Thursday, December 16, 2010

let's face it

I recently turned 24. When I was 16 I wasn't sure I'd make it this far! Hell, when I was 23 I wasn't sure I'd make it this far.

Shit's still happening in my life that makes me feel helpless and unstable, but instead of turning my anger inward I'm turning it outward, exploring curses and shit. In a book that has sections titled "The Homewrecker: [for when] you want to destroy a marriage." The first sentence below that is, "Do you really?"

Do I really. Is it a marriage or just marriage that I want to end? To be sure it's one in particular, because the people involved in this particular marriage really fucked me over and I am angry. It's hard to know what to do with that kind of energy. A friend recommended that I make pretty things while thinking about the friend who got married and then moved away and then fucked me over, so that I would be able to move on. But I'm less convinced that I can make pretty things at all, and I'm not convinced at all that I was ever able to sublimate my anger into anything productive.

This girl, my friend, she got married to this creep. I will tell you what kind of a creep he is. He's one of those dominant dudes, like BDSM dominant. Did I ever tell you I give those kind of dudes a wide berth? They're fucking creepy. Something about dudes, especially white dudes, wanting to own women, control them. Explicitly, like it's part of their sexual identities that they've put a lot of thought and consideration into. (And BDSM isn't something that freaks me out or that I think is necessarily antifeminist or whatever. By the way.) How do these dudes not understand what the fuck it is they're saying and what kind of ideas they're promulgating?

I thought about all of this and I lost hope. I lost hope in women, I lost hope in men. I lost hope in friendship. I lost hope in love. I lost hope in kink. I lost hope in feminism. I lost hope in philosophy. None of these things will work because they don't make women stick together. As long as a woman is content to remain, psychologically, twelve years old, to abandon friends who care fiercely for her for a man who cares for her as long as she remains his property, it's all for nothing.

She told me before she left. She was afraid that she was going to lose something. She liked the person she'd become over the summer while she was hanging out with me. Something clicked for her, I guess, because I had never heard her say anything that even remotely suggested she liked herself. So I didn't want to let go of her and I tried to keep in touch with her. I didn't care if I was the one trying to call her and the one trying to hang out with her when she was in town. I made her promise to stay in touch with me before she left. A couple facebook messages, a couple posts on twitter and that was that. I started demanding she pay me the money she owed me and then nothing at all anymore.

What makes women do this?

I'm not a feminist anymore. I can't claim a label like that. Gender parity? I don't believe in it, because it doesn't exist, because we'll never get there. Not as long as women keep themselves under these structures. Not as long as they're willing to let dudes separate them from everything just for a little taste of approbation.

I don't want to change anything in this society. I just want to take a few women and get the fuck out because I am tired. There is nothing here for us anymore. There is no progress. We're just regressing, and not just along gendered lines, either. It's all lines. Somehow the powerful are just gaining more power. We got a black president here in the U.S. I think we've peaked. Somehow in a strongly Democratic, supposedly liberal executive and legislative branch we got campaign finance reform which basically said the pantomime is over. The rich have won. Arizona isn't the end of the immigration reforms that say let me see your papers. So the whites have won too.

And let's face it. The men have always been winning.

Pessimistic? Sure. But what exactly do I have to be optimistic about? The HRC has bought Harvey Milk's camera shop and now they're planning on selling mouse pads with his face on them, with the proceeds going to HRC, of course. Never mind the fact that when he was still alive they didn't exactly get along. Slow change and all that. Never mind that there could be a crisis center for gay kids there. It's much more important that the HRC inflate its wallet so they can more effectively fight for white, wealthy gay folks.

See? The same shit keeps getting kicked around. The same people keep getting kicked around. Back in October all we could think about was young white gay men killing themselves. But this months it's back to basics. DADT and marriage.

It's sure good to be back where we were.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm going a little bit stir-crazy lately because my life! It has gone completely downhill somehow! The Rent is Too Damn High. I've become completely isolated from my friends because I'm an idiot and have not been taking my meds since forever. Even with my friends, the few times I can bear to be around them because I've showered that day and am not filthy and therefore will at least not be a gross burden on them, I feel completely detached from them and their affection. Although I know, intellectually, that they care about me and don't want me dead, I don't feel it when I'm around them. I always feel like they're just resigning themselves to having me around. I feel like that about everyone. Even when people travel from another city to come see me.

