp, immediate ways. It’s therefore a special problem for people who find themselves with grievances that aren’t widely shared or widely discussed.”

— Elizabeth Stoker, Beware Twitter’s Civility Police

I’m talking about people who oppose marriage equality and think that trans men and women shouldn’t use the bathrooms they feel comfortable using. The people who think racism isn’t real. The ones who think Black Lives Matter is pointless. The ones who believe that a person shot by the police obviously deserved it.

The ones who think that homeless people are lazy and that drug addicts are weak. The ones who think feminists hate men and liberals want to take their guns, their money, and wage war on white people and Christmas. The ones who think refugees are terrorists and that America is only for certain kinds of people.

I am talking about a lot of people I work with and a lot of people I see on TV.

They hate everyone who looks and lives differently from them, but they don’t know it. They think they are being honest and telling it as it is, and that I have to show respect for their opinions.

There are times when I want to tell those people how their words have hurt me, and probably many more people too. I want to tell them that it’s people like them who make this world such a damn miserable place to live. I want to tell them that they are selfish and ignorant. I want to tell them to shut the hell up, go learn something, and try empathy for a change. Try being open-minded and open-hearted for once in your life.

But no, I have to keep from making them uncomfortable while they act ignorant, say cruel things, and assert their right to an opinion and representation.

“One thing about being polite is that you know that within you there lurks an incredibly impolite person.”

— Paul Ford, How to be Polite

It’s tiring to keep my mouth shut. It drains me to listen to such disgusting talk. I am weary of holding it all in. So, I don’t think I’m going to be so polite anymore.

I’ve learned that not all opinions are equal, and I no longer believe they should be treated as such. Not all pain is the same, and the needs of some people trump the feelings of others. Just because change makes you uncomfortable and you are afraid of what you can’t understand doesn’t mean I have to keep my kiddie gloves on. Just because you long for a world where people who looked like you didn’t have to take responsibility doesn’t mean I should perpetuate the illusion that a world like that can still exist.

From now on I’m going to say what I have to say. I’m going to tell people when they are hurtful and ignorant. I am going to place the blame for what this world is squarely on those who deserve it. It’s about time they felt bad. It’s about time they felt stupid. It’s about time they felt uncomfortable talking the way they do. It’s about time they feel a little shame for their ideas.

It’s about time the felt the way they make everyone else feel.

Sorry, not sorry.

“I meant to be polite but I forgot.”

Overheard at The Washington Post

***

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Featured image via Greg Westfall

The Red Tide Cometh!

Maybe periods wouldn’t be so frightening if we didn’t refer to them as “red tide” or “shark week” or any other euphemism that evokes neurotoxicity or dismemberment.

—  Lindy West, on a world where girls can talk about menstruation in shouts instead of whispers

I’m one of those girls who calls my period things like the “red tide” and “shark week,” and, my newest addition, “the red wedding.” I use words like massacre and death and killing when I talk about it. I also do things like quote the movie Carrie and look at everyone like I might be covered in pig’s blood and about to set my entire workplace on fire with everyone inside.

I don’t do this because I want to frighten people, not really. I do it because referring to it as such sounds pretty cool.

I do it because I want to illustrate the point that having a period feels a lot like fighting a battle. When I am on my period it feels a lot like I’m trapped in a horror movie, or maybe a psychological thriller. I want people to see that for one week every month I am acting with bravery and courage.

I want people to think periods are pretty badass.

Even if your reaction is more horrified than “I’m basically Xena,” you still stare at your hands, and think about how freaky it is that you have blood all over your hands and yet everything is totally fine in your life.

— The 11 Grossest Things Every Woman Does During Her Period

I guess it’s a pride thing. I am constantly being tested, and I have proof that I am strong and can handle pain, irritability, and discomfort like it’s nothing. I can fight through fatigue and anger and sadness to get everyday activities done. I can do it all without people around even noticing anything is wrong.

Waking up month after month to seeing your underwear filled with blood never stops being a little bit scary. Swimming upstream through migraines, fatigue, cramps, and an uncontrollable feeling of rage, despair, and loneliness for a whole week every month never gets easier. To watch yourself behave in ways you can’t understand or control is always frustrating and a little surreal.

