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.

Advertisements

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.

Adoption

I promised each of them, before we met, that I would never leave or give them up.

Trusting eyes in fuzzy faces. They do not understand my promise.

Somehow that makes it stronger. That they, unknowing, trust that I will always stay.

Xena’s Birthday!

Today is Xena’s second birthday!

When Frankie and I moved to this apartment, one of the first things that we knew that we wanted was to get a dog. We didn’t even look at an apartment that wouldn’t let us have one.

After a month or two of settling in to the apartment and getting used to the neighborhood, we set out on the hunt. We looked around at a bunch of different adoption agencies and finally settled on Pibbles & More Animal Rescue. We loved what we saw from them. They rescue puppies and dogs from high kill shelters, foster them in a loving home, and then adopt them out. They also paid to have the dogs microchipped, which we thought was super great.

When we started to look for the puppies they had up for adoption, we saw this face.

894482_10100770582443718_1525353688_o

We were in love. There were a few other puppies that we thought were cute, but everything about the puppy named “Leah” called out to us with every furry fiber of her being.

We spent the next few days waiting with baited breath to hear back from PMAR about our baby. When we did, we were thrilled. We drove up to New Jersey and met up with the foster parents and our sweet little girl.

Since we brought her home, she has brought so much joy into our lives. Every day she is sillier and sweeter and more wonderful. She is our cuddle buddy. Our weird little girl. Our velcro dog.

Happy birthday, little fuzzy girl! I love you!

A World in Pain

On Friday the 13th of November, terrorists coordinated attacks on Paris that consisted of mass shootings, hostage taking, and suicide bombing. When the dust settled, 129 people were dead and 415 were wounded.

ISIL is claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks in the wake of attacks made by France on targets in Syria as part of Opération Chammal, a French military operation that has been ongoing since September of 2014. And France is responding to their declaration as an act of war. On November 15th, France sent 12 planes to drop 20 bombs on ISIL training camps and ammunition facilities in Raqqa in the single largest air strike of Opération Chammal so far.

I followed the explosion on Twitter as everything unfolded on Friday night. I watched people sending out messages saying that they were OK. I watched the inevitable unfurling of racist tongues lashing out to speak hate against groups they felt justified in maligning.

The next day, I watched people speaking out against the violence that has been happening in other areas of the world. Violence in Syria, Beirut, Baghdad, and elsewhere that goes unremarked.

Like a lot of other people, my mind went back to the only substantive moment of terror that most Americans can remember. September 11, 2001.

The actual circumstances of where I was and what I felt and thought while it was happening don’t matter. What matters is the fallout. The aftermath.

In the days and weeks that followed the terrorist attacks on American soil, America did what it does best when it feels directly threatened: It fought back. And we the people saw paraded in front of us a veritable parade of reasons for fighting. A parade of images of the people who had harmed us and who rightly deserved our hatred.

When I look back at that time, I remember to my shame how I locked step with the rest of the country and hated a whole group of people without discrimination. I was 17. I focused my hate along with the rest of the country, impotent as it may have been.

I was so, so wrong. And even a year later, if you had asked me what my thoughts on the Middle East were, my answers would have been so, so different.

Before we even had a death toll on the attacks in Paris, people were taking to the internet and calling for the blood of the “Islamic State” without having the first idea of the implications of what they were saying.

It’s so easy to turn to a place of absolute hatred when things like these happen. And I think it’s especially easy for developed, western countries to flip a switch and go to a terrible and hateful place. But ask yourself this before you give in to that feeling.

We experience attacks like this very rarely. When you feel that hatred well up inside yourself, pause and think. Imagine what it would be like if we experienced an attack like this every year. Every month. Imagine experiencing something like this every day. Imagine the fear, the terror, the hopelessness that would come from experiencing something like that. And then realize that what you are imagining could not possibly compare to the reality of living under those circumstances.

So when you feel like the pain is too much and the world is too scary a place. When you feel that hatred well up in you, try reaching out with compassion to areas of the world that experience terror and violence every day. Turn your pain and your anger into love and empathy and compassion. Make a donation. Volunteer to help refugees in your area. Write your elected representatives and ask them to speak out for the rights of people fleeing violence.

As hard as it is, that love is the only way that I can see out of the horror that threatens to overtake us in those dark moments.

As an atheist, that love and compassion is the closest I can come to an offering of prayer.

The War Room

the war room
the bomb was dropped
at dinner
feta lingering between my teeth and tongue
never learned to love it
expanding in my chest
this hot presence
somehow managing to remove myself from me
leaving her a shell

        simple statistics
        they tell you one in three will have it
        and you barely believe
        until your mothers turn inside out
        or your sisters
        and you know

remember being seven
maybe younger…
watching it on the tv
sneak-peeked it
foreign and familiar
something lascivious and lingering
black pleather and podiums
spreading warmth and something
aching

the bomb sat between us on the table
my mother’s bomb
words turned into something palpable
larger than that wooden expanse
star space spread and separating
twisting her away

back to that mushroom cloud
the heat of a nuclear reaction
near my nucleus

i am cowardly of truth
so i washed the feta from my teeth
and smiled

Fat Shaming: Could we just not?

When I was in high school, I remember lying on the couch on my side. I was lighter than I am now, but not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. My mother came over to me, put her hand on my stomach, and grimly intoned three words that would stick in my brain for years to come.

“You look pregnant.”

That comment, along with a litany of others, rings in my head at my most vulnerable moments. When I’m standing in a store dressing room. When I’m deciding what to wear for the day. When I catch a glimpse of myself naked in a mirror. I am always hearing the voice of my mother in that moment. But I’m also hearing other people. I’m hearing my friends as well as strangers and the comments they make about women they see on the street.