I've been obsessively making art, which is better than the coping mechanisms I've used before. Namely, sex.

I'm not getting down on casual sex. There have been a few times, in my life, where I had casual sex that did not make me feel even slightly down on myself, that only improved my mood. Because I was coming at it from a place where it just was what it was. It wasn't a desperate reach for intimacy because I was so starved for it. I was horny and that was that. And it worked out fine. All of this seems like an absolutely desperate attempt at showing up for all my ethical slut sisters out there, feels like people will perceive my defense of casual sex as me doing it because that's what feminists do. (nb: I've never actually read The Ethical Slut, I'm just using the phrase because I kind of like it.) So listen up, Slut Shamers of the Internet: you're wrong. That's it.

Not getting down on casual sex, it's just that most of the times when I was having it, most not all, it was me trying to find something that I was missing. Stupidly. I went into all of these different situations not really wanting sex, just wanting a kind of companionship, however short-lived it might be.

So obsessively making art is probably healthier. I don't do it if I don't want to. I like to think I've sublimated the need for companionship into this infinitely-healthier endeavor, but I've gone from needing a ridiculous amount of attention and desperately seeking it, to needing a ridiculous amount of attention and denying that part of myself entirely.

This is the place I inhabit when I'm unmedicated, this land of extremes. I go from near-sex addict to celibate in the space of a few months. I go from attention sponge to recluse. I have a hair-trigger temper that's also completely unpredictable, to the point that it alternately terrifies or supremely fucking irritates the people around me, depending on who happens to be on the receiving end of it. There's so much that I want to that it gets overwhelming and I just sit here writing stupid blog posts. I cry in the shower. I cry a lot. I don't know if anyone's ever been so ashamed of themselves as I was this morning when just thinking about Sheryl Crow's cover of "The First Cut is the Deepest" made me start bawling. I ask you, what the fuck is that shit?

The menu for next week is rice and gravy. Rice because the 5 pound bag of it was ridiculously cheap at Food Lion this week, and gravy because god dammit I need something that tastes good, even if it's crappy powdered gravy. Also, waffles. I bought some waffle mix and my roommate has a waffle iron. I've got it better off than some people, I know. My rent and bills are paid for this month. I live in a place where I can get to work easily even if I don't have enough gas in my car. Deep breaths.

Monday, October 4, 2010

say it right

So last month was rough for gay kids. Well, the five gay kids who killed themselves, at least. Any given month tends to be a rough one for gay kids.

Brace yourself for some unresearched opinionating.

Dan Savage, whom I love like a teacher who has some problematic attitudes sometimes, started a project for homo adults to address homo kids directly on YouTube to let them know life isn't always going to suck. It's called It Gets Better and it's a great idea because it's so honest. Teenagers need someone who won't bullshit them with platitudes and I think the people who've made videos for this project are doing a good job of that.

Meanwhile, on another prominent gay blog:

Gays and lesbians are not allowed to legally marry. Gays and lesbians are not allowed to openly serve in the military. Gays and lesbians are not protected from being fired for their sexual orientation across all 50 states. None of these rights and protections exist on a federal level.

So, then, why are we so surprised when teens pick on gay kids? When a government says it is OK to discriminate against gay people, kids think it's OK to hate them. All politics are personal, and nothing is more personal than being treated like a second-class citizen.

So this, this is why Prop. 8, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, etc. all matter so much. While on the surface they may seem like they’re about a single issue — marriage, military service, employment — they’re a gauge of what we as a people believe is important to protect. They’re the legal harbingers of our overall acceptance and, ultimately, full equality.

And they’re also why it is so very important to vote come November. Will the repeal of DADT or Prop. 8 end GLBT bullying overnight? No, of course not. Are they are an important step to creating a culture of tolerance? You'd better fucking believe it.

Oh really? I didn't know it was so easy to build a culture of tolerance just like that, by campaigning for legislation that affects gay adults specifically and that happen to be super-popular among white wealthy gay people especially. I didn't know that all we had to do was politicize the fuck out of some gay kids' deaths in all the wrong ways.