Not to be mean but the guys I know shut down when they get the damn sniffles. They have to go home every time they get a headache. They look for sympathy, comfort, and care every time they feel a little “under the weather” but if I mention my period it all “Ew!” “Gross!” “I don’t want to hear that!”

But we are the sensitive and weak sex? Ha!

So yeah, I’m gonna go on and on about how it’s “shark week” and about all the “blood in the water”. Yeah, I’m going to talk about massacres in my pants and having a “uterus made of death”. I’m going to talk about “Carrie at the prom” and warn people the “red tide is coming in.”

I’m going to do it simply because it sounds badass.

I’m going to do it because fighting through my period makes me feel pretty badass.

I’m going to do it because I think all women are badass and I like to talk about us like we are something to fear.

I’m going to talk about us like we are made of pain, and war, and blood, because we fucking are and our periods prove it.

***

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Written for the monthly blogging event #WeBleed, where women can share their experiences surrounding menstruation.

Featured image via Wikipedia

Feminism is Not Fun

Feminism is not fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s complex and hard and it pisses people off

—  Andi Zeisler, founder of Bitch Magazine, on what Beyoncé’s feminism means to the movement as a whole. (via The Guardian)

No one likes a feminist, except maybe other feminists. Everyone thinks we enjoy the exhaustion and alienation that comes with trying every day to be brave enough to examine not only society but ourselves as well. They think we love to ruin everyone’s fun. They think we live to make the world feel bad.

Being a feminist is hard, and trust me, we know it would be easier, and more fun if we weren’t.

It would be more fun to laugh along and not have to see the look on their faces when my coworkers realize I am “one of those girls who can’t take a joke.”

It would be easier to accept everything I have been taught about the way women ought to look and behave. It’d be easier to snub the “sluts” and to speak only when spoken to.

It would be easier not to be constantly questioning my actions and beliefs, and later kicking myself later for reinforcing a stereotype or perpetuating harmful ideas.

It would be easier to agree that all feminists are simply victims of abuse who hate men and have chosen to become lesbians. It would definitely be easier if I weren’t a lesbian myself.

It’d be more fun to enjoy the attention from the men who are too pushy, the ones who are only being nice. The ones who think it a compliment to want my girlfriend and me as if we were a prize.

I would be easier if I had never hoped for equality, or to be taken seriously, or to be seen a whole person rather than just a “thing” to be taken in and fantasized about later.

It would be more fun to be able to go out with my friends and not have to watch the people around me, or watch my drink, or watch my friends, or make sure they are watching me.

It would be easier not to have to worry about what I might do if a man were to catch me alone and how I might handle the justice system doing nothing about it after the fact.

It would be a lot more fun and a lot easier if I weren’t a feminist, maybe? Or maybe it would only be trading one set of problems for another. Maybe I would only pretend to be happier, or maybe I would lie to myself until I believed it so I wouldn’t have to face the truth that in this world, life for every woman is hard, whether she’s a feminist or not.

But fun or not fun, feminism is necessary. We need it so that, maybe, one day, women everywhere will have it a little easier, and maybe then we can all start having a little more fun.

***

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Featured image via Ben Seidelman

If Only We Could Trade Places

As a woman who has a period, I find it hard not to talk about menstruation regularly. I mean, for seven days every month my body feels foreign to me, and my emotions seem to defy the laws of cause and effect. How could I not talk about it?

I work with mostly men, and they have gotten used to my mentions of heavy flows, cramps, hormones, and PMS. They even help me keep the office ibuprofen supply stocked. They let me rest when I need it, and they try not to make insensitive jokes. It’s taken years of me educating them to get to this point. I am grateful that they try so hard to be understanding, but I can’t help wishing that for one day they might trade places with me. I want them to experience what it is like to be me, seven days out of every month.

In the midst of cramping and feeling like I might shit myself at any moment, when I have felt sorry for myself and bitter, I have wished all men on this Earth could know my pain. I have complained to Gods I don’t believe in of the unfairness of it all. Why do men have it so easy?

