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New Years resolution:

Say “always” and “never” less
promise absolutes only
to those you can follow through for:

The dying,
the dead,
and people you’ve made up.

I am tired of
dying on altars
crafted of words
no one meant.

“I love you”
is not a thing you say,
it is a thing you do.

And “always” and “never”
never are
not really.

Waves Kullabygden Sound Water Mountain Coast

January 20, 2017

I spent my day today surrounded
everyone around me ebbing and flowing
and me, a jetty, stoic and unmoved.

That’s how it is for me, PTSD
pushes me from one extreme to the other
so emotional I cannot be touched then
so far removed nothing can touch me.

Today I let the salt run down me
and I stood in the midst of it
eyes dry and heart still
trying to find a way to reach
out from the haze surrounding me
to touch each and every one of you.

All I want to do is enfold you
take each trembling drop of you
and press you into stillness in
each of my cracks and crevices
build a home within where you can
rest your weary bones.

You have been breaking for so long
I don’t remember a time when I
didn’t hear you, didn’t register
your cries in the night, cold fingers
of your hands grasping at me only to
slide back into the sea and recommence
your crashing melody.

Today I spent my day surrounded
wanting to reach out, to do more
but unable to shake myself from my
foundation.

All I can do at times like these is
stand. And hope my stillness gives you
something you can safely break against.

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Kintsugi

I am sure that my definition of friendship is different from most peoples’.
There is, of course, the laughter. Laughter is a big part of it.
I cannot make jokes and have a person sit still and stare and blink.
Because I’m fucking hilarious. Just ask anyone. They’ll tell you.

The laughter is a big part of it. There is, also, the understanding.
The person who holds on to me in the darkness and who lets me see them.
Letting me see them is important. And, though it is difficult, having them see me.
The seeing and the being seen is paramount. Bigger than laughter.

Then there is the hard part. The part where the world sometimes tips.
The part where I sit vigil over a telephone or a hospital bed and worry.
The part where you answer the phone and I am weeping. That part.
The part where one of us cracks open and the other fills the cracks with gold.

Standing by with precious metals is the hard part. Having metals melted.
Having tongs to hold the dangerous, hot things away from yourself.
Finding a way to fill in the cracks without getting burned. Without hurting.
Without hurting more than you have to, anyway. Without adding trauma.

I am sure that my definition of friendship is different from most peoples’.
I am so grateful that some people have written the same dictionary as me.
Some people, when they look for that word in their private libraries
find melted gold. Find laughter. And a telephone they always answer.

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entrances and exits

if a person is a continent
their borders delineated on a map so that
one can traverse a boundary and
find oneself in
some strange country, a
traveller, the tongue foreign
the food and customs strange
excited feet drawing the traveller inward
enticing them to explore
to learn
to grow

if a person is a continent,
my love, you were immense
your borders manned by
soldiers, their eyes hard,
their judgment final

i found my way in on a short term visa
and stayed long after it expired
wandering labyrinthine streets
i made a home in the artists corridor
it was small, but warm

i strove to make a life
within your borders

i tried to love the people,
with their hungry eyes and hearts
i even joined the protests
cursing daily the despot who
set such cruelties on them at so young an age
who placed the watchers on the walls
brought attack dogs from
far afield and,
when they were starved
and neglected
released them
without mercy
on the innocent

i visited your museums,
empty as they were,
the war had cost you so much
i tried, during my stay,
to fill them, to make up the difference
instructing the curators
from my own country
to lend you all they could
but the halls were vast
and even my curators
could only do so much
with our limited means

every day i set out
feet carrying me along
streets without names
no map could help me sort
the nature of the cities

try as i might
i could not find the center
nor a post box, to register my concerns
and eventually, i fell in
with the other citizenry
in their grey drudgery
dragging my feet
through days
and weeks
and seasons
my protests growing weaker
my determination subsiding
with my strength

i left by a different route than i had
entered, picking my way through the barbed wire
along a stretch of unmanned wall

reluctant, i watched
your soldiers patch it
from afar

clutching momentos
to my chest
thumb on the stamp
left in my passport
years ago
no exit marked
and entrance no longer possible

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A hundred words on the smell of you.

I close my eyes every time as I inhale the soft skin of your neck. The atmosphere of your pores rushing through me softens the inside of my mouth and shivers the deepest part of my stomach. You smell, my love, quite simply like the deepest, hottest summers of my childhood. Like ice cream melting across my hands and the rising heat of asphalt too scorched to press my naked feet against. You smell, my dearest, like endless afternoons spent lying on the couch, wrapped in each other against the winter cold outside our small apartment. You smell like home.