I know what she's trying to say, and there's a way to say it right:

Just remembering to vote in politicians who will protect wealthy gay people's interests is not enough to make sure gay kids stop killing themselves because they're being bullied.

Another way to say it right would be to encourage people to focus on protecting gay kids at school by drawing attention to legislative issues that would have an immediate effect on them, like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. That would be a fucking perfect way to say it, instead of conveniently dropping bits of the Gay Rights Movement (sponsored by Bud Light)'s agenda and leaving out the really crucial stuff.

Of course the message sent by the fact that DADT isn't repealed and gay people can't get married isn't the best one. But remember that the Civil Rights Act certainly hasn't stopped people from hating on black people. It hasn't ended institutionalized oppression against racial minorities. It was just a step in the right direction. The Gay Rights legislative package is a step. But it's not one that will make everything better.

All these calls to rainbow-emblazoned arms aren't going to help those kids.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On self-policing

I just posted a comment on a livejournal discussion community for queer people. It was just a supportive comment about some relatively annoying things the original poster had to deal with at work. The content of the post and my comment is really not important.

What matters is that my comment was only about three sentences long and yet I was constantly second-guessing myself, my internet presence, and my language, trying to make sure that it was as neutral and positive as I could possibly make it. My default user icon is a creepy-looking van with the words "HOGWARTS EXPRESS" painted haphazardly on it. I didn't want to upset anyone who may have had a history of abuse so I changed it to something that didn't have those unpleasant connotations. I was going to use the word "idiot" to describe someone the OP had talked about in their post, but then remembered the ableist history of the word so I deleted it and changed it to "douche." Then I remembered that some people might be bothered by using that in a derogatory sense because of its association with women's bodies. So I deleted that and changed it to "jerk." No one likes jerks. As far as I know.

I found myself about to use the phrase "you guys" but then I remembered someone might be bothered by it because of its phallocentrism. So I deleted it and just used the word "you" to describe the OP and their friend.

Even now I'm being careful not use the word "she" to refer to the OP because OP might be a man or might be another gender entirely and I want to remember to check my assumption that everyone on livejournal is a woman.

I don't know how relevant it is to talk about all the backlash that happens whenever someone tries to use what people like to call "PC language." "Oh noes, the PC police!" is usually the gist of the complaints.

And it sounds like a lot when you write out every little instance where you have to check yourself re: the language you use, and just your presence in general, especially on the internet where we don't have neat things like nonverbal communication to help someone feel non-threatened. It sounds like a lot to catalog all these instances of self-policing but honestly it's not a lot. It was a three-sentence post, with all these little things that needed to be corrected. It took me less than a minute.

But even if I had written a Russian-novel-length post, I still would have done it. The language we use has destructive potential. I couldn't stand the thought of upsetting someone because I didn't check myself. I couldn't stand the thought of triggering someone by using that user icon. I couldn't stand the thought of hurting someone just by being there and not filtering myself.

I don't know how people can look at their language, acknowledge that it upsets people, and still continue to act the way they do.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

humanity's Dr. Kevorkian

In this post I talked about a church I frequented for a while when I was still a CAP worker for a particular person I worked with. The pastor there talked about a lot of things which I don't really remember. Victorious Christian living was the theme every time we went there. I talked about that and what it maybe meant in that other post, but it's not really necessary to read that right now to understand this post. Or ever, let's be honest.

The pastor there really was a nice man who seemed to eventually care a good deal about me and my client. At the end of every meeting he would ask everyone to close their eyes and bow their heads, and he would say that he does this at the end of every meeting, that he always asks people to do this and he wants anyone who isn't sure whether they're saved or not to raise their hands because he wants to pray for them, and he doesn't believe in pointing them out and embarrassing them so he would never do that.

One night he said all of this after talking about how the end times are coming. He talked about the end times rather a lot. Not in the way that people think Christians are always talking about the end times. He wouldn't devote entire lectures to it. He would just allude to it every now and then, saying that we needed to make sure as many people as possible would be raptured. I think that's what he would say. I know the end times came up a lot, but only briefly. Anyway.