But that is not how I feel right now when I say I wish my friend could trade places with me. I don’t say this because I am bitter and want them to feel my pain. I say it because there is this big part of my life that I feel like I can never truly share with them, a part I wish I could because they are my friends.

I can tell them how uncomfortable it is. I can tell them how society makes me feel and how I am trying to feel a different way instead. I can tell them that it’s awful, and I hate it, and I wish I never had it. I can tell them that I am bitter and want them to feel my pain too. I can tell them all of that, but they will never really understand it.

They will never know what it is like to feel like your body is acting in some mysterious and often painful way that you cannot fully grasp or gain control of.

They will never understand how hard it is for me to love my body when I feel like it is betraying me. They will never understand what it is like to learn to live with, accept, and then love a body that often doesn’t feel like it belongs to me at all. I want them to know that for just one day so that they might know me a little better.

I see their faces when I tell them it is “shark week.” They look like they feel sorry for me, and they also look annoyed. They are my friends, so they say all the right things, but I also know they are tired of hearing about it. In those moments I am annoyed by them too. They don’t know what it is like, and they dismiss my experience. They don’t understand that they are not jus being dismissive of my words, they are dismissing a part of me.

When I am among women, when we talk about our periods, I feel an immediate connection with them. Here are people who understand how I feel during a significant portion of my life. I wish I had that with the men close to me too. On an even bigger scale, I think about how all men and all women will always have this line drawn between them. How the way the men I know look at me, even when they try to be understanding and accommodating, is the way all men look at all women all over the world.

I wish for one day men could feel the pain of womanhood, the shame, and the fear too so that we could come closer together. I want men to be able to move from sympathy to empathy so that women would not have to try so hard to be silent and strong.

If men could feel what we feel, they might love, protect, and help us in all the ways we so desperately need.

I know it can never happen, but I will always wish.

***

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Thank you to Rose B. Fischer for hosting the monthly blogging event, #WeBleed, where we can share our experiences surrounding menstruation.  

Original image via Mark Sebastian

Finding Enlightenment in a Unisex Bathroom

If you hadn’t heard, North Carolina is considering revising it’s controversial Bathroom Bill HB 2, which forces people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate rather than the one they identify with. They are revising it, not repealing it. The revisions are crap too. Still discriminatory, still ignorant, still harmful. Now they will require a “doctor’s note” that your gender has been reassigned. Sometimes people can be so awful.

“The discriminatory proposal being offered by lawmakers today does not change the harmful status quo for nearly every transgender person in North Carolina. Many states, including North Carolina, require transgender people to have gender reassignment surgery to update their birth certificates. However, only 33 percent of transgender people actually have gender reassignment surgery. This is due to a variety of factors — including but not limited to cost, age, health and medical needs, and access to skilled providers.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the arguments on both sides of the recent rash of bathroom bills across the country. I’ve read a lot of the arguments for forcing people into the bathrooms that match the biological sex they were assigned at birth. I have not found any of them to be solid or based in and reality.

A lot of it, all of it, is just plain transphobia and homophobia disguised as concern for female safety. They warn of men dressing up as women for the express purpose of raping and molesting women and children.

Pro tip: If men are overwhelmingly in favor of a law they say will protect women and children, that is probably the opposite of what the law will do.

What we seem to be forgetting is that there is nothing stopping rapists and child molesters from doing that now. These doors aren’t locked you know. Hell, men don’t even have to dress up as a woman to get in there, they can just walk in. What we seem to be forgetting is that when it comes to attacks in bathrooms involving Transgender people are the ones at risk, partly because they are forced to use a bathroom they shouldn’t be using!

Obviously, this is about people making assumptions about what gender feels like for other people and deciding the for them what they need or should accept and be comfortable with. It’s a lot like when people think it isn’t possible for lesbians to enjoy sex because a man isn’t involved, or that agender people need to be fixed because having no interest in sex has to be a mental illness, or that all gay men are pedophiles. It’s hurtful, it’s ignorant, and there is no excuse for it.

We forget that there is a natural variation in the ways there are to be a human being and be considered normal. People forget that just because you have never felt this or that way does not mean it isn’t possible for a person to feel that way. People forget that just because you don’t need something to feel comfortable and safe in this world does not mean other people don’t.