“What business does she have wearing that?”

“Look at those thighs! They’re huge!”

“Why is she eating that? Isn’t she fat enough?”

“What a fat slob.”

Those voices and comments have stuck in my head to the point where they even make my efforts to lose weight difficult. When I go to the gym, for example, I feel the weight of the eyes of everyone around me. I have failed to go to the gym so many times for that reason. And I have one one occasion actually left the gym in the middle of workouts, near crying, because of the imagined gaze of fellow gym-goers.

The judgment that we aim at fat bodies is something we do so easily. It’s effortless. And it doesn’t get noticed by most people. It certainly doesn’t get called out most of the time. And while we are criticizing fat people as a society, we are making judgments about them, their lifestyles, and their bodies that we have no right whatsoever to make. Whether someone is fat because they eat a lot or fat because they have a medical condition, the bottom line is that it’s none of our business one way or the other. And judging them for their bodies is discriminatory and shitty.

The fact of the matter is that you can be an active person without being razor thin. You can also be thin and grossly unhealthy. Fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive things. Just like thinness and health are not always concurrent bodily states.

I have been making an active effort in my life to criticize the people around me less. And not just when it comes to their size. The fact of the matter is that criticism and negativity have been truly damaging to me with regard to my body as well as to my sense of self in more ways than one. I encourage all of you to do the same. Fat shaming and other forms of unasked-for criticism don’t help anyone, but they do cause wholly unnecessary pain.


Featured image found here.

Some thoughts on Frankie’s birthday.

Today is Frankie’s birthday.

This is the third time that I have been with her on her birthday. And one of the best things about it – and about her in general – is how happy and excited she gets about parties and gifts and special things that we don’t get to do all the time.

One problem with this is that I can almost never resist giving her gifts when they are in the house for me to give. Because her joy is such a beautiful thing to me. Making her smile is the best part of my day.

So here is a message for Frankie on her birthday.

It’s been three birthdays now and you still make me smile every day. Your intelligence delights me. Your smile thrills me. You make every day with you fun and challenging and fulfilling. From making sure that we both eat healthily to creating a great environment for our puppy and taking care of the kitties, you make life so easy.

Thank you for always thinking of me. For being considerate and blunt. For being my cheerleader all the time. You are the best and I love you with my whole heart.

Thank you for making wherever I am feel like home all the time.

Here’s to many more birthdays together.

Nesting

I’ve already started making things for our new house. I have two cross stitching projects underway. And I have a ton of things saved that we are going to buy all saved in emails and pictures.

In other words: I am nesting hardcore.

We never really settled into this place. As a result, most of the stuff that we have never really got put away properly. So we have boxes in the hallway with camping stuff and books. Our closets are packed with stuff that doesn’t really fit properly and that falls out all the time.

I am looking forward more than I can say to being in a place where we can put everything where it belongs.

More than that, I’m super excited to live in a neighborhood that’s actually a neighborhood. Where it’s quiet and people have their kids. Where drunken assholes don’t flock to the street. Where I don’t have three or four cars a day drive by with their music so loud it shakes my windows.

Two weeks from now we will be in our new place.

Fuck, I have so much packing left to do.

Schrodinger’s Homophobes

I bar tended a fabulous Hallowedding this weekend. I do not know the couple well, but the love that mutual friends have for them endeared me to them immediately. Listening to their vows was so touching. And seeing the massive outpouring of love that their friends and family have for them was deeply moving.

Sitting in that room, handing out drinks and celebrating along with a room full of people gathered to celebrate the love of two people, I started to think about what my own wedding would look like. Who would be there. And who wouldn’t.

When I came out to my family a few years ago, it was really strange. Mostly my sexuality has been such an open thing to everyone I was not related to for so long. The idea of copping to a thing that so many people already knew was super strange.

Now that I’m OUT, I look around at the people I have known for years and wonder if they give a shit. I mostly don’t care. But one thing that I do care about is who I will invite to the day when I commit myself to someone for the rest of my life.

I have always wanted to do the whole wedding thing. I wanna have a big ass sleepover and wear a gorgeous dress and have all my friends around me and say nice stuff to my partner and hug and kiss everyone I love and also eat all the cupcakes.

These are my goals. They are simple goals, but they are mine.

And one thing that I 100% want for my wedding is no drama of any kind. I really don’t have dramatic friends, so I’m not all that worried on that front. And on the whole, my family is not a dramatic one. But the addition of gayness makes people behave in unexpected ways.

That said, since I have come out I have been looking at my family in a new light, trying to decide which of them might go all hetero-mad and say something or do something shitty at a gay wedding.

The shitty part is that I have virtually nothing to report at this point. Other than the two people who disowned their daughter for being married to a woman, there aren’t any glaring “I’M A HOMOPHOBE” signs on any of my family members’ heads.

And that frightens me. It frightens me because I don’t want to exclude people because they are from a generation that seems to have more trouble with LGBTQ people. But I also don’t want a flashbang of homophobia to go off in the middle of my wedding because I don’t want to deal with that shit.

I mean, it’s not like I can make my RSVPs look like this:

Untitled

That would just be too much. I’ll just have to keep my ears peeled and hope that anyone with shitty feelings about me marrying another woman decides to do the right thing and just check “Regretfully Decline” on my inevitable RSVP.

Honestly, I would worry about their safety if they didn’t make that choice and made any kind of scene. I have very protective friends. Keep that in mind if you read this, undercover familial homophobes. Assholery at my future nuptials will be severely policed.


Featured image found here: http://phys.org/news/2014-02-peeking-physicists-quantum-particles.html