I have been experiencing this kind of despair recently. It's this despair that has kept me from really being able to engage with what's been going on politically. I haven't really been able to pay attention to much of anything that has to do with politics since Obama got elected. Not because I thought all of our problems were solved. It was mostly because I realized pretty soon after he was sworn into office that our problems will never be solved, because it's far too late to fix some of them (climate change. It's been too late for that for the past twenty years, really) and some of them are dependent on radical changes happening to our political system that will never happen ever. It got to the point that I just stopped believing any kind of change was possible.

The pastor said we all needed to be examples for people to follow. That was how we would be able to witness to people and convert them. Something weird happened when he said "witness." For a second I guess I saw myself as the humanity's Dr. Kevorkian, or maybe as the priest reading the Last Rites to a dying person. In all my despair I thought that the most helpful thing I could do would be to convince people to just let the Earth shake us off, to stop fighting what was coming. So maybe it was more like I was seeing myself as humanity's end-of-life counselor.

And I raised my hand when he asked for anyone to raise their hands if they weren't sure they were saved.

I don't exactly remember my reasons for doing this. Maybe I wanted to make sure I was strong enough to do this task that I had suddenly seen myself doing. Whatever my reason was it sure as hell wasn't the reason the pastor had for asking people to raise their hands so he could save them.

I felt really guilty about this later because I realized the pastor had thought that his church was actually reaching people, was becoming something more than the tight circle of people he perceived it to be.

It was reaching me in a way he surely hadn't intended.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Random Ten

In an effort to keep myself on top of this blogging thing. Behold!

1. "Two Kinds of People" - The Magnetic Fields
2. "Highway 61 Revisited" - PJ Harvey
3. "Screenager" - Muse
4. "Clint Eastwood" - Gorillaz
5. "Who?" - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
6. "Cherry Blossom Girl" - Air
7. "Dreams Are Not My Home" - Rosanne Cash
8. "Dead Flowers" - Townes van Zandt
9. "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?" - The Mountain Goats
10. "When He Calls Me Kitten" - The Kelley Deal 6000

"Highway 61 Revisited" - PJ Harvey

"Who?" - The Brian Jonestown Massacre

"Cherry Blossom Girl" - Air

"Screenager" - Muse

And a random stand-up clip celebrating the fact that I must conquer my fear of flying and fly to Atlanta in a few days:

I heart Arj Barker. Bee-tee-dubs.

a highly unoriginal treatise on why I really can't get behind most Christian denominations

Let me first say it's not because I begrudge people their beliefs. I stopped reading Pandagon years ago because of the shit the bloggers there said about religious folks. This was years ago, mind you, and I haven't been back since, but my point is that, at that time I perceived a lot of biases against religious belief itself that I just couldn't deal with. This, at a time when I basically identified as an atheist.

I've read somewhere, recently, that when Karl Marx wrote, "Religion is the opiate of the masses," he didn't mean that it was something that made people dull and stupid and complacent. He meant that it was something that eased the pain they felt just from the hardship of existence. That's a powerful statement. How could I sneer at anyone for that?

I've got my own beliefs. Weird and scattered beliefs, at that, ones that I haven't really figured out just yet because I'm just coming into this new way of thinking about words like "soul" and "spirits" and other loaded terms like that. They're also not the reason I'm writing this post.

When I do go to church for personal reasons (I sometimes go for work-related reasons; I work with adults with developmental disabilities, and sometimes the job involves going with them to church), they are generally Episcopal churches. The Episcopal church is basically, from what I can tell, the American version of the Anglican church. All the things I like about the Catholic Church - meaning the Latin and the rituals and the pretty ornaments - minus everything I don't like about most of the rest of Christianity. I'll put it this way. Ash Wednesday service, 2009. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season, the time for serious penitence and reflection about one's transgressions. Typically, this means lots of guilt for sins of the flesh and materialism and things that separate one from God. Things that make one forget Christ's sacrifice, maybe. Sin has mostly been defined in recent memory as bodily sins, things that make the individual impure. Vice. Homosexuality. Masturbation. Not giving enough of one's time or money to the church. Whatever. A whole lot of guilt piled on top of someone like so much graveyard dirt just for enjoying the body that was given to us by God or whom/whatever, in ways that don't hurt anyone else.