People also forget that other people’s genitals and sexual preferences are not anyone else’s God damn business.

Also, fun fact for you, there have been no reported cases of men dressing as women to gain access to a women’s bathroom to assault or harass anyone.

“Where do I go to the bathroom now? It’s literally against the law for me to use the men’s room, and it’s also risky. Even though I’m more than a year on testosterone—I’m getting facial hair, my hair has receded a little—I still don’t always pass as male. Or do I use the women’s room, follow the law, and clearly make people uncomfortable?”

Charlie Comero, a 35-year-old transgender man in Charlotte, North Carolina

To be clear, I am on the side of using whatever bathroom you feel comfortable in. I am also on the side of having more one toilet bathrooms with locking doors for people like me who feel more comfortable peeing alone.

Throughout all of these God awful debates on bathroom usage, I kept thinking: “If only these people could experience the joy and revelation that comes with being free to use any bathroom you like the would understand why this isn’t as big of a deal as they think it is.”

I’ve had the opportunity to pee in just such an environment, and even for me, a pretty open minded, understanding, and empathetic person, it was eye opening.

Here in Denver, there is a gay club called Tracks. Tracks is huge! In fact, the location used to be an old factory. They have at least three, probably more, dance floors, just as many, if not more, bars, and an entire alleyway for a smoking area.

They host huge events every month, drag shows, costume nights, elaborately themed parties, and more. Growing up queer in Denver you know about Tracks, but I had never gone there. I had heard it was loud, and the crowds were large, so I didn’t think it was my kind of place, but one night about two years ago I was outvoted by a few of my friends and off we went to tracks.

When we walked in, I was immediately overwhelmed by the crowd, and as I usually do when I am anxious, I went to the bathroom, and just like my friends always do, they agreed to go with me.

Again, I had had never been there before, but my friends had and so when I went into the bathrooms labeled for “Women” and I was pretty freaked out when my male friends followed me in. Just as I was turning to tell them they were in the wrong bathroom, I saw that there were many men in the bathroom.

Honestly, for a second I thought I was in the right place. It took a few seconds to adjust to my surrounds before I realized the place was filled with people of all genders. There was no “Women’s” or “Men’s,” there are labels on the doors, sure, but everyone went wherever they felt comfortable.

The whole experience made me realize it’s actually kind of nice to be able to pee in whatever bathroom you want. I didn’t have to leave my group; I felt safer, and I felt the relief of not worrying about my, or anyone else’s gender. I’ve never felt that in women only bathrooms. For a genderqueer person who hates being forced to choose under any circumstances, it made me feel normal.

I had a feeling everyone else there felt the same. Two of my male friend were gay, there was my girlfriend and me, and a straight woman, and a straight man, in my group, a pretty good mix of people, and they all agreed that it was better this way. No one in my group felt uncomfortable; no one made them feel uncomfortable.

Everyone in that bathroom was doing what we all do in bathrooms, peeing, washing their hands, primping in the mirror, and taking selfies. No one cared about anyone else’s gender.

NO ONE CARED!

Like most changes that happen in our lives, it isn’t the actual change that is scary; it’s our inability to cope with the fact that something will be different.

Remember all those years before Marriage Equality, when Religious Right-wing Crazies were telling us that “if we let the gays get married the world as we know it would end?” Remember what happened after we legalized Gay Marriage? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The world kept turning, no one got hurt, and a lot more people were happy. It was a good thing despite all our anxiety and whining.

I imagine that if we got over ourselves for one second and thought about the worst case scenario, the realistic worst case scenario, we would see that no matter what gender people are they are going to do the same things we all do in a bathroom. I think we can all be grown up enough, mature enough, and compassionate enough not to make a big deal about it if we try.

So let’s try, shall we?

Let’s try to imagine that things people say they need to feel safe and comfortable are not things that are going to make our lives hard or scary. Let’s try to remember that making people feel comfortable and safe is something we should strive for and encourage, not a reason to spew more hate into the world. Let’s try to remember that people are made of more than their genitals; that people are still people no matter their sex or gender.

Let’s try to imagine that people who are different from us, or need different things than we do, have all the same goals and dreams as us and only wish to make the world a better place for us all.

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