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A call to empathy

It’s so easy to sit in judgment of parents and children and zookeepers and strangers. People who you’ve never met.

It’s so easy.

It’s infinitely harder to person up. To pull loose your heart strings. To release the strict hold you keep on your borders and really look at another person.

Because really seeing means letting yourself be seen. Means being vulnerable. Means realizing that the things that we judge other people for are things that we do all the time.

Who hasn’t been guilty of letting our guard down for a moment? The only difference between all of us and certain mothers and zookeepers is that we weren’t the ones taking our eyes off of our child at that crucial second.

We weren’t. But we could have been.

And that fact is the thing that keeps us from true empathy with other human beings.

Because acknowledging that the only thing separating us and them is a cruel blend of circumstance and blind luck is too terrifying to handle.

So we blame. And we stand up and call for the heads of people who have made the same small mistakes that we make every day at a critical moment that ended in tragedy.

Blame is easier. Judgment is easier. Hatred is easier.

Love is hard. Empathy is hard. Compassion is hard.

Within those three things dwells the sharp knowledge that we, in all of our convictions and certainty, are as fragile and as vulnerable to harm as the people we are so quick to villainize.

Empathy is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. The easier it becomes to do the hard work of looking at another person and recognizing yourself.

Try it. You’ll see.

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Good Friends & Chosen Family

In the LGBTQ communities, there is a lot of talk about chosen families. The original purpose of these families was, ostensibly, to serve as a replacement for families who had rejected their children due to their sexual or gender identities.

I did not start using this term until very recently, when I sat back and took stock of my life and realized how few of my blood relations I really wanted to call family anymore. And how very many of my close friends I considered to be members of a strange and beautiful tapestry of gorgeous and dependable souls.

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate and love my close blood relations. My parents, brother, and I all get along really well. And their support and love means a lot to me. But the lack of an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents has been something that I have felt keenly in my adult life.

Last night, after my Thanksgiving meal with my parents and brother and his girlfriend, I headed over to the home of two dear friends just in time for post-eating hangouts.

In the warmth of their apartment, I felt a glow that was familiar to me and that I had not felt in many years. It was the same glowing warmth that I used to feel when I was surrounded by my aunts, grandparents, and cousins when I was a kid enjoying the holidays.

Surrounded by kindred souls brought together by choice rather than chance, I felt like I was a part of something greater. And it feels so much  more special, given the fact that it is built of a mutual love for each other that is chosen rather than dispensed by birth.

More than anything else, if I had to list a thing that I am thankful for this year, my chosen family would be that thing.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

As I said in my post yesterday, Thanksgiving brings up a lot of feelings for me. It’s not just the family members who have passed on that get me thinking, though.

Like Christmas, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday for me and for most of my family and friends. I don’t put on any pretense that this holiday has anything to do with something positive in our history. In fact, the history of Thanksgiving is pretty messed up.

This time of year always gets me thinking about historical revisionism and the way that we write history so that we come out looking like the best possible version of ourselves.

When I first started studying history in college, I was shocked to find that so much of what I learned at school was at best morally ambiguous, at worst morally repugnant.

That said, I have a hard time with the notion that Thanksgiving itself has anything to do with happy pilgrims and Native Americans holding hands and eating turkey.

What I don’t have a problem with in regards to Thanksgiving is the notion of coming together with the people I care about and preparing to usher in a time of cold and hardship with a celebration of warmth and love.

I also think it’s important that we remember to be thankful for the things in our lives that make the upcoming winter season easier for us.

This year I am thankful for my chosen family first and foremost. From my chosen partner and our furry babies to our friends and the people that we choose to have in our lives. When I think about it, I have a small army of people behind me at any one time. And that knowledge makes it possible for me to fight any battle, knowing that I will be backed up no matter what.

I’m thankful as always for my health and the health of those around me. And for my blood family that have grown so much with me over the past year, who support me in everything that I do, and who I love so much.

I’m very thankful for my job. And for the comfort that having employment at a place like that affords me.

I’m also thankful for turkey. And pie. And other delicious noms.

And for you, reading this. Because your support and readership means a lot to me as I’m growing this space. Thank you for being here.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Featured image found here.

thanksgiving eve

Burnout. Holidays. Self Care.