Back to Ash Wednesday, 2009. There is this huge church that I go to occasionally, with the enormous organ that thunders through the stone walls and floors so that you can really feel the music, which I always appreciate. The sermon at this particular Episcopal church is not one about how we are lowly because of who we are or what we do with ourselves. Not about how we're not giving ten percent to the church. It's about how we've failed, of course, because it's Ash Wednesday. It's not the beginning of a happy season. It's about how we've failed other people, how we've failed to do everything we could to relieve the suffering of others.

We forget this a lot in American culture, I think, this society built on an idea called rugged individualism that is really impossible. We forget that we do not exist in a vacuum, that we as individuals are not free of the influence of others and we are not free of the fact that our actions influence others in turn. That we do, in fact, have a responsibility to other people because it is simply the humane way to exist. Not free of the fact that when some of us are downtrodden it really affects all of us. I'm not just talking about charity, although that is certainly part of it. I'm talking about awareness, the courage to constantly examine one's privilege, the refusal to turn a blind eye to oppression.

That Ash Wednesday service was about that. About realizing that one's inaction is also sinful, that we are not free of the pain other people feel just because we turn away from it.

I had never heard something like that in a church. To be fair, I was not raised in a religious household. The number of times I went to church as a child is probably in the single digits.

My church attendance lately has mostly been while I'm working, like I said. I live in North Carolina, and the Baptist church is one of the more prevalent denominations here; the churches I have been to with my clients are churches that are obviously leaning toward Baptist theology.

There is a lot of rhetoric in these churches. The sermons are never ones that I can easily parse because at the best of times, they are so vague that it is hard to see exactly how the pastor wants us to apply to our own lives the things he is saying. I have spent time in two churches as part of my work: one of them I've attended with a client on a fairly regular basis, the other I've been to only once. It's weird but I am realizing now exactly how much alike their teachings are. It's not just because it's the South and I am not enough of a churchgoer to tell much of a difference between any given group of Southern churches. The church I attend semi-regularly has been doing an ongoing series of sermons about something called victorious Christian living. (I'm not sure what this means, really.) The one I attended only one time happened to be on a day when the pastor was talking about perseverance, and going all the way when it came to ... something. I'm still not clear on what. Belief? Not giving up one's religion just because things get hard, I suppose.

And victorious Christian living sounds a lot like that, I suppose. Keeping up one's belief and growing as a Christian, and not stopping even when things get difficult. I understand that part. It's kind of what the earliest teachings in the Christian church were about, which makes sense, considering that the earliest Christians lived in Rome in a period when this was quite difficult.

Here's the thing: no one seems to be sure about how victorious Christian living really works pragmatically. The things that the pastor always comes back to are reading the Bible, going to church, and prayer time. This will help you grow as a Christian, he says. This is the basis of victorious Christian living. How does one grow out of reading the Bible - a book which is inconsistent, at best, and incomprehensible at worst (see the entire Book of Revelation) - and then going to church to listen to a sermon that seems less and less meaningful as it goes on? I have listened to this man speak for up to an hour about these things, and the thesis of any given sermon about victorious Christian living seems to come down to this: Grow as a Christian. Open your eyes to God's will. Convert people. That is victorious Christian living.

Converting people - or "saving" people, as they usually call it - is, of course, the best thing you can do for them. I understand this - I don't agree with it necessarily, but I understand where they're coming from.

But people can't eat salvation, and it won't keep their children from freezing in the winter.

The pastor at the church I attended this past week, the one I've only gone to one time, summed up exactly the thing that bothers me about churches like this in his sermon. He was the one talking about perseverance, see, and he said something like, "God gives us glimpses of what heaven is like every now and then, to help keep us going. Times like when we're all singing and praising and fellowshipping, here in the house of God, those are the glimpses of Heaven He's giving to us."

That is the only part of the Christian church I can really see most of the time. It's the part that only looks in, where its people look only at each other. Occasionally they'll spare the rest of the world a look, but it's usually only to talk about people like me. Sinners. People who damning America. People who have fallen into temptation. The things that are wrong with the world. Examples. People who need help.

Both of these churches, and the few others I've been to throughout my life, are just echo chambers. Where the windows and doors are sealed and blacked out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


God help me, I'm going to piss all over everybody's parade.