Thanksgiving is finally upon us. Tonight we are heading up to my parents to decorate the tree ahead of the Thanksgiving gorging that will happen tomorrow.

It’s strange how families can change over the years. Or our attitudes to them can, at any rate. I’m really excited to see my parents and eat and relax and have everyone together.

Thanksgiving has turned into a holiday filled with mixed feelings for me. When I was growing up, the whole family would turn up to my grandparents place and we would all eat together. So many of the people that I used to celebrate this holiday with are dead now or have moved on. Nowadays my Thanksgiving is small. My parents, my brother and his girlfriend, Frankie and I.

But the good thing about the smallness of the holiday for me is that everyone is a known quantity. I have seen so many articles recently on how to survive the holidays and how to talk to racist relatives and so on. It seems like people really don’t know how to handle their families at the holidays. The only thing I really have to do is avoid talking politics. But outside of that, everything is pretty smooth.

And honestly, if my parents and my family gave me so much stress that I had to think about coping mechanisms like drinking games when they were racist or thinking “YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE” in order to avoid saying it out loud, I probably just wouldn’t go to family holidays any more.

One of the biggest things about self care is the ability to say “no” to things that we know are bad for us, after all. And toxic people aren’t good for anyone. Not for themselves and not for the people around them.

At any rate, my small Thanksgiving isn’t so bad. It’s a little sad, but the people who are there are such a good and big part of my life that I don’t mind being a little sad when I think about the people who are gone.

Another reason I’m happy to have some time off and relax with family is that I won’t be on social media as much. The things going on in the news lately have been making me so sad that I can barely stand it. Hopefully I’ll be better able to cope with what I’m seeing after I’ve had a little time off from the constant grief streaming.

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Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th is a day set aside to remember those who have been lost to in acts of violence against transgender people.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started on November 28th, 1998, when Rita Hester was murdered. Her murder, which has yet to be solved, galvanized the community to start a web project titled “Remembering Our Dead,” which then spun out to become the Day of Remembrance that we observe today.

The transgender community is effected by anti-LGBT violence disproportionately when compared to the rest of the LGBT community. A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that 72% of victims of anti-LGBT homicide were trans women, while 67% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were trans women of color. So far this year we have lost 30 members of the trans community to unspeakable acts of violence. Please take a moment to learn their names, if you do not already know them. Hold them in your heart today.

Trans people are also more likely to be subjected to police violence than other members of the community at large. According to the survey conducted by NCAVP, transgender people of color are 6 times more likely to experience physical violence at the hands of police when compared to white cisgendered people. The trans community generally are 7 times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting to the police when compared with cisgendered people.

Added to that sobering number, the trans community also faces staggering numbers regarding suicide rates. According to the Williams Insitute, 46% of trans men reported having attempted suicide. The numbers for trans women are not much better at 42%. The rate of suicide attempts among the LGB community is half that. And the rate among the overall population outside of the LGBT community is a mere 4.6%. Those numbers are deeply skewed and also deeply frightening.

Not only do trans people face violence when it comes to heterosexuals who may be transphobic, the fact of the matter is that trans people are frequently overlooked and underrepresented within the LGB community as well. One of the latest and possibly best examples I can give you of this is the recent Stonewall film debacle. But Stonewall isn’t the only example of this issue. Trans erasure and trans silencing and even transphobia are rampant within the LGB community.

The trans community faces a disproportionate level of violence and hardship within the LGBT community, and they get so little support

For my part, I am at a loss when it comes to days like today. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people to walk through their lives so maligned by the people around them. Grappling with a trans identity in a society that is so hetero- and cis-normative must be difficult enough, without that added fear.

I think the worst thing has to be the sense of betrayal when faced with transphobia and transmisogyny in the LGB community. I get that no community is perfect, but the fact that I’ve had to shut down repugnant phobic remarks within my community has shocked me. The fact that there is so little recognition or acceptance of trans issues is so disheartening.

To my trans friends and anyone reading this who I may not know: I see you. I will do my best to be an ally to you in every way that I can. And if you are struggling, know that you are valued. That you are seen and cared for by the people around you. Please reach out if you are suffering. Please stay.

To my fellow cis people: Do your best today and every day to be open to what trans people are saying to you. Learn to be called out with dignity. Learn to open yourself to experiences that differ from your own. If you have anything to spare, please consider donating time or money to trans organizations and communities in your area.