I wrote that post a couple days ago not realizing that the Prop 8 hearing was going to be yesterday. I thought I was just screaming into the ether, as I do.

I got mildly nauseated at the outpouring of sugary sentiments after the decision to overturn Prop 8. My RSS feed got blown up almost immediately. Same thing with my facebook feed.

Perhaps 'nauseated' is a bit strong. Now's not the time for hyperbole. Just honesty. I was majorly fucking irritated at all that young idealism that flowed like molasses just because one judge had the courage to say that maybe homos are people too and the desire to give them a different legal status than the straight folks is not exactly constitutional.

Like I said before, just because I oppose gay marriage doesn't mean I oppose equal rights. Of course it's good that the straight people are slowly - slowly - chilling out and giving people the rights that should have been theirs all along. I suppose when I say I oppose gay marriage, what I really mean is I oppose the fact that this is our cause. I oppose the fuck out of that. Simply put, I'm looking around at all this excitement and I'm wondering if I'm just not gay enough because it's not hitting me in all the right emotional centers. I am not particularly excited about my people - and god help me, that's what all those freaks and queers and all the rest of you are, I'm right there with you, no matter how many tokens you willingly accept from the straight folks - being political pawns again and again and again and willingly stepping onto that chessboard. Willingly taking to the streets over this shit with big old signs that say EQUALITY and some rainbows and other shit on there too.

There are some very specific people that are benefiting from this particular kind of equality. It is the people who are willing and able to fit into a scripted role, a role that puts them somewhat above the rest of us who cannot or will not fit into that role. The role of property holders, heads of nuclear families. Who willingly take all the rewards you get for staying in character and who can blame you. I certainly can't.

Marriage does solve some problems. A person who has no health coverage can ride on their spouse's policy (if they have one). Jointly-held property is protected in case one person dies and their family members want to pitch a fit. Not to mention the tax breaks married couples get. Living wills and hospital visitation rights and the rest of it.

But people who aren't married or in a long-term monogamous relationship have problems with health insurance. And this certainly won't help the transfolks who get shafted constantly by the medical industry. People are still poor and sick and down and out because they're black or undocumented or mentally ill or or or.

And I guess that's what my point is. Intersectionality. Enjoy your equality, gay people, because the rest of us sure as fuck ain't seeing it. There is a social justice movement that is entirely separate from the gay rights movement, because the gay rights movement is all about these few little things to create nice communities of wealthy gay people. Soon the homos will be happy. Soon they will put away their banners and placards because their work will be done.

From Dorothy Surrenders: We won, finally, we won. After so many defeats, so many bitter rejections, so much heartache and so much needless hate, the simple truth won out. Our love is no different. Our love is not wrong. Our love deserves protection. Our love is just love.

Maybe I'm just not gay enough, because I don't see how adding more leverage to the institution of marriage, under the auspices of love, is going to help anything much. It takes more than love to keep a revolution going.

It's just that. Revolution for some people. We can forget about the rest. As long as we have enough equality and rainbows we'll know we're in the right. Couch it all in the language of human rights, disregarding all those other humans who have rights, those humans we don't exactly have a stellar track record with. People of color. Transpeople. Low-income people. And jesus, that's just the people in this country that we're totally disengaged from.

What intersectionality means is that oppression does not occur along a single axis. It's not just gay vs. straight. It's not just men vs. women. It's not just white people vs. people of color. It's not just rich people vs. poor people. A variety of different factors play out in the oppression of different groups. And while one group is still oppressed none of us are truly free of oppression. It's why gay men are not free of the oppression visited upon women by misogynistic society, for example. By having sex with other men, gay men fail to fulfill gender expectations and fall victim to patriarchal culture in the same ways women do.

That's why NO H8 isn't revolutionary enough. You will all take this little bit of validation from the straight people - validation of something we knew all along, that we aren't fucked up and wrong, at least not because of this whole, y'know, gay thing - and you will hold it close to your hearts and it will be the thing that they wanted. Now the homosexuals and their money can be subsumed into straight society and everything will be alright.

Maybe I'm just not gay enough, because I'm not going to quote Harvey Milk and I'm not going to celebrate this. There is nothing to celebrate. The oppressed are going to become the oppressors, as newly-privileged people invariably do.